By Mike Monahan
Parkland’s defense proved the difference in a battle of nationally ranked NJCAA Division II teams at the Laker Fieldhouse on Thursday evening.
The fans were treated to a game that had 10 lead changes and eight ties between No. 5 Parkland and No. 6 Lake Land, and neither team led by eight points until the final 4 minutes, 22 seconds.
Parkland may have had a three-inch advantage among starters with an average height of 5 feet, 10 inches, but Lake Land relied in its quickness to take a 37-34 halftime lead and to remain within 47-46 entering the final quarter.
Ultimately, Parkland’s defensive pressure was too much to overcome, holding the Lakers to 6-of-26 shooting from the field for all but the last two minutes and enabling the Cobras to post a 77-67 victory.
“I give Parkland a lot of credit,” said Lake Land coach Dave Johnson of the Region 24 game. “Defensively, they had a great game plan. We hit some shots early in the game and then in the third quarter we struggled to get quality looks and I think we kind of panicked a little bit. We have not been behind very much and it kind of showed a little bit in the third quarter.”
Parkland improved to 10-0 while Lake Land fell to 9-2. The Lakers are 4-1 in Region 24 games.
Shania Schoonover’s basket with under eight minutes left in the game had pulled the Laker to within 54-50 in the fourth quarter. That is when Parkland reeled off 13 unanswered points to take control of the game.
The Cobras began the run with a steal and layup by Naomi McDaniel, who then got a friendly bounce on a 3-pointer when the ball hit the back of the rim and bounced several feet in the air before coming down through the hoop. Claire Wilhour and Kiersten Price-Wilson, who played for Tri-County, made two free throws each, giving Cobras a 63-50 lead. McDaniel then made a free throw and Ariana Booker’s bucket increased Parkland’s lead to 17 points with 3:20 remaining.
Lake Land, which defeated No. 7 Illinois Central College, 70-55, on Feb. 18, closed on a 13-3 run to make the final margin 10 points.
“They have a good inside game,” Johnson said of Parkland. “They hit a couple of big outside shots as well. We have got to push the ball a little bit better and understand when it is not there to be a little more patient. We took a lot of shots with 18-20 seconds left on the shot clock and we probably could have got a better shot in those cases.”
Lake Land never led by more than four points – on three different occasions – in the first half, the last time at the start of the second quarter on a three-pointer by Charleston graduate Elizabeth Buescher.
Harley Barry, a high school teammate of Price-Wilson, nailed a 3-pointer for a 37-34 Laker lead at the half.
The Lakers played some 3-2 match-up zone, but relied mostly on man-to-man pressure, forcing the Cobras into 27 turnovers.
“We did a good job of turning them over,” said Johnson. “We have to turn those into points when we turn them, and I thought we did a good job in the first half and in the fourth quarter late. That is on me because I probably should have picked up the pressure a little earlier in the third quarter. We had been pretty good on defense, never allowing more than 63 points (80-63 win over Kaskaskia College last Monday). I have to give Parkland credit. They were really good in the fourth quarter. We have to fix some things defensively. We don’t take charges which bothers me because that is a staple. When you are not a shot blocker you have to be a charge tacker. That is something we have to work on.”
Kamaria Gant led Lake Land with 23 points, while Barry tied a season-high of 13 points and Shanie Schoonover had a season-high of 10.
Four Parkland players scored in double figures: Mady Harper (13) points, Bree Trimble (11), Ariana Booker (10) and McDaniel (10).
“We played a really good team in ICC and we beat them, and then Parkland came here and beat us,” said Johnson. “It is not the same this year with the home-court advantage (due to COVID-19), but we have to protect our home court. We have a big game Sunday (1 p.m.) going to DACC (Danville Area Community College) and then host another ranked team in Lincoln Land (No. 10).”
LAKE LAND: Niemerg 0-1-2-1, Barry 5-1-2-13, Gant 7-6-6-23, Newson 2-3-4-7, Buescher 2-2-2-8, Krabel 0-0-0-0, Schultz 0-0-2-0, Riggleman 1-0-0-3, Schoonover 5-0-0-10, Still 1-0-0-2, Sirjord 0-0-0-0, Totals 23 13-18 67.
PARKLAND: Trimble 5-0-0-11, McDaniel 4-2-5-10, Crowe 2-2-2-6, Harper 2-7-8-13, Bell 2-0-0-4, Wilhour 2-2-2-7, Haberkorn 1-0-2-2, Booker 4-0-0-10, Price-Wilson 3-2-2-8, Skoog 3-0-0-6, German 0-0-0-0, Totals 28-15-21-77
3-point goals: Parkland 6-13 (Wilhour 1-3, Trimble 1-4, Booker 2-2, Harper 2-3, Crowe 0-1) Lake Land 8-24 (Barry 2-3, Gant 3-7, Riggleman 1-1, Buescher 2- 6, Schultz 0-1, Niemerg 0-2, Krable 0-1, Sirjord 0-1, Newton 0-1, Schoonover 0-1). Rebounds Parkland 41 (Price-Wilson 8), Lake Land 32 (Barry 7) Shooting percentages: Parkland .491; Lake Land .348. Turnovers: Parkland 27, Lake Land 16