Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski

It was a tale of two halves. 

Lake Land took a 14-point lead into halftime against Lewis & Clark in its Region 24 opening-round playoff game by doing all the right things – extra passes, defensive rebounds, and collecting turnovers. In the second half, The Lakers’ lead slipped away late in a 99-94 loss Saturday evening.

“The second half we got a little bit selfish,” Lakers head coach Julian Larry said. “The first half we had 16 assists the second half we had six assists. That’s just a matter of guys not sharing the ball and getting complacent in the game. When you get complacent, you get beat. That’s what happened.”

Lake Land, which posted its first winning season in four years, ends the season at 16-15.

Lake Land sophomore Daillis Cox led the first-half charge with 13 points, nine from behind the 3-point arc, only to be stifled in the second half garnering only 3 points.

Lewis and Clark’s Jeff Daniels stymied for just two first half points, came alive in the second  for the Trailblazers with 18 and  leading all scorers with 20 points. The Lakers didn’t have an answer for his second half explosion.

Lake Land Everett Stubblefield led the Lakers with 8 points as the went on a 10-2 run midway through the first half leading to a technical foul called against Lewis and Clark’s bench. Lewis Clark called a timeout after Lakers’ freshman Johnny Close made a 5-0 run of his own after sophomore Anthony Scales sank both free throws from the technical foul, giving the Lakers a 45-30 lead.

Lake Land sophomore Yassin Hussein was assessed a foul and then a technical on the same play affording the Traiblazers to cut the lead to 13 points, which had been as high as 18 two minutes prior.

Lakers’ freshman and Teutopolis native Evan Wermert sank a three to close the halve with Lake Land possessing a commanding lead.

Lewis and Clark chipped away in the second half before the Trailblazers’ Demarion Shanklin drilled a 3-pointer to tie the score at 84 with four minutes remaining, prompting a timeout from Larry. 

The Trailblazers came out of the timeout and buried another 3, this time by Daniels, to take an 87-83 lead.

Larry said Daniels is a “quick, strong player” who passed the ball fast, but it was his shooting that hurt the Lakers.

“We didn’t do a good job of containing him,” he said.

“They most definitely chipped away,” Larry said. “We tried calling a timeout to weather the storm but they were coming. We had to play better defense at the end of the game, and we didn’t. That’s why we lost.”

Lakers freshman Arnardo Camacho, scoring only two first-half points, picked up where Cox left off by scoring 13-second half points and none more crucial than a bucket with 28 seconds left to pull the Lakers back to within one. Camacho was fouled on the play but missed the free throw and the Lakers couldn’t get any closer.

Camacho and Hussein were visibly upset after the game.

“To be honest, I want him to have that; I want him to feel that. I hear him out there crying,” Larry said. 

“For those type of feelings to play point guard – I played point guard – so I know that type of feeling, and it hurts. It hurts. I want him to feel that pain because it’s only going to make him a stronger man. To him, I tell him to feel it. I want you to go home and not sleep. I want you to go home and have that same hunger that you had because next year we’re coming back even better.”

Larry said he thinks the entire team feels the loss, but for his international players it cuts deeper, especially for like a player in Hussein who has improved the most.

“I think they all felt in here in the locker room,” he said. “It’s still hurting them. That’s two international kids. Yassin’s from Egypt and the reason why he’s in America is because of the game of basketball. Obviously, its an education but the game of basketball brought him over here. This is his livelihood. The same thing goes for Arnardo. He’s originally from the Dominican Republic.”

“He doesn’t have a lot of resources or options. He’s from the Bronx – the city. He’s from the streets. This is his way out. So they take it seriously. That’s how I want them to take it seriously.  With those guys being international and knowing what’s at stake for their lives, this game is going to better their lives.”

Larry praised his sophomores noting them as COVID-freshman meaning they have an extra year of eligibility. He said the coaching staff will sit down and determine how to proceed with the makeup of the roster.

“Everett Stubblefield is so talented,” he said. “So talented at what he does. I think he’ll be an all-conference player two years in row. Proud of his effort. Leroy Walker is probably one of the most athletic kids I’ve coached. He’s going to be greatly missed by this program in being a leader on the court.”

Larry said he’s proud of his sophomores not only for their talent but also what kind of people they are.

“We just have to learn from this,” Larry said. “Nothing teaches you better than experience. This is one thing that sucks right now. Probably hasn’t hit me yet, but I know we will learn from this and get better.”

LAKE LAND: Close 4 2-2 13, Walker 1 0-0 3, Scales 1 2-2 4, Stubblefield 5 2-2 16, Camacho 7 1-3 15, Kuljuhovic 3 3-6 9, Wermert 1 0-0 3, Cox 6 3-4 18, Neal 1 1-3 3, Hussein 3 3-4 9, Totals: 32 17-26 93. 3-pointers: Close 3, Walker 1, Stubblefield 4, Wermert 1, Cox 3.

LEWIS & CLARK – Daniels 5 6-7 20, Peterson 3 1-1 7, Moore 3 5-6 12, Duncan 2, Worley 3 2-2 11, Thompson 1 0-0 2, Jaques 4 1-1 10, Shankin 6 0-0 12, Mingo 0 2-2 2, Webb 3 0-1 6, 5 1-2 12, Diaby 1 0-1 3. Totals: 35 19-33 99 3-pointers: Daniels 4, Moore 1, Worley 3, Jaques 1, White 1.