Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
It was a rough and rowdy first half that saw a Lewis and Clark player ejected with five minutes left after Lake Land and the Trailblazers had alternated in the lead.
Entering the second half ahead 43-42, Lakers’ sophomore Yassen Hussein had seen enough.
The 6-foot-9 center from Cairo, Egypt scored 12 of the Lakers’ 14 points in a five-minute stretch in the middle of the second half to lead Lake Land to an 87-76 win over LCCC.
Hussein led all scorers with 24 points.
“I feel like it’s about the team winning,” Hussein said. “None of us are selfish, which is why we have good chemistry. I played good yeah, but they were a big part of how I did today.”
That chemistry relies on 6-9 forward Amar Kuljuhovic.
Hussein stood at the top of the 3-point line on the Lakers’ first second-half possession, and lobbed a pass over two Trailblazers to Kuljuhovic down at the post. The Waterloo, Iowa native then took one drop-step and put the ball through the basket giving the Lakers a three-point lead.
Kuljuhovic finished with 11 points.
The teams traded scores and Hussein began his scoring spree. On the defensive end, the Lakers prevented Lewis and Clarks’La’Terion White from doing the same damage he did in the first half. White led all scorers in the first half with 14 points, but stumbled in the second half with just seven for a team-high 21 points.
Hussein said the team stayed on the same page buoyed by Lake Land head coach Julian Larry’s halftime adjustments.
“We stayed together,” Hussein said. “I felt like we stayed in rhythm the whole game. Coach talked to us at halftime and told us to be physical. That’s what we did. We crashed the boards and took care of business.”
“That’s what we talked about in the locker room: that we needed to communicate after everything and get it together. It’s all about communication I feel like. The second half was more toughness and crashing the boards.”
Larry said the Lakers tried to establish Hussein’s presence in the beginning of the game, but it didn’t go as planned.
“We tried doing that in the first half, but they couldn’t get it done,” he said. “Our plan was to go to him in the beginning. Our first play was to him and he scored and we wanted to try to set his presence immediately. Through the first half he wasn’t playing tough. They were blocking his shot and timing everything. He wasn’t getting it done. He came in here (the locker room) and understood what he needed to and came out in the second half with a lot more intensity and urgency.”
Hussein had to contend with the 6-foot 5 White, who often stood between him and the net, blocking several of his attempts.
Hussein said the Trailblazers opted to double-team him, which opened up Kuljuhovic.
“We talked about controlling the game in all aspects,” Larry said. “Yaya and Amar – my bigs – are very, very talented. They’re keeping us afloat. They each had a double double. They had a lot of trust within each other.”
Larry said they share a desire to be successful.
“They’ve been together for two years,” he said. “They’re two sophomores who are really hungry and have a lot of desire. They want to be successful. They have a lot trust in each other. One thing about us is that we’re going to give them the ball. The more they get the ball, the more confidence they get.”
Larry said paying attention to details separates the good teams from the great teams.
“Literally have to put two halves together and we could be a really good team,” he said. “The difference between a good and great team is the details. That’s what it comes down to. We have to pay attention to the details for 40 minutes instead of 20 minutes.”
Lake Land, now 8-4, travels to Olney for a GRAC conference game at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Lewis and Clark – Daniels 4 2-2 11, Peterson 3 1-2 7, Diaby 1 2-2 4, Williams 3 2-2 8, Worley 3 2-2 9, Harris 4 0-0 8, McCoy 1 6-6 8, White 9 2-2 21. Three-pointers: Daniels 1, Worley 1, White 1. Totals: 28 17-18 76.
Lake Land – Carroll 1 3-3 5, Close 4 4-4 14, Tyrell 1 1-2 3, Chapman 0 2-2 2, Cox 6 5-7 17, Camacho 2 4-4 8, Davis 0 0-1 0, Kuljuhovic 4 3-7 11, Moore 1 0-0 3, Hussein 10 4-4 24. Three-pointers: Close 2, Moore 1. Totals: 29 26-34 87.
Lewis and Clark 42 34 76
Lake Land 43 44 87