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AJ hangs on to down Demons 67-64

Posted: December 12, 2012 4:52 p.m.
Updated: December 14, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Derek Belton smiled and shrugged his shoulders as soon as the question was put to him about his team’s final trip down the floor in Tuesday’s 67-64 loss to visiting Andrew Jackson.
With Lugoff-Elgin trailing by three with 6.1 seconds left in the game, Dre Scott’s lengthy cross-court pass was snagged by a Volunteer player before it got to its intended target, Michael Sumpter. The pick ended the game, not to mention any chance the Demons had of attempting what could have been a game-tying 3-point shot.
Belton said the tough situation will be a coachable moment for Scott and the rest of the Demons when they look back at this game on film.
“We went over this yesterday, because we just had a game last night where we had to go through this last-second situation,” Belton said when asked the plan for the game’s final  play. “We told Dre that if nobody’s guarding you, you’re the best shooter we have, to go down the court and take the shot.
“I guess that’s just the youth in him coming out because this is his first year playing varsity ball. I can’t get upset with the young man. But he had a chance to take a wide-open three, but he passed the ball. That didn’t cost us this game, though. All it could have done was take us into overtime.”
Overtime is something the Demons are quite familiar with already this young season. They beat Chesterfield, 78-70, in overtime on Monday and have a 95-93 win after the extra session over Central.
Tuesday’s setback dropped the Demons to 3-4 on the season and was their second one-possession setback in the past five nights after dropping a 62-61 nail-biter to Camden last Friday. The two rivals will meet tonight in a highly anticipated rematch at 6 p.m. on Mike Culp Court inside the Camden High Dog Pound.
Ironically, it was the free throw line which proved to be where the Volunteers were finally able to nail this one down as after missing eight of their first 17 attempts from the charity stripe, the guests knocked down five of their six chances in the final 53 seconds.
“We couldn’t depend on fouling them to get us out of that hole,” Belton said. “We needed to play good defense, but it just didn’t work out that way for us.”
It was a Bobby Gary free throw, with 2:18 left in the game, which pulled the hosts event at 57. AJ then scored its final two baskets from the field, in succession. Zack Clyburn beat the defense down the floor for an easy layin before Dustin Eddins found the mark with his 3-ball --- after an L-E miss from point-blank range. And with 90 ticks left in the game clock, the Vols had a 62-57 advantage and left the Demons with some work to be done.
A Sumpter jumper cut the lead to three with 59 seconds remaining. Less than seven seconds later, Quadarius Fair, who missed his previous three free throws, drained a pair. L-E stayed within three when Stacey Patterson stuck an eight-foot jumper from the side making it a 62-59 game with 45 seconds left.
Sumpter then made a big play on defense, stealing the inbounds pass and being fouled on his shot. He made the back end of the two-shot situation. Needing to foul, L-E sent Avalon Truesdale to the line twice in the final 20 seconds. The AJ senior, who led all scorers with 23 points, hit three of his four attempts in that span, which sandwiched Gary’s 10-foot jumper from the paint area which drew the hosts to within 65-64 with 11 seconds left.
Truesdale’s two freebies and the turnover which followed it gave the Vols a sweep of the two game series between the two sides.
L-E scored 25 fourth quarter points, laying to rest any thoughts as to the Demons’ being fatigued after playing an overtime road tilt one night earlier.
“We were leg-weary last night after the hangover from the Camden game and, playing a game on a Monday,” Belton said.
“I told the kids playing back-to-back games like this is good. It’s a lot better than practicing because you get to work on things and if you get down, you actually have to dig deep and fight your way out of a hole.”
In a see-saw contest, L-E never found itself trailing by more than five points and that was in the game’s final minute and a half. In fact, the Demons enjoyed the largest lead of the night at six points after  an 8-0 run, fueled by a pair of baskets from Scott and Gary, put the hosts on top, 20-14 with 4:40 left in the first half.
L-E closed the first 16 minutes carrying a 27-25 lead into intermission after going 7-for-8 from the foul line in the closing three minutes with Gary clicking on four of those on a night in which he, again, led the Demons with 21 points.
Belton was none-too-happy with his team’s defensive play in the first half as AJ was able to get too many uncontested layins on back door plays which were wide open. That trend continued into the second half.
“I wanted our kids to come out pressing, but we couldn’t get that concept and play good, half-court man-to-man,” he said while shaking his head. “They kept getting back door cuts on us. We fell asleep, not paying attention, on the back side when we should have been in the paint. That’s what hurt us tonight more than anything.”
A Gary jumper with 6:36 left in the third put the Demons’ lead at 30-26. The Vols then went on a 10-2 run with Eddins’ 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with 4:28 left giving the guests a 36-32 lead. L-E battled back to trail 40-39 after the third quarter buzzer sounded.
A Gary five-foot jumper opened the final eight minutes. AJ would regain the lead at 45-41 thanks to a Wade Eubanks trey and a Fair drive. Trailing 45-43, Gary scored five straight points before Sumpter added two free throws to put L-E on top again at 50-45 with 5:30 remaining.
Truesdale would later even things, scoring on a back door layup and then adding two free throws to knot things, again, at 53 with 3:26 left. For the next 66 seconds, the two sides traded points until the Vols used a late-game kick to outscore the Demons, 10-7, after things were even at 57.
“Our guys did a good job of fighting back,” Belton said. “But we shouldn’t be putting ourselves in situations like that and having to fight like that. We have a good basketball team.
“Give all the credit goes to AJ. They have a good team, but we should not have ourselves in a hole and be fighting our way back at the end of the game like we did tonight.
 “I just hate that the kids had to go through this on a big night with a decent crowd when we were expecting to come away with a big win going into Friday.”
In addition to Gary’s 21-point effort, the Demons received 15 points from Scott and a dozen from Sumpter. With two days to prepare for tonight’s rematch with Camden, Belton said his team will use that time to try and iron out the kinks which have plagued them in three close losses.
 “We have two days off where we get to work on Camden’s diamond-and- one and triangle-and-two defenses,” he said. “We’ll be ready and it will be a good game on Friday. Hopefully, we can correct these small mistakes we’re making and get a win on Friday.”
 
AJ (67): Quadarius Fair 6 5-9 17, Avalon Truesdale 8 7-8 23, Cameron McIsaac 1 0-0 2, Trey King 2 2-6 6, Tilson Kirkland 1 0-0 2, Wade Eubanks 2 0-0 5, Dustin Eddins 4 0-0 10, Zack Clyburn 1 0-0 2. Totals: 25 14-23 67
L-E (64): William Grant 3 0-2 6, Dre Scott 7 1-1 15, Paten Johnson 1 0-0 2, Michael Sumpter 3 6-8 12, Bobby Gary 6 9-10 21, Chris Gogos 1 1-2 3, Jamerious Summerson 0 1-2 1, Stephan Hunter 0 2-2 2, Stacey Patterson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 22 20-27 64
Score by quarters: First: 12-12; Halftime: L-E, 27-25; Third: AJ, 40-39; Three-point goals: AJ 3 (Eddins 2, Eubanks), L-E none

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