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Demons' comeback not enough against Dutch Fork

Posted: January 29, 2011 10:48 a.m.
Updated: January 31, 2011 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

L-E’S JO JO PELLEGRIN0 (1) boxes out Dutch Fork’s C.J. Cannon as they battle for a rebound during Friday night’s Region 4-4A game played inside the Demons Den.

Forsaking the X’s and O’s with his team trailing visiting Dutch Fork, 51-28 at intermission, Lugoff-Elgin boys basketball coach Derek Belton appealed to his team’s pride during his halftime talk.

While words alone were not enough for the Demons to overcome a 23-point deficit, Belton’s speech did not fall on deaf ears, either. Rather than pack it in, L-E took their coach’s advice to heart and narrowed the gap to nine points the fourth quarter in what turned out to be an 89-78 loss to the Silver Foxes.

The defeat was the ninth in as many Region 4-4A outings for the hosts. But this one, Belton said, left both he and his team with a better taste in their collective mouth thanks to a 50-point second half.

So, what were the words which Belton said which turned the light on for his players?

"Act like you care about the game and try not to get embarrassed at home," he said of the brunt of his halftime talk.

"The last time we played (Dutch Fork), I think we got beat by almost 50 points. I just told them that, ‘Guys, you play like a soda that has been opened for three months. You’re as flat as can be. You have to go back out and play with a little energy.’ They did that the second half."

It looked to be a different L-E team which came out of the locker room for the second half as the hosts used six points from senior forward Zach Salmond which triggered a 9-0 run which opened the third quarter and cut the lead down to 14 points. The hosts trailed, 60-43, with 18 seconds left in the third after Jo Jo Pellegrino, who scored a game-best 26 points, found the mark from 18-feet away. But with the buzzer sounding, L-E fouled Chad Geter, who was hoisting up a desperation 65-foot shot. Jeter would knock down all three free throws to put the lead to 20, at 63-43, heading into the final eight minutes of play.

The Silver Foxes seemed to be starting to put this one away for keeps by opening the final stanza on a 6-2 run to make it a 69-45 game with less than six and a half minutes to go.

But Salmond touched off a Demons’ comeback with a basket off an inbounds pass at the 6:22 marker. A DF turnover became a Darius Custard layin. A Pellegrino stickback and a basket each from Custard and Salmond and suddenly, things got a bit interesting as the lead was chopped to 70-55 with a little more than four minutes remaining.

Pellegrino then started to take the game over, scoring five unanswered points to trim the deficit to 71-60 with 3:16 left. The guests, meanwhile, were struggling on offense, going more than four minutes without a basket from the field while scoring six points from the free throw line.

A Tyler Starling 3-point jumper knocked the lead to73-63 at the 3:04 mark. DF finally scored away from the foul line when Shaq Price scored on a putback, was fouled and hit the accompanying free throw to hoist the score to 78-63 with 2:35 showing on the game clock. Second later, a Price jumper made it 80-64.

The Demons, however, were not done, yet. A Pellegrino trey, a Salmond free throw and two freebies each from Stephan Hunter and Custard made it an 81-72 game with 69 ticks left in the game clock. But DF used a baseline drive from Geter and two free throws would jack the advantage to 85-72 with 33 seconds left.

During the course of the week, Custard missed two days of practice due to football-related obligations while Pellegrino sat out two days after having a wisdom tooth removed. That, combined with having to play catch-up in the second half, finally caught up with the Demons.

"Having to work so hard to come from behind really kills you when you don’t have a whole lot of energy left to finish out the game," Belton said of his team’s second half comeback bid.

"We got tired. Darius missed two days of practice and Jo Jo missed two days this week. Those two guys got tired tonight; you could see that. It really hurt us down the stretch."

Coming into Friday’s game, Belton said his plan of attack was a simple one. He wanted his team to play in-your-face, man-to-man defense. Instead, the Silver Foxes shredded the L-E full-court press and had a steady procession of layins and good looks at the basket in jumping out to an 8-0 lead which became a 22-8 advantage after the first quarter of play.

"We wanted to come out and play good, hard man-to-man defense like we did in the second half. We didn’t come out in the first half and do that tonight. That’s how we got behind," Belton said.

The guests received seven points from Geter in the first stanza while 6-foot-8 center Ike Harris scored half of his 12 points on the night in the opening eight minutes.

DF continued its assault on the L-E goal as it used treys from Errick Bethel and Paul Bynoe to double the Demons up at 30-15 with 6:50 left in the first half. The hosts never got any traction, falling behind by as many as 23 points on two occasions in the final minute. That was the margin which the Demons had to make up in the second 16 minutes after a pair of Geter free throws closed the first half scoring to make it a 51-28 halftime lead for the visitors.

While Harris gave the Demons some problems in the paint, Bethel’s play at the point and his dribble-penetration gave L-E fits.

"The biggest problem was their point guard," Belton said of his team’s defensive woes. "In the first half, our guys wanted to stand out there and reach and slap at the ball instead of sliding their feet and trying to take a charge. I told them that we have to stop the ball in order to stop them from scoring.

"We did a better job with that in the second half. If we could have done that in the first half, it might have been a different game."

If the Demons could have managed to pull this game out and picked up a win, they would have remained in the playoff chase. The loss, however, means they have three games left before calling it a season. Finishing strong, Belton said, is now his team’s goal.

"A lot of people might call me crazy with our being 0-8 in the conference," he said, "but we still had some small hope of getting into the playoffs. If we had won tonight, we still would have had a chance, but everything else would have had to fall our way. Since we lost, we need to have a little pride in ourselves and not finish winless in the conference."

 

DF (89):

L-E (78):

 

Score by quarters:

First: DF, 22-8; Halftime: DF, 51-28; Third: DF, 63-43; Three-point goals: DF 3 (McLaughlin, Bynoe, Geter); L-E 6 (Pellegrino 2, Roberson 2, Starling, Fields)
Jo Jo Pellegrino 9 6-9 26, Darius Custard 5 5-9 15, Zach Salmond 8 1-2 17, Safad Brown 0 0-2 0, Tyreek Roberson 2 1-2 7, Matt Anderson 2 0-0 4, Tyler Starling 1 0-0 3, Stephan Hunter 1 2-2 4, Kevin Fields 1 0-0 3. Totals: 29 15-26 78
Caleb McLaughlin 2 1-2 6, Chad Geter 6 9-11 21, Keith Curtis 3 0-1 6, Ike Harris 5 2-4 12, C.J. Cannon 2 3-6 7, Errick Bethel 3 11-13 18, Paul Bynoe 2 0-0 5, Shaq Price 3 5-6 11, Nic Cooper 1 1-1 3. Totals: 27 32-44 89

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