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Gators take a bite out of L-E, 59-51

Posted: February 8, 2018 9:20 a.m.
Updated: February 9, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

LAKEWOOD’S AHKEEM LAWSON SLIDES between a trio of L-E defenders including Bradwin Salmond (right) and Zarrius Salmond for two of his 17 points in Tuesday’s Region 6-4A game.

Proving it can get it done with defenders in their face as well as with unobstructed looks at the basket, Lakewood used its length to get inside for baskets while putting on an exhibition from the free throw line in taking home a 59-51 victory over Lugoff-Elgin Tuesday night.

With a starting five which includes two players measuring 6-foot-6 and other checking in at 6-foot-4, the visiting Gators scored 32 points inside the paint and added another 22 from the free throw stripe --- coming from 28 attempts --- to improve to 6-1 in Region 6-4A play.

The loss took any hopes which the host Demons had of hosting a state playoff game off the table as they fell to 3-4 in conference play heading into last night’s regular season finale against Hartsville. An L-E win would give Garrett Knight’s troops a third-place finish and an opening round pairing at Orangeburg-Wilkinson, the runner-up from Region 5. A loss sends them to meet the Region 5 champion A. C. Flora next Wednesday.

Against Lakewood, the Demons carried a 39-37 lead into the fourth quarter and were tied at 41 following a 10-foot fallaway jumper from Arturo Sealy with 7:05 left in the game. The Gators would respond by going on an 8-2 run starting with a pair of free throws from 6-foot-6 center Ahkeem Lawson who would then go inside for a pair of baskets while 6-foot-6 forward Juwan Perdue added a bucket from point-blank range as the visitors took a 49-41 lead with 4:21 left to play.

An Elisha Manigo free throw and the final of five treys on the night from Bradwin Salmond, who led all scorers with 21 points, drew the Demons within 51-47 with 2:24 left as Knight called a quick time out to come up with a defensive strategy to try and slow down the Gators.

The Demons were forced to have to foul LHS, which had gone into a delay game. When Terrell Houston knocked down a pair of free throws, it upped the score to 53-47. A missed front end of a one-and-one situation prevented the hosts from closing the gap which it eventually did with a Kevon Roberson five-foot runner to make it 53-49 with 1:15 showing on the clock.

From there, L-E had to foul and watched as the Gators sank six of eight from the charity stripe --- in a span of 42 seconds --- to extend their lead to a game-best 10 points at 59-49.

Once taking the lead in the fourth quarter, the Gators were able to hold the Demons at bay thanks to knocking down 16 of their 19 free throw chances over the closing seven minutes and 35 seconds of play.

“Credit them, they had a great night at the free throw line,” Knight said of the Gators. “I think they only missed about three all night from the line. Give credit to my guys, too, they fought the entire time. We just came up a little short tonight.”

The Gators, who swept the two-game series with L-E, trailed, 4-0 early, before going on a 9-0 spree. The rally included six points from Lawson, who led the guests with 17. Salmond kept the Demons in the contest and, eventually gave his team the lead after one quarter. The 6-foot-2 senior guard drained three consecutive shots from distance to close the first quarter, including the final two which put the Demons on top, 13-11 after one.

While the rest of his teammates tried to find their shooting rhythm, Salmond scored 11 points in the opening frame. 

“Bradwin had a hot night tonight while Arturo (Sealy) was a little off and Kevon (Roberson) was steady,” Knight said of his team’s offense. “It was hard for (Elisha) Manigo and Z-bo (Zarrius Salmond) to get shots off inside against their big guys.”

Roberson, who had 13 points, touched off an 8-2 second quarter run for the Demons with a conventional 3-point play. A Sealy drive and Manigo losing his defender to go inside for a basket gave the hosts their largest lead of the evening at 21-15 with 3:27 left in the half.

The Gators, however, scored eight unanswered points to close the second quarter including Perdue cuffing a missed shot and slamming it back home as the guests carried a 23-21 edge heading into intermission.

All nine LHS first half field goals came from inside the foul lane as the Lawson and Perdue were able to find room to maneuver along the baseline and each got loose for baskets.

“They were ripping and driving,” Knights said of the Gators’ relentlessly taking the ball to the basket. “Early in the game, we were able to get some charges but then, we got a little tired in the second quarter and they started getting some easy baskets.

“I thought we had a good game plan coming in,” he added. “It was back and forth in the first half but we just hit a scoring drought there at the end.”

A pair of Perdue buckets extended the LHS lead to 30-25 at the 4:52 mark of the third quarter. A Salmond trey cut it back to a pair. When LHS point guard Grant Singleton rolled in a scoop shot in traffic with 1:21 left in the third, the Gators held a 37-32 advantage.

The Demons would take the lead by scoring seven unanswered points in the closing 57 seconds starting with a Zarrius Salmond traditional 3-point play and a 10-foot floater from Bradwin Salmond. Roberson broke a 37-all stalemate with an end-to-end drive for a basket which just beat the buzzer.

Sensing the Demons might be losing some steam, the Gators turned up the defensive intensity and started the fourth quarter with full court pressure which led to a pair of quick steals and four free throws in the opening 38 seconds of the quarter to get the lead back at 41-39 before Sealy’s jumper knotted things at 41, some 15 ticks of the clock later.

While his own team, which starts four players six-foot tall or better and brought a 6-foot-5 freshman off the bench, is by no means small, Knight said having to go against the size and athleticism the Gators possess is a tall order for 32 minutes.

 “They’re huge inside,” he said. “Lawson killed us at their place and I thought we did a better job against him tonight. Then, in the second half, they got a couple offensive rebounds and stickbacks that hurt us.

 “They’re a well-coached team. They ran man and we ran man. In the second half, they kind of picked it up and we didn’t get a couple stops there at the end of the game.”

LHS (59): Quentin Hodge 4 5-5 14, Ahkeem Lawson 6 5-8 17, Grant Singleton 2 8-8 12, Juwan Perdue 6 4-4 16, Terrell Houston 0 0-1 0, Malik Rhodes 0 0-2 0. Totals: 18 22-28 59

L-E (51): Bradwin Salmond 8 0-0 21, Arturo Sealy 3 0-1 6, Josh Gary 0 1-2 1, Kevon Roberson5 3-3 13, Elisha Manigo 3 1-2 7, Zarrius Salmond 1 1-1 3. Totals: 20 6-9 51

Score by quarters: First: L-E, 13-11; Halftime: LHS, 23-21; Third: L-E, 39-37; Three-point goals: LHS 1 (Hodge), L-E 4 (Salmond 5)

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