The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.
The Lakewood boys’ basketball team is hoping to win its first-ever outright Moore League championship this year (and first league title period since 2004-05). The Lancers took a big step towards that goal with an impressive win over 13-time defending league champion Long Beach Poly on Wednesday night in Tim Sweeney Gymnasium. Lakewood had only beaten the Jackrabbits twice since 2006, but were the better team and dominated the second half in a 63-51 victory.
After the game, Lancers coach Duane Cooper didn’t want to see his team celebrating too much. “Just the next game on the schedule,” he said. “We have to get used to winning, and we want to win a certain way. We came to win and that’s what we did.”
It felt like a night the Lancers had been building to for the last couple of seasons, with a talented senior class winning against a league rival in front of a packed crowd.
“You’re always going to get a good crowd against Poly,” said Cooper. “Everyone wants to see Poly--so hopefully at the end of the day, they’ll want to come and see us.”
The Jackrabbits led 14-8 after the first quarter, as Ryder Maddox put up six points for Poly. The Lancers showed that they were ready for a fight with a 7-0 run to start the second quarter and take the lead, including an and-one by Macarhy Morris. Poly gradually worked their way back into the lead, but a buzzer-beater 3-pointer from Mason Pacheco tied the game at 26 going into the half.
The second half belonged to the Lancers, as they won the third quarter 19-13 and the fourth quarter 18-12. With no one scoring besides Maddox and Jovani Ruff, Poly’s offense was lifeless. Lakewood’s defense capitalized on sloppy passes and forced Poly into 12 turnovers.
The Lancers used balanced scoring to gradually take the lead and then grow it, with Pacheco stepping up to make a big bucket, followed by a big 3-pointer from Chris Willis, along with baskets by Morris and Alex Obi. Lakewood went 6/16 from beyond the arc, with Pacheco and Morris each hitting a pair.
“We weren’t playing well in the beginning,” said Cooper. “We weren’t making shots but we were still in the game--and I just thought at some point we’ll start making shots.”
Lakewood didn’t just win by making shots, though. They were also the more aggressive team defensively, taking Poly out of their offensive rhythm. They held the Jackrabbits without a field goal in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, taking a 57-44 lead in the process.
Lakewood was the more composed, veteran team throughout, and also went 17/21 from the free-throw line to help seal the game down the stretch. Pacheco had 17 points including the halftime buzzer beater, and Morris had 20 points. Willis scored nine points with two steals and two assists, and Obi scored seven points but grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds and added four blocks in a total team win for Lakewood.
For Poly, Ruff scored 20 points, Austin Unegbu added 12, and Maddox finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Among the many questions to be answered for Poly before their next game is where to find more reliable scoring; they got zero points off the bench and just eight points outside of their top three scorers.
For Lakewood, the formula is clear: defend and make shots.
“This is really big for us, we’ve been talking about this since the season started because they beat us twice last year,” said Pacheco. “We wanted to come in and make a statement. Every game has got to be like this for us. We’re gonna come out and play hard and win.”
Both teams will be home on Friday as Lakewood will host Millikan while Poly hosts Wilson, with the Bruins fresh off an overtime win over the Rams. Wednesday’s game was Lakewood’s first double-digit win over Poly since 2005.