The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.
The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.
So far, so good for the Lakewood Lancers in Moore League play. With an experienced and talented group, the Lancers appear poised to finish among the leaders in boys’ basketball this season. After their first week of league play, they’re sitting at 2-0 thanks to Friday’s 78-52 home win over Millikan.
Coming off a big win against Long Beach Poly on Wednesday, the Lancers needed a little time to settle in and play their game–especially on the defensive end. But once they got switched on and began turning their defense into easy buckets, they remained in control to pull away for a comfortable win.
“We just couldn’t get consecutive stops,” said Lakewood head coach Duane Cooper of his team’s performance in the first half. “(Millikan) were able to score a lot more than I wanted them to. They stayed close in the game until they weren’t close in the game.”
The visiting Rams led 12-8 in the opening quarter after a three-pointer from Elijah Attardo, but the Lancers closed the frame on a 7-0 run to take a 15-12 lead after eight minutes and never trail again. That lead got as big as eight in the second quarter before Millikan trimmed it down to one, 26-25. Lakewood got a couple three-balls from Macarhy Morris and Alex Obi to help them close out the half strong and lead 36-29 at the break.
Senior point guard Chris Willis then took things over in the third quarter, when he scored 12 of his game-high 21 points. Morris added 19 in a really well-played game and Obi chipped in 10 for the Lancers. Willis said the halftime break was key for them to refocus on the defensive end of the floor and help their game open up.
“Well, we got a talking to in the locker room,” said Willis after the game. “We allowed too many points in the first half, so we really had to lock in on defense.”
The supporting cast was huge for Lakewood in this game as they were without senior starter and top scorer Mason Pacheco, who should hopefully be back in the lineup soon. That allowed other players to step up and contribute more and a total of nine Lancers were able to hit the scoresheet on Friday night. The last three buckets were scored by reserves Micah Lee, Adam Bermudez and Erben Flores, drawing huge roars from the home crowd.
“It's really nice because we have a well-built, all-around team–especially the starting five with multiple options,” Willis said. “Last year, a lot of times we didn't get to empty our bench and have fun like that. So it's great this year.”
Millikan got a team-high 20 points from ever-improving junior Donovan Desha, while sophomore center Jackson Cryst added 10 to go with a handful of blocked shots. The Rams were able to keep things close in the first half, but couldn’t chip away at their halftime deficit over the final 16 minutes.
Millikan is back in action next Wednesday as they visit Cabrillo for an interesting matchup against an improved Jaguars squad. Meanwhile Lakewood will look to stay unbeaten atop the Moore League standings when they visit Wilson on Monday night.
According to Coach Cooper, his team’s key to continued success this league season comes down to one thing.
“Defense. One word: defense. That's it. If we play defense, we're fine,” Cooper said. “When you get stops, you’ve got a chance to get some separation. In the second half, we got some more stops, and some more shots went in, because the defense led to offense.”