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 JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.
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.
What a difference a week makes.
Last week, Lakewood held a late lead at Jordan but watched the Panthers dramatically tie the game at the end of regulation before beating the Lancers in overtime.
On Wednesday night at Long Beach Poly, Lakewood again watched the Jackrabbits dramatically tie the game at the end of regulation. However, the Lancers showed composure and improvement in overtime on their way to a 67-64 Moore League boys’ basketball win.
“Beating Poly is always good, so it’s a strong win.” Lakewood coach Duane Cooper said. “I think we showed some growth (in overtime). We just had that overtime game against Jordan and we didn’t perform the way we wanted to. This one here we were a little bit steadier and finished the game.”
Lakewood relied on its guards getting to the basket, and the free throw line, to weather the storm and pull Poly away in the extra period. Mason Pacheco scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime while fellow guard Macarhy Morris filled the stat box with a double-double 18 points and 10 rebounds to go with three steals and two assists.
“It was really fun in a great atmosphere in front of a great crowd,” Pacheco said. “We love this type of environment. That makes us play harder.”
The win moves Lakewood (9-11, 5-2) into a tie for second place in the Moore League with Wilson, and drops Poly (8-13, 4-3) into fourth place.
Long Beach Poly held a slight lead for the majority of the second half, but Lakewood went up 50-48 with four minutes left in regulation on back-to-back steals and finishes from Elijah Nelson and Pacheco.
“I came out in the first quarter and started slow but my coaches told me (at halftime) to just make the easy plays and that would make the game easier for me,” Pacheco said. “I had to go attack more and get involved."
Lakewood led 57-51 with about a minute on the clock when Poly's Kairi Shepherd stole the ball and found Jovani Ruff for a layup. After a timeout, Poly's Marcus Washington came up with another steal on an inbounds pass and also found Ruff for a game-tying layup 57-57 that forced overtime.
After the teams traded free throws to start the extra period, Pacheco sliced to the bucket for an impressive layup and a 63-61 lead with 1:20 left in overtime.
“He’s tough to check and we’ve got a couple guys like that,” Cooper said of Pacheco. “Towards the end of the game he showed you who he is. He’s a finisher, one of our best free throw shooters and a strong driver.”
“When he’s hot you’ve just gotta let him go,” Morris said of Pacheco.
Shepherd found Austin Unegbu for an open 3-pointer that gave Poly a 64-63 lead with a minute left, but at the other end Lakewood’s Devin Smith was left open in the post and gave his team the lead again.
After the Jackrabbits missed an open jump shot on the wing, Morris came back down and got to the foul line with about 20 seconds left to clinch the victory 67-64 after Poly missed a game-tying 3-pointer.
“It was just like this last year and we practice the situational stuff so we’re always prepared for that type of stuff,” Morris said of performing in the clutch. “We just kept our composure and played tough.”
Lakewood and forward Alex Obi came out of the gate quickly to take a 10-0 lead before forcing a Poly timeout. Obi finished with 10 points, four steals, four rebounds and a pair of blocks.
“That’s practice, practice, practice,” Morris said of the strong defense in the first quarter. “We start practice with like 30 minutes of defensive slides. That came into play for sure.”
The Lancers led 18-8 after the first quarter, but Poly’s Ruff and Cash Stokley sparked the home side comeback. Ruff finished the night with a game-high 22 points to go with six rebounds, two steals and an assist. Stokely had an And-1 finish and a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter on his way to 16 points.
Poly led 28-24 at halftime and didn’t lose its lead until five minutes left in regulation.
The Jackrabbits defense was also strong in the third quarter while holding the Lancers to only one made field-goal in the eight minute stretch. However, Lakewood kept pace by making 13 of its 14 free throw attempts in the quarter. The Lancers went 22-for-27 from the charity stripe in the game.
“If we continue to grow and play Lakewood basketball we’ll be fine,” Cooper said.
On Friday night, Lakewood travels to Millikan while Poly visits Wilson.