Basketball Lakewood

STORY: Lakewood’s Historic Playoff Run Halts In Championship Loss

The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.

Lakewood’s historic season hit a bump on Saturday in the CIF-SS Division 4A championship, as Louisville battled back from an eight point deficit in the third quarter to win it 64-45 over the Lancers.

Coming into the season Lakewood hadn’t made it past CIF-SS quarterfinals in team history. Despite their championship loss, the Lancers get to hold their head high on being the only Lakewood girls’ basketball team to ever make it to a CIF-SS championship, and the first to make the CIF State playoffs (which begin next week).

“I love the energy and effort my girls have played with,” said Lakewood coach Eric Oswell. “Today was a very competitive game but at the end of the third quarter to the fourth they started to make a few shots and that was basically the turning point in the game. But, I’m very proud of my team and proud of my two leaders (Cristina Jones and Nyemah King).”

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The opposing game plan that teams have approached the Lancers throughout their historic playoff run has always been along the lines of stopping Lakewood’s Cristina Jones and Nyemah King. And while the strategy never seems to truly work against the unstoppable duo, the Royal’s were able to stick to their 3-2 defense as they slowly weathered the storm even while trailing throughout the first half.

In the opening half the Lancers headed downhill straight at the Louisville defense as they looked to out-muscle the Royal’s and earn trips to the free throw line. Lakewood’s King and Jones got to the line a total of 19 times in the first half while the team outshot Louisville 21 free throw attempts to just three from the Royals.

The Lancers also received huge buckets from point-guard Amy Rubio who drilled two threes in the half while contributing nine of her 11 points. King also had a nine point first half meanwhile Jones led the way with 10 as Lakewood cruised into the break up 30-25.

“We have strong drivers and they saw that and tried to keep us out of the paint (with the 3-2 defense.) So we tried to just move the ball more and take our time until we eventually got layups and especially those fouls (in the first half),” said King.

Both teams stuck to their roots coming out of the half as Louisville held true to their 3-2 defense. However as the Lancers began getting a lack of foul calls the Royals were able to flip the court and bounce back with a huge third quarter.

Nyemah King opened the third quarter scoring with a three pointer for the Lancers, however Louisville went on to conduct a 13-0 run in the midst of the period to regain their first lead since early in the second quarter.

The Royals run was led by senior Taylor Westbrook who had all of her game-high 18 points in the second half. Meanwhile, the Lacers who had shot 21 free throws in the first found just eight in the second half as they were unable to generate the same calls as they did in the first.

“That’s when our body language as a team started to change,” said Oswell. “So I was trying to emphasize to them by focusing on what we can control. We can’t control the refs, we can’t control the calls they don’t make, but we can control how we respond to the situation. So that’s what I was trying to stress with them. Just leave it all on the court to end the game and leave no regrets.”

Momentum continued in the Royal’s favor in the fourth quarter, as they grew their lead up to 21 points with 19 seconds remaining. The first-seeded Louisville took the court at the buzzer to celebrate their CIF-SS championship.

Jones and the Lancers stayed in good spirits after the game, as she showed gratitude while reflecting on her team’s historic season.

“This is just a happy moment for me personally. Being a senior and getting this far, I couldn’t have asked for a better season. Obviously I would’ve wanted the win but we did as much as we could but my team had my back and we got all the way here. And we still have the state (playoffs) so we’re going to try and get it right and win over there.”

Those CIF state brackets will be released on Sunday, and we’ll have updates and brackets on the562.org as they come out.

VIDEO: Lakewood vs Louisville CIF Basketball Championship
PHOTOS: Lakewood vs Louisville CIF Basketball Championship
Eli Aquino
Eli Aquino is a high school student with plenty of writing and technology skills. He has a healthy knowledge and passion for sports and looks to take on journalism as a future career.