The Lakewood boys basketball team hosted the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats in the first round of the 2A Boys District Basketball Tournament on Feb. 7.
The Cougars started out hot against Archbishop Murphy as they dominated the first quarter and put the Wildcats into foul trouble early. After the quarter, Lakewood led 16-6 and were already on their way to entering the bonus as they drew six fouls. The Cougars rode their momentum in the start of the second quarter as they went on an 8-4 run before the first timeout was called by the Wildcats. Archbishop Murphy came out of the break as a completely different team, racking up a 16-6 run to close out the half. Lakewood still held a lead at halftime, but the gap was a lot tighter as they led 30-26.
Coming out of halftime both teams looked determined to earn a victory as they battled back and forth on the defensive end. The Wildcats went on small 7-2 run to grab their first lead of the game at 33-32. The lead didn’t last very long as the Cougars’ offense exploded for a 15-2 run and entered the fourth quarter up 47-35. Archbishop Murphy wasn’t out of the game just yet as they slowly inched their way back to a tied score, 55-55, with only 1:30 left on the clock. Lakewood hit two threes and went two-for-two at the line in the final minute in order to advance to the next round with a 63-59 victory.
“This is playoff basketball and these games usually end up being really close. Even when we were able to create a lead, I never felt comfortable, because at this point in the season every team is good enough to go on a run. All of a sudden we became a very young team this season, but all of them are playing above and beyond what I could expect,” said Lakewood Head Coach Anthony Wiederkehr.
This game was more than just another playoff matchup for the Cougars as this victory will count as the first home playoff win, for boys basketball, in school history.
“I try to get everyone involved early on and the whole team has really stepped up into their roles near the end of the season. I just do my part, and if that is being the primary scorer then I’ll go out there and do my best to score a lot. Whatever I can do to help the team,” said junior guard Alex Jensen.
Lakewood’s starting shooting guard Alex Jensen had an incredible performance in all aspects of the game. He came out on fire in the first half as he nearly had a double-double by halftime with nine points and 11 rebounds. Jensen finished with game-highs in points, rebounds and steals with 20-15-4, respectively. Alex also went seven-of-10 from the free throw line, made one three-pointer and tallied four assists.
“I was put in the position to step up and be the main rebounder. It’s something that has to be done and I don’t mind doing the dirty work as long as the team needs it. We have had a lot of guys step up into leadership roles and I’ve learned a lot this season,” said sophomore center Kaiden Harrison.
Harrison has had to step up in a big way for an undersized Cougars’ squad. He notched a double-double while finishing second on the team for points and rebounds with 15 points and 10 boards. Kaiden was impressive from the free throw line, a perfect five-for-five, while also filling the stat sheet with two steals and one block.
“With everything we’ve gone through this year we have had to transition a lot into different roles and we have all taken on that ‘next man up’ mentality. The difference between sixth-man or starting guard doesn’t mean much to me as long as we are playing well and winning games,” said junior guard Jackson Schultz.
With all the change in the starting rotation, Schultz has had to transition from sixth-man to managing the offense from the starting point guard position. He filled the stat sheet with seven points, three assists, three rebounds and one steal. He also went one-for-two at the line and hit two shots from beyond the arc.
Two other big-time contributors for the Cougars were Jared Taylor, first-game back from absence, and senior sixth-man Sean Phillips. Taylor went off for 12 points by hitting three shots from deep and going one-for-two at the line. He also added to his stat line with four assists, three rebounds and two steals. Philips scored four points, dished out an assist and grabbed three rebounds off the bench. However, he made his biggest impact on the defensive end as he locked up the Wildcats’ starting guards and forced two steals in the process.
Lakewood’s next game is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 13, in the third round of the District Playoffs. If you want to keep up with the schedule and support the Cougars you can check out this site for details: http://www.nwcathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=2779&sport_id=3.