Grass provides late scoring punch to lead LR boys past upset-minded Knights

Ayden Grass made a couple of key shots down the stretch for the Lakers against Poland. (Rivet Photos)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Lake Region Coach John Mayo will tell you records, at times, don’t mean a thing.

Just over a week ago, his boys’ basketball team upset once-beaten Cape Elizabeth, and the Lakers did it in dominating fashion.

So, he told his players to be a bit wary of Poland, a team the Lakers seemingly handled with ease a short time ago.

Instantly Friday, the Lakers saw a hungry Knights club that was far better than their 1-8 record.

The Knights’ scrappy play and a big outing by junior Tyler Tucci, who scored a game-high 17 points and hauled down 11 rebounds, had local fans on the edge of their seats with 2:57 left in the game.

Up 41-38, the Lakers got some unexpected help from senior reserve forward Ayden Grass, who netted a couple of foul shots, coolly sank a pull-up jumper in the lane and secured two rebounds to enable the blue and gold to scratch out a 47-39 victory at Nutting Gymnasium.

“Ayden started the year with a knee injury and now is able to go. He was able to use his height (listed as 6-foot-6) to gets some offensive rebounds and he hit a big shot from the foul line area later in the game,” Coach Mayo said. “He gives us some versatility because he can play inside with his height, but can also play on the wing.”

The Lakers struggled shooting the ball early in the game, hitting just 3-of-10 as Poland squeezed off attempts to take the ball hard to the rim.

“Poland is a very young team and their young players are getting use to playing at the varsity level. They are playing with much more confidence. They also made some adjustments to our inside game, by doubling the post, which they did not do in the first game that gave us some easy baskets,” LR Coach John Mayo said. “Their game plan was to really clog the paint, and at times, I thought our post guys were not making strong moves to the basket. They were settling for the shots not going to the basket.”

Mark Mayo found working inside the lane a bit rough against the Knights.

Tucci gave the Knights a huge confidence lift by sinking a pair of 3-pointers, scoring eight of the club’s 12 points as Poland enjoyed a 12-10 lead after one.

With Coach Mayo urging his players to “keep moving” and “don’t dribble so much, pass the ball,” those instructions finally resulted in a Laker easy look in the lane as point guard Tristen Chaine found True Meyers for a layup to close out the period.

Poland struggled with Chaine’s drive-and-dish in the second as the Lakers built a 16-13 lead. Meyers found his rhythm, draining a 3-pointer from the left wing with 3:39 left for a 19-15 lead. After a Chaine inside score, forward Mark Mayo absorbed a hit, finished the shot and added a free throw as the Laker lead swelled to nine.

Poland fought back as freshman Isaiah Hill showed little hesitation pulling the trigger on a pair of 3-pointers to make it 24-21. LR’s Dawson Smith closed out the half with a sweeping shot off the glass for a 26-21 advantage at intermission.

The Lakers seemingly took command with four minutes left in the third, crafting an 8-0 run, scoring all four hoops in the lane.

“We started finding the open shot against their zone offense. We started moving the ball better. We started sharing the ball with each other,” Coach Mayo said.

They also controlled the glass with a 14-6 advantage.

Poland kept the pressure on in the fourth, trailing 37-35 and 41-38 before the Lakers made a couple of big plays to pull away.

A key play late was a determined Mark Mayo, who wrestled the ball away from two Poland defenders and earned a trip to the foul line. The burly forward sank both shots to give his club a four-point edge.

LR could have made life a little easier for themselves, but were just 6-of-12 from the foul line in the fourth, while the Knights went 6-of-9.

The LR difference makers were Chaine (13 points and 8 rebounds), Meyers (13 points and 7 rebounds) and Mayo (11 points and 9 rebounds).

Ethan Chadwick tossed in two points but had two blocks and six rebounds. Other LR scorers were: Ayden Grass 4, Robbie Crockett 2 and Dawson Smith 2.

Peter Bolduc III netted 12 points for the Knights.

Stat lines

Turnovers: LR 17, P 17

Free Throws: LR 14-30, P 10-18

Field Goals: LR 16-45, P 12-50

Rebounds: LR 37, P 25

Legend in the House: There was a legend in the house — Celtic great and NBA Hall of Famer Dave Cowens was courtside. His nephew is Joe Gasbarro, a member of the Lake Region varsity football coaching staff. Gasbarro, assistant coach Seth Johnson, former head coach Brian Jahna and LR players were honored at halftime with the presentation of the Good Sportsmanship banner.

Up next: At 6-6, the Lakers are ranked #9 in Class B West, the final tourney slot. LR is just three tourney points behind Lisbon (7-6) and just two points up on Freeport (7-4), a club they will soon see. So, the Lakers have their work ahead of them as they begin the stretch run.

The biggest thing for us is to limit the turnovers. We have to be patient on offense and get a good shot each time down the floor,” Coach Mayo said. “We need to continue to rebound the ball well and limit the other teams to one shot on each possession.”

The Lakers met Traip Academy yesterday, travel to St. Dom’s on Friday for a 7 p.m. game, then get a little time off, heading to Freeport on Friday, Feb. 2 for a 7 p.m. contest.


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