Lakers stay composed, focused to pull away from Poland to advance

 

Alex Langadas LAKERS, 64 Scoring: Marcus DeVoe 10, Brandon Palmer 6, Nick Wandishin 10, Jack Lesure 22, Nate Smith 6, Tyler Walker 2, Ryan Hodgdon 2, Alex Langadas 6 Rebounds (32): DeVoe 3, Palmer 4, Wandishin 5, Lesure 15, Smith 2, Walker 2, Langadas 1 Assists: DeVoe 1, Palmer 2, Wandishin 1, Lesure 3, Smith 2, Walker 2, Langadas 1 Steals: DeVoe 2, Palmer 1, Wandishin 1, Lesure 5, Smith 1 FG: 27-63, 42.9% 3-Point: 4-17, 23.5% FT: 6-10, 60% POLAND, 50 Scoring: Jared Martel 3, Patrick Kuklinski 6, Nate Chouinard 13, John Fossett 16, Caleb Hodgkin 5, Greg Leighton 7 Rebounds (28): Martel 2, Chouinard 2, Fossett 12, Hodgkin 6, Kurtis Leighton 1, Greg Leighton 3, Noah Salmonds 1, Quinn Callahan 1 Assists: Martel 1, Kuklinski 1, Chouinard 2, Fossett 3, Hodgkin 1, G. Leighton 1, Callahan 1 Steals: Kuklinski 1, Chouinard 1, Fossett 2 FG: 19-54, 35.2% 3-Point: 3-12, 25% FT: 9-13, 69.2%

Alex Langadas
LAKERS, 64
Scoring: Marcus DeVoe 10, Brandon Palmer 6, Nick Wandishin 10, Jack Lesure 22, Nate Smith 6, Tyler Walker 2, Ryan Hodgdon 2, Alex Langadas 6
Rebounds (32): DeVoe 3, Palmer 4, Wandishin 5, Lesure 15, Smith 2, Walker 2, Langadas 1
Assists: DeVoe 1, Palmer 2, Wandishin 1, Lesure 3, Smith 2, Walker 2, Langadas 1
Steals: DeVoe 2, Palmer 1, Wandishin 1, Lesure 5, Smith 1
FG: 27-63, 42.9%
3-Point: 4-17, 23.5%
FT: 6-10, 60%
POLAND, 50
Scoring: Jared Martel 3, Patrick Kuklinski 6, Nate Chouinard 13, John Fossett 16, Caleb Hodgkin 5, Greg Leighton 7
Rebounds (28): Martel 2, Chouinard 2, Fossett 12, Hodgkin 6, Kurtis Leighton 1, Greg Leighton 3, Noah Salmonds 1, Quinn Callahan 1
Assists: Martel 1, Kuklinski 1, Chouinard 2, Fossett 3, Hodgkin 1, G. Leighton 1, Callahan 1
Steals: Kuklinski 1, Chouinard 1, Fossett 2
FG: 19-54, 35.2%
3-Point: 3-12, 25%
FT: 9-13, 69.2%

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — With upstart Poland seemingly matching basket for basket over the first 24 minutes, Brandon Palmer and his Laker teammates simply stuck to the game plan.

“We try to never get too high or too low on the court,” the senior said. “We try to be the most intense team every time we step on the floor.”

Palmer figured if the top-seeded Lakers followed the game plan (rebound, make free throws and play great defense), stayed focus and executed, “we’d be all set.”

Two of Jack Lesure’s steals led to layups, sparking an 8-0 run at the five minute mark of the fourth quarter as Lake Region (17-2) finally shook eighth-seed Poland 64-50 last Saturday in the Class B South quarterfinals held at the Portland Expo.

Lesure scored a game-high 22 points and hauled down 15 rebounds to propel the Lakers to the semifinals today, Feb. 18, at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland against fourth-ranked Lincoln Academy.

But, it wasn’t easy.

In a regular season meeting with the Knights, the Lakers had their offense running in high gear and bolted out to a 16-point halftime lead.

This time, LR struggled early on shooting the ball (11-of-33 from the field) and held a 10-8 lead after one quarter.

“We missed several easy ones at the basket early on, which could have been due to nerves or excitement to start the playoffs,” LR Coach John Mayo said. “We did not have a sense of panic. I think that our experience played a part in that as well as we had the lead so we could still play our game.”

Poland handled LR’s pressure defense fairly well, and were rewarded with several buckets in the paint, lead by John Fossett, who had a strong game with team highs of 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Marcus DeVoe looked to provide a spark to the Laker offense by sinking a 3-pointer and converting a steal into points for a 15-11 LR lead.

But, the Knights came right back as Greg Leighton netted a trey and Fosset connected on a foul line jumper and two foul shots.

Tighter defense enabled the Lakers to open a little daylight with 1:46 left until the half as Palmer scored and then dished a pass to Nick Wandishin for an open layup. After a cool shooting start, Nate Smith dropped a 3-pointer to push the Laker lead to 24-15.

After Lesure made 3-of-4 foul shots, Poland climbed back into the game and had reason to feel good about their chances of pulling off the upset with a late run to trail just 27-23 at intermission.

Jack Lesure

Jack Lesure

Like a tennis match, every time the Lakers made a big shot — Smith and DeVoe each drilled 3-pointers to start the third quarter and appeared ready to take command of the game — Poland returned serve with their own big play, be it going 5-of-6 from the foul line or Jared Martel sinking his only basket, a 3-pointer.

With 3:05 left in the quarter, the Lakers started to slightly shake the Knights. Reserve Ryan Hodgdon made it a six-point game with a soft jumper in the lane, Palmer tipped in a missed shot and Lesure completed a 3-point play on a strong take to the rim with 19.2 seconds left for a 46-39 lead.

While composure and perseverance worked in the end for the Lakers, Poland cracked for just a few minutes — a couple of missed shots and turnovers — and it proved costly as the deficit swelled to double digits.

Off a timeout with 2:05 left, Alex Langadas drew double coverage and flicked a pass to Wandishin for an easy bucket to seal the victory.

LR’s defense locked down the Knights over the final minutes, allowing just a Fossett inside hoop.

Marcus DeVoe

Marcus DeVoe

“The difference maker was our defense. It wasn’t great by any means at times, but being able to key in on defense for multiple possessions and stop the other team from scoring is big. Then if we go down and score off of the opponent’s missed shot, it’s a huge advantage,” Lesure said. “If we keep it simple and trust what we’ve been doing all season, close games should end in our favor. We did a good job of not giving up when it got tough. It was not our best game offensively or defensively and we struggled with being consistent, but thankfully our effort was enough to pull out the win.”

Although it took awhile for the Lakers to pull away from the Knights, Coach Mayo remained confident that his club’s defense would ultimately lead them to the semis.

“We have been stressing defense all year long and I knew at some point that our full court defense would eventually lead to some easy baskets. Jack made his first steal in the full court and that seemed to get everyone going and it lead to a couple of easy baskets,” Coach Mayo said. “I thought our rebounding was a big difference maker. I thought for the most part we limited them to one shot each possession (LR gave up nine offensive rebounds). On offense, even though we did not shoot well in the first half, we for the most part got good looks, but they did not fall.”

Players agreed that stingy defense and past experience carried them past the upset-minded Knights.

Brandon Palmer

Brandon Palmer

“It helps a lot that we’ve been around the block for four years, which has included many close games. So having that in our pockets definitely helps because we know to keep calm and just play basketball,” Lesure said. “It will take the same things it takes to beat any team: focus, hard work and a short memory. If we play as hard as we can while playing the smart way, doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing, then we should be able to get the win. A short memory helps so that you don’t dwell on previous mistakes, it allows you to move ahead and make better plays happen.”

Marcus DeVoe added, “We did well pulling out the win and staying composed, but we struggled with playing to our team’s full potential. We are going to have to do that to win a gold ball. Experience plays a huge piece. Having all seniors in at the end of the game really helps. It’s important to take care of the ball and know what to do out there at the end of the games.”

“I think we rebounded well and found a way to force turnovers, but our half-court defense needs to get better going into Thursday’s game,” Palmer said.

Up next is Lincoln Academy.

“We need to play our tempo against Lincoln and attack the rim on offense,” Coach Mayo said. “On defense, we have to get out on shooters early, defend their cutters and rebounding. I have said rebounding, free throws and great defense wins games.”

Added Nate Smith, “To beat Lincoln, we need to play great defense and rebound. When we do that, that is when we are at our best.”

UPDATE: The Lakers torched the Eagles 76-31 Thursday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland to advance to the Class B South Finals on Saturday, 3:45 p.m. against third-seed Yarmouth. Full stories in the next edition.

 

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