Eagles Outlast Rangers at New LHS Gym
The Lakewood boys basketball team opened its new gym Friday night with a home game against cross town rival St. Edward. The game capped a festive week where LHS celebrated the completion of its re-construction. The game marked the end of Lakewood’s three-year stay at Harding Middle School, where it played during the gym construction. “We felt like a real basketball team again”, Ranger head coach Alex Cammock said when asked about playing on campus again. The Eagles, a Final Four team last March, is expected to contend for the D1 title again this year. The upstart Rangers fought toe-to-toe with St. Edward, which pulled away in the final minutes to earn a 51-38 season-opening victory.
Last season St. Edward dominated the Rangers in a matchup at the Eagles’ Nest. This year the Rangers set a different tone was set early, as St. Edward held a 12-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. Ranger center Jacob Sala picked up his second foul only five minutes into the game, forcing him to sit out the final three minutes of the first period. Despite this, the Rangers used a mix of zone and man-to-man schemes to keep the Eagles off balance, which kept the game low-scoring.
St. Edward opened the second quarter on a 13-0 run, taking a 25-8 lead with four minutes remaining in the half. Eagle senior Elliott Tirbaso drained a three pointer that ignited the Eagles crowd, and the Rangers were on the verge of being blown out. However, they responded with a 10-0 run over the next four minutes to make the score 25-18 at the half. Jacob Sala, who returned to the game early in the period, had four of the ten Ranger points during the rally.
The game remained tight in the third quarter, as Sala hit another basket to make the score 30-24 with 3:27 left in the third quarter. The evening’s most distressing moment happened on the next possession, when Eagle sophomore Grant Huffman was injured under the basket. He was unable to return to the game, leaving St. Edward without its top offensive playmaker. The Eagles were still able to stretch the lead to 36-26 at the end of three quarters.
Lakewood opened the fourth quarter with a three point basket from junior Tommy Sala. Eagle sophomore Montorie Foster responded with five unanswered points, making it 41-29 with 4:30 remaining in the game. The Rangers then scored a pair of three point baskets. First it was senior Noah Stadler, who cut the lead to nine. Then senior Liam Diop followed with another that made the score 41-35 with 3:35 remaining in the game. The Ranger crowd was energized, hoping the Rangers could muster one more run. However, the Eagles used strong free throw shooting to pull away in the final minutes, eventually expanding the final margin to 51-38.
“It’s a good win on the road,” St. Edward head coach Eric Flannery said after the game. “They did a good job of mixing it up,” he said about the Rangers use of zone defense. He was also impressed with the new gym. “I think the layout is great,” he said, citing the fact that there are bleachers behind the baskets – a rarity in high school gyms. “It was nice to be part of this,” he said if the opening night excitement, “We were honored to be here.” The Eagles return home next Friday to play Beachwood at 7p.m.
Although disappointed in his team’s loss, Ranger head coach Alex Cammock was pleased with his team’s effort. “I really think the kids played their hearts out,” he said. He saw positives that can be built on for the remainder of the season. “It was a great atmosphere for the first game,” he said. Lakewood returns to action with a Tuesday night home game against Massillon Washington. They will open their conference season next Friday night with a home game against Amherst Steele.
Mike Deneen has extensive experience covering sports and community stories for the Lakewood Observer. Mike has been a Senior Industry Analyst for the Freedonia Group in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1998. He has appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, NPR’s MarketPlace and has been quoted multiple times in The Wall Street Journal. He has made multiple guest appearances on ESPN Cleveland radio. Mike also writes for Inside Northwestern, a website that covers Northwestern Wildcat Athletics. You can reach him on Twitter at @MikeDeneen1