Morris, Richard score 9 each to lead Dragons
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ARGOS — Facing a nine-point deficit, first-year Lakeland Christian boys basketball coach Taylor Long said he did not make halftime adjustments against host Argos at Phil Weybright Gymnasium Friday.
Rather, he tried to get them to do defensively what they had practiced in the first place.
That involved guarding Argos senior forward J.J. Morris tight and making sure there was a help defender there if he got a step on the first defender.
Lakeland Christian came in leading the state in defensive scoring average at 35 points per game, and their execution of what they practiced led to a come-from-behind 43-34 win.
Alex Cook scored a game-high 21 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:22 left in the third quarter, and Seth Martin added 14, including 11 in the second half.
Martin also had 12 rebounds.
Lakeland Christian committed just four turnovers, none in the second half against Argos’ man-to-man defense. Martin came in averaging 22 points per game.
“That was huge to be able to handle it,” Long said. “Because they pressured us pretty good, so for us to be able to pivot, be patient, be strong with it and confident with it too. That’s huge because obviously, when you’ve got guys like us where we need to cut and move to create our shots and spaces, you’ve got to be able handle the ball and take some pressure.”
Sean Richard and J.J. Morris scored nine points each for Argos. Nate Manikowski scored all seven of his points in the second quarter, helping the Dragons grab a 22-13 halftime lead.
Lakeland Christian improved to 12-2 overall and 3-1 in the Hoosier Plains. They can clinch a share of the conference crown if they beat South Bend Career Academy at home on Feb. 9. Bethany Christian, who lost to Elkhart Christian on Thursday, is also 3-1 in the conference, and they can clinch their own share of the title with a win over Trinity Greenlawn on Feb. 17.
Argos fell to 9-5, 2-2.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call them adjustments,” Long said. “There were things we had hoped to do from the jump. We were just trying to crowd J.J. Morris whenever he had the ball or was in the lane, just try and make it crowded and then contest the guys that were making shots. And rebound, that was a big part of it.”
It took less than three minutes for Lakeland Christian to wipe out the halftime deficit. Martin hit a pullup, scored on a steal and coast-to-coast layup and scored again on a back down move in the post before Cook tied the game with a 3-pointer.
A.J. Mills, who entered the game after Morris briefly exited after being poked in the eye, hit a short banker to give Argos a 24-22 lead, but Seth Martin scored on a dazzling behind-the-back move for a layup, and Cook hit his go-ahead trey to make it 27-24.
Luke Stults scored on a drive and was fouled with 1:01 left in the third quarter but missed the ensuing free throw.
Leading 28-26 after three quarters, Cook scored on a driving banker, and Martin again went coast to coast after a steal to increase the lead to six two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Argos got back within 35-32 on two Morris free throws with 2:32 left.
Ben Jackson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2:14 left, but Lakeland Christian got the offensive rebound. Cook missed the front end of another one-and-one with 2:08 left, but Lakeland Christian got another offensive rebound, and Micah Martin would eventually split a pair of free throws with 2:02 left to increase the lead to four.
Morris missed a 12-footer, and the Cougars went 7 for 8 from the foul line in the final 1:23.
Argos coach Jason Breden declined comment after the game.
Lakeland Christian also won the JV game 26-23. Hayden Hensler led the Argos JV with 11 points, and Gabe McMillen and Hunter Xaver had five points each. Dominic Burns added two.
Richard was named homecoming prince and Lily McMillen homecoming princess in pregame ceremonies. Morris was named homecoming king and Kaitlyn DeWulf homecoming queen.
Lakeland Christian 43, Argos 34
LAKELAND CHRISTIAN (43) (12-2, 3-1)
Nate Reimink 2 0-0 4, Alex Cook 6 7-9 21, Ben Jackson 0 2-3 2, Seth Martin 6 2-5 14, Micah Martin 0 2-4 2, Josiah Rice 0 0-0 0, Isaac Barrett 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 14 13-21 43
ARGOS (34) (9-5, 2-2)
Nate Manikowski 3 0-0 7, Sean Richard 3 3-4 9, Elijah Osborn 1 0-0 3, J.J. Morris 2 4-4 9, Luke Stults 2 0-2 4, A.J. Mills 1 0-0 2
TEAM: 12 7-10 34
Three-point field goals:
Lakeland Christian 2 (Cook 2),
Argos 3 (Morris, Manikowski, Osborn)
Total fouls: Lakeland Christian 12, Argos 17
Turnovers: Lakeland Christian 4, Argos 7
Score by quarters
Lakeland Christian 8 5 15 15 – 43
Argos 10 12 4 8 – 34
JV: Lakeland Christian 26, Argos 23