Blue Streaks share championship with Jackson and Green after knocking off Polar Bears in thriller

LAKE TWP. Tom McBride has possessed more star power on past Lake High School boys basketball teams.

Probably more overall talent, too.

But the 2017-18 Blue Streaks have something McBride describes as “collective character,” and it was enough for them to gain a special label Friday night:

Federal League champions.

The Streaks trailed visiting Jackson most of the night but pulled out a 58-56 win in heart-thumping fashion. The outcome snaps Jackson’s nine-game winning streak. More importantly, it creates a three-way tie for the league championship with Lake, Jackson and Green.

After dabbing to Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” during a net-cutting celebration, McBride lauded his team of overachievers, who improved to 17-3 overall and finished the league schedule at 9-3.

“Never one hang-up all year,” McBride said, his shirt soaked from a water-bucket bath. “We lost and had dignity. We won and had dignity. These kids always came back to fight the next day. They never took an opponent lightly. We had moments where we were flat this year, but never games like that. Today we never had those moments, and that was the difference.”

Jackson senior Jaret Pallotta missed a tough baseline fadeaway jumper from about 12 feet at the buzzer that could have sent the game to overtime. Inbounding with 1.3 seconds left at the opposite end after Lake senior Mike Spotleson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Jackson junior Spencer Stanton threw a full-court baseball pass to Pallotta to give him a chance.

But the shot was long, bouncing high off the rim and setting off a wild celebration for the Blue Streaks. Lake won a piece of its second league championship in the last three years and fourth in the last six years.

“It’s always great to win a Federal League championship, or at least share it like we did,” said Matt Spotleson, Mike’s twin brother. “It’s great that we came out and we weren’t scared or anything at all. We came out ready to play and showed at the end.”

Asked about Pallotta’s shot, Jackson head coach Tim Debevec said, “I thought it was in just because Jaret is a competitor. When you have a kid like Jaret, you never think the game is over.”

The 6-foot-6 Pallotta led the Polar Bears with 22 points and five rebounds. Anthony Mazzeo added 10 points and Sean Reed totaled five assists for Jackson (15-5, 9-3), which had already clinched a share of its fourth straight league title entering the night.

The Polar Bears trailed 2-0, then didn’t fall behind again until early in the fourth quarter. They never could pull away, though, with a lead as big as seven as a near-capacity crowd watched the top two programs in the area battle.

Senior Jeremy Brady scored in transition off a Jake Maranville assist with 5:50 left in the fourth, putting Lake up 44-43 — the Streaks’ first advantage since that 2-0 score. A steal and breakaway layup by Brady a minute later had the Blue Streaks up 48-45.

Brady scored a team-high 17 points and registered three steals. His dribble penetration gave Jackson problems all night.

“Coach McBride three weeks ago told me he wanted me to be more aggressive,” Brady said. “Ever since then, each game by game, I’ve been stepping up. It feels great. It’s like a different player out there. It’s awesome.”

Jackson took the lead with a four-point trip up the floor thanks to a personal foul on Lake, a technical foul on McBride and a driving bucket by Pallotta with 3:31 left.

The lead traded hands with Mike Spotleson scoring and Pallotta answering with a 3-pointer, leading to the probably the biggest sequence of the night.

Stanton got a steal and dribbled to the other end for a potential four-point lead for Jackson. But he couldn’t finish. Lake’s Kam Casey grabbed the rebound and got it to Maranville, who fired ahead to Matt Spotleson for a 3-point play that gave the Blue Streaks a 57-56 lead as the roof nearly came off the joint with 1:08 left.

“Coach always says, ‘Run the floor,’” said Spotleson, who finished with 10 points and made 4 of 5 free throws in the fourth quarter.

His brother Mike scored nine points despite constant foul problems. Maranville, a junior guard, finished with 13 points and six assists.

Jackson’s final three possessions then went turnover, a Pallotta missed 3 and the miss at the buzzer.

As his players watched Lake cut down a net from a corner of the gym and Queen’s “We are the Champions” echoed throughout the halls, Debevec reminded everyone that his Polar Bears weren’t walking away empty handed.

“We got a share,” Debevec said. “We just didn’t convert some possessions at the end. But I’m happy with our season right now. Now we’ve just got to refocus on these next two games and preparing for the tournament. It’s a long season and we still have a long way to go. Lake’s a good team. We share it with Lake and Green. It’s a good league.”

 

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