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The Suburbanite
  • Tigers use fourth-quarter rally to ground Eagles

  • At the end of a roller-coaster-ride type of night, the Lake Center Christian Tigers were the ones left smiling and high-fiving after surviving a 51-48 battle against an athletic Youngstown Christian team that pushed them to the final buzzer.

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  • At the end of a roller-coaster-ride type of night, the Lake Center Christian Tigers were the ones left smiling and high-fiving after surviving a 51-48 battle against an athletic Youngstown Christian team that pushed them to the final buzzer.
    Both teams put together huge runs over the course of the game, with LCCS surging ahead first and the Eagles retaliating with an overwhelming third-quarter push that had the hosts on their heels. The back-and-forth nature of the first three quarters set the game up for a dramatic conclusion, and the Tigers made the plays when it mattered most.
    “It was a game where we felt like we had some definite strengths,” LCCS coach Eric Schlabach said. “They were quicker and more athletic, but we felt that we had a really big advantage inside if we could pound the ball in to the post. A lot of it, I thought, was going to be which team was going to be able to dictate how the game was played.”
    Early on, it appeared as if LCCS might run away with the game. Playing at their desired pace — more of a crawl than a sprint — the Tigers (6-8) were able to stymie an athletic Youngstown Christian team that featured Ohio Division VI football defensive player of the year KaeVon Green.
    Green, whose leaping ability made him a threat on the boards all night, and fellow Youngstown Christian football standout Darien Townsend used their athleticism inside to snare rebounds, but in the first quarter a deliberate pace kept the score down and slanted in the Tigers’ favor.
    With balanced scoring from their starting five, the Tigers held the Eagles (7-4) to five points in the opening frame by playing solid half-court defense and rebounding well to prevent second chances for their visitors.
    However, Youngstown Christian began to find its offensive footing in the second quarter and erased most of a 14-5 deficit, as senior guard Dalen Williams scored seven of his team-high 15 points to pump life into a stagnant offense. With Williams scoring and facilitating, the Eagles closed to within three, 23-20, at the half.
    “I felt like really, we maybe should have been ahead by more at halftime, because I thought we rebounded the ball really well in the first half and attacked them inside,” Schlabach said.
    Youngstown Christian made its biggest impact in the third. Full-court pressure was implemented all game long but forced only 12 LCCS turnovers. The Eagles rocketed from a three-point deficit to a nine-point lead with a 16-4 run to open the quarter.
    Townsend was the heart of the offensive surge, hitting two corner 3-pointers to go with another long bomb by senior forward Jayquan Yanno. As the home crowd fell silent and stunned, Schlabach called a timeout to stem the tide. Coming out of the timeout, senior point guard Alex Armstrong drained a 3-pointer from the left wing and senior forward Scott Hefty followed with a triple of his own off of a Youngstown Christian turnover, slicing the deficit to three. A layup by Trevor Rainieri on the next possession pulled the Tigers within one. As a hectic period ended, Youngstown Christian clung to a 37-35 lead.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I thought we kept our poise really well when they made a run and were able to get back to how we were playing in the first half,” Schlabach said. “We went through a stretch where we made a few mistakes both offensively and defensively, but I thought after that we did a really good job of being able to put some stops together.”
    Despite the turn in momentum, the Tigers could not pull even until the 4:09 mark of the fourth. When they did, Hefty tossed in his second trifecta of the half to put them in the lead for good at 45-42.
    Down the stretch, LCCS held on thanks in large part to the leadership of Hefty and Rainieri, who combined to score all but one of the Tigers’ final nine points. The Eagles certainly hobbled themselves with terrible free-throw shooting, making 4-of-15 on the night, including 2-of-10 in the second half.
    Those missed scoring chances came back to haunt when Armstrong missed the second two free throws and Williams swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final margin.
    As several of their wins have been this season, the victory came in dramatic fashion for the Tigers, but Schlabach was happy to have the win nonetheless.
    “Every night it’s going to be a battle and be a challenge, but the way we responded tonight, that could definitely be something that gives us a little momentum,” he said.
    LCCS dominated in the rebounding battle, as it has for much of the season, besting the Eagles 41-26 on the boards. The Tigers are optimistic that the result will help reverse a recent slide that brought them into the contest on a three-game losing streak. Having a win against a team likely to be a high seed in their sectional tournament bracket is also a nice entry on LCCS’ resume heading into the latter stages of the season.