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The Suburbanite
  • Blue Streaks stage miracle rally, stun Cardinals

  •    The Lake Blue Streaks trailed for more than 28 of the game's 32 minutes in an Alliance Division I sectional final against Canfield.

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  •    The Lake Blue Streaks trailed for more than 28 of the game's 32 minutes in an Alliance Division I sectional final against Canfield.
    They led for the 3:50 of game time that mattered, and the end result was a 54-51 triumph.
    Behind for the entire game and down by as many as 18 points in the middle of the third quarter, the Blue Streaks staged a furious fourth-quarter rally fueled by their 1-3-1 half-court trap and closed strong to avoid an early end to their season.
    "We've certainly been in that situation before. I think we've probably won at least double-digit games that way from where we were down and persevered," Lake coach Tom McBride said. "It was just a matter of what was going to work, and it took us longer than normal to find that, but the 1-3-1 trap worked pretty good."
    Playing their first game in more than a week, the Blue Streaks (20-3) showed signs of rust in the early going and didn't fully hit their stride until after the half. Faced with a physical, athletic Canfield squad coming off a sectional win over GlenOak, Lake struggled to find its footing.
    With four points in the first quarter and without a field goal for the game's first six minutes, the top-seeded Blue Streaks appeared to be on the verge of unraveling completely as their shots refused to fall and the frustration continued to build.
    Late in the half, the bench received two technical fouls within a one-minute span as McBride earned one without even standing up or screaming at an official and the bench was assessed a second "T" a moment later.
    With the free throws from the two technicals and the athletic, driving shots of junior point guard Cole Pryjma (11 points), the Cardinals (17-6) extended their lead to 32-18 at halftime. With the Canfield student section going crazy and Lake's fans sitting in stunned silence, the district's top seed was reeling and looked like it just might be down for the count.
    Even after a well-designed play to open the second half that saw Vaudrin hit Spottleson for a back-door, alley-oop layup, Canfield held its ground and built its lead to its highest point at 40-22.
    The tide began to shift late in the third as the Blue Streaks scored the final six points of the period to give themselves a chance for a rally in the final stanza. The 1-3-1 trap became their vehicle to close the gap in the final frame as the Cardinals repeatedly took unnecessary chances with long passes over the top of the defense, turning the ball over and allowing Lake to get on track with easy baskets in transition.
    "We got them throwing the ball around a little bit, and our leaders had had enough with the way they were playing," McBride said. "It's so nice because we have six great seniors, and when you have Chaese Vaudrin on the court, I don't think the first three quarters were his best, but then he came out in the fourth and looked like the all-star we know he is."
    Page 2 of 2 - With five minutes remaining, Lake had closed to within three, 42-39, when junior forward Alex Belinsky, who led the Blue Streaks with 18 points, drained a 3-pointer from the left win to tie the game. Spottleson followed with a layup off a beautiful pass from Vaudrin and the Blue Streaks had their first lead of the night at the 3:01 mark.
    It was an edge they would not relinquish.
    "For the seniors, we knew this could be our last game and our last quarter," Vaudrin said. "We had been playing the whole game with a couple of bunnies not falling, but we just knew that it started with hard work on the defensive end, because we knew if we couldn't stop them, we couldn't tie the game. We knew that, hey, 'This is our time, let's make a run.'"
    More Canfield turnovers down the stretch led to three fast break baskets as Vaudrin converted two layups and assisted on another. The Cardinals exacerbated their problems when junior guard Brady Clark wrapped his arm around Vaudrin's throat from behind on a breakaway with 35.9 seconds left, garnering an intentional foul.
    "We had to sit down on defense and work as hard as we could and then we were able to get shots out on the fast break like we wanted to," Vaudrin added.
    With two free throws and continued possession of the ball, Lake was able to close out the game and survive a trifecta by Clark with 11 seconds left. Belinsky made one of two free throws with 7.7 seconds remaining, and with a deflected ball on the ensuing inbounds pass, Pryjma could not get the ball up the court quickly enough for a good look. A 35-foot heave by senior John Schiraldi was short and left as time expired.
    The Lake student section finally had something to crow about and paraphrased the late Heath Ledger's Joker character in "The Dark Knight," directing a chant of "Why so quiet?" at their Canfield counterparts.
    Spottleson was second in scoring for Lake behind Belinsky with 17 points, while Vaudrin had nine points, a team-high eight rebounds, a team-best six assists and two steals.
    Jarret Vrabel lead Canfield with 15 points.