Piners get important win over rival Long Branch

Staff Writer

By Mike White

The Lakewood High School boys’ basketball team needed a break-out game from J.R. Smith. It also needed Dyquan Randolph to run the offense flawlessly, Adrian Edwards to have one of his best shooting games of the season, and Herman Williams to control the boards.

Anything less and the Piners would surely fall short against Long Branch.

Lakewood got outstanding performances from all four players en route to an 80-70 victory last Saturday over visiting Long Branch in a Shore Conference nondivisional matchup.

Smith scored a game-high 33 points to lead the Piners, who improved to 10-5 overall. Smith balanced his scoring, netting 16 in the first half and 17 in the final 16 minutes.

Randolph added 16 points and dished out a number of assists, while Edwards chipped in 16, including knocking down four clutch free throws in the closing minutes to nail down the victory. Williams did a solid job on the boards as Lakewood limited Long Branch’s second shot opportunities.

"We knew we would need to play this way in order to beat Long Branch," Lakewood coach John Henderson said. "We realized this was going to be a tough game. They are a very talented team and very well coached. If we didn’t get the performances we got from our players, we could have easily lost this game."

Lakewood turned the game in its favor with a big third quarter. The Piners outscored the Green Wave by a 23-8 margin, building a 57-37 lead entering the final eight minutes.

But Long Branch wasn’t done. Behind the scoring of Duane Montgomery, who finished with 25 points, the Green Wave made a run and got to within 10 points. But a couple of baskets by Randolph and the clutch free-throw shooting of Edwards squelched the comeback attempt.

"I told the kids at the end of the third quarter not to let up," Henderson said. "Long Branch is too good a team to get relaxed on. We knew that they would make a run. It was only a matter of time. We needed to stay focused and close the game out. I thought we did a good job of that in the final minutes."

Henderson is especially pleased with the play of Smith and Randolph. Smith is one of the top scorers in the Shore Conference, averaging close to 23 points per game. He leads the conference in three-pointers with 59. The junior sharpshooter drained seven three-pointers against Long Branch.

Randolph is the team’s playmaker. He is a solid ballhandler, makes good decisions and plays defense, Henderson said.

"They’re both playing very well lately," Henderson said. "Smith lit it up from the outside today. Randolph did a great job of running the offense and keeping us under control. They make for a nice combination."

Senior Kevin King added nine points and a handful of key rebounds for Lakewood, Henderson said.

A big defensive effort combined with the usual scoring prowess from Smith resulted in a 54-28 victory over Lacey Township Friday night.

Smith poured in a game-high 24 points, including a pair of three-pointers, and the Piners’ defense held Lacey to single digits in three of four quarters to post the victory.

Lakewood ran off to a 12-3 first-quarter advantage. The Piners opened it up to 25-11 by halftime.

"We handled them pretty easily," Henderson said. "Again we played solid defense. It seems if we play defense, everything else takes care of itself."

Lakewood travels to Point Pleasant Borough Friday (6:30 p.m.). The Piners will attempt to avenge a one-point loss to Point Borough from earlier in the season.

"This is a game that we are looking forward to," Henderson said. "The first time we played them, they beat us at the buzzer. We didn’t play well in that until the fourth quarter. We were able to rally from 20 points down and almost pull it out. We’re hoping for a different result in this meeting."