Piners continue hot play with win over Hawks

BY MIKE WHITE Staff Writer

Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD — At the start of the 2004-05 campaign, the Lakewood High School (LHS) boys basketball team dropped its season opener to Manchester High School. Many thought that loss was just a preview of what was in store for the Piners.

However, since that time, Lakewood has put forth an incredible run, winning nine of its last 10, including a convincing 65-54 win over Manchester last Friday in a Class B South match-up to avenge the season-opening loss.

The Piners currently sport a gaudy 9-2 record and sit alone atop of the B South Division of the Shore Conference. LHS coach John Richardson credits the mettle of his players for the squad’s continued success.

“This team has a lot of heart and they continue to fight game after game,” Richardson said. “We played extremely well in this game against Manchester. It was nice to avenge the loss we suffered to them earlier this year. We have come a long way since that first game of the year. The kids believe in each other and have been doing all the little things that make a successful program.”

In fact, Richardson felt the first three quarters of the Manchester game were the best 24 minutes the Piners have put together this season. Lakewood led by 24 with just eight minutes remaining.

“For three quarters we really dominated at both ends of the floor,” Richardson said. “Offensively, we were patient and moving the ball until we got an open look. At the defensive end, we limited the number of shots they got at the basket.”

Of course, Richardson has been around coaching long enough to know that good teams eventually stage comebacks. Indeed, Manchester stormed back in the fourth quarter and outscored the Piners by a 24-11 margin. However, it was a little too late as Lakewood had built a comfortable lead.

“We knew they would come back,” Richardson said. “They are too strong a club to just lie down. They made a run at us, but they didn’t have enough to get over the hump.”

Lakewood was led by junior swingman Chris Smith, who scored a game-high 29 points. Smith lit Manchester up for 19 first-half points, including draining three 3-pointers in the first quarter as Lakewood took an 18-10 lead.

“He was on fire,” Richardson said. “He was making shots from all over the floor. They were guarding him tight, but he had one of those games where everything he put up was finding its way in. He has really provided us with great leadership so far this season.”

Josh Johnson, who Richardson cited as the most consistent player on the team this season, scored 11 points and collected 18 rebounds.

“His contributions have been enormous,” Richardson said. “He has helped us at both ends of the floor.”

Lead guard Jerry Jones finished with nine points. Six of those points came in the third quarter as Lakewood stretched its lead to 54-30.

Manchester made it a little interesting by beginning the fourth quarter with a 20-3 tear. Manchester big-man Jaron Griffin, who finished with 25 points, scored 11 during the run.

“For three quarters we did an excellent job holding him in check,” Richardson said. “He is a very talented player. He had a big fourth quarter for them.”