By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
When the Lakeside and University School boys basketball teams went to their respective locker rooms tied at the half, they were two teams headed in decidedly different directions.
The Preppers returned from the break and more than doubled the offensive output of the Dragons and coasted to a 72-47 victory at Lakeside Gymnasium.
“It was our first game,” senior post Sam Bentz said. “I think we just got warmed up (for the second half). Coach emphasized defense. We held them to 17 points, I think, in the second half. That’s a good number.”
“I think it just took a little while to get the rust off,” US coach Terry Lipford. “We were just trying to get our game legs (in the first half). We were careless with the ball and we quit throwing it all over the gym.
“We also needed to tighten up the defense. We played much better defensively in the second half.”
University (1-0, 1-0 in Premier Athletic Conference) used a pair of free throws from D’Andre Austin and a 3-pointer from Bentz to force a 30-30 tie at the break. The Preppers then opened the second half on a 12-0 run to go up 42-30 with 3:36 to play in the third period.
“We were just flat for whatever reason,” Lakeside coach Mark Taylor said. “I felt they were the stronger, tougher team. They pounced on every loose ball. They had crisp execution on offense and there was a lid on the basket for us. We couldn’t make a shot. Then they beat us on the boards.
“Everything just slipped in the second half for us. It was inexplicable. They really outworked us.”
On top of all that, the Dragons last two key pieces to injuries. Kyle Downs left the game in the first half with a broken wrist and Cole Farr may have broken his right ankle in the second half.
“There was a weird spell on our team,” Taylor said as he was being updated on the players’ situations by Lakeside trainer Lauren Sposito. “Downs shattered his left arm and he’s probably out for the year. Farr busted up his ankle and he’s probably out.
“It’s two broken bones most likely.”
That 12-0 run to start the third period contained key 3-pointers from Bentz and Curtis Black, from nearly the exact same spot on the floor, a pair of buckets from 6-foot-7 post Matt Gibbons and two free throws from Frank Calo.
“That’s the coaches and our point guard, De’Andre Austin,” Bentz said. “We stepped up and got every ball. We stepped up in the second half. Coach ran some plays for me and Gibbons and some of the other guys.
“We executed well in the second half.”
The Dragons (0-3, 0-1) were 2-12 (16.7 percent) from the field in the third quarter and 4-25 (16 percent) in the second half after going 14-30 (46.7 percent) in the first half.
“The first half was excellent,” Taylor said. “We jumped on them quick. The intensity was outstanding. We ran our offense well. We played defense seamlessly. We attacked them well on defense.
“We jumped their passing lanes and that led to some runouts and layups.”
Bentz led the Preppers with 23 points, Austin added 14 and Gibbons scored 10.
Emonte Parks paced the Dragons with 15 points and Farr and Downs each scored seven before leaving the contest.
A 3-pointer from Downs and a putback from Parks put the Dragons up, 21-16, with 5:36 to play in the half. They took a 25-18 lead following a jumper from Farr and bucket from Tristan Bradley with 4:38 remaining in the half.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.