By MIKE SHAFFER
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
Home sweet home has been anything but this year for the Lakeside High School boys basketball team. The Dragons entered Friday’s game against Chardon winless in four attempts at home this year.
Friday night was a different story as Emonte Parks and Kyle Downs combined for 35 points as the Dragons (4-9, 3-6 PAC) prevailed for the first time on their home floor with a convincing 63-43 win over the Hilloppers.
“We had our best practices of the year this week,” Lakeside coach Mark Taylor said. “The team has been really starting to put things together and I think they showed that tonight.
“Our Achilles’ heel this year has been turnovers and shot selection. Tonight we took great care of the ball and got great shots. We moved the ball around and had fun playing basketball tonight. It was a real joy.”
After leading 10-8 at the end of a sluggish first quarter, the Dragons put the accelerator down to blow the game open. Kyle Downs hit a 3 pointer to cap a 12-0 run. The Dragons used a tenacious defense to create easy transaction buckets. They shot an impressive 42 percent in the second period to extend their lead to 30-15 at halftime.
“We played team defense tonight,” Taylor said. “I thought we moved really well as a unit and we fought through screens well. We’re all about playing transition basketball but if you don’t have a rebound and a strong outlet it never happens. I thought tonight we hit the glass, got it to our point guard and sped down the court. It was fun to watch.”
Fun was probably not the word that Chardon coach Nick Gustin would have used to describe what he saw. Gustin felt his team would have to get Lakeside into a halfcourt game to have a chance to win. That proved to be more easily said than done, however.
“We knew they like to get up and down the floor,” he said. “We thought if we could sit on the ball for about 20 to 30 seconds it would create some better opportunities for us to get some scoring lanes.
“We did get some good looks in the first half but shots just didn’t go down for us. Then in the second half their athleticism took over and forced a lot of turnovers.”
Emonte Parks led all scorers with 18 points for the Dragons while Downs went for 17. Downs has been sidelined this year with a broken wrist and Taylor is elated to have him back on the court.
“He’s been really improving,” Taylor said. “Ever since he came back, his scoring average is going up. Not only that, he’s our leading rebounder and the anchor of our defense. He’s a fiery captain that gets us going.
“(Emonte) Parks is his stellar self. He’s such a talented scorer and he doesn’t even know what the potential of his play could be.”
While Lakeside’s record may not be real impressive, the team could be starting to peak just in time for the postseason.
“We want to play our best ball at the end of the year,” Taylor said. “I tell my team what people remember is how you play at the end of the year. We haven’t had every break in the world. We’ve had some injuries and faced some adversity. I like to say if you’re not facing adversity, you’re not moving forward. We have 10 games left and tonight was a good way to take that first step to improving as a club.”
Chardon (1-10, 1-7 PAC) was led by Ben Furlich with 14 points.
Shaffer is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.