By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
It was almost like a magic trick. Perhaps the first of many to be performed by the great magician, Mark Taylor.
When the Lakeside boys emerged from the locker room at the end of halftime, poof! All of a sudden, they looked like a team by the way they were playing on the floor. And with that newfound success came something else newfound for Taylor, who is in his first year as the team’s coach, as well as the team itself — a win, in this case, 74-69 at the hands of host Chardon.
“We played team basketball,” Taylor said following Tuesday’s triumph. “Incredible heart. Incredible perseverance.
“We’ve had a tough week. We lost basically two starters (Kyle Downs and Cole Farr) to injuries the last game. And the guys really showed some character in coming together.”
In particular, Emonte Parks erupted for 26 of his 33 points after the break. Three of his four 3-pointers and nine of his 11 free throws (he sank all 11 attempts) came after the intermission.
“Emonte Parks was outstanding,” Taylor said. “That’s the athlete-the ballplayer — that I knew he could be all season. I think he has taken some time to get used to playing this year, and he really showed up in a big way.”
The Dragons (1-3, 1-1 in the Premier Athletic Conference) made just eight of 44 shots in the first half with one assist, but went 15-of-31 with six treys thereafter, with all but two of the second-half baskets being assisted. Tristan Bradley collected all six of his assists in the second half.
The effort, which saw 51 points scored in the final two periods including a 29-point outburst in the third, offset a 23-point performance by Ben Furlich that included six trifectas, a few of which seemingly came from the square in downtown Chardon. Eighteen of his points came after the break.
The Hilltoppers hit their first seven shots from the floor but struggled with turnovers the entire game, with 28 as compared to 10 for Lakeside despite the fast pace. They led by as many as 10 before settling for a 29-23 halftime advantage. And they actually built it to 43-32 on a three-point play by Zach Weiland (12 points). However, with the score 50-41, the Dragons ran off 10 straight points on 3-pointers by Bradley (8 points) and Sayvaughn Morgan (12 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals), then two foul shots and a drive by Parks, for a 51-50 lead.
Chardon regained the lead briefly but went into the final eight minutes tied at 52. Then Parks nailed four free throws and a 3-pointer for a 59-52 advantage which the Dragons never gave up.
The Hilltoppers (0-3, 0-2) got within three points at 64-61 and 68-65. The latter occasion coming with about 1:30 left, but after regaining possession, Chardon missed a shot and Jaeden Jones hit two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound.
Bradley split two foul shots and Parks made two to stretch it to 73-65.
With the turnover differential, Lakeside got off 2 more shots (75-53) than Chardon, and won despite a much lower shooting percentage (30.7 as compared to 45.3). Both sides struggled with fouls, with a total of 45 in the contest. Parks fouled out in the waning seconds. Teammate Marcell Ballenger also fouled out, as did Hilltoppers Jason Janda (5 assists) and Weiland.
The Dragons went 21-of-27 from the line. Chardon was 15-of-23.
“I think we just turned the ball over too many times,” Chardon coach Nick Gustin said. “Both teams are eager to win a basketball game, and I think when you turn it over 28) times, you give them extra possessions, and when teams are down, they need those to get back in the game.”
“(In the first half), we had wide-open looks,” Taylor said. “They were in that 2-3 zone and daring us to make the outside shot. We couldn’t make shots.
“I told the guys at halftime, ‘Go out with confidence and know you’re gonna make it.’”
Nick Meola came off the bench to score seven points and grab a team-high 10 rebounds for Lakeside.
Andrew Gray had 15 points and 11 boards for the Hilltoppers. Teammate Joe Connick, who is also a star running back on the Hilltopper football team, had to be carried off the floor near the end of the first half with an apparent knee injury.
“What a battle; what a game,” Taylor, said. I’m just really proud of them.”