The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 23, 2014

Dragons dig deep on night of emotion

Fittingly, Downs leads Lakeside past Chardon

By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Senior Night at Lakeside High School Saturday night was capped by a touching presentation from Dragon senior Kyle Downs to the family of Austin Tome, his boyhood friend  who passed away in 2010.

Filled with energy, the Dragons got off to a flying start in the first period and needed every ounce of energy they could muster the rest of the way in dropping the Chardon Hilltoppers, 70-51, in Premier Athletic Conference action.

After spotting the Hilltoppers a 2-0 lead 37 seconds into the contest, Downs nailed a 3-pointer to ignite a barrage of treys as Lakeside scored the next 19 points in taking a 25-6 lead after the first quarter.

Downs hit for a trio of long bombs in that period, and Tristian Bradley and Jose Ramos each did it once as Lakeside hit 5 of 8 in the period while netting 10 of 17 shots overall.

“We got off to a fast start the last time we played Chardon, too,” Lakeside coach Jim Hood said. “We’ll have to make some adjustments soon to get ready for them again, as we play them Wednesday in Chardon for our first tournament game.”

In capping his first season as head coach at Lakeside, Hood rated himself well.

“I’d give myself a B for this season,” he said. “We’ve had some issues to deal with, but we got through them well and we got some good things accomplished. We lost a couple games by just a couple points, so if we had done some things a little better we might have had a much better record. I’m glad that the kids have learned some things this season.”

Lakeside got a big spark in the first half from Marcell Ballinger. He tallied 12 points in the half, including 8 in the second period as Lakeside expanded its lead despite getting into a pace they had problems in dealing with.  Ballinger also blocked a pair of shots and dished out 3 assists.

The other Dragons benefited from a sterling passing effort from Bradley as well. In totaling 9 assists for the game, 6 of them came in the first half, split evenly between Downs and Lorenz Sistrunk.

Downs led the scoring for Lakeside with 19 points, Sistrunk added 17, Ballinger’s 12 gave them more scoring from him than usual, and Jaedan Jones added 8 in the second half to provide another threat for the Hilltoppers to contend with.

“We’ve seemed to developed a habit of bad first periods lately,” Chardon coach Doug Snyder said. “Tonight was simple. Lakeside played well, and we didn’t. They executed their press well, we turned the ball over too many times against it, and they made layups to make us pay for it.”

The Dragons (9-12, 7-7 in PAC) got good shots as Snyder alluded to in the first half. It resulted in a 10-17 first period and 18-34 first half effort, which was more than enough to offset a 2-12 first half from the free throw line. Concentration seemed to be the problem, with much of it being from the celebration of Senior Night.

“I don’t know if it was Senior Night or what, but after that first period we didn’t do so well,” Hood said. “The kids did some nice things, though, so I’m happy with how my first season went.”

Snyder’s team will get another shot at the Dragons on Wednesday in tournament action on the Chardon floor.

“This was similar to what happened the last time we played,” he said. “They had a fast start then too. We didn’t think they would shoot so often from outside, they have a good inside game, so we wanted to make them take those jumpers. Tonight they made them.”

The night was a good one in terms of celebrating the event, the Dragons made sure they got off to a good start, and the Hilltoppers (7-15), try as they did, could not sustain any offense to get back into the game. Their biggest highlight came well after the issue was decided as Joe Fodor drove home a huge slam dunk with 30 seconds remaining. To that point, most of their offense came from the free throw line, where they hit 20 of 27 shots.

Fodor led Chardon in scoring with 14 points. Gray added 11 and the same number of rebounds, but nobody else scored more than 7 as Chardon hit just 15 of 44 shots for 34 percent.

Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.