The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 19, 2012

Dragons fall just short

North escapes with PAC triumph

For the Star Beacon

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Battling shot for shot with Premier Athletic Conference rival North, the Lakeside boys basketball team was a in need of a shot in the arm with time ticking away.

Will Anderson gave the Dragons a boost, but it wasn’t enough as the Rangers slipped away from Lakeside Gymnasium with a 64-60 victory Tuesday night.

“I think we were one possession away,” Lakeside coach Mark Taylor said. “They went to stall ball and held it for most of the duration of the fourth quarter. That was tough for us. We were playing uptempo.

“In the first half, they were overpowering us. In the second half, we made it a speed game. They took the air out of the ball. I think if they would’ve played it straight up, we would have won.”

The Dragons were down three starters for the contest with Kyle Downs (wrist) and Cole Farr (ankle) still out of action because of injury and Nick Meola joining them with an illness.

“We played well,” Taylor said. “In the second half, we showed a lot of heart.

“Our guys hung in there. Rebounding the way we did, with them having so much more size, showed we had a lot of fight.”  

Lakeside (1-5, 1-3) fell behind an unlucky 13, 51-38, with 2:31 to play in the third quarter. But with a bucket here and another there, chipped away until a basket from Emonte Parks had the Dragons within reach, 52-47, at the third-quarter buzzer.

“The backcourt of Will Anderson, Emonte Parks and Tristan Bradley played really well together. They showed cohesion. It was something to build off of.”

Parks opened the fourth with a steal and a dunk, and after two free throws from North’s Paul Lang, Marcell Ballenger tallied on a putback, Tristan Bradley scored on a drive and Parks made a pair of free throws to get the Dragons within one, 56-55, with six minutes left.

The Rangers (3-2, 3-1) managed to put some space between the teams after a jumper from Nurik Eldosov and two free throws from Ben Josipovic. The lead was back to five, 60-55, with 4:17 remaining.

Enter Anderson, who was left uncovered by the North zone. Anderson gave a quiet signal to Parks, who acknowledged, feinted on a drive and kicked to Anderson in the corner. Anderson drained the 3-pointer and Lakeside was back within two, 60-58, with 2:48 left.

The Rangers’ answer was to pull the ball out and run time off the clock. Lang made a free throw 30 seconds later and Josipovic added another a minute and a half after that.

Jerel Lower scored on a no-look feed from Ballenger to get Lakeside to within a possession of the Rangers, 62-60, with 26 seconds left on the clock.

After a Lakeside foul, Eldosov knocked down both free throws to secure the win.

Parks paced the Dragons with 21 points and Ballenger and Jerel Lower each added nine. Bradley fueled the comeback with five steals.

“Jerel Lower played really well in his first start for us,” Taylor said. “Bradley came in off the bench and gave us a spark.

“Marcell Ballenger (4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals) was our only big against some overwhelming size. He showed a lot of grit. He battled tooth and nail to hold it together down low for us.”

Lang netted 31 points to lead the Rangers and Anton Vrabec added eight points, 11 boards, 11 assists and five steals.     

North coach Joe Montanaro was not available for comment after the game.

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.