By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
The South boys got a huge chunk of their scoring from an unexpected source on Friday.
Senior Zach Lapuh outdid his average by about 20 points. The 33 he scored helped the Rebels to a 70-59 win at Lakeside.
South converted 51.0 percent of its shots (26 of 51). It finishes the regular season at 16-6, 10-4. With North defeating Geneva on Friday, the Rebels needed Madison to beat University School on the same night and US to then knock off North on Monday, in order to share the Premier Athletic Conference title with US and North.
South coach Roy Infalvi Jr. related that he didn’t think Lapuh, who nailed 4 triples but was also effective from the inside and the foul line, had ever even reached the 20-point plateau in his career prior to Friday.
“He’s a hard-working kid,” Infalvi said of Lapuh, who added 7 rebounds. “He does everything we ask of him. He rebounds, he shoots threes, he’ll play the post. He’s kind of one of those all-around players for us. He’s one of our captains, and that’s one of the reasons why.”
“He lit it up tonight,” Lakeside coach Jim Hood said. “I didn’t expect it out of him. I thought maybe one of (their) other (players) would light it up. Hats off to him; he played well tonight.
“When you’re in a zone, you’re in a zone, and he was definitely in a zone tonight.”
When the two schools met on Jan. 3, Braun Hartfield won it for South, 59-56, with a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Dragons (8-12, 6-7) didn’t take it that far this time, but made a game of it after falling behind 37-21 late in the first half.
Lakeside, which received a 22-point, 9-rebound effort from Kyle Downs, whittled it down to 48-43 on a three-point play by Lorenz Sistrunk (14 points, 8 rebounds, 6 steals) with 2:01 left in the third quarter. The Rebels finished the period with 7 straight points to stretch it back to 55-43, but a 12-3 Dragon surge, with 5 points each by Downs and Jaedon Jones, narrowed the gap from 59-45 to 62-57 with less than two minutes to go. South, however, put in the final 6 points of the contest, including two converted one-and-ones by Lapuh.
“I didn’t think we started the game great, but I thought as the half went on we started playing better and better,” Infalvi said. “We did a good job running the floor offensively, and did get some transition points.
“I thought we came out a little sluggish in the third quarter. But part of that
was their aggressiveness and getting after it a little bit more. I was happy with the way we closed it out.”
Lakeside point guard Tristan Bradley, who had previously been reported by a Lakeside spokesperson to be out for the season with an eye injury, returned to action on Friday wearing protection over his eyes. But Jones did not play in the first half, and Marcell Ballenger, a senior who was honored on Friday, played only briefly prior to the intermission.
The Dragons went just 19-of-60 (31.7 percent) from the floor.
“I just think that we weren’t patient enough to run an offense,” Hood said. “I think we just got away from it. If it doesn’t work right away, they just want to go one-on-one, and that’s what I yelled at them at halftime about. I just thought we were very impatient offensively. Defensively we weren’t talkative enough. If a guy gets out of hand, you’ve got to find a way to (adjust).”
Nick Schuenaman put in all 10 of his points before the break for the Rebels, and teammate Jeff Nevulis picked up where he left off, tallying all 9 of his points in the second half. Nevulis added 9 boards and 2 blocked shots. Hartfield dished out assists while Dylan Caruso had 4 for South.
“I told them our main focus was coming in tonight, winning tonight, because that’s what mattered,” Infalvi said. “If that didn’t happen, nothing else mattered. I just told them in there I was proud of the way we played. This is a good team we played tonight, and to come in and win in here and finish the game out, I was real proud of them.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.