Lakeside basketball hasn't seen much success in the young 2005-06 season.
After a 53-50 win in a rematch with Harlem Tuesday night, coach Donnie Burch finally saw his team's efforts come to fruition.
"I'd put my guys up against anybody else in the county as far as hustle," Burch said.
In fact, the Panthers have almost had too much hustle this season. After his players complained of starting games too flat, Burch put the hustle to the test in a new pregame warm-up.
"I ran them to death for about eight minutes on the tennis courts," Burch said.
The extra outdoor sprints got the Panther legs ready for a first half that saw Lakeside lead for all but three minutes.
Perhaps more impressive was the play from Lakeside center Alex Fain.
With less than a minute to play in the first quarter, Fain already had picked up his third foul of the game.
Burch took the senior out, but without another tall post player, the Panther's 3-2 zone defense faltered. Harlem took advantage as Sean Hackshaw converted on a three-point play and senior Ajay Miller's steal and score made it a one-point game.
With the threat of his fourth foul hanging over him, Fain returned to the game, and for the final six minutes of the half anchored Lakeside's zone defense for a Panther one-point lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, Fain returned to the floor, but picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the second half.
Fain persevered and played the final 10 minutes of the game foul-free. Harlem lost the height advantage when center Wesley Gower fouled out with a minute left in the fourth quarter. Fain never picked up his fifth foul and still managed five fourth-quarter points in the win.
"I wasn't worried about him," Burch said. "Alex is one of the most aware players on the court. He's got a good head for where he is on the floor."
The win was the first this season for a Lakeside team that's had several close calls. The squad lost their first eight games of the season, but at least three losses were by seven points or less.
In the girl's match-up, Harlem cruised to a 54-27 win on the shoulders of senior April Woodard.
The Lady Bulldogs defeated Lakeside in the Turkey Tip-Off Tournament at Lakeside last month and returned to the Panther Pit for another victory Tuesday night.
Woodard led Harlem with a game high 13 points while the Lady Bulldog defense held Lakeside senior Parrin Fryer to only four points.
Both schools play Monday night as Harlem will hit the road to face Taliaferro County and Lakeside will face Richmond Academy in Augusta.
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