The Lakeside High School boys basketball team has used various words to close out huddles this season.
One in particular has stuck for a while.
"Something we've been stressing the past couple games -- it's 'finish,'" Lakeside forward Cody Marsh said after Lakeside beat Hephzibah 51-43 Friday. "In the huddle we usually break it down with 'together' or 'team' or 'pride.' Lately we've been breaking it down with 'finish,' because that's been the big thing."
Panthers coach Ryan Morningstar said he is not as apt to burn timeouts late in the game as he has been in the past. He said he feels his players have been through enough to know how to handle the pressure.
The win was the Panthers' third in a row. The first two came in overtime. Lakeside evened its Region 3-AAAA record at 2-2.
"We're starting to learn how to win early and stay in close games," Morningstar said. "Senior leadership we got on the floor kind of keeps us composed right here."
The Panthers' success in close games has been a carry-over from last season. Two overtime wins during the final week of the season pushed Lakeside's record to 12-12 and gave it a shot at the playoffs. But a coin toss after the Panthers' final regular-season game didn't go their way.
A slow start to the season was more to blame than the coin flip. The Panthers' seniors are trying to ensure their playoff hopes aren't left to chance this season.
Tuesday's win was the Panthers' second in a row after beating Harlem in overtime. Hephzibah pulled within 42-36 with 6:09 left, and Lakeside responded with three quick baskets to put it out of reach.
Hephzibah coach Bob Klofenstine, whose team was ranked in the top 10 in Class AAAA to start the season, said his team has struggled to score. The Rebels led by eight after the first quarter but scored just two more points before halftime.
"We hit a couple (3-pointers) and they think we're going to shoot that all night" Klofenstine said. "But that's not our game."
Hephzibah seemed rattled after a verbal altercation late in the second quarter.
Lakeside's Chris Hartfield and Hephzibah's Blake Bush exchanged words for a few trips down the floor before players from both teams met at halfcourt and had to be separated.
The Panthers carried a five-point lead into halftime and never trailed during the final two quarters.
"You can't be scared of nobody on the court," Hartfield said. "If you're going to be scared, you ain't going to play the game."
Lakeside girls drop region contest
Lakeside High School's girls team will look to bounce back and avoid slipping further in the Region 3-AAAA standings.
The Panthers have lost three consecutive region games after Friday's 49-24 loss to Hephzibah.
Harlem beat Lakeside 62-42 on Dec. 9, and the Panthers fell to Glenn Hills 49-45 on Dec. 5. On Friday, the Rebels ran away with the game. They scored the first 12 points and led 26-10 at the half.
Tishall Turknett led the Panthers with eight points and Carolyn Hennecken added seven.
The Lady Panthers played Richmond Academy on Monday and will play at Cross Creek on Friday.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.