I-L forward Hayden Jurius skies for a rebound against Winnisquam’s Mike Quagliana during the Lakers’ 36-33 win on Jan. 6 in Meredith. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
January 09, 2012MEREDITH – Clutch free throw shooting and solid execution down the stretch allowed the Inter-Lakes High School boys' basketball team to move to .500 on Jan. 6, as the Lakers outlasted a very game Winnisquam Regional High School squad in a 36-33 home victory in Division III action.
"I told the kids after that the game that good teams can get away with playing bad and still find ways to win," said I-L coach Mike Rathgeber. "Obviously we've got some work to do but we'll take the win at this point in the season."
The Lakers led just 30-29 with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter after back-to-back Winnisquam hoops from Sean Connor and Mike Quagliana. I-L's Hayden Jurius scored to extend the lead to three, but Tommy Mahoney answered for the Bears to keep the visitors within one point with 1:14 left.
Ben Rubio's free throw put the Lakers up 33-31 with 45 seconds left, and I-L managed to come up with a steal on the other end. That set the stage for the biggest hoop of the night, as Rathgeber drew up a play during a timeout, allowing Jurius to put in an open layup with 30 seconds left to make it 35-31. Rubio added another free throw with seven seconds left to ice the game, his fourth freebie in the fourth quarter. Parker Normand scored at the buzzer for the Bears.
"When you've got a veteran team, you can go over those late game situations quite a bit in practice," began Winnisquam coach Kevin Dame. "But when you're young and inexperienced, you've got to work on a lot of different things. We haven't been able to work on late game stuff as much as we'd like and we had a few problems at the end."
While the Bears didn't finish the way they had hoped, the team did come out firing in the first quarter, as an early 8-1 run behind a three-pointer from Mahoney and baskets from Normand and Zach Plourde had I-L on the ropes right away.
"We just came out stale and flat," explained Rathgeber. "To Winnisquam's credit, they came out roaring. They weren't going to come here and be a sacrificial lamb by any means. That was not the same Winnisquam team we saw down at their place (a 41-33 I-L win last month)."
The Lakers (3-3) managed to chip away at the lead in the second quarter, as an 8-0 run to open up the frame was capped off by a Kier Vicente 3-ball with 3:50 left before halftime to give the hosts their first lead at 13-10. I-L outscored Winnisquam 10-4 in the second behind a high-pressure pressing defense, and the Lakers led 15-14 at intermission.
"Their pressure started to slow us up," said Dame. "When we tried to dribble through their press, we'd turn it over. When we were patient though, we got some good shots. We did that at times but we didn't do it enough. We aren't afraid to get up and down the floor though. We sub a lot and our bigs run the floor pretty well so we have no problem getting into a track meet. But we weren't smart enough when we needed to be."
Switching to a press was a key move for the Lakers, as the slow start meant Rathgeber and company had to try other ways to get into the flow of the game.
"I felt like the only thing that would save the night was switching to a full court press because our offense was just totally out of sync," said Rathgeber. "And that worked for us."
The third quarter saw the teams exchange the lead five times, though I-L led 23-21 heading into the fourth after Sean Mussen was fouled near midcourt as the buzzer sounded and he sank two free throws.
The Lakers led 28-21 after opening the fourth on a 6-0 run, but Quagliana, who was forced to miss the beginning of the frame due to a bloody nose, returned and keyed a Winnisquam run that closed the gap and had them within striking distance the rest of the way.
I-L closed the game out from the line, as the squad was 8-of-11 from the charity stripe in the fourth to earn the hard-fought victory.
Hayden Jurius led the Lakers with 11 points, while Mitch Jurius tossed in seven points and 11 rebounds.
Connor had a nice night for the Bears in the losing effort, as the forward scored eight of his 10 points in the second half. Normand added seven for Winnisquam while Mahoney chipped in five.