By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
Numbers are a way of life for our society these days. In sports, they can tell a total story, but at the same time, they don’t tell a true story in many instances. The final numbers on the scoreboard Friday night at Lakeside High showed the Dragons taking a 77-56 Premier Athletic Conference win from the overmatched Geneva Eagles.
You can look at the shooting percentages and think both teams did well putting the ball into the basket, as they both hit better than half their shots.
You will also see that the Dragons got off 20 more shots in the contest.
Lakeside dominated the backboards, 30-15.
The assist totals showed the Dragons winning that by a 21-14 count. That only means that both teams did fairly well in finishing plays.
Possibly the biggest number, though, isn’t in the stats, but had a big effect in the scoring.
After Geneva’s David Smalley hit a layup on a feed from Dan Camplese and added the free throw to complete the play, bringing the Eagles to within 5-3, the Dragons went on a 12-0 run as their full court pressure forced turnovers on six straight trips upcourt for the Eagles.
Then, after Matt Mackynen took a pass from Vern Thompson to cut the Lakeside lead to 20-8, another 12-0 run closed out the opening quarter for the Dragons.
Add in a 16-2 run over the first seven minutes of the second quarter, creating a 48-10 score, and you had to wonder how much worse it could get for the Eagles (1-21, 0-14 in PAC).
By that time, they had lost top ballhandler Smalley to an ankle injury, the Eagles had more trouble getting the ball over midcourt, and then Kyle Downs paced a defense that totalled 12 steals on the night, with nine of them in the first half, and Geneva looked like a deer trying to cross a freeway in rush hour and wondering what all the horns were blowing about.
“We were able to play at a very good speed for our team,” Lakeside coach Mark Taylor said. “It’s always to our advantage to run as much as we can. We had good ball pressure tonight, and that got us some good shots and we were shooting the ball very well. We want to press the whole game, and if you look at our shot chart tonight, we got most of our points in the paint.”
Downs scored all 14 of his points and had all four of his steals in the first half as he keyed a defense that totally throttled anything the Eagles tried. The Eagles simply didn’t have the quickness to avoid Dragon players no matter which direction they tried to work the ball, and when they were able to get the ball close enough to shoot, the shots were contested or swatted away by the inside presence and length of Emonte Parks, Odera Ajamu, Downs, and Nick Meola.
Depth also played a big part in the game. Twelve of the 13 Dragons who hit the floor scored, 11 had rebounds, seven had assists, and seven had steals.
The dominance was total.
Downs led the scoring for the Dragons (7-14, 4-9 in PAC) with his 14. Meola came off the bench to add 13 and five rebounds, and Parks 10 of his dozen in the first half.
The Eagles finally got going in the third period, but the Dragons didn’t let up.
After a lackluster three periods, the Eagles lit it up by hitting nine of 10 shots in the last period. They again played some basketball, but as has been the case much of the season, the sporadic output only led to a loss.
“It was simply a tale of two halves,” disappointed Geneva coach Scott Torok said. “We outscored them 41-27 in the second half. We just haven’t learned to play a full 32 minutes yet. We couldn’t even run our offense until late in the game, kind of like a deer in bright headlights I guess. When we finally got going like we can, it was way too little and way too late.”
Mackynen led the Geneva attack with 16 points, Dan Camplese added 10, and Eric Juncker started the late Eagle spurt with all nine of his points in the first 5:14 of the fourth quarter.
The dynamite was lit, but there wasn’t enough time to get away from the final explosion, and despite hitting 22 of its 41 shots in the game, Geneva fell victim to a 32-of-61 effort from the Dragons that, coupled with a 10 turnover difference, spelled victory for Lakeside.
“Our seniors showed great character tonight, like they have all season,” Taylor said. “We’re young, but things are coming together better at just the right time.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.