HOWARD LAKE – The result for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted boys basketball team was a loss. Despite that, there’s no doubt the Lakers got better.
In a back and forth affair in which offenses were clicking, it was Hope Academy who used a late push to pick up an exciting 73-72 win over the Lakers Wednesday night.
“We played hard,” HLWW coach James Carr said. “The guys battled the entire game. I was proud of how they came back. They faced adversity and then answered the bell. They played hard.”
The Lakers had control of the game for much of the first half. A 10-0 run early on gave them a comfortable lead, but Hope Academy wouldn’t go away. They closed the half on a 10-2 run to get within four, setting up an exciting finish between the two teams.
Hope Academy came out on fire to start the second half as Desmond Hardimon gave his team the lead with back-to-back 3-pointers out of the gate. Hope Academy would take a 68-62 lead over the Lakers with just over five minutes to play, but HLWW battled back thanks to some energy from the home crowd.
“The best part of having a home tournament is having the fans in the crowd,” Carr said. “I was just so happy with how we responded when things weren’t going that great. Especially down the stretch, we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Down by five, Cole Gilbert came alive for the Lakers. A 3-pointer closed the gap to just two. Later on, with 90 seconds to go, another 3-pointer from Gilbert put HLWW back in front 72-71.
“We really executed,” Carr said. “We had some set plays down the stretch that we executed to perfection. We want to see more of that. If we can continue those stretches, that’s what we want as a staff and as a program.”
HLWW had a chance to put the game away at the line but missed the front end of the bonus late to give Hope Academy a chance late. With 10 seconds to go and down by a point, Hope Academy’s Elijah Wade delivered again for his team. A drive to the basket collapsed the HLWW defense and Wade found Elliot Hoilien for the open bucket to put Hope Academy up one with six seconds to go. Wade would seal the win for Hope Academy with a steal before the Lakers could get a shot off, clinching the win for his team.
Despite the loss, it was one of HLWW’s best performances of the season offensively. The Lakers had four players in double figures led by 22 points from Gilbert. Drew Burau (12 points), Andrew Fasching (12 points), and Preston Helgeson (10 points) were also in double figures for HLWW.
“We’ve got to be able to get the ball in the hoop in a lot of different ways,” Carr said. “Tonight we were able to get contributions from a lot of guys on the court. They really stepped up. We scored 72 points. As a coaching staff, we can’t ask for anything more. We just got to find a way to dig in and get some more stops so we can come out on top.”
Although the Lakers came up short in the close loss, Carr will be looking for his team to bounce back on a short turnaround as HLWW is back in action Thursday against East Central to close out the Holiday Tournament.
“I just want to see that same energy that got us back in the game and got us that lead in the first half,” Carr said. “We need that same energy from the start to the final whistle tomorrow. We always want to end the holiday tournament with a win. We have a chance to do that.”
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Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports