Stone boys finish strong in win over Northern
In practice, Thomas Stone head boys basketball coach Dale Lamberth and his staff have taken to calling the Cougars the cardiac kids, and for good reason. Through the team’s first 15 games, nine have been decided by 10 points or less and five of those were decided by margins of three points or less.
So when the Cougars trailed early in the fourth quarter of their Southern Maryland Athletic Conference nondivision game at Northern on Wednes- day night, it was nothing new. Behind 42-40 in the early stages of the fourth, Stone outscored the Patriots 19-9 over the game’s final six minutes to snag a 59-51 victor y.
“We’ve had a lot of dogfights, a lot close games this year,” Lamberth said. “We hit the boards in the second half. In the first half we weren’t tough at all. Northern was tough. In the second half it was a gut check.”
Tied at 36 at the end of three quarters, the teams traded scoring possessions early in the final period. Northern (4-10 overall) took a 41-40 lead when Dion Marks made a pair of free throws with 6 minutes 33 seconds left to play. Andrew Young made one of two free throws shortly thereafter to increase the Patriots’ lead to 42-40. But things quickly went south for the hosts.
Stone (11-4) responded with an 8-0 run, highlighted by a
Donovan McCrae three-pointer, to surge to a 48-42 edge. Later, Marks converted on a three-point play to pull Northern to within 50-47 with 2:33 remaining, but the Cougars scored the next five points to reassert itself and essentially put the game away.
Gary Grant scored 11 of his gamehigh 21 points for the Cougars in the fourth quarter to help his team to its fourth straight win.
“I think in the fourth quarter we came out with a lot more energy,” Grant said. “We started out the game really slow. We just picked it up . ... It’s great because it gets us ready. Everything gets us ready for the playoffs.”
Supplementing Grant’s 21-point night, Kamau Mitchell and McCrae each hit double figures, with 14 and 11, respectively. The Cougars are scheduled to travel to Lackey for a 6:30 p.m. matchup Friday. Lack- ey emerged with a 59-58 decision when the teams met on Jan. 4.
“They do a lot of good things. They’re still learning each other,” Lamberth said of the progress his team has been making. “We have four sophomores, but they’re very, very coachable and that makes all the difference when you’re trying to implement stuff or you’re trying to get them to buy into what you’re doing.”
On the other end, despite its record, Northern has typically taken games right down to the wire. On Wednesday, the Patriots led in the fourth but could not string together productive possessions in the games final minutes.
“We played well tonight. If we don’t turn the ball over 24 times, we win,” Northern head coach Frank Moore said, “but we turned the ball over 24 times. But there again, Stone made the plays and we didn’t. The last two minutes we had four possessions and we didn’t get anything. We had four turnovers. That hurt. It came down to which team made the turnovers. We made the turnovers and they hurt us on second-chance points all night long.”
Carlton Smith paced the Patriots with 16 points, while Marks added 14. Northern will look to return to the win column when it is scheduled to play at Calvert at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“I like these kids and I like the way we play,” Moore said. “You get judged on your wins and losses, but these kids are playing awful hard. They’ve been playing awful hard all year. We keep making mistakes that hurt us. If we cut the mistakes down, we could flip-flop our record, but I guess that’s what anybody who loses says . ... These kids are playing awful hard.”
Thomas Stone’s Gary Grant, left, is congratulated by Shawn Barclay after a basket late in the first half of the Cougars’ 59-51 win at Northern on Wednesday night. Grant had 21 points to lead the Cougars.