‘Gut check’

Stone boys fin­ish strong in win over North­ern

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By ANDY STATES as­tates@somd­news.com

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.”

STAFF PHOTO BY ANDY STATES

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.

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