by Jordan Burton
Trailing Lockwood by one with less than 90 seconds to play, Lamar was running out of time and needed an answer.
Which, happened to come in the form of a drill the Tigers work on frequently.
It wasn’t a trick play or some fancy gadget, just good ole fashioned work.
Landon Hardman’s steak with under a minute to play represented the first stop. Transitioning for a layup was the score and the Tigers holding Lamar scoreless over the game’s final few possessions was the stop(s) that the Tigers needed to claim the Dennis Cornish Classic with a 59-57 win over host Lockwood.
“We don’t run set plays, we’ve had three practices; I want these guys to learn how to win games and win close games,” said Lamar coach Tyler Ryerson. “We run a drill in practice, stop-score-stop, where we start the drill with a stop, go get a bucket and then get another stop, so we were screaming stop-score-stop and we were able to get the stops down the stretch.”
The layup was Hardman’s only score of the game and was the final of six lead changes in the game’s final three minutes.
The madness started with a pull-up 3-pointer by Lockwood senior Cade Holman. He scored eight of the Tigers final 10 points, putting up 15 of his 19 points in the second half.
Each Holman score was matched with a Lamar answer.
Helping pull Lamar out of a 41-35 hole after three quarters was senior guard Ian Moore.
The standout scored seven of his game-high 25 points in the final frame, going 5-6 from the free throw line, where he has struggled.
More scored 18 of Lamar’s 35 points through three quarters and helped keep the inexperienced Tigers in the game.
“He’s a dream kid and he’s just like that every single day in practice, giving buckets to whoever is in front of him,” said Ryerson. “That’s just who he is and the only way he knows how to play. We put so much on him. He’s our lead guard and handles the ball most of the game and he’s defending their best player while also trying to score for us. He’s got broad shoulders and put a lot on him.”
Moore’s ability to score help offset stifling defense by Lockwood, specifically in the second and third quarters where Lamar totaled 20 points, which helped Lockwood build its biggest lead of the game late in the third, 39-32.
“We were able to get after it and turn the tempo up, which is how we got to the championship'” said Lockwood coach Aaron Shockley. “We have enough athletes that I feel like we can just fly around, play fast and make it hard on people to get good looks at the rim. We’re playing our best basketball when we’re bringing that kind of effort defensively.”
The first half was a back and forth affair and – like most games in the early part of the season – was marred by fouls.
Which, for a pair of teams that are coming off of deep football runs, is to be expected.
In fact, that’s the silver lining for both teams.
Ryerson is a process-over-results guy that was pleased with his team’s effort, but understand what it’ll take long term for the Tigers to repeat as district champions.
“We preach that we’re not outcome oriented and that we want to enjoy the process of getting better,” said Ryerson. “Had we lost tonight I would’ve been a little upset, but it’s all about getting better each day and the process that it takes to become a better team. It was great to see our guys get stops and buckets, but the goals that we have in this season aren’t going to come until Feburary or March so until then we’re just taking it one step at a time and understanding that it’s a long process.”
Lockwood is in an eerily similar place. While Shockley has had a few more than Ryerson’s three practices, most of his team was apart of the Tigers Class 1 Final Four run on the gridiron. Many of those same faces, which hadn’t come out for basketball before, decided to give it a try this year, giving the Tigers depth and athleticism.
Shockley wasn’t afraid to shoulder the blame for the loss due to late-game management, he also wasn’t shy in his excitement for what could be ahead of Lockwood.
“I feel like we grew up each night of the tournament and showed glimpses of what we can be,” said Shockley. “It’s just a matter of making that a complete effort and putting it all together for four quarters. The good thing is it’s still so early. I’m extremely pleased with what we’ve shown, we’ve just go to keep growing each day.”