Little has come easy for the Lake Clifton boys basketball team this season, which came in lean on experience, size and any proven go-to players on offense.
The fact made the No. 14 Lakers have to dig deeper and continue to grow throughout the season, and that had them ready for the second half of Friday's Class 1A state semifinal game against pesky Surrattsville.
Down five points with only 14 points to show in the first half, Lake Clifton showed resolve rather than panic to come away with a 49-37 win over the Prince George's County-based Hornets at Maryland's Xfinity Center.
Sophomore Rasheed Brown scored 13 points and added nine rebounds; senior Shauntaze Drake added 10 points and 12 rebounds; and fellow senior Kai Thompson finished with 12 points.
Lake Clifton (17-10) will seek the program's fifth championship when it makes its sixth trip to the title game on Saturday — taking on Pocomoke at 1 p.m. Last year, the Lakers fell to New Town with a senior-laden team that left them with Thompson as their only starter back this season.
Down 19-14 at the break, the Lakers clawed ahead in the third quarter and then turned it on in the fourth for the win. They held the Hornets (15-11) to just two field goals in the third quarter and four in the fourth.
What was the difference in the second half?
"Hard work. And it all started in our gym [at practice]," Drake said. "It was very important because coach [Herman "Tree" Harried] told us that we'll have to make plays down the stretch regardless if we were down or up. That helped us get the win."
Despite scoring just 14 points in the first half, the halftime talk from Harried was about defense. With that cranked up in the second half, the offense came, too. In the last minute of the third quarter, Thompson converted a three-point play and Drake followed with a steal and layup to provide the Lakers with a 27-24 lead going into the fourth quarter. From there, a 12-2 run followed — Drake hitting a 3 pointer in between four points from Brown keying the spurt — to provide a 39-26 advantage that sent them on their way.
"We let our lack of offense dictate our effort on defense [in the first half]," Harried said. "In the locker room, I said if there's anything we have control of it's our defense and we played much better defense."
Brown got the Lakers off to a good start, but it didn't last long in the first half. After the Hornets scored the opening basket, he hit two free throws, a 3-pointer and a follow layup for an 8-2 Lakers lead with 5:01 left in the first quarter.
But while Surrattsville methodically settled in, the Lakers went cold from the field, hitting just three baskets in the final 13-plus minutes of the half to fall behind at the break.
(at Maryland's Xfinity Center)
14 Lake Clifton 49, Surrattsville 37
LC – Thompson 12, Drake 10, Brown 13, Lucas 4, Parker 6, Carter 2, Dingle 2. Totals: 17 13-20 49.
S – Christian 4, Middleton 5, Rinehart 1, Lane 5, J. Jones 7, Wolridge 4, M. Jones 10, Martin 1. Totals: 14 6-10 37.
Half: S, 19-14