The Lake Clifton boys basketball team set a fast pace early against Owings Mills in Thursday's Class 2A North semifinal, challenging the visiting Eagles to keep up.
The No. 6 Lakers simply made it too difficult.
Scoring the game's first seven points and then responding to every Owings Mills push in the first half, the host Lakers cruised to a 81-56 win to reach Saturday's region title game.
Lake Clifton (21-3) will host No. 7 Edmondson — an 83-62 winner over Randallstown in Thursday's other semifinal — at 3 p.m. Saturday. During the regular season, the Lakers defeated the Red Storm, 60-50, at home on Jan. 17.
A balanced offense and collective effort on defense helped the Lakers get past Owings Mills, which finished the year with a 17-7 mark. James Boone hit four 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 17 points. Lionel Green scored 13 points, Aaron Parks added 12 points and five assists and Rodney Hawkins and Daquan Ross each scored 10.
"We're trying to focus on making it a total team effort because no team can win it with one or two people," Lake Clifton coach Herman "Tree" Harried said. "You got to have a group effort, especially this late in the year, and our focus is everybody bringing something."
After the Lakers jumped out to a 13-4 lead with 3:25 to play in the first quarter, the Eagles responded with a 8-0 run behind consecutive 3-pointers from Carjahn Jenkins (14 points). But Lake Clifton took a 36-24 lead into halftime after an 18-point second quarter.
The opening minutes of the third quarter further displayed the Lakers' advantage at both ends. Blocked shots by Green and Hawkins turned into consecutive baskets from Parks that started an 8-0 run to push the lead to 44-24.
"We needed that game to stay close, because they are more of a guard-oriented team where we're used to playing big," Owings Mills coach Richard Epps said. "It became a problem once they got the big lead and we had to start spreading and playing man. It was hard to stay in front of those guys. They're a good team and I wish them all the best moving forward."
For a third straight year, a Baltimore City team put an end to Owings Mills season. The past two years, the Eagles came away with region titles playing in the Class 1A North, only to fall to eventual state champion Dunbar at the state tournament. Making the jump to Class 2A with a younger team, the Eagles — who got a game-high 19 points from Ahmaad Wilson on Thursday — fell short of a third straight trip to the state tournament, but Epps was pleased with his team's season.
"We only had three returning from last year, so we're young with a lot of sophomores and juniors," he said. "I'm very proud of these young men. They played hard from the first game of the season to the last game of the season, and that's all we can ask for."
Class 2A North Region semifinal
No. 6 Lake Clifton 81, Owings Mills 56
OM — Wilson 19, Jenkins 14, R. Johnson 8, J. Johnson 2, Eber 2, Yzizzary 4, Coit 5, Mercer 2. Totals. 18 14-17 56.
LC — Boone 17, Green 13, Hawkins 10, Ross 10, Parks 12, Kess 4, Henderson 9, Carr 4, Davis 2. Totals: 32 14-19 81.