No. 4 Southern bounced back from its loss to Annapolis Saturday to down No. 2 Lake Clifton, 75-57, yesterday and capture first place in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference Division II.
Southern (14-5, 9-1) will meet Walbrook, the Division II second-place team, in the conference semifinals Feb. 26 at Morgan State.
A victory would put the defending champion Bulldogs in the conference championship game in the Metro Classic March 3 at the Baltimore Arena.
Lake Clifton is not out of the playoff picture. The Lakers (13-4, 7-2) need a victory over Cardinal Gibbons (a 73-68 winner over Poly yesterday) Tuesday to clinch second place in Division I, which would set up a rematch with Dunbar (Division I winner) in a semifinal game Feb. 26 at Morgan State.
Yesterday's game also helped clear up the semifinal matchups for the Baltimore City Public Schools Tournament Feb. 22 at Morgan State. Lake Clifton and Dunbar will meet in one game, and Southern and Walbrook will meet in the other.
Southern's inside strength and the backcourt duo of David Cason (20 points, 12 assists) and Kwame Evans (17 points, three steals, six rebounds) proved too much for the Lakers, a guard-oriented team.
The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Lakers, 54-42, and Lake Clifton made just 19 of 63 field-goal attempts. Senior center John Salley had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Southern, and junior forward Derrick Watkins had 12 points and four blocked shots.
Watkins, 6 feet 6, also turned in a solid defensive performance in the second half, when the Bulldogs went to a diamond-and-one defense, with Watkins shadowing Lake Clifton's 6-2 Ronnie Van Hook, who scored 17 first-half points. Van Hook scored just four in the second half.
"That killed our whole offensive set," said Lakers coach Charlie Moore. "Give them [Bulldogs] credit. They played good defense."
With Van Hook leading the way, the Lakers led 27-20 in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs finished the half with a 16-2 run to take a 36-29 lead at halftime.
The Lakers managed to stay close early in the second half and had Southern's lead down to five, but Cason hit back-to-back three-pointers to put the Bulldogs up, 50-39, late in the quarter and the Lakers never got closer than nine the rest of the way.