BELTSVILLE -- The Class 4A, Region II semifinal game may not have taken place at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House, but the much-anticipated showdown between No. 2 Lake Clifton and host High Point had the air of a state championship.
High Point (19-4), the defending state 4A champions, and Lake Clifton (18-5) did not let the 1,500 fans packed into the Beltsville gymnasium down, as the high-scoring Eagles outlasted the foul-plagued Lakers to gain a 96-75 victory.
High Point, state titlists in 1989 and possessing a record of 159-37 since 1985, advances to the Class 4A, Region II final tomorrow night against Poly, a 95-85 winner over Woodlawn.
A close game -- the lead changed hands eight times through the first three quarters -- turned ugly midway through the fourth quarter. Lake Clifton, trailing 73-68 and with all five starters saddled with four fouls each, lost the first of four players when 6-foot-8 center Terrance Payne (27 points, 11 rebounds) was whistled for fouling High Point's 6-foot-7 junior center Eric Poole (19 points, 14 rebounds) with 4:07 left in the game.
Frustrated, Payne slammed the basketball to the court and was whistled for a technical foul. That call brought Lake Clifton head coach Charlie Moore out of his seat and while giving the official an ear full, he was also whistled for a technical foul.
"I expected a high-scoring game, but the officials . . . I never complain about officiating, but the calls were ludicrous," Moore said.
After calm was restored when a bottle flew out of the stands at the officials at mid-court, High Point's Poole and senior guard Kenny Avent (24 points) converted five of six free throws to push the Eagles lead to 78-68.
"They averaged 87 points a game, we averaged 91. They had 11 games of scoring more than 90 points, we had 12," High Point head coach Ernie Welch said. "We were quite willing to run and match our depth against their depth."
Welch also employed trapping zone defenses to take away the drive from Lake Clifton point guard Kevin Norris (18.2 ppg.).
High Point, winners of 13 straight since losing four of five in early January, received a game-high 24 points from senior forward Kevin Bristol, younger brother of University of Maryland sophomore Wayne Bristol.
Bristol, who missed High Point's four season losses with a sprained ankle, scored 14 of his points in the decisive fourth quarter.
Lake Clifton was hurt by foul problems early in the second half. Kevin Norris, who had 12 points in the second quarter, was called for an offensive charge two seconds into the third quarter and spent much of the next eight minutes on the bench.