Give Gwynn Lake coach Roland Hall credit for sticking to a game plan, even if it is a bit unorthodox.
As No. 14 Western whittled away at a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter, the 12th-ranked Lakers continued to take -- and miss -- low-percentage shots from three-point range.
But Gwynn Lake's persistence paid off.
After Western moved within five with 1: 57 remaining, the Lakers hit back-to-back three-pointers, and that momentum swing carried them to a 64-49 victory in the semifinals of the Western Christmas Tournament yesterday.
Gwynn Lake (7-1) will play Hammond in the championship game at 6 p.m. tomorrow.
"We have to shoot threes because we don't have a center," said Hall, whose tallest player is 5-8. "I told them to attack the basket but hit the open three if it's there."
The Lakers went 6-for-17 from three-point range.
Gwynn Lake further compensated for its height disadvantage -- Western has two six-footers -- by playing a 1-1-3 defense.
"We had to stop their inside play and make them shoot from outside, so we could get the rebound and run," Hall said. "That's what made us get that big lead in the second half."
The Lakers had missed five consecutive three-point attempts in the fourth quarter before Vonnell Bailey's three-pointer gave them a 55-47 lead with 1: 39 left.
Latia Few then hit both ends of a one-and-one to pull the Doves (3-3) to 55-49.
But instead of working for a good shot on the ensuing possession, Gwynn Lake again looked to go deep. This time it was Jimera Barner for three to extend the Lakers' advantage to 58-49 with 1: 22 remaining.
From there, Gwynn Lake went 6-for-6 from the foul line to seal the victory.
Barner, a 5-4 sophomore guard, scored a game-high 27 points to lead Gwynn Lake, which has beaten perennial power Western twice this season -- both times on the Doves' court. The first-year, church-backed team from Woodlawn edged Western, 45-43, on Dec. 6.
"The girls knew they were going to win," Hall said. "They know they are a better caliber team, and they have more quickness."
What makes the Lakers' accomplishments even more impressive is that they have just seven players, and they are all underclassmen -- four freshmen and three sophomores.
"They didn't wilt at the end, and they kept their composure," Hall said.
Western coach Breezy Bishop spoke with her team in the locker room for nearly an hour after the game and left the school shortly thereafter.
In the other tournament semifinal, Crystal Todd scored 23 points, and Rene Hines added 17, as No. 5 Hammond (5-1) defeated Mount de Sales (5-4), 63-43.
Pub Date: 12/22/96