Derrious Gilmore had a grin that was ear-to-ear. Daniel Horton high-fived any well-wisher who passed by. Antoine Allen buried his head into coach Herman Harried's chest.
Harried extended one arm straight into the air and let a small smile form on his lips. The No. 1 Lake Clifton boys basketball team huddled and celebrated.
Yesterday afternoon, the Lakers completed a goal they'd set in November when the season started. After a 64-53 Class 3A North regional final victory over No. 12 Mervo yesterday at Lake Clifton, the Lakers are going to the state semifinals.
"We just did it as a team; we're like a family," Allen, a senior, said. "We go through adversity and we overcome it, and that's what we did today. We just put it to Mervo and now we're going to Comcast and trying to win that."
The Lakers play Long Reach, a 51-41 winner over Aberdeen, on Thursday at 3 p.m. at Comcast Center.
Lake Clifton built a 10-point lead going into halftime by keeping Mervo (18-6) out of the paint and forcing them to rely on outside shots.
Allen covered Byron Westmoreland, the Mustangs' leading scorer, and held him to three points in the first half. In the second half, the Lakers (25-1) opened up the game.
On their first possession of the half, Horton grabbed a rebound, put it back in and was fouled for a three-point play. Two plays later, he had a one-handed put-back to give Lake Clifton a 34-18 lead.
After three Mervo free throws, Jason Sharp Jr. found Cleveland Melvin open underneath, and Melvin scored on a thunderous two-handed jam. Two plays later, he had another two-handed dunk to give the Lakers a 38-21 lead.
Gilmore scored four straight points on drives to the basket, and Sharp finished the quarter with a layup, giving Lake Clifton a 44-23 lead. By then, the Mustangs were too far behind to come back.
Allen scored a game-high 19 points. Horton had 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Melvin chipped in 10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
More important then the statistics is Lake Clifton's maturation during the season.
"I've watched them grow up," Harried email@example.com