With 4:25 left in the third quarter, Lake Clifton senior guard Jason Sharp hit a three-pointer from the left side to get the No. 2 Lakers within one point of top-ranked St. Frances in the showcase game of the Basketball Academy last night at Morgan State.
Sharp then glanced at his coach, Herman Harried, who responded with a fierce, confirming nod. They knew they were on to something.
Fellow junior guard Antonio Barton hit another three on Lake Clifton's next possession - giving the Lakers their first lead - and they dominated from there in coming away with a resilient 63-54 win over the Panthers.
Barton scored 21 points, Cleveland Melvin finished with 17 and Sharp had 16 as the Lakers improved to 12-0. St. Frances fell to 17-3.
St. Frances junior guard Wayne Sparrow scored the game's first 11 points and finished with a game-high 28, but the Lakers had the last word in the second half.
"We showed we got a lot of heart, and as long as we stay together we know we can beat anybody," said Sharp, whose points all came in the second half. "Coach and I were texting all night, so I just didn't want to let him down and show him I was still with him."
The Panthers took a 27-19 lead at the half before the Lakers made their third-quarter push with a 12-2 run that was capped by Barton's three-pointer for a 31-29 lead with 3:39 left.
The lead changed four times early in the fourth quarter before Lake Clifton took charge for good. With the Lakers down 45-44, Sharp scored their next nine points - providing a 53-47 lead with 2:47 left - and a dunk from Melvin and solid free-throw shooting handled the rest.
"They showed what we've been working on these last few weeks, just discipline, mental toughness and dealing with adversity. That's one of the things we focus on, dealing with adversity because that also goes with life skills," Harried said.
Senior forward Terrell Vinson scored 16 points for the Panthers.
Riverdale Baptist 60, No. 6 City 54:: The Knights rallied from a double-digit deficit to draw even early in the fourth quarter, but the Crusaders scored the next six points to regain control midway through and take the win at the Basketball Academy.
Adam Johnson led City (8-5) with 16 points, and Daquan Cook added 10.