At the offensive end, a couple timely spurts was all the Lake Clifton boys basketball needed Saturday afternoon against visiting New Town.
The home team’s defense — strong for all 32 minutes — took care of the rest and the reward was a 51-43 win over the Titans for the Class 2A North region crown.
Sophomore Michael Gray scored 18 points as the Lakers (18-5) advance to Friday’s state semifinals at University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center. Set to take on the West region winner — either Williamsport or Oakdale — Lake Clifton makes its 10th state tournament appearance in search of the program’s fifth state crown and first since 2012.
Following Saturday’s game, New Town coach Mike Daniel announced he had coached his final game in an illustrious career that covered 34 years, four area teams and close to 600 wins. At Towson Catholic, he won a total of four Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League crowns; claimed two state titles at City and then won two at New Town. His first title with the Titans came in 2015 against Lake Clifton.
“I’ve had a remarkable run at this. I was allowed and blessed to do something that I wanted to do and a lot of people can’t say that,” he said. “I’ve had a great run with the kids I’ve had, some unbelievable talent, great kids, great students. I can walk away. Would have I have liked to have gone down to Maryland one more time? Absolutely.”
Daniel was quick to credit the Lakers for not letting that happen.
The Titans (18-6) had an 11-7 lead early in the second quarter when they went on a 14-0 run to build a 21-11 lead with 2:11 left in the half — Ben Carter (11 points) making three baskets and Chauncey Smith hitting a 3-pointer in the run.
When the titans scored the first five points of the third quarter — Tykei Ferrell’s three-point play cutting the lead to 24-21 — the Lakers called timeout, regrouped and answered emphatically behind Carter and Gray.
In a 13-2 run, Carter hit a couple jumpers, Gray drove in for a basket and then provided the Lakers their biggest lead at 37-23 when he hit a 3-pointer and was fouled for the extra one.
The Lakers struggled at the free-throw line — making 12 of 26 for the game — but Gray hit four straight in the final minutes to help secure the win.
“We just battled,” Lake Clifton coach Herman “Tree” Harried said. “We dealt with adversity, overcame some bad possessions and bad plays, but they never gave up and just kept fighting. This time of year, it’s going to come down to having composure and dealing with adversity — we did that today.”
Harried closed his remarks with great respect for Daniel.
“He’s done it all,” he said. “He’s a champion, he’s a professional and he has a personality you can’t buy. And he’s a great coach. With that being said, it’s good to have a guy like him around to drive you as a coach. To coach against him was an honor.”
NT — Ferrell 10, Carter 9, Robinson 9, Guerrero 13, Cameron 2. Totals: 18 5-7 43
LC—Carter 11, Lucas 7, Gray 18, Smith 12, Parker 3. Totals: 17 12-26 51
Half: LC, 24-16