Brandon Craig (17 points), Yavuz Gultekin (16), Nigel Haughton (10) and Cameron Byers (10) all had their moments as the Patriots outscored the Lakers 47-28 in the second half after holding a four-point halftime lead.
“I think the adjustments were we started to play,” Zito said. “Our effort and energy was better defensively and, offensively, I thought we were attacking. It was our mindset and it was our energy.”
One sequence late in the third quarter summed up the Patriots’ second half. They had an impressive stop on defense and then raced out in transition, Haughton taking a return pass from Mathis and finishing a layup for their first double-digit lead at 44-33 with 2:44 to play.
“The second half, I think we made a big adjustment — our energy was right there,” Mathis said. “Coach Zito got on us and me being a leader, it was on me to pick up the team and get going to stretch out the lead.”
Added Zito: “We have to decide what kind of team we want to be. If we want to be an OK team, then we can play great one minute and not so great the next minute. But if we say we want to be a great team, we have to make that decision and hold ourselves accountable and play at a certain level.”
In the tighter first half, every time the Patriots tried getting some distance, the Lakers pushed back.
John Carroll led 13-8 after an uneven first quarter before Lake Clifton got on track to open the second. The Lakers scored on three of their first four possessions, getting an inside basket from Ronald Lucas and a basket in transition from Chauncey Smith before Benjamin Carter found Lucas inside for a dunk that gave Lake Clifton a 14-3 lead with 6:19 to play in the half.
The Patriots responded to take the half’s biggest lead, 28-21, with strong play from Mathis, who had seven points in the quarter, and 3-pointers from Rob Goyena and Gultekin. Again, the Lakers closed the gap with a 3 from Steven Parker and a late putback from Kivon Brown that cut the lead to two before Haughton scored an inside basket near the buzzer to give the Patriots a 30-26 advantage at halftime.
Senior guard Benjamin Carter had a team-high 13 points for the Lakers, with senior forward Ronald Lucas adding 10.
“They outplayed us, they out-toughed us, they did everything better than we did,” Lake Clifton coach Herman “Tree” Harried said. “It’s good to get a chance to see all the things you have to work on. … I think the things we need to work on was exposed and John Carroll did a lot of good stuff. We just have a lot of work to do.”
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No. 8 Dunbar 69, Calvert Hall 68: In the nightcap, the Poets rallied with a 30-point fourth quarter to beat the Cardinals.
Sophomore forward Jamal West Jr. and senior guard Zephaniah Esguerra led Dunbar with 16 points each.
With the Poets trailing 46-39 going into the fourth quarter, junior guard Malik McCormick scored all 13 of his points — including three 3-pointers — to lead the comeback. Senior guard Shaun Tolbert finished with 11 points, while fellow senior Dashawn Phillip was the fifth Poet to score in double figures with 10.
Calvert Hall got a game-high 26 points from senior guard Brendan Adams.