by Jamaar Hawkins, i64sports
Lakeland head coach Clint Wright Sr told his team at halftime they would have to increase their level of intensity to upset top-ranked Hopewell. With the Cavaliers trailing 28-16 at intermission, Wright Sr knew his team would need a spark out of the locker to pull off an upset bid.
“The first half was just not characteristic Lakeland basketball. I’m not sure if it was the environment or the team we were playing. Hopewell had basically owned us in the past, since these guys were sophomores. We just couldn’t get it together in the first half. I really challenged the guys in the locker room,” the coach said of his team’s lowly start.
His son, Clint Wright Jr, provided the exact scoring punch the Cavaliers would need in a come from behind win on Saturday. The senior guard finished with 18 points, including a free throw with 31.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give Lakeland the lead for good.
For much of the game Hopewell appeared to be on its way to a region championship appearance, leading by as much as eight in the third quarter. Led by Wright, Lakeland slowly chipped away at the Blue Devils’ lead.
Lakeland took its first lead of the game until 1:45 left in the third quarter. Hopewell regained the edge on its next possession, but a three-pointer by Wright would tie the game at 37 as the Cavaliers refused to go away. After scoring just 16 points in the first half, Lakeland exploded for 45 points after intermission. But it was a third quarter offensive explosion by the Cavaliers that proved to be the difference.
Wright’s 5th three-pointer of the game gave Lakeland a 40-37 lead with 41 seconds remaining in the period. The Cavaliers would take a six-point edge on three-pointer by Keimari Artis. Wright and Artis combined for 31 points, all in the second half as Lakeland outscored Hopewell 47-32 after halftime. The Cavaliers also got a huge contribution from Raymond Bellamy, who added 12 points to keep the ball club afloat during the team’s sluggish first half.
Following the win, Wright Jr discussed the joy of being the second Suffolk school and third program to earn a state tournament bid, joining the Cavaliers girls team and Kings Fork boys.
“It just shows that Suffolk has talented basketball teams. Just all-around talent,” Wright Jr added.
Lakeland will face Petersburg in the Class 3A region final on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00pm at the Norfolk Scope.