Lawrence stops Northeast, earns final berth

Published 2:47 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2010

HOBGOOD – Men on a mission.

Lawrence Academy’s boys basketball team dispatched Northeast Academy in the semi-finals of the Tarheel Independent Conference tournament Friday night, 61-38, for the Warriors’ 16th win of the year and fourth this season over the Eagles.

The win sent Lawrence into the Saturday night final against top-seeded, Hobgood Academy at Hobgood. It also ensured the Warriors would earn at least an at-large bid to the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament beginning February 23.

Shabazz Atkins led the Warrior scoring with 19 points while Trace Larabee added 17. Evan Holton and Chad Whitehead had eight points apiece while Chase Stevens scored five and Cade Larabee had four.

Cody Fleetwood and Jud Smith scored 10 each for the Eagles.

“I loved our intensity,” said coach Jon Powell. “We were on the floor, getting after loose balls, very intense on defense, and then in the second half we did a good job of maintaining focus.”

Northeast scored the first two points of the game and never led again. Evan Holton tied it with a put-back off the backboard and later Atkins buried a three-pointer and Lawrence never looked back.

Despite a pair of timeouts by Eagles’ coach Lance Jenkins, nothing seemed to stop the Warrior onslaught while the Lawrence defense was stifling the Northeast offense. Leading, 11-8, Lawrence then went on a 9-0 run capped by a Trace Larabee three-pointer to make it 20-8 after the first quarter.

Larabee picked up his second foul late in the first quarter and sat for much of the second frame. Smith’s layup for Northeast cut the margin to twelve, 22-10, but that was as close as the Eagles came the rest of the way. Instead of a slower pace, the Warriors picked up their transition game at put it in cruise-control.

Scoring on their next two possessions thanks to Cade Larabee and Atkins Lawrence then began to turn up the defense and defensive rebounding at the expense of scoring. They still took the quarter, 12-8, to lead it 32-14 at the break.

The third quarter was more even as Northeast scored twelve points from beyond the three-point arc. However, at the other end, Trace Larabee was beating defenders in the lane and collected six points by penetrating on driving layups.

Atkins got a pair of jumpers to close out the quarter and staked the Warriors to a 48-27 lead with eight minutes left to play.

Northeast had to foul in the fourth quarter, but Lawrence made 5-of-8 at the line and though they managed just 13 points for the quarter, they coasted to the 23-point win and the showdown with Hobgood.

“From the bench it felt like there was a cover over the basket at times,” said Jenkins. “Despite this loss, and I hate it for my seniors,” he added, “I feel proudest of our Tuesday night win (over Ridgecroft) because we defeated a team that had beaten us three times.”

“We tried to work on stuff we don’t get a chance to work on in practice tonight,” said Powell. “Hopefully this will help us Saturday night.”