Defense keys Bruins' sweep

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By Robert Howey

FORT MILL - Lancaster, sparked by tough defense, capped Region III-AAAA regular-season basketball play with a sweep of Nation Ford High School of Fort Mill on Friday night.

Defense played a key role in the Bruins' league wins.

The playoff-bound Lady Bruins used sticky defense to deliver a 51-41 win in the varsity opener. The LHS boys, in the nightcap, made key defensive stops in downing the scrappy Falcons in a 68-62 overtime win to complete the varsity broom job.

The boys' game was tight throughout and went to OT deadlocked at 55-all.

The Bruins took control in the extra period, outscoring the Falcons 13-7. LHS took the lead on a pair of key steal-and-scores.

Junior guard Mike Catoe, who hit 13 points, picked up a loose ball and cruised in for a layup to give the Bruins the lead for good, 57-55.

On NFHS's next possession, sophomore point guard Avery Harris, who scored nine points - all in the second half, turned another key steal into a layup for a 59-55 lead.

After another pivotal LHS stop, senior Taniel Massey nailed a jumper to give the Bruins a 61-55 edge.

"Defense was the key," said LHS coach Ricardo Priester. "We made some big plays and that was the difference.

"This win reflects the character of our team," he said. "Hats off to our seniors - Taniel Massey, Robert Fletcher, Wendell McIlwain, Casey Catoe and Mitchell Belk. Those guys are warriors."

After Massey's bucket put LHS up by six, Nation Ford was unable to get closer than three.

Sam Hirsch hit a jumper to make it 61-58, but Bruins' freshman Ron Trapps, who led the winners with 17 points, hit back-to-back buckets to put LHS in control, 65-58. Trapps had 10 points in the second half, four in OT.

"Nation Ford is a well-coached team," Priester said. "It was a battle in here tonight. We're going to take the momentum from this win into the off-season and build on it with hard work."

LHS had to work for the win as Nation Ford, which finished 0-12 in region play, flirted with the upset.

The Falcons led 32-31 at the half, but LHS seesawed back on top at 43-42 after three periods.

The final period was tight and NFHS had a shot to win at the buzzer, but Hirsch's jumper rimmed out and the game went to OT where the Bruins, 8-12, 3-11, took control with clutch defense.

Trapps tallied 17 to lead LHS. Mike Catoe netted 13 and Massey hit 10 points, seven in the second half. Harris netted nine and Wendell McIlwain added eight. Gerard Brace followed with five. Shurdell Wright added three, Mitchell Belk hit two and Casey Catoe added one.

T.J. Everette led NFHS with 26, 14 in the second half. Hirsch hit 23.

Priester said he was pleased with the season, which saw LHS show improvement over a two-win season last winter.

"I want to thank our parents for their support because they have been outstanding," Priester said. "I appreciate our administration, faculty and staff, especially Dr. Keenan (Joe, LHS principal) and coach Strickland (Mark, Bruins' AD)."

In the opener, the Lady Bruins, 14-6, 9-5, ignited in the second half on the way to a convincing 51-41 win.

NF led 19-16 at the half, but the Lady Bruins, applying the pressure, gained control in the second half. The Lady Bruins used a 9-0 run to open the third quarter and built a 30-25 lead with a period to play.

"We played well and stepped up our defense," said LHS coach Ronnie Robinson.

LHS's ball-hawking defense forced Lady Falcons' turnovers and denied their perimeter game.

"They did a great job of pressuring us and taking away our offense," NFHS coach Scott Barefield said. "Their defense was the difference."

"Our defense sparked our offense," Robinson said. "We have to come with that defensive pressure all the time."

LHS, in the pivotal third period, outscored the Lady Falcons 14-6 to take control of the game.

The Lady Bruins finished strong in posting the 10-point win.

"This was a good test for the playoffs," Robinson said. "We had another team effort. I hope the momentum can help us for next week. The big key is keeping the defensive intensity."

Lancaster opens the Class AAAA Upstate playoffs Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Region II champ Spartanburg.

Quana Jones led LHS with 13 points, six in the second half, and eight rebounds. Senior ace Miteka Trueheart hit 10 points, eight in the second half, to go with six rebounds and three steals. Tamesha Fletcher scored eight, five in the second half. Dimaya Jones had six points, while Tesha Tipton and Tenisha Howze added five points apiece.

Keonda Jenkins and Tarah Tipton added two points each.

NF had only one girl in double figures, with Ally Lambert netting 10, six in the second half.

The Junior Lady Bruins opened the night with an impressive jayvee girls' basketball win, routing Nation Ford 38-19 to cap a banner 15-1 campaign.

Shannon Truesdale led a balanced Lancaster jayvee girls' attack with eight points. Tyesha Elder netted seven. Courtney Davis, Cherrell Cousar, Keidrya Barnes and Eldrina McIlwain added four points each. Almesha Catoe added three points. Nicole Johnson and Shaquandra Waters scored two points each.

The team is coached by Phyllis Mickles and Sheila Garris.