BOYS BASKETBALL: Lake Orion holds off Avondale

| January 8, 2016 | Comments (0)

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LAKE ORION — Tuesday night was far from a thing of beauty in the eyes of Jim Manzo, who returned to Lake Orion’s sidelines after a seven-year hiatus.

But reclaiming the reigns of a program that won only four contests last winter, the Lake Orion boys basketball coach still found ample positives in his Dragons’ 64-56 triumph over visiting Auburn Hills Avondale in an OAA crossover contest.

Lake Orion, now 4-1 on the young season, built a 29-16 lead at the half, saw Avondale surge back for 44-40 advantage early in the four quarter before closing out with a 24-16 run to tie last year’s win total.

“I really love these kids,” admitted Manzo, who coached the Dragons from 1998-99 through the 2007-08 season before going on a hiatus from coaching. “They really play hard. They only won (four) games last year, so I think they have really responded well, even though at times it’s not the prettiest of basketball.”

Case in point Tuesday. Avondale outscored Lake Orion 24-11 in the third quarter, including a 14-1 run to end the period to draw even at 40-40 entering the final frame.

The Dragons had to change its course over the final seven minutes to regain the lead and stave off the Yellowjackets (2-3).

“In the first half, I tried to play as many guys as possible and work on some rotations and things and we never really got into any type of flow. I take responsibility for the slow start,” offered Avondale coach Tim Morton, who like Manzo, returned to the sidelines two years ago after a several-year lay-off. “I thought we really started to gel in the third quarter and made a game of it. But we expended so much energy coming back that I don’t think we played with the same intensity in the fourth quarter. I think Lake Orion had something to do with that as well.”

Lake Orion senior guard David Gomez finished 9-of-11 from the floor, 11-of-11 from the charity stripe and collected a team-high 27 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, to pace Lake Orion. Senior forward Jaylen Wiggins added 11 points, 12 rebounds and a trio of steals, while junior guard Steven Zmijewski had 12 points and five steals for Lake Orion.

Senior guard Chris Dedeck added five crucial points in the fourth quarter for Lake Orion.

It was Gomez who scored seven straight points over a portion of the fourth frame to give the Dragons a 47-44 advantage with 3:59 remaining in the contest. He helped put the lid on Avondale’s coffin with six more consecutive points for a 58-49 advantage with 1:23 remaining in the contest.

The Dragons, who have one player above 6-foot-2, got away from its attacking-style game in the third quarter only to resume the high-intensity-style play over the final minutes.

“We were attacking the basket a lot more,” said Manzo. “The reason we were in a double-digit lead was that we were out-rebounding them and we were getting shots inside. In that little stretch we got away from that and were shooting outside shots. But that is to their credit. They turned up the heat and it was a good test. We found a way to bounce back.”

Senior forward Jalen Lathum, an all-league pick last year, was a driving force behind Avondale playing its way back into the game. He finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and three steals for the Yellowjackets. Junior forward Vyshonn Munson added 11 points and seven boards for Avondale.

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