BOYS BASKETBALL: Clarkston overcomes Lake Orion’s fast start to reach district finals

| March 8, 2018 | Comments (0)



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CLARKSTON — Lake Orion accomplished a feat against top-ranked Clarkston that few schools have done in recent years: Build a lead against the Wolves after the first quarter.

The Dragons did so Wednesday night in their Class A district semifinal against the defending state champion Wolves — and looked good doing it.

That simply awoke a sleeping giant.

Trailing 14-9 heading into the second quarter, nationally-ranked Clarkston went on a 19-5 second quarter run for a 28-19 halftime advantage and cruised to a 62-50 victory over Lake Orion.

Previously, Clarkston defeated Lake Orion 69-34 back in mid-December.

“I think they got upset,” admitted Lake Orion coach Jim Manzo of his team grabbing the early five-point lead. “We kind of said at the end of the first quarter that you back an animal into the corner they’re gunna fight back. We kind of knew it was coming and it kind of got away from us in the third quarter a little bit. But we fought back and made it respectable.”

Clarkston (20-1) advanced to the district finals for the 24th time in 25 years and will go for their 23rd district title in the past quarter century Friday at home against Oxford, which rolled to a 55-25 victory in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

“I knew (they were improved). I tried to tell my players that but I might have been talking to a wall,” offered Clarkston coach Dan Fife. “That team played well, much better than the last time we played them. Their coach did a good job.”

Senior guard CJ Robinson scored a game-high 21 points for Clarkston, knocking down a trio of three-pointers, to go along with four rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Senior Mr. Basketball candidate Foster Loyer, who was cleared Tuesday to play after missing a game last week with a bruised knee, added 16 points on just 5-for-15 shooting with five assists. Senior center Taylor Currie chipped in with 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while senior guard Nick Wells contributed eight points and six rebounds for the Wolves.

Clarkston finished the night shooting 44.5 percent from the floor (20-for-45) and 41.7 percent from three-point range (5-for-12). The Wolves were also 15-for-21 from the foul line with Robinson going 8-for-10 from the charity stripe.

“CJ’s had an outstanding year,” said Fife. “He’s a Division II (recruit) and I don’t know why he isn’t a Division I kid. He can play both ways. He can play the one or the two and he plays good defense. CJ and Nick Wells have come a long ways the past couple of years.”

Robinson stroked back-to-back three-pointers as part of an 8-2 spurt to open the third quarter for a 36-21 lead. Clarkston outscored Lake Orion 16-9 in the third stanza for a 44-28 advantage.

Loyer’s nifty pass between his legs for a Currie layup pushed the lead to 52-29 with 5:49 left in the contest before Lake Orion clawed back.

The OAA Blue Division champion Dragons responded with a quick 10-0 run over the next 1:15 to cut to within 51-39 with 4:34 to go.

Lake Orion got as close as 11 points with 1:04 left on a layup from junior Kyle Loken (56-45). Clarkston iced the game by making six free throws in the final minute.

“We played well against the best team in the state of Michigan in their gym,” continued Manzo. “Considering what the score was the first time we played them it’s hard to find a lot of fault. I loved their effort tonight.

“No one really talked about our team all year,” added Manzo. “Tonight we saw how good we can be and how good Clarkston is. And they are good. Great effort all the way around against them.”

Senior guard Jamie Lewis Jr. bowed out with 20 points and seven rebounds for Lake Orion, which finished 17-4 after going 4-17 a year ago.

Sophomore guard Jack Cummings and senior forward Casey Strionek both added 10 points for the Dragons, who finished 19-for-54 from the floor (35.2 percent) and 6-for-25 from three-point range (24 percent).

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