Camdenton remained calm.
It did not matter that Hillcrest held a lead for nearly three quarters. Nor did it
matter when Camdenton needed to knock down free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.
Defensive stops and an unselfish patience to move the ball around for a good
shot was the winning formula for the Lakers as they grabbed a 59-53 Ozark Conference win against Hillcrest Thursday night.
“We didn't care who got the shot,” Camdenton senior Jordan Knight said. “We were confident in each other and we know everyone can make plays.”
The unselfish attitude helped the Lakers remain competitive throughout the contest. Hillcrest opened up a five-point lead to start the game and maintained that difference throughout the first two quarters, leading 30 to 25 at halftime.
The Hornet lead would grow as high as six in the third quarter before the Lakers broke through. Knight hit back-to-back shots at the end of the period to give Camdenton its first lead of the night at 42 to 41.
The Lakers momentum only continued to grow from that point. To open the final quarter of play, Camdenton may have executed one of its most selfless plays of the entire game.
The Lakers worked the ball around on offense, looking for a way to break the Hillcrest zone defense. Then nearly a minute later sophomore Jake Teichmeier found an open path and cut to the basket where he would execute a three-point play.
The moment was representative of something Camdenton coach Jared O'Quinn's team has lived by the entire season.
“We work hard and work together,” O'Quinn noted. “That's something we write on the board everyday, play hard, play together and play for each other. I think our guys do that every night.”
The Lakers did not surrender the lead for the rest of the night. Hillcrest senior Brady Petry, who was a defensive chore a majority of the night with 32 points, hit a 3-point play with 26 seconds left to make it 55-53. That was the closest the Hornets would get the rest of the night.
“In the first half he kind of did whatever he wanted,” O'Quinn said. “We challenged our guys at halftime to step up and be physical. Jake Decker rose to the challenge and made everything tough for him in the second half. Our team defense was a lot better. I thought we communicated a lot better and it was a lot more physical.”
Camdenton was able make free throws when they needed them most. The team chemistry made itself known yet again when Knight reflected on the last few intense moments of the game.
“I just want to give a shout out to Michael Hake,” Knight said about his teammate. “He hit free throws late in the game and he really stepped up tonight.”
Knight led the Lakers balanced attack with 17 points while Teichmeier added 15, senior Tristan Starkey contributed 11 and senior Jake Decker added nine.
The win was a strong finish to the regular season for the Lakers as they look to prepare for district play. O'Quinn believes this team has what it takes to extend their season and keep riding the momentum of their current two-game win streak.
“In the one-and-done format it's whoever gets hot,” O'Quinn stated. “I think we have a chance to do that. We're going to have to play well to win a district, but we're capable.”
The Lakers will take their first step towards a district title and beyond when they face Waynesville Tuesday night at 7:30 on their home floor.