With his team trailing by 16 points early in the third quarter, Largo High School boys' basketball coach Lewis Howard knew that something needed to change in order to avoid a letdown in Friday's season opener. Howard called a timeout and made a defensive adjustment that slowed the Frederick Douglass offense enough for the Lions to erase the deficit and force overtime.
"I knew this was going to be a long game," Howard said, "[During the timeout] I said, 'we've got to have a little poise and we've got to have some stops,' [The Eagles] were getting to the basket very easily and we needed to stop that."
The Largo defense responded — holding Douglass to 23 points over the next 13 minutes of regulation. Then the Lions exploded for 22 points in overtime to earn a 92-87 victory.
The Lions (1-0) were paced by Dion Garner, who scored 31 points and supplied four assists. The senior guard knocked down a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter to cut the Eagles lead to 62-60 and added 21 points from the free throw line, including shooting 14-of-18 from the stripe in the second half and overtime.
"I just kept positive thoughts," Garner said. "I had confidence when I was going to the line because I knew I was going to make it."
Center John Majors also had a big second half for Largo, as he scored 16 of his 18 points after the break. Connie Ihearahu Jr., added 11 points and showcased his athleticism by being on the receiving end of two ally-oops and adding a breakaway dunk in overtime to put the Lions ahead 84-79 — their largest lead of the contest to that point.
"That was good to get some exciting plays because it really got us fired up a little bit," Howard said. "We held our composure, we had a little bit of poise, and they did what they were taught."
Douglass (0-1) built an 11-point halftime advantage largely due to a hot start from Keyonte Frager and Saquan Epps-Walker. Frager made three of his four 3-point shot attempts in the first half on his way to 24 points while Epps-Walker (25 points) converted four of his six shots around the rim and 66 percent of his free throw attempts before the break. The pair also contributed a 3-pointer apiece in the waning moments of overtime to keep the contest close.
"We can take a lot from this game," Eagles coach Tyrone Massenburg said. "Largo played great and it was a great opener for both teams. They have a lot of new players and we have a lot of new players, they just made a couple more plays than we did down the stretch. Overall I'm proud of the way we finished."
For Garner, he was most proud of the way the Lions fought back in the second half.
"We knew that [Douglass] was a tough team, so we just had to keep fighting back and keep fighting back," he said. "I knew that when we got it to overtime we would execute our stuff and coach would pull us through. I didn't want to start my senior season with a loss in the home opener."
Largo 92, Douglass 87
Douglass 25 16 17 12 17 — 87
Largo 14 16 22 18 22 — 92
Douglass (0-1, 0-1): Saquan Epps-Walker 25, Keyonte Frager 24, Van Dunson 11, Jeffrey Calhoun 8, Marsalis Hurley 7, Anthony Byrd 6, Dalton Smith 4, Trevor Johnson 2.
Largo (1-0, 1-0): Dion Garner 31, John Majors 18, Connie Ihearahu Jr. 11, Aaron Thomas 9, Abdulai Bundu 8, Daemond Carter 6, Tyrek Jones 5, Timmy Thompson Jr. 4.