Friday, March 14, 2008

Defense leads Largo boys’ basketball team into state 3A final

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When Largo High School boys’ basketball coach Lewis Howard said his team’s philosophy was defense, he was not kidding.

Largo used a total team effort defensively to stifle Bethesda-Chevy Chase all afternoon as the Lions advanced to the state Class 3A championship game with a 73-64 victory against the Barons at Comcast Center on Thursday.

The Lions (23-4) will take on Long Reach (25-2), which beat Lake Clifton, 62-59, in the other semifinal. The title game is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Comcast Center. B-CC (18-8), which ended the Lions’ undefeated season last year in the 3A semifinals, had trouble setting up their offensive sets, as Lions’ guards Klevin Pollard, Aaron Martin, Darren Clark and Donald Moses combined for nine steals, while star senior forward Maurice Sutton contributed six blocks on the afternoon.

B-CC had only 18 points at the half.

‘‘We just kept [Austin] Cooley on the outside and tried to keep the ball in his left hand,” Sutton said of the defensive effort against the B-CC standout, who had 19 points. ‘‘We blitzed the ball handler and used double teams on the ball screens.”

Sutton picked up his third foul with more than five minutes remaining in the second quarter, forcing him to the bench for the remainder of the half.

The Lions responded by holding the ball for nearly five minutes until Pollard sank a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining in the half.

‘‘This is the third time in four years that I’ve been here,” Howard said. ‘‘Two times we had the lead after the first half and the other team dropped into a zone in the second half and came back. We wanted to try to pull [B-CC] out [of their zone]. I look over and I got a 7-footer [Sutton] on the bench and we’re up [12] so I held it.”

Cooley got off to a slow start, scoring 14 of his points in the second half.

Even after last year’s state semifinal setback against B-CC, the Lions said they didn’t look at Thursday’s game with revenge on their minds.

‘‘We just saw them as one team that was in our way,” Sutton said.

In the other 3A semifinal, Long Reach trailed Lake Clifton, 47-37, at the end of the third quarter, but then erupted for 25 points in the final eight minutes of play to get the win. Deon Queen led the Lightning with 19 points and Obi Ukwuoma added 15 points and six rebounds.

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.