SEBRING – Friday night’s game came down to the final seconds and Lake Wales made a pair of free throws to earn a 59-57 win over Sebring.
The hard-fought loss dropped the Blue Streaks to 12-3 on the season and 1-1 in Class 6A-District 10 play.
“It was a tight game,” said Sebring head coach Princeton Harris. “We want to continue to get better. We made some mistakes. It is what it is. It is hard to explain a game like this one. It was so close, it was a hard-fought game. We were 10 points down, fought to go up by 10 and then we were forced to lose it. We are going to get these things fixed. This is a young group and we are going to continue to work with them to get better. I think we had a lack of communication on the defensive end. We let them drive to the basket and we did not step over to help or we were over helping and not being in the right position to take care of the drive.”
The Blue Streaks jumped to an early lead in the first period as Norris Taylor scored five points and Eric Brown had a slam dunk and a putback to make it 9-4.
The Highlanders rallied putting up 13 points, including two 3-pointers to claim a 17-11 lead at the end of the first period.
Lake Wales maintained its lead in the second quarter. The Highlanders’ Walter Clayton sank a 3-pointer. Brown was sent to the line for Sebring and went two-for-two to make it 22-13.
Lake Wales’ Donald Gatlin stole the ball and charged down the open court for an easy layup. The Blue Streaks rallied with Taylor, Emmitt Beck and Ryan Brown each making baskets cutting the deficit to 24-21.
Taylor made a jump shot from the left side but the Highlanders answered with a basket to give them a 28-23 at the half.
Sebring roared back in the third period as Jehovany Garcia scored eight points, Brown added five points, Taylor sank a pair of 3-pointers and Jacob Pasley made a shot at the buzzer to give the Blue Streaks a 48-38 lead heading to the final quarter.
Lake Wales rallied to take a 50-49 lead with 3:43 left in the game. Shamar Hawthorne netted a shot off the glass to reclaim the lead for Sebring.
The Highlanders jumped ahead 57-51 with 1:28 left on the clock. Brown scored six points to tie the game at 57.
Taylor stole the ball from the Highlanders with 10.5 seconds left in the game and Sebring’s Garcia had a layup blocked by Lake Wales’ Raykwon Frazier.
Lake Wales’ Jevon Holt was fouled and sent to the line where he went two-for-two with 5 seconds left in the game. Brown took a 3-point shot that hit the rim but did not go in at the buzzer as the Highlanders escaped with the win.
“This was a hard loss,” said Norris Taylor. “We fought hard. We should not have lost but we did fight back. We kept fouling and Lake Wales kept making free throws, layups and they were blocking our shots. We are going to go hard every day in practice, we are going to run and get in shape. We just need to execute better.”
Sebring will use the loss as a learning experience.
I would rather lose this game than a district championship game,” said coach Harris. “We can go back to the drawing board and fix this right now. We are going to come back and we will be okay. We had Emmitt Beck come off the bench and he went in and scored right away. We had Jacob Pasley back tonight and he did a very good job. It is good to see these young guys stepping up early in the season. We don’t want to peak too early but we also don’t want to peak too late. We are right where we want to be at and these guys are continuing to do well. We are going to continue to work hard and we are going to let the chips fall where they fall.”
Sebring is on the road on Tuesday for a district game against the Hardee Wildcats. Sebring’s next home game is Friday night against district rival DeSoto.