Lousy start too much to overcome as Gators fall by 4 in state semis

By Warren Arceneaux, Special to the Journal 

For the third straight season, Lakeview advanced to the big stage of the boys basketball state tournament. Once again the big lights proved a bit too bright as the Gators went haywire in the first half and despite a strong rally, lost a Class 2A semifinal for the third straight season, falling 73-69 to Amite.

After an opening spurt in which they scored the first five points of the game, the Gators were out of sorts in the first half, hurrying shots on offense and fouling on defense.

Amite ended the first quarter with a 17-3 run and closed the second quarter with a 12-4 spurt to build a 36-20 halftime lead.

“Bright lights, everybody trying to be a superstar,” Gators head coach Brian Williams said of the early struggles. “Those that weren’t trying to be a star were nervous. The woke halftime talk was about going back to playing like a team, like we have all year. We have never had a half like that.”

Things got better in the second half. Lakeview opened the third quarter with an 8-2 to narrow its deficit to 10 points. 

The Gators got within nine halfway through the fourth quarter, then had a late 7-0 spurt to get within 68-64 with 1:33 left. 

Amite made three of four free throws to stretch the lead back to seven and wasn’t threatened again.

The Gators scored 49 points in the second half after putting up only 20 in the first half. Amite shot 56 percent from the floor in the game and was even better from long range, connecting on 8 of 12 3-point attempts. 

The Warriors won the state football championship and will try to pull off a rare double in Saturday’s finals.

The Warriors’ shooting display offset a brilliant individual performance by Lakeview’s Javonte Howard, who scored 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-7 on three pointers.

“He’s a great player and a great young man,” Williams said of Howard. “He’s been with us since seventh grade and started as a freshman. He wasn’t even allowed to shoot the ball then but has grown into a great player who led us here. He has a few opportunities to play at the next level if he chooses.”

Fellow senior Cameron Holden had 5 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. 

“I’m going to miss it. Coach Williams was great, like a father figure to me,” he said. “Javonte, that’s my brother right there. I’ll always remember what we’ve done together.”