The motto for the Lakewood boys basketball team was simple on Wednesday night and it was to get a victory for injured star senior guard Tyrice Beverette.
Beverette hurt his left leg on Monday night against Manasquan in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II final. He was wearing a cast on Wednesday night and sat on the bench as Lakewood took on Medford Tech in a Group II state semifinal at Perth Amboy High School.
Beverette’s season was over but the Piners were trying to bring Lakewood back to the NJSIAA state finals for the first time since 1975, according to Lakewood coach Randy Holmes.
However, Lakewood fell behind early and missed 10 free throws. That combination spelled trouble for the Piners as Medford Tech, playing in its first state semifinal in school history, defeated Lakewood, 53-44.
“We tried to win one for the captain, win one for Tyrice. We played hard. I knew it was going to be tough,” Holmes said. “Especially, at this point in the season missing our best player. But I felt we had a chance to win but we didn’t make foul shots.”
The Piners (27-3) shot 8-for-18 from the foul line for the game and were 5-for-12 from the foul line in the first half. Lakewood did go into halftime with a slim lead as junior guard Haseem McGrady made a layup with six seconds left in the second quarter that gave Lakewood a 24-23 lead at halftime.
“They made foul shots. They were getting timely putbacks,” Holmes said. “It is what it is. They were a better team tonight.”
Conversely, Medford Tech (20-10) went 18-22 from the foul line led by star junior guard Eli Cain. Cain scored 13 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter including the 1,000th point of his career on a floater in the lane with 5:02 left. He also went 9-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and 12-for-13 from the foul line for the game. He now has 1,007 career points.
“It seemed like the referees were letting them play a little tonight. I just told the guys they had to be tough. We had to go to the free throw line and make free throws,” Medford Tech coach Nick Powell said. “We knew if the right two guys got to the line, we would be OK. Eli is a good free throw shooter and Myles is a good free throw shooter.”
Lakewood tied the game for the final time on the first scoring play of the fourth quarter. Junior forward Maurice Diawara made a jumper that tied the game at 34-34 with 7:26 left. From there, Medford Tech closed the game on a 19-10 run fueled mostly by Cain’s performance.
“We felt like we could have won the game, we just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” Diawara said. “It was a good season. We won the Shore Conference Tournament. We won a sectional title. It was just bad that it had to end like this.”
Junior center Ben Watson scored nine of his team-high 13 points in the second quarter. Senior forward Erick Davistallied seven of his 10 points in the first half
Medford Tech 53, Lakewood 44
Medford Tech (53): Harris 0 1-2 1, Powell 5 2-3 16, Tunstall 4 1-2 9, Cain 5 12-13 23, Ali 1 2-2 4, Nelson 0 0-0 0, Jones 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 18-22 53.
Lakewood (44): Davis 4 1-4 10, M. Diawara 3 2-3 8, Craddox 3 2-6 8, Mendez 1 0-0 3, Watson 5 3-4 13, Wimberly 0 0-0 0, McGrady 1 0-0 2, Oliver 0 0-0 0, Tyler 0 0-1 0. Totals: 17 8-18 44.
3-point goals: (MT) Powell 4, Cain; (L) Davis, Mendez; Fouled out. (L) M. Diawara.