VIVIAN – With the pro-North Caddo crowd rocking in an overcrowded gym, Lakeview found a way to keep a sliver of its once 23-point lead Friday.
The Gators finally broke a menacing North Caddo press and made three of their last four free throws to escape North Caddo with a 69-64 win.
Lakeview (16-5, 2-0 District 1-2A) broke open a four-point halftime lead to go up 59-36 at the end of the third quarter and still maintained a 63-46 edge with about 4 minutes to go over the Rebels (19-2, 1-1).
But leading scorer Tay Hardy (31 points) was ejected with his second technical foul at the 3:30 mark, and North Caddo forced seven turnovers in the next 2:30 as part of a 16-2 run to cut Lakeview’s lead to 65-62 with 42 seconds remaining.
Robert Williams scored 12 of his 18 points during that run, but the unselfish center dished the ball to an open teammate under the basket on the ensuing possession, which ended in a turnover.
Lakeview’s Brent Toussaint (14 points) made a pair of free throws, and two other Gators made one of their two attempts to close out the win.
“This means a lot, we’ve had a lot of bumps and bruises this year. But glad to see that we relied on each other tonight,” said Lakeview coach Brian Williams. “I liked the team ball and sharing it with everybody.
“Tay Hardy is a phenomenal player, and I thought the other guys did a great job of rebounding and playing defense. It was Malik Metoyer’s job to guard (Williams), and I thought he did a solid job. Both of those guys are Division I recruits.”
Hardy is an unquestionable Division I recruit himself, and his 31 points occurred despite sitting most of the second quarter after his first technical foul and then missing the last 3:30 of the game.
He scored 11 of Lakeview’s first 17 points as the Gators built a 17-5 lead late in the first quarter. Hardy made six 3-pointers — three during the opening run and three more in a 19-5 run to start the third quarter.
“I came up today with the mind-set of beating number 2 (North Caddo’s ranking in the LHSAA power rating) because we were number 4,” Hardy said. “Coach was telling us that we need to come out and play hard, and I just prayed to God that I could come out and do the best I could.
“I wasn’t really paying attention to the crowd because coach always says that we’re in the trenches by ourselves, so I didn’t really see anybody out there. This is a good feeling because North Caddo is a really good team and came out with some fight, and coach said it would be one of the hardest games we’d have to play.”
The crowd, which did include two sections of Lakeview fans, loved to boo Hardy, who blew kisses at a rowdy North Caddo girls basketball team giving Hardy a hard time.
North Caddo fans left the gym saying they looked forward to the trip to Campti on Feb. 3 for what will likely decide the District 1-2A title.
The Rebels’ Chris Thomas (17 points), Detravious Easter (11 points) and Robert Brooks (12 points) supplemented North Caddo’s offense without leading scoring Kadavion Evans.
Evans, a former Calvary and Huntington player who is now the Rebels’ leading scorer with nearly 25 points per game, broke his wrist on Christmas Day.
North Caddo coach Ron Meikle said he’s proud of the way his freshman- and sophomore-laden team responded to the large deficit against a foundation of Lakeview seniors.
“Our young guys got acclimated to the game in the second half,” Meikle said. “Lakeview came out and punched us in the mouth, and they had dunks and lobs and deep (3-pointers).
“A lot of teams would quit, but our guys didn’t. Tay Hardy always seems to make those (difficult) shots against us … We’ll have (Evans) when we go back down there, and he’ll definitely be a factor.”
Evans’ target return date is that Feb. 3 date with Lakeview.
North Caddo 78, Lakeview 55:The Lady Rebels wasted no time jumping on the Lady Gators, scoring the first 12 points en route to the win.
Keyarrea Easter scored seven of her 23 points during that run, and Jasmine Thomas added 23 as well. Sumer Williams chipped in with 11 points.
For Lakeview, M. Payne scored a team-high 13 points.