By Steve Jackson
Lennard squeaked by rival East Bay last Thursday 65-64 as burly Maurice Pickett hit 1 of 2 at the free-throw line with less than two seconds on the clock. The homecourt win for Coach Zarko Stojakovich’s Longhorns puts them at 5-3 overall and 2-3 in district. Next up for Lennard is a two-game Holiday Shootout in Arcadia on Dec. 28 and 29. In the opener at 3 p.m. Friday, Lennard faces DeSoto County, 2-7, of Arcadia. The next day at 6 p.m., Lennard catches 3-4 North Port before taking a holiday break.
Last week the Longhorns blew a 4-point halftime lead before losing to Tampa Bay Tech (TBT) in Tampa on Dec. 11. The Longhorns pushed their lead out to 37-31 by the end of the third quarter against TBT, which is challenging Plant City and Strawberry Crest for the top spot in District 9 where Lennard is still stuck about midway in the pack. The Longhorns came completely unraveled in the fourth quarter as TBT took advantage of its homefloor to go on an offensive binge worth 26 points while limiting Lennard to 6 in the final stanza. The loss was tough to take. Stojakovich said, “We had the game and we gave it to them.” He blamed the loss on lack of rebounding by the Longhorns. For Lennard stat-wise, it was CJ Peterson with 13 points and 8 rebounds; while Rae’Shaun Wilson had 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Then, in Ruskin for the East Bay game, Lennard went back and forth with Coach Dale Chambers’ Indians the entire game. The Longhorns brought out the long-range artillery late in the game to hit a trio of treys in front of a delirious home crowd before Pickett was fouled in a frenzy by the Indians with the game tied. Pickett, cool as a cucumber, hit the first, and missed the second. All East Bay could do was take a worthless last-second desperation shot way off the mark and drag themselves on the bus to go back to Big Bend Road with 3-6 mark overall and 1-4 in district.
“It really was a fun game to watch and a tough one to coach,” commented Stojakovic, who did both, after the game. Lennard was paced in points by Rae’Shaun Wilson with 28. CJ Peterson added 9 points. Both Brandon Flannery and Pickett wound up with 7 points. East Bay was sparked by Isom Nieves who hit four clutch free throws to keep East Bay close. “That kid (Nieves) had 23 points and could do it all,” remarked Stojakovic.
East Bay takes a break for the holidays. Then the Indians come back in January for six straight road games. On Jan. 22 East Bay finally gets a crack at revenge, as the Indians host Lennard in an 8 p.m. Tuesday game.