The third quarter was magical for Lone Peak yet again.
Down one at the half, the top-ranked Knights used a big third quarter to pull away from No. 5 Southwind (Memphis) for a 67-52 victory at the City of Palms Classic semifinal in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday night.
T.J. Haws was the catalyst of the dominant third quarter as he scored 13 of his 24 points. Behind the junior’s hot hand, Lone Peak turned a 31-30 halftime deficit into a 54-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“They (were) as athletic team as we’ve ever played — spring, summer, regular season, anything. I think part of it was we had to adjust to the speed of the game early on, and normally that’s not the case,” said Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis. “Once we get into the second half I think we wore on them a little bit.”
Lone Peak extended its lead to 60-45 early in the fourth quarter in another impressive performance on the national stage for the No. 1 team in the country, according to MaxPreps.
Lone Peak will face Montverde Academy, Fla., in the championship Saturday night at 7 p.m. Montverde beat Long Beach Poly, Calif., 76-51.
Along with Haws’ 24, Nick Emery added 16 points for Lone Peak and Eric Mika chipped in with 13 points and 12 rebounds as Lone Peak shot 47 percent from the field — including nine 3s.
The third quarter was the difference yet again.
In Thursday’s quarterfinal win over No. 3 Chester, Pa., Lone Peak outscored the Clippers 26-14 in the third quarter to put the game away. The night before it outscored Callaway, Miss. 18-14 in the third.
In a victory over Orem a couple weeks ago it used a 15-7 run in the third quarter to pull away, and back on Dec. 1 in Chicago it outscored Proviso, Ill., 23-10 in the third — a win that opened a lot of people’s eyes.
Nationally, however, many high school basketball followers reserved judgment to see how the Knights fared at the Palms.
So far so good.
Unlike their previous two games at the City of Palms Classic, nothing came easy for the Knights on Friday. Southwind used a 13-0 run in the first quarter to open up a 16-8 lead. The Knights, as they always seem to do, hit some big 3s to claw back into the game.
“We responded and hit a couple shots and hung in there until things settled down,” said Lewis.
Trailing by one at the half, Lone Peak felt pretty good considering Southwind made 5 of 9 3-pointers and shot 55 percent. Lewis encouraged his guys to stick to the defensive game plan and believed Southwind would start missing its shots.
The turning point in the game occurred with 3:16 left in the third quarter when Haws converted a four-point play to push a five-point lead to a nine-point advantage, 44-35.
“(Talon) Shumway dove on the floor at half court with a bunch of bodies. He got the ball and threw it off his back to Haws and Haws hit a 3-pointer and got fouled. That really seemed to turn the momentum of the entire game,” said Lewis.
As excited as Lone Peak is about the marquee semifinal win, Lewis said nobody is content about simply making it to the championship game. Last year the Knights advanced to the championship of the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina before running out of gas in a 70-42 loss to Milton, Ga.
“The bottom line is we didn’t get it done. I think our kids are focused on doing it. If we don’t, that’s how it goes,” said Lewis.
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