Slow starts and frenetic finishes marked Lely’s two games in the Don Stewart Shoot-out, held in their home gym on Friday and Saturday.
The tournament, named after legendary former Lely basketball coach Don Stewart, featured 15 teams from throughout South Florida.
On Friday night, against Miami Sunset, the formula worked as the Trojans stormed back with a 24-point fourth quarter to pin an exciting 51-50 loss on their east coast visitors.
Saturday’s comeback bid against another east coast foe, Miami Central, wasn’t as successful—but was equally exciting. After trailing by double digits most of the game, Lely again stormed back, tying the game at 46-46 with 3:05 left, before finally bowing, 55-49.
“We came out sluggish,” said Lely coach Fritz Jacques after the loss to Miami Central, “we couldn’t put the ball in the basket, weren’t playing defense like we have to.”
The Trojans started the same way Friday night against a good Miami Sunset team, trailing 34-18 at the half. Against Central, the halftime score was almost identical, with Lely trailing the Rockets 32-18.
The titillating win over Sunset was the highlight of the opening day of the tournament, according to Don Stewart, the tournament’s namesake. “Lely’s comeback win last night was the highlight of Friday’s play,” said Stewart, “it was unbelievable. They fell a little bit short today—they played hard. They almost did it.”
“In the second half I feel like we picked it up on defense,” Jacques said of Saturday’s game. “Good things happen when you play hard on defense.”
With an amped-up defensive effort Saturday afternoon, Lely turned a 14-point halftime deficit against Central into a tie game late in the fourth quarter. After a couple of empty possessions by both teams, Central’s Roundtree hit his only basket of the second half from deep in the corner with 1:40 left in the game to make it 49-46.
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“The biggest turning point was when number eleven hit that three in the corner,” Jacques said. “I think that’s when they iced the game a little bit.”
The Trojans closed the gap to two at 51-49 but ultimately couldn’t pull off a second comeback.
“I was proud of them for playing hard in the second half,” Jacques said. “but we’ve got to get started faster. Yesterday was the same thing. First half we couldn’t buy a bucket. Second half we came out raining’, puttin’ the ball in the bucket. It starts with defense. We take pride in defense. So that’s what we’ve got to do.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games this year. I think it’s good for the kids. Get that experience now. We’ve been in situations where we’ve made mistakes and lost. But we’ve also been in situations where we made the right play and won. I think it’s good learning experience for all the boys, for the team. And for me as a coach. We’ll learn from it. It don’t stop. We’ve got to get our minds right, fix the problems and get ready to compete.”
Lely plays three games from January 7-10, hosting Gulf Coast on Tuesday, traveling to Barron Collier on Thursday, and hosting Golden Gate on Friday.