On February 23, the No. 2-seed 13U Lakers came from behind in the second half to beat the previously undefeated and No. 1-seed Bucks 41-39 in the Green Hornets boys seventh/eighth-grade league championship game at Severn School.
The exciting game featured feverish offensive runs by both teams, with the Bucks (19-1) jumping out to a 24-14 halftime lead, and the Lakers (18-3) outscoring the Bucks 27-15 in the second half.
The Lakers team of Zach Lundfelt, Joshua Sartalamacchia, Kyle Reinecke, Kevin Bredeck, Alex Stroble, Joshua Hong, Josh Scott, John McCone, Mourtada Fall and Matthew Fleisher made timely baskets and key defensive stops down the stretch to prevail in the closing seconds.
Having lost twice before to the Bucks, including just two days before in the 17-team, double-elimination tournament, the Lakers had to first defeat the No. 3-seed Knicks (16-6) by a score of 38-24 in the semifinals just to reach the final. The Lakers turned around on the same day to avenge their previous loss to the Bucks in the championship.
“I am so proud of the boys,” said head coach Walter Hong, who coached the team with assistant coach Brett McCone. “They took their lumps against a strong Bucks team just days before but didn’t let it affect their mindset on championship Saturday. The ultimate difference was that each boy came out with a super aggressive attitude and just would not be denied.”
Leading the way for the Lakers were season-leading scorers Fleisher (16 points, including 10 free throws), Bredeck (9 points), Sartalamacchia (8 points) and Stroble (10 assists). Defensive stoppers Scott, McCone, Lundfelt and Fall slowed the Bucks’ potent fast-break offense. Rounding out the team effort were Hong and Reinecke brought great energy on the boards and played solid, tenacious defense in the championship and throughout the season.
The Bucks team of Andrew Handen, Allen Gottlieb, Blake Hoyt, Cole Fairweather, Brady Jones, Caden Brunatti, Conor Mahan, Donald Horgan, Preston Marburger and Hayden Warren, coached by Bob Fairweather and Eric Marburger, likewise had an outstanding season to finish 19-1 overall and league runners-up.
Said Wong of the Lakers’ opponents, “[The Bucks] were a strong unit that presented a matchup nightmare for the entire league with league scoring leader Hayden Warren leading the way and a very talented supporting cast.”
Wong also knew the Lakers could challenge anyone in a winner-take-all final.
“Our boys just knew it was a ‘one-game season’ in the title game, and even though they fell behind early, they stuck with the game plan and played with tremendous heart all the way to the final buzzer.”