Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Lakewood head coach Phil Argento called it a dogfight. Westlake's Shawn Hood said it was like "the shootout at the O.K. Corral."
When it came down to it, there weren't many words that could describe what took place Tuesday night at Lakewood.
The Rangers, down 19 points at halftime, rode the hot shooting hand of Mike Angers to rally in the third quarter and eventually send the game into overtime. But despite a 37-point performance from Angers, the visiting Demons were able to pull away and win the game, 86-80, in a non-conference basketball thriller.
Westlake remained undefeated at 10-0, but it took a gargantuan effort on the boards from 6-8 Gavin Skelly and some clutch shooting from fellow seniors Makis Beach, Joe Hadib-Nissan and Connor Meek. Lakewood, now 8-2, nearly pulled out the win with a furious 25-10 third quarter that was powered by the 5-4 Angers.
The Rangers' senior point guard, having scored a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, scored eight more in the second half, four of them coming in the third quarter. His fourth trey of the half came from the right corner and closed the deficit to 48-52 heading into the fourth quarter.
Angers wasn't done yet. He hit four more in a row to bring the game to even at 60-60 with 4:56 yet to play.
"It was phenomenal high school game, and I don't remember watching a kid making eight threes in a half ever," marveled Argento. "I've never seen that, and my son held the state record for threes in a career.
"Mike just had a very, very unusual evening that if you weren't here, you wouldn't believe it. His family was here, and I'm sure they got a giant thrill, as we all did to see him go out and perform like that," he said.
Westlake, however, was able to regroup. Beach, who had five 3-pointers on the night, hit a pair of long-range shots as the Demons fought back. But Angers hit both ends of a one-and-one with 47.3 seconds left in regulation to give the Rangers the lead.
With 27.4 ticks left, Hadib-Nissan hit the front end of the bonus to tie the game at 70-70. Down the stretch, a Westlake trey missed the mark and a long shot attempt by the Rangers was blocked by Skelly to send the game into overtime.
In the OT, Ranger junior Wes Gerhardt struck for his first trey of the game to give the home team a 73-70 lead. But a conventional 3-point play from Hadib-Nissan and another 3-point bomb from Beach gave Westlake the lead for good at 76-73.
A pair of Nick Porter free throws kept Lakewood close at 80-78 with 1:01 left. But a rebound for two from Hadib-Nissan and free throws from Meek and Beach kept the Rangers at bay.
Hood talked about Angers' scoring outburst and how his team had to find a way to pull out the win.
"If we guarded him out a little farther than we had guarded him earlier in the game, he just shot the ball," Hood said. "And then we guarded him a little farther out, and he still shot the ball.
"There's really no real answer to that, maybe deny him the ball. But it's hard to deny a little quick guy like that who always has the ball in his hands. They're going to get it to him, and he's the one bringing it up the court.
"There wasn't a lot we could do. I tried to have Gavin hedge harder up top and stay with him, but they were rolling a guy, so that was even challenging. They're a very, very well coached basketball team. Coach Argento is as good as it gets in terms of strategy and running offense. He was a great shooter, so he knows how to get great shooters open.
"But there's no real answer to that kind of hot shooting," he said.
The Rangers didn't have and answer for the Demons in the first half.
Westlake dominated the boards 30-8, with Skelly grabbing 14 of his game-high 20 boards. But in the second half, the Rangers asserted themselves on the boards and pulled back into the game behind the shooting of Angers and fellow senior Shawn McDonald, who finished with 19 points.
"Defensively, we certainly picked up the intensity and caused them to have more turnovers," Argento said. "They shot the ball very well, I think, the whole game. And as most teams do, they hurt us inside on the putbacks.
"Despite all that we just scrapped, and our kids showed some character and came back hard. Usually when you come back, you don't make up the difference in one quarter, so that was very unique to be down just 52-48 at the end of the third.
"From there, it's a dogfight. We both had opportunities to win it, and they made some great plays to put it away. It was a great high school basketball game," he said.
Senior Jacob Schmidt also hit double figure for the Rangers with 12 points. For Westlake, Beach led a balanced effort with 23 points.
"Makis is having a great year," Hood said. "I ask him every night to guard the best guard on the other team, and he has done a wonderful job. And I ask him to handle the ball, and I ask him to score. He's having a great season.
"His stats might not show it, but he is one of our major, major, major keys to our success, there's no question about it. We can't win without Makis," he said.
Hadib-Nissan had 15 points and eight rebounds. Skelly had 12 points, while Meek contributed 10 points and five boards. The Demons made 30 of 64 shots on the night, 10 of them 3-pointers. But Hood said he knew what the Rangers were capable of despite their 42-23 halftime deficit.
"At halftime, I was angry at them for giving up a basket right at the end of the half," Hood said. "I told them 20 points is not enough against a team that plays like this.
"They shoot threes, they shoot quickly, and they attack. Being up 19, 20 points is not going to be enough. That was a huge emphasis. I knew we had to guard them and shut them down at the beginning of the second half.
"I think emotionally, we were prepared. We didn't get it done, but I think we hung in there and were able to take it into overtime and win it," he said.
Despite the loss, Argento said he was proud of his players' effort and that it would help them as they resume West Shore Conference play.
"At that point, you've got to go out and do something you haven't been doing," said Argento of his team's first-half performance.
"Are you going to let them just run over you, or are you going to man-up and go do what you have to do? It was a good test for the kids to see and gain confidence from, that even though we're small, we can play with anybody. I was very proud of that tonight.
"While this was a great game and a great atmosphere, it was still a non-league game. Our focus is always about winning the conference, and I think this game helps us realize that no matter what happens during a game, we're never out of it.
"We've got a bunch of guys out there who aren't afraid to take a big shot, and that's good," he added.
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