LAKEWOOD — Lakewood girls basketball coach Chris Poisson has no issue with going to his bench, even when a playoff game is on the line.
The No. 2 seed Lakewood Tigers held just a 44-39 lead going to the fourth quarter Friday night against No. 7 seed Legend Titans. With the second-round Class 5A playoff game in the balance, Lakewood got some much-needed contributions from role players.
“That’s our team,” Poisson said after nine different Tigers scored in the 67-50 victory on Lakewood’s home court. “We’re deep.”
To start the fourth quarter, Lakewood’s two leading scorers Mackenzie Forrest and McKenna Bishop were actually sitting on the bench. However, the Tigers started the quarter on an 8-0 run without Forrest and Bishop on the court to get their lead back to double-digits.
“I wasn’t really nervous because I have confidence in all our players,” said Forrest, who finished with a game-high 20 points. “We are pretty deep. I knew somehow we’d find a way to pull it out.”
Juniors Madeline Miller and Anissa Barela were huge contributors for the Tigers (19-5 overall). Miller (15 points) hit three 3-pointers in the first half. She also went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line during the Tigers’ 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter.
Barela had a pretty quiet first three quarters, but broke out for an 11-point fourth quarter that included a pair of 3-pointers and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line.
“I got on her (Barela) because her defense was off tonight,” Poisson said. “In the fourth quarter she was playing terrific on both ends. I think that lit a spark in us.”
Barela’s first 3-pointer pushed the Tigers’ lead to 51-39 with 6:16 left in the fourth quarter. Her second extended Lakewood’s lead to 59-44 midway through the final quarter.
“They felt like good shots,” said Barela, who finished with 12 points. “Coach (Poisson) always tells us to take great shots. I felt like they were good enough.”
Lakewood’s freshmen twins — Camilla and Kira Emsbo — were more than capable in playing key minutes off the bench. With Bishop in foul trouble early in the second quarter, the 6-foot twins saw plenty of playing time.
“We’ve been telling them (Camilla and Kira) for a little while now that they aren’t freshmen. Tonight they weren’t,” Poisson said. “They were terrific on defense and hit some shots on offense a month ago they wouldn’t have even taken.”
The twins combined for 10 points, but their presence in the middle on defense was invaluable. The Titans (15-10) were held to just two field goals in the fourth quarter when Lakewood outscored Legend 23-11.
Legend seniors Joey Sale (14 points) and Kristen Gallagher (13 points) led the Titans. Legend finished tied for sixth in the Continental League. The Titans used a big third quarter in their playoff opener Tuesday to take a 71-51 victory over Gateway.
Lakewood came in Friday on a 10-game winning streak. The Tigers’ last loss was a 28-point defeat to 5A Jeffco rival Ralston Valley. Lakewood avenged that setback by thrashing Ralston Valley by 29 points in their second conference meeting.
The victory over Ralston Valley allowed the Tigers to repeat as conference champions and grab the higher seed for the state tournament.
No. 3 seed Grandview (20-4) is up next for Lakewood in the Sweet 16. The Wolves and Tigers square off Tuesday, March 3, at Lakewood High School. Grandview defeated Palmer 75-48 on Friday night to advance.
“We’ll get ready to run and jump against the state’s best athlete (Michaela Onyenwere),” Poisson said of Wolves’ sophomore who averages more than 22 points and 10 rebounds per game. “That’s a good team. It’s the state tournament. Everyone is going to get better every round.”