No. 15 Lake Clifton advanced to the Class 4A North region championship game, defeating host and No. 7 Walbrook, 53-52, in overtime last night.
The Lakers will get to defend their title against No. 14 Mervo tomorrow, with the winner going to the University of Maryland Thursday for the state semifinals.
Mervo defeated Woodlawn, 73-57, in another region semifinal last night. Lake Clifton lost to Mervo a couple of weeks ago.
Junior forward Tavon Nelson scored seven of his game-high 21 points in the overtime period for the Lakers (16-9). After several moments of trepidation during the regular season, Lake Clifton is hitting its stride in the playoffs.
"This is a tough place to play and Walbrook plays excellent at home," said Lake Clifton coach Herman Harried, who has taken the Lakers to region finals in each of his first four seasons. "I don't think we've won in here in a while. With the ups and downs we've had all year, we've been on a major roller coaster."
Trailing by six points early in the fourth quarter, Lake Clifton scored eight of the final 10 points of regulation to send the game into an extra session, tied at 41. The Lakers edged out to a 44-41 advantage after a foul line jumper by Lashawn Hall.
It was the only field goal for Lake Clifton as Nelson, a 6-foot-6 junior forward who handled the ball in the crucial moments, converted seven of 10 free throws. The Lakers lost to Walbrook, 56-46, during the regular season.
"The regular season, we weren't playing together," said Nelson, who also had a game-high 13 rebounds. "Coach [Harried] said we had to get things right for the playoffs. Everybody has come together."
Senior forward Steve Woodard had 18 points to lead Walbrook (18-6) and Dontaye Draper contributed 16.
"We just had opportunities to put them away and all the games that we've lost this year, we just haven't put people away," said Walbrook coach Kelvin Bridges. "I thought the Lake Clifton kids wanted to win this ball game. We controlled the ball game, but it's the same story over again."
A three-pointer by Draper with two seconds left gave Walbrook a 36-33 lead after three periods before extending it to 39-33 with 6:02 remaining in the game. The Warriors went scoreless in five straight possessions (two turnovers and three missed attempts) before Draper scored with 2:15 left.
Walbrook had a chance to win in regulation, but a three-pointer by Ty Dunkley missed at the buzzer.
"We just couldn't dig the close ones out this year," said Woodard, who contributed five rebounds.