COLLEGE PARK — After the final buzzer sounded in Saturday's Class 2A state title game, Lake Clifton guard Aaron Parks immediately dropped to the floor. He remained there, face-down, for several seconds until a teammate yanked him up and coach Herman "Tree" Harried met both with outstretched arms and a huge grin.
"We worked so hard all year, and this was just a relief," Parks said. "I just had to collapse."
Parks and the Lakers desperately wanted a state title, and they got their wish. Parks had 22 points and 14 rebounds to help No. 4 Lake Clifton outlast Largo, 70-64, at the Comcast Center for its second championship in four years.
Harried is known as a man who pushes his players hard. But the long-time Lake Clifton coach said he needed to do something unusual with Parks this season — tell the senior to stop working so hard.
That's also why Harried understood Parks' collapsing at the final buzzer.
"That was just the weight off his shoulders," Harried said.
Parks made a number of big plays in this game. He went 8-for-12 from the field and added three steals. James Boone (12 points, six assists, six rebounds), Rodney Hawkins (12 points, seven rebounds), Lionel Greene (nine points) and Daquan Ross (nine points) also helped carry Lake Clifton's offense.
The Lakers (24-3) shot 56 percent from the field (26-for-46), held a big edge in rebounding (41-31) and scored 44 points in the paint despite being much smaller. They also forced Largo (22-4) to shoot only 34 percent from the field.
"It's a very happy time for us," Harried said. "I am very proud of my young men. They put a lot of time into the season."
That work probably helped Lake Clifton outplay the bigger Largo team from the start. The Lions couldn't handle the Lakers' quickness, and Lake Clifton held Largo to only six first-half baskets while racing to a 32-17 halftime lead.
Meanwhile, the Lakers didn't have much trouble with the presses and traps that the Lions were using. Lake Clifton repeatedly broke full-court presses to get high-percentage shots, then frustrated Largo with its spread offense that used up lots of time.
Lake Clifton appeared on the verge of a rout when it stretched the lead to 18 points midway through the fourth quarter. But Derrick Colter (23 points) helped Largo step up the pace and score 10 straight in 90 seconds to cut the lead to 59-51 with four minutes remaining.
The Lakers, usually a good free-throw shooting team, then began to have problems at the line. Lake Clifton missed 13 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter and made just 17 of 33 overall. That came after the Lakers hit 17 of 20 in their semifinal win over South Carroll on Friday night.
It opened the door for Largo, but Lake Clifton hung on, often making timely plays on defense.
"We had to maintain our composure and ... basically get stops on [defense]," Boone said.
Largo coach Lewis Howard said he was proud of how his team wouldn't quit in the fourth quarter.
"They could have easily laid down," Howard said. "They did not. They showed some resilience. They showed some resolve."
LC—Hawkins 12, Boone 12, Ross 9, Parks 22, Henson 6, Greene 9. Totals: 26 17-33 70.
LA—Graham 2, McNiell 10, Colter 23, Nelson 16, Carter 2, Sewell 8, Coleman 3. Totals: 20 19-28 64.