Lake Weir rallies past South Sumter

John Smith's 21 points leads Hurricanes past Raiders

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Posted February 1, 2024 | By Mark Pinson/Special to the Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

Lake Weir has battled injuries and fought through a lot of adversity this season, and Thursday night’s game against South Sumter was no different.

Despite trailing for most of the game, Lake Weir showed great resilience, grit and determination, especially in the fourth quarter, as junior John Smith scored a game-high 21 points, including the eventual game-winning basket and the Hurricanes held on for a thrilling 59-57 win over the Raiders.

The pulsating Class 4A-District 6 victory snapped a four-game losing streak and improved Lake Weir to 8-12 on the season and made Senior Night an evening to remember.

“I’m happy for our team and glad we got to send the seniors out with a win,” said second-year Hurricanes coach Freddie Riley. “We suffered some tough losses recently, so it was good for us to be on the right side. We’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries and lost a lot of players. It’s been a tough season, and our record doesn’t show it, but we play hard and we’re better than people realize.”

The loss dropped Class 4A South Sumter to 12-10 overall.

Both teams came out firing from behind the arc to open the game as Lake Weir senior guard Tra-Shawn Warren buried a pair of 3-pointers, but South Sumter’s Kenny Vereen answered with a pair of treys to tie the score at 18 heading to the second period.

South Sumter went to a trapping half-court defense that forced numerous Lake Weir turnovers which were converted into easy baskets. Mikeen Harrison scored four points and Stanley Youns added three as the Raiders enjoyed a 31-25 lead at the half.

Lake Weir trailed by five points midway through the third quarter before senior guard Amari Kiner drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to keep the Hurricanes within striking distance.

South Sumter’s Mali Boone’s 3-pointer from the right wing gave the Raiders a tenuous 44-41 lead heading to the final eight minutes.

The final period was played at a frenetic pace with Lake Weir taking a 52-50 lead on a 3-pointer by Kiner, who finished with 17 points.

South Sumter fought back and took a 57-55 lead on an inside basket by Boone, who had 13 points, with 1:29 left to play.

Lake Weir executed its offense and scored to tie the game. South Sumter missed a couple of shots in the paint and the Hurricanes came down with the rebound. Smith got the ball just inside the free throw line and swished a jump shot to give the Hurricanes a 59-57 lead with 49 seconds left in the game.

South Sumter’s George Mullins was fouled driving to the basket and had a chance to tie the score with two free throws with 37.4 seconds remaining.

Mullins missed both free throws and Lake Weir came down with the rebound. The Hurricanes smartly ran time off the clock before an ill-advised shot was rebounded by South Sumter with only 6.8 seconds left to play.

South Sumter called a time out to set up a final play. The Raiders executed it perfectly and Casyn Parson’s wide open 3-pointer from the left wing to win the game went in and out. Lake Weir grabbed the rebound to seal the hard-fought win as time ran out.

The victory gives Lake Weir a lot of momentum heading into next week’s Class 4A-District 6 tournament.

“This is a huge win and shows we can play with anybody despite our lack of size,” coach Riley said. “It’s good to see the kids come out, play hard and have fun. We play Umatilla on Tuesday night in the district tournament, and this will be the fourth time we’ve played them this season. We know them and what they want to do, and they know us. We’ve lost the first three games to them but if we limit our turnovers and make our shots, we’ve got a good chance to win.”

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