February 01, 2012 - While the Lake Orion boys' basketball team pulled out the win Jan. 27 over the Farmington Falcons, 66-57, it was clear both teams desperately wanted the victory, with fourth quarter play rarely seen in high school basketball, according to the Dragons' head coach.
Damonte Kruse shoots one of his successful three-point shots. The junior point guard played well in every aspect of the game Jan. 27, according to Head Coach Tom Risi. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
"I think our size and talent won in the end, but (Farmington) did not quit until the buzzer," Head Coach Tom Risi said. "They're very athletic and they came from behind strong. They did the same thing to another team the night before.
"We had them down 10 in the first ten minutes of the game, but they fought their way back. It was overall a very good game."
Both teams exchanged points as they rallied for the lead during the fourth quarter. Play was physical and free throws were common. The Dragons went six-for-six at the free throw line during the last minute of the game.
Lake Orion's three-point shooting was uncharacteristically accurate that night, with the team completing three of four shots from beyond the arc, all by junior Damonte Kruse. In addition, the Dragons made 23 of 34 free throws, 16 of which were in the final period.
The game's top scorer was senior Brad Watterworth, who finished with a double-double of 17 points and 19 rebounds. Risi called Watterworth's rebounding beyond just good and into "awesome" territory.
"Typically, if a guy gets 10 rebounds, he's playing good," he said. "But 19 is a lot in a high school game."
Junior Damonte Kruse had 15 points, including six free throws. Senior Justin Walukonis also was accurate, sinking all four of his free throws in the fourth.
"With Kruse, he's not just getting three pointers," Risi said. "He's not turning over the ball and, by doing that, he's giving us a chance to win.
"I think Kruse may be the best all-around player on the team. He's shooting, rebounding, getting assists and he's taking care of the ball."
Junior Chaz Miller also had an above average game, Risi said, with 14 points against Farmington.
Despite Lake Orion's shooting prowess, Risi said the win was due largely to Orion's lack of turnovers (eight total), rebounding and strong defensive play.
"We tried not to let the game turn into a track meet," said Risi, citing the athleticism and speed of Farmington. "They were the kind of team that if you let them control the tempo they will run all over you. But we controlled the tempo and it showed."
Risi also noted the play of sophomore John McCarty, who always seems to draw the hardest defensive assignment each game. Going into its game against Lake Orion, Farmington averaged more 70 points a game. Last Friday, however, the Falcons scored just 57 points, mostly because McCarty held their highest scorer to just eight points, the head coach explained.
The win puts Lake Orion at 8-4 overall, 2-1 in the OAA Blue Division.
This week, Lake Orion played Rochester on January 31. Going into the game, the Falcons were undefeated in the OAA Blue Division, with one more win in league play than Lake Orion.
Risi said the game would have a circus-like atmosphere because of Palace Entertainment's involvement. It was originally supposed to be held at The Palace, but had to be rescheduled due to the NBA players' lockout.
Lake Orion's head coach said Rochester has a couple of players to watch, including a forward "who can really attack the basket, a guard who doubles as a good shooter and its best player who has a scholarship to Western Michigan next year."
Risi also noted Rochester's coach, the brother of the coach at Rochester College, runs a lot of college sets.
"It will take everything we got to win this game," he said.