Spartans roll past Christiana in state tournament first round

FELTON — It’s been quite a while since the Lake Forest Spartans basketball program has been in the win column during the state tournament.

Following Tuesday night’s 74-53 victory over No. 21 Christiana, the No. 12 Lake Forest squad has found itself back in the playoff win column for the first time in nearly two decades.

The win sets Lake Forest up with a second-round road match-up at No. 5 Caravel Thursday, March 1.

“We just followed coach’s game plan,” said senior forward Thomas Hoskins. “Everybody did what they had to do and played their role, nobody’s stingy with the ball. We just have to keep playing Lake Forest basketball.”

Playing the tournament opener on their home court in front of the “Lakeland” fans may have had something to do with the 21-point win.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” head coach Michael Starkey said of his team’s 11-0 home record. “We talk about that every year, but I feel like this group’s really embraced it. 11-0, I don’t know that I’ve ever, in all my years coaching, protected our home floor that well. So that was part of our confidence coming in tonight.

“We’ve worked hard toward the end of the season to secure that home court advantage, because they just play with so much confidence here. So, ‘Lakeland’ is something that’s catching on and it’s fun to see the student section and the community come out and be a part of that as well.”

A pair of seniors, Hoskins and guard Isaiah Morris, led the way offensively for Lake Forest, putting up 19 points each. Sophomore guard Jaysem Vazquez added another 15 points of his own.

“I thought Isaiah Morris played a fantastic game,” Starkey said. “He played like he knew that was his last game here. And we had some solid performances from other pieces, but I thought Isaiah’s energy, focus and everything was just fantastic from him tonight.”

Lake jumped out ahead early, leading 17-7 at the end of the opening quarter but a few sloppy mistakes and turnovers kept Christiana in the game early in the second quarter.

Starkey chalked it up to nerves.

“I felt like there were some nerves for a while today, and even different pieces throughout,” he said. “But that’s part of what you have to get through before you can get better at performing in these games.”

Ahead by 14 at the half, the Spartans had its highest-scoring quarter in the fourth as they iced the victory with 24 points in the final eight minutes.

“The fans make us great,” Morris said. “They just bring so much energy. It’s a long game, so they just keep us energized.”

In the second round Thursday night, Starkey hopes to see his squad’s success continue as they bring a six-game win streak with them to Caravel Academy.

“We lost by four up there earlier this season, and they’re playing very good basketball right now, they score the ball easily, but I think these guys are excited about the opportunity,” Starkey said. “There’s something to be said about the familiarity — we’ve already been in that locker room, we’ve played on that floor, we’ve seen those guys play. They’ll be focused for Thursday night.”

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