Deer Lakes boys basketball mounts double-digit comeback to upset Freeport
Alex Nichols didn't directly draw inspiration from Allen Iverson when he crossed over Freeport's Jalen Brown twice before draining a 3-pointer.
It just seemed appropriate Nichols' move was reminiscent of “The Answer,” given Deer Lakes' own major response Friday night.
Seniors Noah Darsie and Nichols came up big in the second half, helping Deer Lakes rally for a 71-59 upset of Freeport in a Section 1-4A game.
“Our whole season, we've gone through so many tough losses and ups and downs,” Nichols said. “Just to get over that hump feels amazing.”
Deer Lakes (11-10, 6-6), playoff-bound for the first time since 2013, saw a lead slip away in a two-point loss to Valley on Tuesday, but the Lancers overcame a double-digit first-half deficit Friday and spoiled Freeport's hopes of sharing the section title.
“These guys did a great job of keeping their composure,” Deer Lakes coach Terence Parham said. “Freeport is well-coached and came out prepared, made the plays and had a big lead.
“We could have folded early, but it's a resilient group.”
Freeport was seeking its first section title since 2010, and the Yellowjackets (15-7, 10-2) came out firing. They closed the first quarter on an 18-0 run to take an 18-6 lead, with Ben Beale hitting his third 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
That proved to be the Yellowjackets' high-water mark, as Deer Lakes outscored them, 65-41, after that.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Freeport coach Mike Beale said. “It's all about runs and momentum. They made a run and we weathered the storm. Bottom line is it came down to missed foul shots and layups and a couple key rebounds.”
The second quarter proved pivotal for Deer Lakes, as the Lancers cut Freeport's lead to two by halftime.
“It's extremely rewarding as a coach to see these kids not give up,” Parham said. “You lose a game like that against a rival (Valley) at home, and then you come out against a hostile crowd like this. The kids could have tanked it, but they were determined to come out and win.
“I told them the section wasn't won. They had to play this game, and we came out and made more plays at the end.”
Then the Lancers' senior leaders came out strong in the second half: Darsie, Nichols and junior Jake Kelly combined for 38 points after halftime.
Darsie finished with 22 points — 20 in the second half — Nichols had 12, and Kelly and senior Jake Spirnock both had 10.
“I told them we're not here without you guys,” Parham said.
Darsie, who hit three 3-pointers after halftime, gave Deer Lakes its first lead since the first quarter with a pair of free throws late in the third.
Nichols' double crossover and 3-pointer gave the Lancers a 48-46 advantage after three, and they led the rest of the way.
“We were so pumped to play them because we knew we weren't at our full potential the first time we played them,” said Nichols, who missed the Lancers' 71-52 loss to Freeport in January.
“I think our confidence was boosted and we were ready to go.”
Ben Beale finished with 19 points for Freeport, which despite missing out on the section title will make its first playoff appearance since 2012. Evan Schaffhauser added 18.
“It's an emotional night, Senior Night,” Mike Beale said. “I think we learned we still have a ways to go, and we'll get up tomorrow, pick ourselves up and keep working.”