MATTOON — Rend Lake came into Saturday's contest against the Lake Land men's basketball team with only three wins on the season, and the Warriors were on an eight-game losing streak.
The game started out like one where one of the top teams in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference (Lake Land was 7-2 in the GRAC coming into the game) had no problem with a team at the bottom of the GRAC standings.
But Rend Lake was able to recover and gave Lake Land an unexpected challenge. Rend Lake even took a 4-point lead in the second half.
The Lakers found a way to battle back, though, and forced overtime. Then they forced double overtime before finally taking the lead for good with 2.9 seconds remaining as the Lakers pulled out a 104-102 win over Rend Lake.
"At home, any game is closer than you want it to be, but like I told the guys, when you are in conference or district, every night is like this. Every team is going to give you their best," Lake Land coach Brandon Colvin said. "I thought we did a good job of responding. Second half, they got up 4, we didn't panic, responded and got the lead. I thought the guys did a great job of responding to every run (Rend Lake) made.
"Second half and in overtime, our defensive effort was the best we've had all second semester. Guys had their arms out, stayed strong, moved their feet. Overall, I was really happy with the effort they gave me on defense."
Amel Kuljuhovic had two of the biggest defensive plays of the game. He finished with a double-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, and he had a block to send the game into the first overtime. Then he drew a charge to send the game into a second overtime.
"Amel played well all game, and he gave us some buckets at some key points," Colvin said. "That's something that he does for us. He had the double-double, and I am really happy with that. I thought Josh Jefferson shot the ball well. Kevonte Williams gave us a heck of a boost off the bench. He was huge in the first half hitting a couple of 3s. Tra Landers with 8 points. Allante Harper scored. Davis Johnson comes in the first half and gets a charge. Little plays like that are the plays we need. Everyone that played contributed."
Kevin Williams finished with 17 points and had the game-winning bucket in the second overtime. Jefferson had 21 points and five steals, Kevonte Williams had 14 points, and Josh Robinson had 12 points.
The next game for Lake Land is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at home at Laker Field House against Lewis & Clark.
Lake Land (14-5, 8-2) got off to a hot start as Dazon Farris hit a 3-pointer and Kevin Williams got a bucket for a 5-0 lead. The Lakers went up by 14 points at 20-6 with 14:13 left in the half and had its biggest lead of the game at 18 points, 34-16, with 7:40 left in the first half when Rend Lake started to chip away. The Warriors got it under double digits with a 3-pointer to make it 39-31 with 3:14 left in the half. Then a 9-1 run by Rend Lake (3-17, 1-9) made it a 2-point game before the half.
Kuljuhovic hit a jumper to give Lake Land a 46-42 lead going into halftime.
Rend Lake kept the game close in the second half and took its first lead of the game after a 3-pointer by Austin Swalls at 63-62 with 10:55 left in the game. Rend Lake went up by 4 at 68-64 with 9:53 left when the Lakers went on a 6-0 run for a 72-68 lead with 8:05 remaining.
Rend Lake came back to tie the game at 72 when Lake Land went on a 5-1 run. Kuljuhovic had 4 of the points for a 78-73 lead with six minutes remaining.
Once again, Rend Lake came back to tie the game, this time at 86 with 2:34 left. The two teams traded buckets, and Rend Lake went back up 90-88 on Juwan Moore's layup with 40 seconds left. Josh Robinson responded with a layup to tie the game at 90 with 31 seconds remaining.
Rend Lake tried to score on a layup, but Kuljuhovic blocked the shot. Rend Lake got the rebound, but the 3-pointer was well short. Lake Land's 3-point attempt with 1 second left was off, sending the team into the first overtime.
Lake Land went up 95-92 in the extra period, but Rend Lake came back and Moore made a layup for a 96-95 lead with 37 seconds left. Robinson made a free throw to tie the game with 28 seconds left.
Rend Lake had a chance to win, but Kuljuhovic got in position and drew a charge with 10 seconds left. Jefferson's 3-pointer was off for Lake Land, sending the game to a second overtime tied at 96.
Lake Land went up 102-99 with 2:24 left when Rend Lake's David Hunt hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 102 with 1:27 remaining.
Neither team scored for the next 1:22. A shot for Lake Land didn't fall, and Kuljuhovic got the rebound, but his putback was too short. Kevin Williams got the rebound and put up a short jumper as he was falling back and he hit it to put Lake Land up 104-102 with 2.9 seconds left.
"That's why I put him in. If we got the corner on that ball screen, Kevin is in the short corner for an easy play," Colvin said. "We have him and Amel, Amel misses the tip and Kevin kept going. He gets the rebound and putback. Really, I thought the guys played well and played hard in the second half."
Jefferson stole the inbounds pass, and Lake Land pulled out the 104-102 double overtime win.