MATTOON -- The Lake Land men’s basketball team was dealt a blow before its District 16 home game against Lincoln Trail even started on Monday.
Josh Jefferson, the team’s leading scorer who also averages 2.0 steals per game, was out with strep throat.
At first, the Lakers appeared to make the adjustments without Jefferson in. The Lakers had 20 points in the first 9 minutes and had a double-digit lead.
But then Lake Land started to get away from what was working and LTC came back and took a halftime lead on the Lakers.
The Statesmen were able to pull away in the second half as Lake Land saw its season end with a 96-79 loss on Monday.
“We didn’t shoot it well,” Lake Land coach Brandon Colvin said. “We just never really got anything going. I thought we went away from what worked in the first half with the high-low stuff. That’s something where I have to make better adjustments next year. We just ran out of gas.”
Lake Land shot 42.6 percent (29-of-68), but the Lakers were only 4-of-23 from behind the arc. Not having Jefferson played a factor in the three-point percentage.
“Offensively, it hurt us with three-point shooting,” Colvin said. “Defensively, it hurt us on the ball. But I thought the guys that played stepped up. I thought Davis (Johnson) did a good job defensively. Tra (Landers) did a solid job. I don’t think that was our major issue as much as the fact that we couldn’t hit a shot.”
Lake Land finishes the season with a 17-14 record and while that’s the end result the team was hoping for after a 10-2 start, it’s still the first winning season since 2013-14 for the program.
“This sophomore class had 31 wins, that’s the most wins in a class in about five years. I think we are on the right track,” Colvin said. “Our freshman have to progress like they should. Sean Kromah went home and came back a different player this year. Our other freshmen have to do the same. They have to go home and do the same. We have to sign probably at least three guys that can shoot the ball because that was something that really hurt us.
“Thanks to my sophomores this year, I’ve really enjoyed coaching them these last two years. They’ve given this school a lot. The freshmen, they are a big part of the success this year and hopefully they can keep working.”
A couple of three-pointers put Lincoln Trail up 6-2. Down 8-4, Josh Robinson, who finished with 27 points, hit a jumper and completed a traditional three-point play. Amel Kuljuhovic made a layup and Lake Land took an 11-8 lead. Lake Land ended up going on a 16-2 run for a 20-10 lead. Robinson had eight points during that stretch and Kuljuhovic had four points
Lake Land was up 25-16 with 7:58 left in the half, but the Lakers were held to nine points for the rest of the game.
Lincoln Trail went on a 15-2 run to go up 31-27 with 4:14 left in the half.
Kasey Elam hit a run and Kevin Williams made a layup to tie the game at 31, but Lincoln Trail came back with a 6-0 run to go up 37-31.
Williams made a layup and Elam hit a free throw to cut into the lead as Lake Land went into halftime down 37-34.
Lake Land’s offense started to get back on track to start the second half, but the Lakers couldn’t get stops. Lincoln Trail scored 24 points in the first 8 ½ minutes to take a 61-49 lead.
LTC shot 55.9 percent (19-of-34) in the second half and hit seven three-pointers.
“We didn’t do a good job of getting out on the shooters. Our rotations were off,” Colvin said. “They would get in the middle and we have to help up or help out and we wouldn’t have that secondary rotation and that hurt us. When you leave a shooter open, they are going to hit. Even if you leave a bad shooter open, they are probably going to hit.”
Robinson hit a three-pointer to get EIU within 61-52 with 10:45 left, but Lincoln Trail hit a couple of three’s of its own and went on an 8-0 run to take a 69-52 lead with 7:09 left.
Lake Land cut into the lead a bit and was down 80-68 with about 2 ½ minutes left, but couldn’t cut it any closer as Lincoln Trail went on to win 96-79.