MATTOON — Saturday’s slow start was not what Lake Land men’s basketball coach Brandon Colvin envisioned heading into the matchup with Tennessee Prep Academy.
But that's exactly what he got.
In the end, the Lakers prevailed 112-107 in a tightly contested non-conference battle that saw 13 lead changes – eight in the first half. The Lakers struggled to find the bottom of the net during the first half, shooting 46 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free throw line, something Colvin said is a result of a bad week of practice.
“We tell the guys every day, ‘How you practice is how you’re going to play,’” he said. “You miss those in practice, you’re going to miss them in games.
“Our free throw shooting in practice has been awful. We were awful today from the line.”
Despite the slow start and poor shooting, the Lakers entered halftime only down one to coach Jerry’s Randolph's Diplomats that had problems of their own to deal with. Early foul trouble forced Randolph to make some unwanted adjustments.
“I had to sit some big guys down,” Randolph said, “and kind of go small and then they put the pressure on.”
Randolph said the small lineup prevented his team from creating a dominating force under the basket. Not doing so prevented his guys from doing their job and, in the end, holding the lead late in game.
Led by Leland Kirkendoll, the Diplomats were able to jump out to a commanding lead, controlling the momentum during the second half. Trailing the visiting Diplomats from Nashville, Tenn. by 14 and being outscored 32-19 in the second half, Colvin looked to his bench for a shot of energy.
Assistant coach Julian Larry suggested Colvin put in Kasey Elam, or the “big-time energy guy” as Larry likes to call him.
“Kasey, when he’s going one-on-one and has good energy, is very good,” Colvin said. “He gets to the hole, rebounds and hits some shots and that’s what he’s going to give you.
“He’s a big-time energy guy that can lift you up really quick.”
With his team needing a lift, Elam was there. With the lead trimmed to 10, Elam threw down a dunk on a fast break pass from Tra Landers that brought the fieldhouse to its feet. The slam was a key momentum swing that leaned in favor of Colvin’s squad until the 5:19 to play mark when the Lakers found themselves once again out front 93-91.
The freshman forward said the spark of energy he brings is just his style of play and said his relationship with coach Larry helps him to remain calm on the floor.
“I’m pretty good at slowing myself down because I like to play,” Elam said. “I like to stay in the game so if I keep myself paced and control myself – I’ll be alright.”
Off the bench, Elam scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half and grabbed eight rebounds in the win. Sophomore transfer Amel Kuljuhovic led the Lakers with 22 points (16 in second half) and 17 rebounds. Josh Jefferson added 20 points and Josh Robison also chipped in 15 points.
Tennessee Prep’s Kirkendoll led all scorers with 28, shooting 10-for-17 overall and 5-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Lake Land returns to action Wednesday, Nov. 8 at home against Lindenwood-Belleville JV. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.