Lakewood Cougars fall in season opener

Lakewood junior guard Caleb Graves, middle, fights with a Bellingham player for possession during a nonconference game. - Travis Sherer
Lakewood junior guard Caleb Graves, middle, fights with a Bellingham player for possession during a nonconference game.
— image credit: Travis Sherer

BELLINGHAM — For the most part, the Cougars looked like a team playing its first varsity basketball game.

There were highs and lows, but in the end, Lakewood lost a Nov. 30 nonconference matchup with Bellingham, 42-39, in the final minute.

“We only had one guy that had stepped on the floor of a varsity game before tonight,” said coach Matt Hart, who was also shorthanded due to injuries and snow-related absences. “We played well at times, but ended up giving it up down the stretch with turnovers.”

Lakewood had to figure out how to beat Bellingham’s defense in the first quarter, as the shots came few and far between, aside from senior Tre Haslom, that is. The rest of the team, however, took turns rotating the ball without looking for a shot, which resulted in the Cougars trailing 6-4 at the end of the first frame.

The second quarter saw the Cougars settle down and find shots, as they took the lead 15-14 by halftime. While Lakewood scored with more frequency in the quarter, it was a 14-6 rebounding advantage that kept Bellingham off the scoreboard and kept Cougar possessions alive.

“We work our tails off. I mean, these guys get after it,” said Hart. “That’s something that’s going to be a big part of our team and some guys like Dillan Knott did a great job on the glass.”

Meanwhile, Haslom took care of the Cougars on offense, scoring 20 points despite being in foul trouble that limited his playing time near halftime.

“We told Tre to be aggressive tonight and that’s what he did,” said Hart. “And you’ve got to hand it to him, he showed a lot of leadership out there. Last year he was a little hesitant to take on that role, but it looks like he’s grown into it.”

A run of Bellingham turnovers helped Lakewood earn the largest lead of the game, with a 27-18 advantage midway through the third quarter, but Bellingham charged back with a 15-3 run over the next eight minutes to retake the lead, 35-30.

Lakewood scored five straight to tie the score at 35-35 with less than three minutes remaining, but missed a few shots down the stretch to let it slip away.

Lakewood outrebounded Bellingham 45-30, but 26 turnovers are what did the young Cougars.

Junior guard Caleb Graves finished the game with six points and nine rebounds.

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