In its first home game of the 2019 season at The Den the Lehman basketball team came away with a 46-44 win over the Lockhart Lions last Friday night due to a strong second half performance and elite defense in the fourth quarter.
“I really think our defense kind of stepped up tonight,” Lehman head coach Benjamin Wiatrek said. “We couldn’t hit a shot to save our lives, but that’s our thing we are going to hang our hat on, our defense. Whether we are up and down, or whether it’s in the half court, it kind of came through.”
The Lobos’ second-half surge, after trailing 24-17 at halftime, was led by a trapping full-court press defense, mixed in with a feisty man-to-man defense in the half court. Lehman constantly made it tough for the Lions to dribble the ball up court forcing 25 total turnovers, including 15 in the second half. In the fourth quarter the Lobos held Lockhart to just six points, with only two points in the final three minutes of regulation.
“We have lots of help, having guys coming from lots of directions and they really got after it,” Wiatrek said of the defense. “We knew that we were struggling offensively, so one thing we can’t compromise is our defense. The boys really worked hard and got after it.”
Despite shooting 2-of-12 from beyond the arc, Lehman knocked down big-time buckets in the second half when it needed them. The Lobos outscored Lockhart 29 to 20 in the second half, and 12 to six in the final quarter of play. Lobos senior forward Jarek Salinas led the charge in the fourth quarter with six points, including two crucial free throws made in the final three minutes.
“He told us to finish through, play strong, play as a team and we did it,” Salinas said of Wiatrek’s halftime speech. “We succeeded.”
Salinas finished the game with 12 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Lehman also got big performances from senior guard Marcos Cantu and junior guard Michael Irizarry. Cantu had 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and one steal, while Irizarry provided a spark off the bench with eight points, seven of which came in the third quarter, and three rebounds.
“Offensively you know sometimes they can be streaky, but once they settle in and once they get one or two shots they can get on a role,” Wiatrek said of Salinas and Cantu. “We talked about that and I tell them, ‘They’ve got the green light’, so they just got to find their confidence and keep going with it.”
Lockhart’s leading scorer of the game was sophomore guard Jah Gulley who had 12 points, with three rebounds and one assist. Senior forwards Jordan McKinney and Ethan Hamm each had nine points, while McKinney also contributed five rebounds, four assists and one steal.
The win puts Lehman at a 3-3 record on the season, with their its matchup on the road versus Georgetown at 8 p.m. Dec. 2.