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SHRUB OAK, N.Y. — After Beacon’s Jarell Brown tied the game at 54-54 with nine seconds remaining, Lakeland’s Dan Eremita then drove the length of the floor and was fouled on a layup with 1.1 seconds left.
The senior guard calmly stepped to the line and sank both free throws to propel Lakeland to a 56-54 win over Beacon on Monday.
“When I got fouled I knew I was going to hit the free throws because it’s just confidence and knowing that I had the game in my hands,” Eremita said. “When you’re on the line in that situation you’re kind of just zoned out. It’s just you, the basket and the ball.”
Eremita and senior Alex Perlman led the Hornets with 21 and 20 points, respectively. They combined to go 9 for 12 from the line in the fourth quarter.
“It was clutch,” Lakeland coach Henry Weltman said. “Down the stretch in a big game you have to make foul shots. We wanted Perlman and Danny with the basketball in the fourth quarter. Eremita has really improved this year from last year (on foul shooting).”
Lakeland stretched its lead to 49-42 late in the fourth quarter on two straight buckets from Eremita. But Beacon battled back. A 3-pointer by John Gonzalez trimmed Lakeland’s lead to 51-50 with 29.2 seconds left.
It was a crucial victory for Lakeland, which improved to 6-8 and ended Beacon’s six-game winning streak. Beacon is one of the top 10 seeds right now when it comes to the playoff picture in Section 1 Class A, so the victory should provide the Hornets with some confidence.
“This is a huge win,” Eremita said. “We only have a couple games left in the season. Once we start getting a couple wins (in a row) we’re going to start rolling.”
Beacon jumped out to a 14-10 lead after one quarter, but Lakeland basically controlled the game after that.
“We were making better decisions,” Weltman said of what changed after the first quarter. “The defense was fine all game. With the offense, we started looking for the open man and taking unselfish shots.”
The Hornets led 25-22 at halftime and held a 38-36 edge after three quarters.
“We were turning the ball over quite a bit in the first quarter,” Eremita said. “The key was not to turn the ball over. Once we did that and had control of the ball, we pretty much had control of the game, too.”
The Bulldogs are normally a run-and-gun team, but the Hornets limited their fastbreaks and forced them into a half-court offense on most possessions. They tried to always get two players back after offensive possessions, Weltman said.
“We kind of had a good scouting report on them,” Perlman said. “We knew where they wanted to get the ball so we put guys there and they couldn’t do it.”
Lakeland’s Matt Tartaglia and Ben Dedvukaj each added five points, while Tyler Troppmann scored four points. The trio made some big shots in the second half to aid Perlman and Eremita.
Brown paced Beacon (9-5) with a game-high 23 points. Jordan Morales added 13 points.
For Lakeland, Weltman is hoping his team can keep the momentum going with rivalry games coming up with Yorktown on Friday and Walter Panas on Saturday.
“Let’s see if we can build off of this,” Weltman said. “This was a tough win. We were on a three-game losing streak in January, but they’re not quitting.”
With sectionals upcoming, Lakeland is looking to surprise some people.
“We’ve proved that we can play with the best teams,” Perlman said. “We kept Peekskill and JFK within nine. Now we’ve got to just keep improving.”
Follow Rob DiAntonio on Twitter @MSGV_RJD