Lions edge out Comets in back-and-forth contest

Patrick Fitzgerald and Sam Harsel

Sophomore guard Jaylen Wiggins found himself in the right place at the right time twice in the last minute of the Lions’ (2-1) 62-60 home victory over Catonsville (1-2) Dec. 9.
“We got to protect the Lions’ Den,” Wiggins said he was thinking while standing at the line sinking the free throw that helped clinch the win.
Wiggins, the smallest player on the court at 5 feet, 8 inches, grabbed an offensive rebound and got fouled on the put back attempt with 50.2 seconds remaining and the score tied at 60. He made the second of two free throws to give the Lions a one-point lead.
After Catonsville’s senior guard Nate Chambers missed a three-point attempt at the other end, Wiggins got possession of the ball and drew a foul with 22.5 seconds left on the clock. Again, he converted on the second foul shot.
It was all the Lions would need, as the game-winning three-point attempt by Chambers fell well short as time expired.
Although Wiggins played a crucial role in the game’s final minute, junior guard Charlie Byers kept the Lions in the game.
Catonsville tied the score at 51 with 5:34 remaining in the fourth quarter and was up 58-53 with 2:49 left. Byers hit a three-pointer from the right corner with 2:16 on the clock, and a layup on the next possession to tie the score at 58. As time expired in the second quarter, he made a three-pointer off the backboard to give the Lions a 40-29 lead going into the break.
According to Byers, the play wasn’t designed for that to happen.
“The play was actually for Kyndle Jones, but I felt it so I decided to take the shot and it went in thankfully,” Byers said.
“Huge,” head coach Matt Lochte called that shot after the game. “It’s 3 points, and we won by 2.”
Wiggins (6 points) and Byers (12 points) comprised a balanced effort for the Lions, who had five players score in double figures. Chambers led the Comets with 16.
The second quarter featured a 15-0 run by the Lions, including two threes each by junior guard Chase Drew and freshman guard Ché Evans Jr. During that run, Evans blocked three shots. A sprained ankle sidelined him during the third quarter.
The Lions forced the Comets to turn over the ball during that run with their press.
“The full court press is our bread and butter,” Lochte said. “We try to wear teams out.”
Senior point guard AJ Richardson labeled the team’s defense vital to success and added that team was not pleased with the result of the first quarter.
The first quarter seemed to forecast a low-scoring game. The Lions only scored 13 points while allowing 19. They struggled to convert despite the fact that they were getting good looks.
“First we are better than just scoring 13 points. But more importantly we gave up 19 points in the first which we were pretty disappointed and fired up about,” Lochte said.