SEBRING - Taking advantage of a fatigued Sebring squad, Lake Region avenged an earlier loss to the Blue Streaks Saturday afternoon, upending Sebring in Blue Streaks Gym by a score of 51-46.
The stunning upset gave the Thunder just their second victory of the season, as Class 6A Lake Region improved to 2-21. Class 5A Sebring fell to 15-6.
"This was a non-district, non-important game," said Streaks coach Princeton Harris, who played his starters sparingly. "But I saw this game as a teachable moment. We were looking for some kids to get stronger. And I saw some things from a few guys who are ready to give us something in the next two games."
Sebring was playing its third consecutive game Saturday. The Streaks routed arch rival Avon Park on Thursday before travelling to Lakeland Friday night where they fell 49-40.
"The guys ran a lot this last week," Harris said. "The main focus of these last two games was to give our starters some rest and see what kind of production we could get from some our reserves."
Sebring held a comfortable lead for most of the game, and was up 24-16 early in the second quarter. But the Streaks started to unravel just before halftime.
Lake Region increased its efforts on the defensive glass, often limiting Sebring to just one possession on offense. Caleb Henderson started to emerge for the Thunder as well, challenging Sebring's defenders in the paint. He often won the battle, netting two points or earning his way to the foul line. Henderson finished with a game-high 20 points. Devonte Hughes followed him with 19 and Noah Maynard contributed eight points off the bench.
The lackluster effort on the boards led to a disjointed few minutes on defense, and Lake Region was able to take a 38-37 lead late in the fourth quarter. Luke Ancrum answered for Sebring with a score plus the foul to put the Streaks back up 40-38, and Jordan Strickland added two free throws to put Sebring up by four.
But Henderson was relentless. He single-handedly led a 6-0 run to tie the game with just over two minutes left to play in regulation.
Energized by their resurgent offense, the Thunder felt comfortable to gamble on defense. They trapped Sebring at midcourt and forced a litany of turnovers, one of which led to a fast break bucket by Hughes, who scored with the foul and sunk his free throw to put Lake Region up 49-44 with under a minute to play.
A frustrated Streaks squad drew a technical from the officials, and Maynard hit two of three free throws to put the Thunder up by seven. Sebring threw up a prayer from deep beyond the 3-point arc, and the miss was put back by Rolando Powery at the buzzer to cut the final deficit to five points.
The Streaks got a Herculean effort from Keizhan Hester, who scored 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished three assists, and swiped two steals. Powery added seven points and 13 rebounds to go along with four blocks, while Ancrum tallied five points and six rebounds. Quantrae Rouse netted five points and two assists.
Still, losing the lead wasn't something Harris was happy to see, even if it was against a non-district opponent.
"I was a little frustrated to see our guys lose the lead like that," Harris said. "We kind of fell apart at some points. We missed some easy baskets and got out of playing our game."
Sebring hosts 5A-11 rival Hardee tonight at 7 p.m. The Streaks swept the season series against the Wildcats, winning by more than 10 points in both games. If Sebring wins, they'll secure a berth in the state playoffs and host the district championship game at home Friday night. Sebring will be looking to win the district title for a shot at hosting a regional quarterfinal game in Blue Streaks Gym.