SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Led by Augie Karaqi’s 27 points, host Lakeland held on to defeat John Jay (Cross River) in a hard-fought League II-C contest, 61-57, on Thursday, Jan. 9.

“Games like this, I live for this” Karaqi said. “Close games, it’s what I live for.”

A layup at the buzzer by Michael Arcure (5 points, 5 assists), off a John Jay turnover in the frontcourt, gave Lakeland a 41-39 lead at the end of the third quarter.

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“That was a big play,” Karaqi said. “Michael is a great playmaker for us. He pushed the ball up the court. It was a great play by him.”

Karaqi saved his best for the final quarter, tallying 12 points.

“He’s been doing that all season,” teammate Jack Kruse said of Karaqi. “He just comes up with a different confidence. He just wants to fill (the hoop) every game.”

Karaqi also can hit the glass. He came up with a huge defensive rebound with 22.9 seconds left in the game with the Hornets holding on to a 55-53 lead.

“Box out, be aggressive, that is all I am thinking about right there,” Karaqi said.

He was fouled on the rebound and made both free throws. He connected on two more foul shots after two John Jay free throws, putting the Hornets up 59-55 with 11.2 seconds left.

“I practice all the time so I am calm when I do it,” Karaqi said. “So, it’s nothing to me.”

John Jay responded with a field goal but two free throws by Rob Nardelli (11 points), with 0.8 seconds remaining, sealed the win.

“We made a lot of mistakes, but we try to keep our composure, forgot about it as soon as possible, and just make the next play,” Kruse said.

Kruse helped ignite the Hornets in the first half, scoring 12 of his 16 points before halftime. He also grabbed 6 boards.

“Coming in, I hadn’t really been that hot starting off games, so I just wanted to start attacking early and it worked out today,” Kruse said.

Jeffrey Owusu (2 points, 9 rebounds) also earned his place in the box score.

Lakeland 63, Walter Panas 57
Tuesday, Jan. 7

Two days before beating John Jay, Lakeland won their league opener with a 63-57 triumph against visiting Walter Panas on Jan. 7. Once again, the Hornets were led by Karaqi (21 points), Kruse (16 points) and Owusu (9 points, 12 rebounds).

“It means a lot to be able to get a huge win, at home against our rival team,” Karaqi said. “There’s always a lot of energy and it’s a friendly competition.”

After Panas tied the game, 54-54, with three minutes remaining, the Hornets took control of the rivalry contest against their sister school, outscoring the Panthers, 9-3, the rest of the way.

“I can’t stress it enough; defense was the biggest part of that run,” Karaqi said. “Every guy on the court for us committed to playing defense and that’s what got us the win.”

Lourdes 71, Lakeland 69
Saturday, Jan. 11

The Hornets (6-3, 2-0) finished their busy week with a 71-69 loss at Our Lady of Lourdes, a non-league opponent, on Saturday, Jan. 11.

Kruse, making 10 three pointers, led the Hornets with 32 points. He shot 6 of 6 from behind the arc in the fourth quarter.

Those three-pointers helped fuel a wild-comeback attempt, as the Hornets were at one time down 16 in the final quarter, before tying the game at 69-69 with 20 seconds left.

Lourdes won the game when Ryan Selander snatched an offensive rebound, was fouled, and converted two free throw attempts with 1.9 seconds remaining, to give the host team the victory.

Nardelli (17 points) and Karaqi (11 points), also contributed to the Hornets’ effort in Poughkeepsie.