CORTLANDT, N.Y. – Lakeland has had many rivals throughout their illustrious athletic history, but one stands out above the rest: sister school Walter Panas.
That is what made the Hornets’ win in the 30th annual Vincent & Terry Giglio Memorial Scholarship Games, better known as the Giglio or Gig Games, so sweet. On Saturday, Feb. 1, Lakeland traveled down the road and defeated host Walter Panas, 67-57.
“I say it all the time: Panas is the biggest rivalry for us,” said Lakeland’s Augie Karaqi, who scored a game-high 23 points. “It’s always an honor to play them and it’s fun. The atmosphere is great and just getting the win is huge for us.”
Jack Kruse, who registered 11 points and a team high 9 rebounds, agreed with Karaqi.
“It’s bragging rights,” Kruse said. “I went to middle school with these kids. It means everything. It means we are known as the best school in the [Lakeland school] district.”
Lakeland (13-3, 6-0) ended the first quarter on a 16-4 run to go up 18-12 at the end of the quarter.
“When we shoot a high percentage, I don’t know if there is a team that can guard us,” Kruse said. “So, as long as we keep going, keep shooting a high percentage, we are going to be good down the stretch.”
Lakeland built on their lead, going up 33-20 with 3:10 remaining in the second quarter. Panas, led by Robert Ennis’ 18 points, roared back, cutting the Hornets’ lead to one, 45-44, late in the third.
Karaqi then swung the game back in the Hornets’ favor. With just two seconds remaining in the third quarter, he calmly made three foul shots, after being fouled attempting a three-pointer from the top of the key, in front of a raucous, standing-room only, crowd.
“Augie’s been doing it for us the whole season,” Lakeland coach Steve Fallo said. “He’s our leading scorer. He’s averaging more than 20 a game. We expect that from Augie. He’s a scorer, he’s a great finisher at the basket. He causes the other defensive players a lot of trouble trying to guard him to the basket, he can shoot threes, you don’t know how to play him. So it’s nothing new with Augie, we are used to seeing that from him.”
Karaqi’s foul shots put Lakeland up 48-44 at the end of the third quarter.
“Those are big free throws,” Karaqi said. “It got us a four-point lead to end the third. It was big for us.”
Karaqi then made the first three hoops of the fourth quarter, the last one a layup that finished off one of the Hornets’ patented fast breaks, putting Lakeland up 54-44.
“It’s just that killer mentality,” Karaqi said. “Coming out, fourth quarter, you just have to get the job done.”
Panas did get to within four of Lakeland, 58-54, but Kruse found Jeffrey Owusu underneath the hoop. Owusu scored then converted the foul shot to put Lakeland up 61-54 with 2:11 left in the game, all but sealing the Hornet win.
“I drove, I saw Jeff, and I tried to get something created, get something started, and it gave us momentum going forward,” Kruse said.
Owusu (7 rebounds), scored 9 of his 11 points in the final quarter, which including going 5 of 5 from the charity stripe.
“Jeffrey has given us energy all year long,” Fallo said. “He’s a tremendous defender. Jeffrey, the biggest thing with him, when he’s confident on the court, he’s as good as any player on the court. He slashes to the basket, he’s quick, he’s aggressive, he’s one of our leading rebounders, so he does everything for us.”
Rob Nardelli (13 points, 5 rebounds) and Brian Cummins (9 points), produced for the Hornets as well.
Lakeland also won against visiting Somers, 60-42, on Jan. 29, led by Kruse (16 points), Karaqi (13 points), Mike Arcure (11 points), Nardelli (11 points), Owusu (6 points), and Aidan Welcome (3 points).