COLLEGE PARK — The College Park Skyhawks used a big game from their reserves to pick up a 103-93 win against the Lakeland Magic at home and reclaim first place in the Southeast Division.
With the win, the Skyhawks improve to 12-10 on the season and even the season series at 1-1.
Lakeland looked poised through the first three quarters, leading by as many as 10 in the third quarter. The Skyhawks cut the deficit to just four points with over four minutes to play in the third, thanks to a 6-2 run, and the Magic took a 73-69 advantage into the final quarter.
”In the second half, we focused more on defense and rebounding and keeping them off the offensive glass and eliminating second-chance points,” College Park head coach Noel Gillespie said. “We were fine offensively in the first, moving the ball and taking good shots but on defense we needed to limit them to one shot.”
After trading buckets to open the fourth, Cat Barber finished a layup to give the Skyhawks their first lead of the game before going up six. Lakeland’s Hassani Gravett connected on a three, but College Park responded with a 7-0 run to end the threat and pick up the win.
Marcus Derrickson led the scoring effort with 19 points (3-5 from three) while Armoni Brooks added a career-high 18 off the bench on 4-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
Twelve of his points came in the fourth to give the Skyhawks a late boost. Barber and Nick Ward each finished with 13 points, while Ward nearly recorded a double-double as he pulled down nine rebounds.
Kenny Gabriel scored six off the bench to go with nine rebounds and the Skyhawks bench outscored Lakeland’s short-handed group of reserves 50-0 (The Magic only had seven players available). Jordan Sibert and Charlie Brown, Jr. each added 12 points and Tahjere McCall scored eight in the win.
“Whenever your number is called, you have to find a way to go in and contribute,” said Brooks. “As a team, we knew we had to bring the energy and play harder. (Lakeland) was outplaying us and we had to pick it up. We did the little things to get this win.”
For Gillespie, Brooks’ career day was huge.
”We knew since he’s been here and was with the Hawks (during the preseason) that he’s an elite shooter,” Gillespie said. “For him he was competing with other guys for minutes. Tonight he got an opportunity and made the most of it.”
The Skyhawks return to action on Jan. 8, taking on the Erie BayHawks at home. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Gateway Center Arena at College Park.