RLS hits the ‘Pitts’

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A rough third quarter proved costly for the Red Level Tigers as they lost to Loveless Academic Magnet Program (LAMP) 90-74 in the boys championship game of the Red Level Christmas Tournament Monday.

Red Level trailed LAMP 40-36 at halftime but saw that deficit escalate dramatically in the third quarter. Red Level coach Fred Kelley was forced to call time out with 1:57 left in the quarter and his team trailing by 16 points, 66-50. Red Level was able to cut LAMP’s lead to 12 points by the end of the quarter, but the deficit was ultimately too much to overcome.

“The biggest thing I think is that we were just sort of running out of gas,” Red Level coach Fred Kelley said. “(LAMP) made us put out a lot of outside shots; we’ve been a perimeter-oriented team all year long, but they weren’t falling and it caught up with us. We allowed them much easier shots near the basket — higher percentage shots.

“We shot 10-for-35 from the 3-point line and 76 percent from 2-point range. That was the difference in the ball game.”

One reason for LAMP’s third quarter outburst was the play of point guard Alec Pitts, who had a game-high 30 points. At one point in the quarter, Pitts scored seven straight unanswered points for LAMP — he finished with 14 points in the third quarter.

LAMP’s post players held a height advantage over Red Level inside, forcing the defense to stay near the basket and allowing Pitts to dribble-penetrate and pull up for a short jump shot that he was consistently able to knock down. When Red Level’s defense came out to defend Pitts, the quick guard was able to pass to an open teammate.

“We haven’t seen a player like (Pitts) all year long,” Kelley said. “We’d watched him twice up here in our tournament; the first half we felt like we contained him pretty well. But he’s just a tremendous ball player and he found a way to get all his players involved.”

Red Level had an early 3-2 lead Monday night before LAMP went on a small run and eventually took a 22-16 lead in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Red Level was able to gradually cut into LAMP’s lead but could never get back in front.

It looked as if Red Level would have a chance to tie or take the lead at halftime, when D.J. Sankey hit a layup and was fouled with 8.7 seconds left in the second quarter. Sankey hit the free throw, cutting LAMP’s advantage to 37-36. But Red Level fouled LAMP’s Vincent McKitt on a layup of his own at the buzzer; McKitt hit the extra free throw to give LAMP its four-point halftime lead.

Free throws also hurt Red Level’s chances of re-gaining the lead. The team was just 5-of-14 from the line in the first half.

Cale Nolen had 26 points to lead Red Level (12-5). Sankey added 23 points and Luke Sharp pitched in 11. In addition to Pitts, three other players scored in the double digits for LAMP — Gabe Brake scored 18 points, Bryant Young had 16 and Jay Taylor had 13.

Red Level will travel to face Brantley Friday.