Boys Basketball – Sean Barksdale’s Big Night Paces Lakewood
LAKEWOOD – Lakewood senior Sean Barksdale is approaching the 1,000-point milestone and with his team on the way to a win Wednesday night against Long Branch in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III Playoffs, he tried to chip away at the difference before the final buzzer sounded and his focus and that of his teams shifts back to winning on Friday.
Barksdale scored 35 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six shots in a dominant performance for him and his Piners team Wednesday that ended with No. 4 seed Lakewood pounding No. 5 Long Branch, 78-52.
Now 6-5 senior sits only 18 points away from the milestone, but it will not be foremost on his mind when his team gets off the bus Friday at Ewing High School, where the Piners will play top-seeded and defending sectional champion Ewing.
“Throughout the year, I wasn’t worried about getting to a thousand,” Barksdale said. “I’m really just worried about winning a state title, which I think we can do – I know we can do. So I’m just focused on getting a win Friday.”
Barksdale scored 15 of his points in the first quarter, during which Lakewood stormed out to a 28-12 lead.
Senior forward Ryzson Barnes added 21 points and nine rebounds for the Piners, while senior Amir Tyler contributed 12 points, six assists and five steals.
In two tournament games, Barnes is averaging 21.5 points after averaging under 10 during the regular season.
“Barnes is a transformation,” Lakewood coach Randy Holmes said. “He started out a little wild during the regular season and then all of a sudden, he started listening. He’s listening to (assistant) coach (Gene) Drumright, (assistant) coach (Tim) Brown and myself and just calmed down. He’s enjoying the moment. Before, he wasn’t enjoying the moment, so now he realizes that the coaches must be right.”
Lakewood’s defense forced Long Branch into 25 turnovers and hounded Green Wave leading scorer Anthony Velasquez into a 3-for-12 shooting game with 14 points. Velasquez began the school year at Lakewood and was slated to play for the Piners before a family situation prompted a move the Long Branch, according to Drumright.
Velasquez hit back-to-back three-point attempts early in the third quarter, but that only made a slight dent in Lakewood's cushion. Long Branch pulled to within 19 with those threes, which was as close as it would get since falling behind by 20 late in the second quarter.
“We just wanted to limit Anthony to a minimum amount of jump shots, which I think we did,” Barksdale said. “We wanted to get up in him and make him drive around us and to the basket, where we have guys protecting the rim.”
The Piners lost in last year’s Central Jersey Group II quarterfinals as the No. 1 seed to eighth-seeded Bordentown – which is the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group II this year. Lakewood last won a sectional title three years ago in 2013, which was three years after its previous sectional title in 2010.
Lakewood won Central Jersey Group III in 2010 and won Central Jersey Group II in 2013, although a potential state championship run was derailed in 2013 when Shore Sports Network Player of the Year Tyrice Beverette injured his ankle in the sectional final and missed the sectional semifinals.
“We’re going there to win,” Holmes said. “Right now, we’re not afraid of anyone. The seniors know what’s at stake. If we win on Friday, we advance. If we don’t, there’s no more practice and all of a sudden these guys love coming to practice. That’s motivation.”