By KEVIN THOMPSON
LAKIN — It's been a tough early going for the Lakin Broncs, who, at 1-4, have now played five games decided by five or fewer points.
It's been a better season for the Sublette Larks, who, at 4-1, showed a resiliency to overcome the Broncs on Tuesday night, 53-50 in Hi-Plains League action.
When Lakin threatened to blow the game open in the third period with a 37-31 lead and momentum on its side, Sublette answered.
But a late Andrew Lower three got the Larks to within two at the break, and Trevor Leverett tied the game on their first possession of the fourth.
Gage McAtee got the Broncs their final lead of the night at 40-38. Then the Sublette defense shut down Lakin and the offense got going.
After an 8-0 run to open their lead, the Larks shut down the Broncs' attempted comeback, allowing just two field goals in the final two minutes, while themselves nailing critical free throws to seal the win.
Speaking of free throws, both teams could have benefited from making more, with both teams just 10-for-21.
Crucial points left on the floor, in a game where they all mattered, Lakin coach Steve Davidson said, especially a stretch in the second half where his team was just 2-for-11.
"They played harder than us. They got after every loose ball," he said. "Give Sublette all the credit; they out-worked us."
Never any quit, is how Larks coach Justin Moore described this win and this team.
"Our kids, they keep playing. They didn't play well in the first half but I challenged them at halftime to come out and just play hard," he said. "We played with resiliency. The difference between last year and this year is we have kids who are resilient. They just want to win."
When his team gets any kind of lead, they just keep taking it to their opponent, Moore said.
Nate Cearly, who finished with 14 points, missed four straight free throws with around two minutes to play, but he came back and swished four straight down the stretch and scored 10 of his points in the final period.
"He stuck with it. He didn't look in the past; he looked to the future. That's what we talk about," Moore said.
Taylor Williamson led the Larks with 16 points, and Kyler Line added 10.
The Larks were bigger, so Lakin played a 3-2 zone defense much of the night, effective until they gave up too many baseline drives, Davidson said, including four field goals early in the game before the Broncs could stop them.
Postman Daylan Gilleland played big for the Broncs in the first quarter, scoring eight points, but he was scoreless after that as the Larks figured out a way to match up.
Dalton Shalberg led the Broncs with 12 points, often matched against a bigger Lark lineup. He was the only Bronc in double figures.
For Davidson, it's a matter of making things gel from one day to the next.
"We don't do a really good job right now of carrying over what we do in practice into games," he said.
Playing close games thus far might seem nice, he added, but it hasn't produced wins. His team is close to learning how to win, but they have to eliminate mistakes. They need to build on leads, not let the other team back in.
Moore said his team has bought into the philosophy of playing to the end. Though 4-1, they still have room to improve, but this group, he said, is only going to get more fundamentally sound and fun to watch.
Sublette 16 9 11 17 -- 53
Lakin 17 11 10 12 -- 50
Sublette (53) — Leverett 1 1-2 3, Lower 1 0-0 3, Williamson 6 3-8 16, Cearly 3 6-11 14, Line 5 0-0 10, Gonzales 2 0-0 4. Totals 18 10-21 53.
Lakin (50) — Shalberg 3 6-10 12, McAtee 3 0-2 7, Christiansen 1 0-0 2, Franco 4 0-0 9, Seeger 3 1-3 7, Esquivel 1 3-4 5, Gilleland 4 0-2 8. Totals 19 10-21 50.
3-pt. goals — Sublette 4 (Lower, Williamson, Cearly 2), Lakin 2 (McAtee 1, Franco 1). Foulded out — Sublette (Williamson, Gonzales), Lakin (Gilleland).