Neil Clements knew his team would be looking to him for leadership the moment he saw teammate Robert Harris go down with a foot injury Saturday.

And lead Clements did. The sophomore guard scored 25 points, helping the Niagara County Community College Trailblazers to a 101-85 victory over the Lakeland Community College Lakers (3-2).

“Being a captain, I felt it was my job to step up,” Clements said. “Everyone played a role.”

Sophomore guard Charles Walker led the Trailblazers in scoring, racking up 32 points. Walker scored 13 points from the free-throw line, several of which came late in the second half after LCC had cut the NCCC (2-0) lead to six.

“Neil and Charles did a nice job, they really did,” NCCC coach Frank Rotundo said.

Harris scored 18 points and added 11 rebounds before leaving with a strained Achilles’ tendon with about 15 minutes to go in the second half. Rotundo said Harris will be held out of practice this week, but is hopeful the sophomore forward will be able to play Saturday, when NCCC travels to the Cayuga Community College tournament.

“They’re going to keep his foot on ice most of the week,” Rotundo said.

Saturday’s contest was physical from the start, as NCCC attempted 31 free throws and the Lakers 22.

“We knew they had some big guys,” Walker said.

Despite LCC’s size advantage, the Trailblazers got off to the quick start, taking a 50-32 lead into halftime. Walker, Harris and Clements did the majority of the damage in the first half, combining for 44 of NCCC’s 50 points.

The Lakers came out with a different game plan in the second half, though, one that paid dividends. Operating in a modified full-court pressure set, LCC was able to force several turnovers that led to fast breaks. A layup by Lakers forward Jeremy Weaver cut the NCCC lead to six, 65-59, with 10:20 remaining. But six points was as close as LCC would get.

“We were a little rattled, but we came through,” Rotundo said.

NCCC point guard Keith Lee scored on a drive to the basket and was fouled, celebrating his play with a short dance routine. He made the ensuing free throw to extend the Trailblazers’ lead to 11 with 8:45 left.

Lee would eventually foul out, leaving Clements to the ball-handling duties.

“I tried my best to fill his shoes,” Clements said. “It wasn’t that bad.”

Lakeland coach Terry Bowe was ejected with about 3:30 remaining in the game after he thought a foul should have been called against NCCC while the Lakers had possession. Bowe came out on the court, letting a stream of expletives directed at the referees fly, quickly earning an early trip to the locker room.

LCC assistant coach Torry Rollins took over for the remainder of the game. While Rollins also didn’t agree with some of the calls, he didn’t use the referees as an excuse.

“We told the kids before we came up here, ‘They only have two refs, they’re not going to see everything, so you’re going to have to play through it.’ They got frustrated and they let that take hold of them,” he said.

Lakeland was led in scoring by Jerial Nixon, who finished with 25 points, and Weaver, who had 19.

“This is a big win for us, especially with Robert going down,” Rotundo said. “One of the biggest I’ve been a part of in my five years.”

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