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The Suburbanite
  • Fast pace trips up Tigers in close loss to Indians

  • The pace was a decided departure from any of their previous eight games on the season, but the result wasn’t the one the Lake Center Christian Tigers wanted.

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  • The pace was a decided departure from any of their previous eight games on the season, but the result wasn’t the one the Lake Center Christian Tigers wanted.
    A 61-57 loss to Northwest in a game that featured more transition baskets and up-tempo action than in most of the Tigers’ previous games combined flew in the face of the methodical pace LCCS has worked to establish as its modus operandi.
    From the outset, it was clear the Indians would attempt to speed up the game using half-court pressure and trapping. The instant an LCCS ball handler crossed center court, Northwest’s zone trap sprung into action. Early on, LCCS struggled with turnovers because of the press. When they were able to hang on to the ball, they netted good looks at the basket that mostly saw senior forward Scott Hefty putting the ball through the net en route to 16 of his team’s 30 first-half points, part of his season-high 25 on the night.
    However, a 30-29 halftime lead notwithstanding, the pace of the game wasn’t to LCCS coach Eric Schlabach’s liking. When the Tigers’ (4-5) offense stumbled in the third quarter, the second-year coach theorized that the quicker pace may have been a factor.
    “For a game at that pace, I think maybe you saw our legs go late, and by fourth quarter, it really affected us,” Schlabach said.
    One column on the stat sheet that seemed to support Schlabach’s theory is his team’s free-throw shooting. In a four-point game, LCCS was just 5-of-13 at the line, including 3-of-9 from the stripe in the second half. Weary legs can often lead to errant free throws because of the push needed on a set shot.
    While LCCS struggled at the line and continued an ominous trend that manifested itself in 17-of-33 free-throw shooting in the Tigers’ previous game (an overtime win at Rootstown), Northwest was better on its charity tosses. Despite shooting a mediocre 64.5 percent from the line, their high-volume total of 31 attempts netted 20 points. A plus-15 scoring edge at the line was slightly skewed by late-game fouls by the hosts in an attempt to extend the game and keep hope for a win alive, but Schlabach conceded that if his squad’s shooting struggles continue, “that’s a concern.”
    Making those struggles all the more perplexing were the shooting percentages elsewhere in the game. While the Tigers were accurate from the field (22 of 37 for 59 percent from the field), the Indians (6-3) converted just 44.9 percent (19 of 43) of field goal attempts.
    The Tigers also controlled the glass, racking up 26 rebounds to their visitors’ 21. Hefty was solid in that facet of the game as well, matching his season best in scoring with a season-high nine caroms.
    “We knew going in, if they’re trapping, you’re going to get good shots, and he knocked them down,” Schlabach said. “But even though his scoring stood out, he also rebounded really well and played as good of a game as he has all season.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The only period in which the pace slowed to a more LCCS-friendly style was the third, when both teams posted nine points, allowing the Tigers to keep a one-point edge entering the fourth. From there, the game was a back-and-forth affair that afforded the hosts a few chances to make plays down the stretch but saw the Indians make the most of their opportunities instead.
    “There were several possessions in a row where it was back and forth or tied,” Schlabach said. “In the fourth, they got most of their points at the line. There was one possession where we were down by two and got a really good opportunity and didn’t finish, and from there, they were slowly able to stretch it out.”
    Down the stretch, junior guard Tristan Mullane (17 points to lead Northwest) and junior forward Jeremy Mundell (nine points) consistently sank their free throws to keep their team ahead. Mullane was joined in double figures by senior guard Brandon Freeman (15).
    Northwest also benefitted from being efficient with the ball offensively, committing just 10 turnovers to the Tigers’ 21.
    “We knew going in that’s how they play, and there’s only so much you can do to slow the game down when a team’s trapping. You’ve got to attack, and we did, but we also made some mistakes and committed some turnovers,” Schlabach said.
    Rebounding from a close defeat will have to wait, as the Tigers enter a two-week stretch with just one game on the schedule. There’s a two-day tournament in Wellington later this month, but between now and then, they should have plenty of time to tackle their struggles from the line.