LAKE TWP. The early leader in the Federal League is hanging its hat on its defensive abilities.
Through just the first three games of the season, the Lake Blue Streaks carved out a niche for themselves as the lone team without a league loss, a designation veteran head coach Tom McBride ascribes to his defense.
"We’re fortunate to start 3-0. We’ve gotten off to a good start with some solid play from our point guard position with Jake Maranville, and in the post with Jake Schulz and Mike and Matt Spottleson," McBride said. "We’ve gotten some really good defensive play against some talented players like (Green senior) Kaleb Martin and overall defensively, in our first 12 quarters, we’ve held the other team to single digits in nine of those."
McBride also credited guard Kameron Casey with defending the opposing team’s best guards on a regular basis and said that the length Lake has inside has also helped stifle opponents offensively.
Because the Blue Streaks can put a three-man front line on the floor that features players 6-foot-4 or taller, defense and rebounding should continue to be a strong suit moving into the core of the schedule.
With a long break between games, Lake has also been able to watch as the chaotic dynamics of the new-look Federal League have begun to shape up.
After Jackson dominated the league the past few years thanks in large part to its talented eight-man senior class that led it to a state title and Hoover emerged last season as a top contender, both teams have seen their rosters overhauled this season and each suffered a league loss in the early going.
Green further upended the league order by winning on the road at Canton McKinley, but Lake was able to grind out a 53-44 win over Green and followed that with a 62-44 win over Hoover to move to 2-0 and remain the only team with an unblemished league record.
"We went out to breakfast and I teasing kids Saturday that I felt like we won last night because we got see those other teams knocking each other off and being the only team in the league without a loss this season feels good," McBride said. "This is most parity I’ve seen in the league last five or six years … we got rid of the studs Jackson had on their state championship team and Hoover, even though we beat them twice last year, size and athleticism they had, they were a great team too."
The Federal League wastes no time in getting league play underway each basketball season, as both its boys and girls team play league games within the first two weeks of the year. Other area conferences tend to wait a bit longer, but as McBride noted, there can be benefits to starting earlier - depending on what type of team a coach has.
"All of us would probably like the college model as coaches, where you play some lower-level Division I teams to get going, but I think if you do that, your kids can get complacent and think they’re good when they’re not that good," McBride said. "I’m happy we played league opponents right off the bat because it really focused us in early."
McBride also noted that part of the reason for the unexpected results and more road wins in the first few games of league play could simply be due to many teams in the league having a lot of new faces on their rosters. In scouting and reviewing his team’s own games, he has seen a lot of squads trying to find the right rotation and get new players in place for the stretch run. As Lake tries to accomplish the same thing, the Blue Streaks are attempting to maintain their good transition and help defense and make sure that as their offense works toward late-season form, they continue to give themselves chances to win by locking up opposing offenses.
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