HARTVILLE Even when the results are good, change rarely is pleasant in the short term.
Growing pains often are the result when a person or group goes through a time of transition and the Lake Center Christian boys basketball team has experienced that in its first season under head coach Ryan McGonagle.
McGonagle was named the team’s new head coach during the offseason and after a challenging 2016-17 campaign that included the squad’s former head coach stepping down midseason, he’s tried to get the Tigers rolling again while also learning his approach to the game and what he wants from them on the court.
"I told them that change is always hard this is a new system and a new style of play they’re not used to," McGonagle said. "I’m surprised at how quickly it’s coming together."
The first half of the season illustrated the difficulty of adjusting to a new coach and new system, as it was an up-and-down ride that saw LCC hit the midway mark with a 5-6 record. Included in that stat are some solid wins, but also see frustrating losses.
In the Mercy Medical Classic in Canton, the Tigers dropped a nine-point loss to Triway in a game where McGonagle believes they didn’t play up to their own standards. The next game was a six-point loss to Portage Trail Conference County leader Mogadore at home, a game LCC needed if it wanted to climb back into the league race. It’s a league race that sees the Tigers consistently play bigger schools and have to find ways to raise their game against those foes with bigger enrollments and often, a size edge on the court.
McGonagle and his staff have tried to get players to embrace the idea of reveling in their role as underdogs, but getting that message to connect with teenagers has taken time.
"I’m not so sure our kids, do, but we try to relay them, take pride in being a small school and being able to go and beat other schools," McGonagle said.
Even in the PTC County, which is the league’s small-school division, LCC is smaller than its rivals. Mogadore is the closest in terms of size, but schools such as Crestwood and Garrettsville typically have larger student bodies from which to draw potential players in a given year.
Even so, LCC has tried to position itself as a smaller team with the ability to play larger schools and compete, something this season’s schedule has underscored.
"That’s something we’re trying to preach to them," McGonagle said. "Our non league is not easy with teams like Cardinal Mooney and Youngstown Ursuline, but hopefully those games prepare us for the tournament."
That kind of slate would be tough on most any team, but for one that is still less than one season into learning its new coaching staff’s approach to the game, the challenge has increased in difficulty. At times, the Tigers have looked like all of the pieces are coming together and at others, like they’re still in the early stages of a new era for the program.
Part of the process is dealing with the frustrations that come with setbacks and maintaining a positive outlook, something McGonagle said he has also talked to his team about. With the season now in its second half and sectional tournament play just a couple of weeks away, LCC is trying to use the time it has left to iron out more of the kinks and get itself into fighting shape for the battle that is the sectional tournament. There, they could end up with a third matchup with Mogadore and in the process, a chance to measure their progress and see how far they’ve come.
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