LAKE TWP. The Lake Blue Streaks are an evolving team this season.
Where they stand now, halfway through the campaign, is much different than where they began and, odds are, they’ll be in another place when the year comes to a close. Such is life for a young team with a total of four freshmen and sophomores who see time in the rotation on a regular basis.
Veteran head coach Tom McBride and his staff have seen the team get out to a 6-3 start, one filled with some solid wins and some tough losses at the hands of more experienced teams.
“I thought our first two league games were tough facing Jackson and Green, which are two teams with a lot of experience back,” McBride said. “We’re playing three sophomores at times, so we’re relying a lot on Jake Maranville and Garrett Obourn to lead us.”
McBride, whose team opened 2019 with a non-league win over Canton Central Catholic that may not have helped its case in the Federal League standings but certainly served as a boost for a team that is looking to finish the regular season strong against a daunting schedule, recognizes that even in a year when there doesn’t seem to be one dominant team whom the rest of the league can’t touch, what lies ahead will be difficult.
Jackson and Green are setting the pace with one league loss each, but Jackson’s loss was at the hands of a Perry squad that few expected to down the Polar Bears. Green, meanwhile, suffered a four-point road loss to Perry but has survived a couple of close league games to get back on track.
Lake’s own win over Hoover was a valuable early league triumph, one that kept the Blue Streaks from falling too far off the pace.
“We came out under the gun, so to be able to beet Hoover helped early in the season season,” McBride said. “We were maybe questioning who we are a bit, but that was a boost in the arm and then we were able to beat GlenOak.”
Lake also had a league break in the first weekend of the new year, as the seven-team status of the Federal League means one team plays a non-league game on a given Tuesday or Friday while the rest of the league trades punches and sees who’s left standing.
Given that games against McKinley and Jackson loom, Lake was happy to have a respite from league play and is aiming to launch back into it behind its blend of veterans such as Maranville and Obourn and its younger players.
“That's the beauty of of Jake this year … he’s such a team player that if there’s a night when we need him to score 25 to win, he does that, but he also recognizes if someone like J.J. Vaughn has the hot hand like he did against Central or if he needs to get the ball to Nick (Mazzocca) inside. He’s unselfish with the ball.”
Maranville, who has committed to play for Nova Southeastern (Fla.) University, will sometimes shift positions during games and depending on the contest, may start or close out the game playing point guard.
Sophomores Jake Echols, Carson Miller and Bryce Snow have emerged as contributors around Maranville and Mazzocca, each filling a different role within the system. McBridge pointed to Echols as a good facilitator who has worked hard on his offensive game, while Miller functions more as a defensive player who is working to round out his game with an improved jump shot.
Snow, meanwhile, is a threat to drive and put pressure on opposing defenses, collapsing them and creating space for teammates to get open looks at the basket. Working new players into the mix has been easier, according to McBride, because Maranville is an adaptable player who doesn’t need to dominate the ball or score a large number of points in games or practices in order to lead.
“One thing we’re enjoying is continuing to grow since the start of the season. That was hard part to identify who to play where even though we play together in the summer, we still had things to figure out,” McBride said. “With Jake, he practices with an emphasis on getting everyone else involved and he doesn’t score 55 a night in practice. By facilitating on a day-to-day basis, he has made those other players better.”
Playing multiple underclassmen together can produce unpredictable results, but as the year wears on, Lake is looking for more consistency as its younger players acclimate to the varsity level and the rotation gels. Whether that fully happens by the time the postseason rolls around is to be determined, but the tests the Blue Streaks face along the way should serve as progress checks to let them know where they stand.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB