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LCCS girls basketball ready for PTC tests

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

HARTVILLE  The good news for the Lake Center Christian girls basketball team is the Tigers return virtually their entire team, including the school’s all-time leading scorer, after losing no players to graduation from last season.

The bad news is that their returning roster is set to face a unique, challenge schedule that is unlike virtually any other area team’s slate this season. Due to the ever-shifting landscape of the Portage Trail Conference, LCC and its four fellow PTC schools will each play three conference games against one another.

First Team - Hannah Mang, Lake Center Christian, 5-8, jr..  Led the county in scoring at 19.3 points per game.  Passed 1,000 career points in February, becoming just the third player in school history to do so, finishing season at 1,171, a school record.  Scored a school-record 42 points in a game, taking just 19 shots.  First team all-district and special mention All-Ohio.  Averaged 7.7 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 3.1 blocks.

That means four contests against Mogadore, Garrettsville Garfield, Southeast and Rootstown. It’s not lost on second-year LCC coach Dan Moody that the schools which remain in the conference are some of the PTC’s best from recent seasons.

“With girls basketball for the Portage Trail Conference, it actually became much stronger with some of the teams that left because the ones that stayed are great teams like Southeast, Garrettsville and Rootstown, and we get to play each of them three times, so we have an extremely tough league schedule that’s 12 of our 22 games,” Moody said.

Given that LCC is the smallest school from that group, it’s fair to say the Tigers have a big regular-season challenge ahead of them.

It leaves open the possibility that their overall record may not be sparkling, but that they could be a much better, battle-tested squad than the numbers could indicate. The roster taking on that schedule figures to give LCC plenty of talent and firepower, led by senior forward Hannah Mang.

Mang broke the 1,000-point barrier last season and set the school’s all-time scoring record, ending her junior campaign with 1,171 points. According to Moody, Mang has received recruiting attention from several colleges, but has goals left to chase in her senior year.

“She actually set one of her personal goals to finish as one of the top 10 scorers in the history of Stark County and if we are able to have a full season, she’s on pace to do that,” Moody said. “She’s just a solid all around player and even without her scoring, she would be one of best players in the history of the school. She’s a solid rebounder who was actually in the top 10 in the county last year. She’s also our best point guard, but I try to give her a break and play her off the ball, and she’s the leading shot blocker in the history of the school.”

Mang’s all-around game makes her the focal point for the LCC attack and as the Tigers seek to improve on their 9-14 mark from one season ago, she’ll need to continue to be just as productive, if not more so. Along with her statistics, the team’s overall numbers are also positive heading into the season.

One year after having a school-record 18 players come out for the team, the Tigers have 21 players this season. It’s a big number for a Division IV team and provides needed depth, as well as enough players to field a full junior varsity team that can help younger players gain experience.

Among the eight returning letterwinners, junior forward Natasha Lyogky figures to be a key piece as well. She led the team and ranked second in the county last season in rebounding, teaming with Mang to give LCC a strong presence on the glass. Junior guard Meri Karmie will be counted on to lead the back court as a player who, according to Moody, “doesn’t put up a lot of points, but does all of the other little things to help the team.”

With three seniors on the roster and juniors such as Lyogky and Karmie who have a lot of varsity experience, LCC is heading into the year with confidence and momentum.

“We going to be in good shape in terms of experience … we had no seniors last year, we have all of our main players back and we finally have three seniors this year,” Moody said.  “Even though we were 9-14 last year, when they did tournament seeding we were 3-12 at that point and finished the season 6-2, so the improvement was pretty profound at the end and we hope to pick up where we left off.”

Recapturing that momentum won’t be easy against the difficult schedule ahead, but with their numbers on the rise and their top players back for another run, the Tigers are eager to tip off their year against Canton Central Catholic on Nov. 23. Moody and his staff know that just as fall sports have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with games in various sports postponed or canceled due to positive virus tests within teams, their season could experience some of those same disruptions.

Their hope is a healthy, virus-free season for themselves and their opponents, one that gives them a chance to take on the challenges in front of them and set themselves up for what they believe could be a successful tournament run in a few months.