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LCCS boys basketball not getting breaks early on

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

HARTVILLE  Imagine trying to piece together a brand new jigsaw puzzle, only you're working with someone you've just met and every few minutes, you're forced to stop working and take a break.

Odds are that puzzle is going to be slow going and you're going to find the process frustrating at times. Such is life for the Lake Center Christian boys basketball team, which is attempting to piece together its identity under first-year head coach Greg Bryte in the midst of a pandemic-interrupted season.

The result was six straight losses to start the season – and a 2-9 record overall – that has seen the Tigers in game after game, only to fall just short thanks to a rough stretch at an inopportune time.

"It just seems in each half in games, we have a minute and a half or two minutes where we have a lull and the other team has a 6-0 or 8-0 run," Bryte said. "We're always right there at halftime losing by one or two or five, but we can't ever gain that lead back."

Bryte, who was previously the head coach at Rootstown and an assistant at Lake, knows it will take time for his players to learn the ins and outs of his system. The acclimation process was hampered when the Tigers had their last two scrimmages canceled due to COVID-related issues.

Those cancellations led to the squad's first two regular season games feeling a bit like an extension of the preseason as they learned new offensive and defensive systems.

"It has been challenging since we only scrimmaged twice and had four (scrimmages) scheduled," Bryte said. "The first few games we had to iron out those kinks. The effort's there, but it's just a new system and a new way to play defense."

Part of dealing with the in-season schedule disruptions has been scheduled opponents such as Garrettsville pausing their seasons due to the pandemic, with the G-Men slated to return to basketball activities this week.

The constantly shifting slate has led to weeks like the one beginning Jan. 12, where LCC played Southeast twice in a three-game span, with each team winning one of the games. So far, the Tigers have split Portage Trail Conference games with Rootstown and fell twice to Mogadore, although the unique nature of the PTC this season with just five teams means they'll see both the Rovers and Wildcats one more time.

Junior Ethan Bauer led LCC in scoring through six games, averaging 11.5 points per game and serving as a focal point on the offensive end. On defense, Jacob Jaber has provided a tough, gritty presence by taking six charges and spearheading a unit that is pressuring the ball well and getting into passing lanes, according to Bryte.

Where the Tigers are struggling most is on the offensive end, where they're executing according to plan, but aren't consistently seeing the ball go through the hoop.

"We're getting great shots, but we're not putting it in the hole," Bryte said. "We're getting good looks at rim and kick-out 3-pointers, but we talked about it with the guys because it's kind of the elephant in the room, the ball just isn't going down. Still, the guys are getting more comfortable with what I want us to do."

The hope is that by moving the ball well, staying on the same page and creating good looks, the offense will eventually start generating more points. Until then, LCC will look to keep itself in games by being sound on the defensive end. Putting together any puzzle takes time and usually involves a misstep or two, but if the Tigers can get on the court more consistently and have chances to iron out the wrinkles in their game, the process of figuring that puzzle out should be much more feasible.