WINONA LAKE – The Lakeland Christian Academy boys basketball team will make history come Wednesday night.
The Cougars hope that history comes with a sectional victory attached to it.
LCA makes its first-ever appearance as a member of the IHSAA in this year’s version of Hoosier Hysteria at the Class 1-A Hamilton Sectional. The Cougars (7-14) clash with Bethany Christian (3-16) in a first-round game in the eight-team field at 7:30 p.m.
“This is a special opportunity for them,” said LCA coach Lee Compson. “We’ve reminded them of this goal all year and I am excited for them to ‘set the tone’ for future teams with how we compete this first time through. They have put a lot of work into getting to this point and I am proud of all of these young men.”
LCA, which won two of its final three regular-season games, did not play Bethany Christian during the season. The Bruins have lost 10 in a row heading into their final regular-season game Friday night versus Fremont.
“I think it’s a pretty decent draw,” Compson said. “It could have been worse and it could have been better. Bethany Christian is a team like us in a lot of ways. We’ve had similar results with several of our common opponents, so it should be a good test for us in that respect.
“It’s a pretty strong sectional for 1A. I’ve thought all season that Canterbury and Lakewood Park were the favorites and nothing has changed that really. Elkhart Christian is pretty solid too. And while the rest of us are probably all ‘underdogs’, you never know how things might shake out. We were tied with Elkhart Christian going into the fourth quarter and competed well against Lakewood Park, so the potential for upsets is very real I think.”
The Cougars, who have nine seniors, are led by Zarek Finley. The 6-2 senior averages 11.6 points-per-game. Also providing offense for LCA, which is averaging 48.4 ppg. as a team, are 5-11 senior Collin Price (9.4), 6-7 senior Calvin Prinsen (9.3), 5-9 senior Chris Maron (5.6) and 5-11 junior Chris Silveus (5.0).
The Bruins, who are coached by Jim Buller (the winningest boys basketball coach in Elkhart County history) are paced by 6-2 senior Caleb Morris (13.7) and 6-0 sophomore Sol Brenneman (11.9). Abe Thorne, a 6-3 junior, averages 8.8 ppg. for Bethany.
“We have been a little too inconsistent for my liking, but we have had excellent stretches of basketball in our recent games,” said Compson. “I think if we can improve our rebounding, we will find that consistency.
“Rebounding will be one major key. We will need all five guys on the court to control the boards. Our guards will need to continue to improve their decision making so we keep our turnovers low also. We’ve proved to be resilient all season and we’ll need to be even more mentally tough to handle the adversity that always comes when you are in the state tournament.”
The LCA-Bethany Christian winner will face the winner of the Fort Wayne Canterbury-Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian game in a semifinal matchup March 1. Canterbury (11-8) is the two-time defending sectional champion. LCA did not play either Canterbury or Blackhawk during the regular season.
The field at Hamilton also includes a pair of strong teams in Lakewood Park Christian (14-5) and Elkhart Christian (13-6). Lakewood Park faces Howe (1-17) and Elkhart Christina plays Hamilton (5-14) in first-round games in the bracket opposite LCA.