WINONA LAKE – The Cougar involvement at the Lakeland Christian Academy Cougar Classic was going along as smooth as an early-morning basketball games could go. But a tall mid-afternoon test left LCA reeling as day one came to a close of the two-day boys basketball tournament.
LCA’s boys won their opening game against South Bend Trinity, needing just a win over Covenant Christian to reach the championship game. LCA, however, came up short as a taller Covenant Christian side ran over the Cougars as the tournament roared on at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.
LCA and South Bend Trinity had the ham and eggs matchup, starting at 9:30 a.m. at Grace. Without playing for 16 days, LCA opened like a team on a state tourney run, scoring 12 of the game’s first 15 points in a 50-33 win.
Josh McDaniel and Jake Harmon buried threes during that run, and McDaniel would hit four bombs in the first half as LCA took a 25-9 lead into the half.
“We came into the game with a couple of great practices this week, and it always helps coming into a tournament like this with a good week of practice,” said LCA head coach Chris Hohm. “I felt like this was a game we should be able to come out on top of, and when you get that good start, they believe it a lot faster. I thought we played a great game other than some offensive rebounds and late turnovers we gave up. Couldn’t ask for much more.”
The game at Grace College (and congruently the girls tournament at LCA) took a turn when the fire alarms sounded with 2:18 left in the third quarter. Fire officials stated the problem was a build up in water pressure in the town water supply, which automatically sets off alarms on the college and high school campuses as well as other surrounding community buildings.
Once play resumed, LCA still held a 15-point lead and kept Trinity at arm’s length to get the win.
“We’re trying to move from being a team that hopes to compete to now that team that can put teams away,” Hohm said. “We are developing that killer instinct which we haven’t had opportunities in the past couple years. We got them down today and didn’t let them come back, even with the delay. I thought that showed a step this team is taking.”
McDaniel rode the hot start to finish with a game-high 23 points with six rebounds and four assists. Harmon would finish with seven points. Landon Twombly only scored one point in the first half, but had four assists in the first quarter alone and ended with seven assists and seven rebounds to go with an eventual six points. Elijah Raymond added six points and seven rebounds.
LCA’s second game, a mere three hours later, was a polar opposite. McDaniel was held to just two made free throws and the Cougars managed just seven field goals in the first half of a 63-34 loss to Covenant Christian.
The bigger and more physical Covenant squad took a 14-6 lead in the first quarter, fueled by the play of Chris Beezhold. The 6’6″ center had eight points and five rebounds in the first half, en route to a 21-point, 12-rebound game. Unable to control Beezhold inside, the Knights played unlike a team entering the day with a 1-5 record.
Jeff Terpstra added 14 points and Ben Kickert added 11 points and three rebounds.
McDaniel had his worst shooting day of the season without a field goal made, but the Cougars didn’t have anyone else step up. Noah Twombly’s nine points were fueled by seven in the fourth quarter with the Cougars well behind. He would add five rebounds to his total. Jeremy Gross added eight rebounds and eight points to the cause.
“They were just stronger and played that way,” Hohm said. “We didn’t step up to that level. We can’t match that in practice, so the size factor is difficult to replicate, but we have to be able to respond and we never did. We showed some flashes to match them, but it wasn’t consistent enough.
“Josh was just missing some shots, and they did enough to fluster him. He had some opportunities to get going, and they blocked a couple of his shots and just kept him from getting too many open looks. And when he doesn’t hit, we really struggle. It was an off game for him, but I’m sure he’ll bounce back.”
Scores from the boys tournament were:
LCA 50, South Bend Trinity 33
Clinton Christian 69, Granger Christian 44
Covenant Christian 63, LCA 34
Calumet Christian 60, Granger Christian 36
Covenant Christian 69, South Bend Trinity 34
Clinton Christian 91, Calumet Christian 56
Friday’s games will all take place at Grace College. The complete schedule, with awards to follow, is:
10 a.m. – Fifth place girls game: South Bend Trinity v. Calumet Christian
11:30 a.m. – Fifth place boys game: South Bend Trinity v. Granger Christian
1 p.m. – Third place girls game: LCA v. Clinton Christian
2:30 p.m. – Third place boys game: LCA v. Calumet Christian
4 p.m. – Girls championship game: Covenant Christian v. Granger Christian
5:30 p.m. – Boys championship game: Covenant Christian v. Clinton Christian