WINONA LAKE – Those who followed the Lakeland Christian Academy boys basketball team last winter saw quite a bit of magic.
Milestones abound, LCA had a banner season in more ways than one. The Cougars won the first-ever Hoosier Plains Athletic Conference boys basketball championship, won its most games (13) in nearly two decades, and added its first-ever IHSAA sectional victory at Hamilton in a win over Fort Wayne Smith Academy. Josh McDaniel set several offensive program records en route to a huge senior campaign, and arrows were pointing up for the Class 1-A program.
Five seniors, however, have graduated and LCA faces the challenge of having to regroup with a very limited roster.
With that regroup includes three seniors that have major court experience. Jake Harmon, Braxton Keller and Landon Twombly all saw at least 19 varsity appearances last season, Harmon and Keller playing in all 25 LCA games. Harmon, who shot up from a five-foot-three freshman to now a six-foot-two senior, is the team’s returning leading scorer at 10.3 points per night and made 58 threes last season. Given the growth spurt, that might change a tad, but Harmon can still fill it from outside.
“For him personally, he now can use length and size to do things that he couldn’t do before,” said LCA head coach Chris Hohm of Harmon. “He can also get his shot off on most defenders, even if they are up in his face, because he doesn’t have to try to shoot over them. He has always had good anticipation, and now he can tip a few more passes on defense than he could reach in the past.”
Twombly did a little of everything, averaging 8.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals a game in his 19 contests. Keller made drastic improvements over the course of the season, and wound up leading the team in rebounding with 109 caroms, 41 of those off the offensive glass.
“Landon Twombly has been a big time player for us the last two years already,” Hohm said. “He’s been a leader in almost every statistical category. The biggest changes for him this year are that he’s going to carry a little more of the scoring load and his emotions will lead our team, so he knows he needs to bring the proper energy and attitude and that the team will follow his example.
“Braxton Keller has improved a lot since last year, and he was already a nice role player for us. He’ll take a big step for us this year, and a big part of that is his personal confidence in himself. Trenton Parker has been waiting for this moment. He’s been a go-to JV guy for us for the last couple years, and now he gets to bring it to the next level. He’s got a nice scoring touch inside, and he can rebound well when he puts his mind to it.”
Where Hohm will have the biggest challenge in his fifth year at the school is finding the remaining parts. With just a varsity roster of 10 and no JV team, maintaining balance and consistency could be an issue as the season progresses. Trenton Parker is the fourth senior on the roster, but played in just eight games last year and scored four points in those appearances. Junior Landon Paris has the exact same credential as Parker, and classmate Matthew Helton saw just seven games and no points.
Sophomores Josh Nakasone, AJ Carra and Cameron Shepherd and freshman Peter Koller round out the rest of the varsity roster.
LCA, which finished above .500 for the first time as an IHSAA school at 13-12 last season, begins its quest Tuesday at Caston.