WINONA LAKE — The opening day of the Cougar Classic saw a reversal of fortunes for Lakeland Christian Academy’s boys team.
In their opener with Granger, the Cougars were likely the more talented team and definitely the aggressor in collecting a 63-47 win. In its afternoon game with Victory, however, the home team looked a little outmatched and fell behind early en route to a lopsided, 75-40 loss. LCA will play in the tournament’s third-place game Friday at Grace College. Game time is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
A Tyler Schmidt breakaway dunk off the opening tip-off set the tone in Lakeland’s loss to Victory. The Lions rattled off 11 straight points to open the game and never looked back.
“I thought Victory came out with more energy — faster, quicker than we were. I don’t know if it was because it was our second game of the day or if it was because we just weren’t ready, but they got the dunk off the tip-off, and I saw heads drop a little bit from us, which is unacceptable,” said LCA boys coach Chris Hohm. “We’ve got to be able to bounce back and not just get figuratively punched in the face. You’ve got to battle back from that.”
Victory worked from the outside-in, knocking down seven of its first eight 3-point attempts over the first half — the Lions finished the game with 10 triples — then working the ball into the paint when the Cougars were forced to commit to guarding the perimeter in the second half. Schmidt scored a game-high 19 points, mostly on the interior, while Lincoln Thomae converted four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points, and Deakon Lee finished with 10 for Victory. A total of 12 players made the scoring column in a display of depth by the visitors.
“They hit seven of their first eight 3s. A lot of them were uncontested because our rotations were slow, but still that’s a high percentage. We had them down for 10-for-15 for the game from 3,” Hohm said. “When that happens then you feel like you have to fly out on guys, and they did a good job of passing, dumping the ball, sharing the ball, finishing. They’re a good offensive team, and defensively they put a little pressure on us, and we didn’t execute real well.”
The focus of Victory’s defensive pressure was Landon Twombly, a usually prolific scorer who was limited to just seven points. Landon Paris and Braxton Keller each scored nine, while Jake Harmon led the Cougars with 10 points, four of them earned in six trips to the foul line drawing contact off the dribble.
“His outside shot wasn’t falling in this game. Normally we can count on him to hit a couple 3s. He didn’t hit one today, but he did a good job of adjusting his game and going at the defense, picking up some from the free throw line,” said Hohm of Harmon.
The Cougars’ morning game with Granger saw them jump out to an 8-0 lead and never look back. Nine players scored for LCA in that win, including 19 by Harmon and a career-high 12 by Cameron Shepherd.
“That was a career-high for him. He did a great job of finishing. He finished some through contact in there, and he was just being aggressive,” Hohm said of Shepherd.
The Cougars play Trinity-at-Greenlawn for third place at Grace’s Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center Friday.
“I think that we can bounce back. We didn’t play well, and they’re good so when you get that combination you’re going to get a result like today,” said Hohm following the Victory loss. “We’ve just got to be ready to bounce back tomorrow, and hopefully we’ll be ready to play.”