WINONA LAKE – There hasn’t been much time to think lately for the Lakeland Christian Academy boys basketball team. Once the season ends, the team will be able to look back and think about Tuesday night’s 52-49 victory over South Bend Community Baptist.
LCA has played four games in the past five days, Sunday the only day off for the Cougars as it is making up for just two games played in the first 14 days of February. The Tuesday contest was the final Hoosier Plains Conference game, and the win pushed LCA into a three-way tie atop the group for the conference title, its second in two years of the conference, splitting 2019 with South Bend Trinity and South Bend Career Academy. All three teams finished 3-1 in the HPC.
Getting the split was far from easy, as for over three quarters LCA looked like a team that had played four games in five days. It was a wake-up call from head coach Chris Hohm that woke up his senior-laden lineup.
Hohm pulled his entire starting lineup in the third quarter as Baptist took a 27-18 lead and was very verbal in his displeasure with their output and effort. Baptist pushed its lead all the way to 15 at 33-18 before LCA’s seniors responded in a major way.
Jake Harmon, the leading three-point shooter in program history, snapped out of a funk by hitting a three, and later assisted Trenton Parker for a bunny as the lead was cut to 10. Harmon nailed another three to open the fourth, and Landon Twombly got a steal and finish to pull the home side within one. Twombly then canned a pair of threes, each time giving LCA the lead, the second a 44-42 advantage.
After Justin Smithberger and Zack Stewart hit shots to put Baptist up two, Twombly again was the hero, getting the hoop and the harm, his free throw putting LCA up for good at 50-49.
“We had a game last night and I didn’t shoot very well, so I felt like I needed to step up and do something about it,” Twombly said. “We needed a bucket in the worst way in the second half and I felt like it was my job to put one in. I got the open looks and made a couple.”
Twombly ended his last home game by scoring 18 points to go with three steals and a pair of assists. Harmon, who was a frigid 3-16 from three-point range, still had 16 points and was integral in the comeback.
“Things certainly did go how I hoped it would early on, but coach (Hohm) has a lot of confidence in me to shoot the ball,” Harmon said. “I’ve had nights like these before where nothing seems to go in, but you have to just keep shooting, or find ways to get your teammates the ball. I felt like I did that tonight when my shots weren’t going down. I just had to stay confident and find ways to help.”
Braxton Keller had six points and seven rebounds, but his quick hands in the second half kept several loose balls alive, and he came up with a key offensive rebound that led to a bucket during the fourth quarter rally.
Landon Paris and Cam Shepherd combined for eight points and 10 rebounds for the hosts.
Stewart scored eight straight points at one point in the first half to buoy the visiting Cougars (3-13), and ended with 20 points and five rebounds. Alonzo Paulino had 12 points and Smithberger added 11 points and five rebounds.
LCA (10-12) still has one game to go this week, a Thursday make-up at Lakewood Park. Hohm hopes the excitement of Tuesday’s conference celebration doesn’t fade with work still to do.
“We didn’t want to use fatigue as an excuse, but it was definitely a factor tonight,” Hohm said. “You could see it in our three-point shooting. You could see it in the defense early on and on our rotations. Just slower. I kept waiting for them to kick it in, and decided maybe we just needed a little boost.
“One thing that joining this conference is when it was created last year it was something that we could fight for,” added Hohm. “With Blackhawk in our sectional, it makes that goal of winning a sectional kind of a long shot. This gives us something to fight for and this year we got it done again.”
The undercard for the evening saw the LCA junior high boys roll over Community Baptist 55-21. Seth Martin led the home Cougars with 18 points and Will Hotchkin added 13 points. The LCA juniors finish its season 13-3.