By Mike Deak
WINONA LAKE – Basketball teams all over the map are dealing with the struggles of COVID and contact tracing. It was written all over the tired faces and legs of Lakeland Christian Academy’s girls team that it was among those in the group.
Returning to action Monday in a two-game Cougar Classic assignment after its third hiatus this season, LCA showed its weariness down the stretch in a 50-38 loss to Clinton Christian in its second game of the day.
LCA squandered a myriad of opportunities in the contest against Clinton, missing a handful of wide open shots within five feet of the bucket, sent outlet passes right into retreating Clinton defenders and didn’t rebound down the stretch. All of that added up to a loss LCA coach Marc Miller felt could have been avoided.
“We talked about it at halftime, but it just comes down to fundamentals, you have to block out,” Miller said. “The tallest player in the world can’t get a rebound over you if you block them out with proper fundamentals.”
Those rebounds and lacks of execution became critical in the second half. LCA worked its way back from down almost a dozen to only three at 27-24, but converted three straight steals into just one basket. Clinton would go on to score seven straight points to take a 34-24 lead, only for LCA to again get it back to manageable at 34-29. But the inability to get rebounds allowed Clinton to score 10 of the next 14 points and put the game away.
“The start of this season has been rough, it feels like we have started three different times because of quarantines,” Miller said. “We’ve had almost 40 days of quarantine, this is just our fifth and sixth games. We started a month late, then had another two weeks off right after that. This is their first game back in three weeks, so they keep getting restarted.
“We looked good in the second half against Bethany, but it took an entire half to get there. Same thing with Clinton, second half was much stronger, but we have to find a way to not dig ourselves a deep hole to come out of.”
LCA was playing without sophomore forward Finley Hobbs, who was providing almost 10 points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks a game. The lack of presence inside aside from Jordan Gross allowed Allison Snyder to take over in the second half. Snyder was 14-14 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and finished with a game-high 24 points. Sadie Breneman also contributed well for Clinton with 13 points.
Jessi Calizo did the bulk of the scoring for LCA (2-5) with 19 points while Natalie Norris scored six of her eight points in the fourth quarter.
“We were committing fouls that we really shouldn’t be doing, and that’s tired legs trying to get to spots that we aren’t conditioned to be at right now,” Miller said. “Fatigue came in, but we were making silly fouls that we shouldn’t have been. And credit Clinton, they hit their free throws down the stretch to put the game away.”
In LCA’s first game against rival Bethany Christian, the lack of game reps really showed in a 66-33 loss. The Bruins exploded to a 20-4 lead after a quarter and took a 35-7 lead at the half.
Calizo led LCA with 17 points, Norris and Cara McCrum each had six points. The other Sadie, Sadie Brenneman, led Bethany with 14 points and Julia Moser added 10 points.
Elsewhere in the Classic…
LCA split its two boys games, losing 65-50 to Bethany to open the day and coming back to beat Clinton 76-50. The boys games were played at Grace College.
Landon Gause scored 20 points and Silas Gagnon had 14 points for the Cougars against the Bruins. Bethany countered with 22 points from Mason Closson and 17 from Beck Willems. The two Bruins scored 30 of their points in the first half. Closson hit six three-pointers in the game.
Cam Shepherd led the Cougars (3-3) with 23 points in the win against the Couriers. Hunter Rice had 18 points, Gagnon had 14 points and Seth Martin added 10 points. Nick Schrock dropped in 28 points for Clinton and Reggie Miller went boom baby with 13 points.
Boys scores from day one of the tourney:
Bethany Christian 65, LCA 60
Adams Central 79, Granger Christian 29
LCA 76, Clinton Christian 50
Covenant Christian 53, Granger Christian 43
Bethany Christian 77, Clinton Christian 42
Adams Central 52, Covenant Christian 47
Tuesday boys games schedule (all games at Grace College MOCC):
10:30 a.m. Granger v. Clinton (fifth place)
1:30 p.m. LCA v. Covenant (third place)
4:30 p.m. Adams Central v. Bethany (first place)
Girls scores from day one of the tourney:
Granger Christian 50, Central Christian 25
Bethany Christian 66, LCA 33
Covenant Christian 65, Granger Christian 53
Clinton Christian 50, LCA 38
Covenant Christian 67, Central Christian 19
Bethany Christian 75, Clinton Christian 21
Tuesday girls games schedule (all games at Grace College MOCC):
9 a.m. LCA v. Central (fifth place)
12 p.m. Granger v. Clinton (third place)
3 p.m. Bethany v. Covenant (first place)