January 25, 2012 - The Lake Orion boys' basketball team learned from its mistakes last week, taking a disappointingly close loss to Birmingham Seaholm, 59-55, and following it with a solid win over Stoney Creek, 55-41.
Sophomore John McCarty (click for larger version)
Head Coach Tom Risi was critical of his own team against the Maples, saying they did not put forth an effort worthy of the OAA, but he was quick to add the players learn much from their losses.
"The problem with the Seaholm game was laziness - we got outhustled, outworked and outplayed," he said. "It really was a learning experience for the team. As we watched the films, we saw what it takes to win a basketball game in the OAA.
"At the end, Seaholm wanted it more than we did."
Other problems included a lack of rebounding and failure to use the Dragons' now well-known size to their advantage. Risi added he was disappointed to see Seaholm "going to the glass with three guys every shot" while at least two Lake Orion players were usually seen "standing around."
Despite the loss, Risi noted a number of admirable performances, including that of sophomore Drew Losee, who stepped up defensively despite his young age. Junior Jeremy King also brought a lot of energy to the game and junior Damante Kruse hit a three-point shot with less than three seconds left in the fourth period to tie the game, forcing overtime.
"Our ability to shoot has been weak this year," said Risi. "But Kruse has been the most improved in long-range shooting. Sophomore John McCarty still leads the team in three-point shots from a percentage standpoint, but Kruse has come along."
McCarty led the team in points with 16, while junior Chaz Miller scored 12 and Kruse took 10. Senior Brad Watterworth secured 15 rebounds.
The Dragons put the loss behind them and then prepared to face Stoney Creek on Jan. 20. Risi said he worked on stressing the importance of effort and determination, and he believes the changes had an effect on the Dragons' play.
"I'm not big on lack of effort," he said. "If we have guys that give 100 percent and we lose, I can live with that but you need to get out there and get after it.
"You learn about your team when you lose. An effortless game is not the kind of game we want at Lake Orion. It comes down to accountability - you have to be accountable for your effort."
The Cougars out with energy and hit baskets early on, but the Dragons used their size to take control in the first quarter and dominated the rest of the game. While Stoney Creek outshot Lake Orion percentage-wise, Orion came away with the solid win by shooting 19-48 from the field. Stoney Creek finished 14-36.
Top performers included McCarty with 17 points and Kruse with 10 points. Watterworth again led in rebounds with seven.
Risi sat a number of his starters during the blowout win to give his reserves valuable playing time, including seniors Mitch Caldwell and Jason Henry, as well as juniors Conner Stallions and Tyler Mantoia.
Lake Orion played Lapeer East on Jan. 23. The Dragons provided another strong effort and won handily, 64-36. Before the game, Risi stressed the importance of not underestimating the smaller school, as they had "nothing to lose and everything to gain" from beating a large school like Lake Orion.
Next up for the Dragons is Farmington on Jan. 27, who Risi said are a quick, athletic team after a scouting trip.
"They push the ball hard and it will take everything we have to beat them," he said.