March 21, 2012 - By Gabriel Ouzounian
Senior Justin Walukonis passes to sophomore John McCarty to avoid an incoming Corsair guard. Photo G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
Review Staff Writer
In 1925 the Lake Orion Dragons Boys Basketball team punched through their opponents to become the regional champions.
Now, 87 years later, a first year coach and a young team has made LOHS history, when in a 48-42 win over the Waterford Mott Corsairs on March 14 the Dragons took the regional championship. The game, a sound victory "certainly didn't suck" according to Head Coach Tom Risi.
"It really feels good to have my kids hard work pay off," he said. "I told one of these parents it would be a three year project to get this program where it needed to be. He came up to me after the regional game and said 'I though you said three years.'
"I told him 'three years, three months; what's the difference?'"
The game began with a solid Lake Orion lead which Orion only let up once in the third period. Orion played heavy on defense as usual while overpowering Mott's own defense with their height. The challenge this time, according to Risi, were two Mott players - junior Kahlil Malone, a quick guard, and senior Hunter Reiche. Senior Justin Walukonis again did what he does best and shut Malone down while junior Roman Kuster proved to be a "difference maker."
"Walukonis did a fantastic job defending, but Malone was fast so you can't stop him completely, so he just forced the ball out of his hands and kept it away for us," said Risi. "Kuster really stepped up big defensively. He took a couple of charges and his rebounding was fantastic. Junior Chaz Miller looked after Reiche, who was a heck of a shooter.
"We made the mistake of giving him an open basket a few times and we paid for it. We had our work cut out for us."
Top scorers were Miller with 15 point and sophomore John McCarty with 10.
A strong defense is the strategy Risi has worked towards all year. He's always sure to remind his player that while "offense sells tickets, defense wins championships." Around 60 percent of their practice time is spent working on defensive plays.
Risi, a proponent of not only defense but thieving momentum, wrote a number on his game room blackboard before the game.
"It's funny - before the game I put the number 42 on the board and said 'if we hold them to this we win,'" said Risi. "The score comes to 48-42 and my kids are wowed."
Next in this unexpected playoff run is Lanse Cruse North on Tuesday night at the Callahan Hall on University of Detroit Mercy. Risi simply said if his kids play up to their potential "we'll be in the the game."
Orion residents are encouraged to come watch. A big crowd does wonders for team morale.