Many coaches will tell you the signs of success are not necessarily displayed in
wins and losses, but in how a team has improved over the course of a season.
The Lake Flyers were 3-9 overall, 1-5 in the Suburban Lakes League heading into the Jan. 28 conference game at Elmwood. That virtually puts them out of the league race nearly halfway through the season.
However, in Lake’s last two league games the Flyers had a chance to defeat two of the SLL’s top contenders.
At Eastwood (7-4, 5-1), Lake had the lead with three minutes to go. But a Flyer turnover translated into a 3-point play at Eastwood’s end, and the Eagles took a two-point lead. Lake did get a couple more chances with the basketball.
“We had two good 3-point looks, and we could not knock either one of them down,” second-year coach James Scharer said.
Down 39-37 with six seconds to go, Lake was forced to foul and the Eagles closed the deal to take a 41-37 victory.
Three days later at Genoa, Lake came back from 18 points down to pull to within three with 32 seconds remaining. Yet, the Comets came away with a 57-51 victory.
“We played pretty well. We just didn’t play well enough to win. We were about a shot short in both games,” Scharer said.
Six-foot-1 sophomore Josh Tantari led the second half comeback against the Comets with 16 second half points after scoring just two points in the first half.
“We came back and clawed back in the third quarter,” Scharer said. “He (Tantari) just has a knack. He’s a scorer. The kid gets into the seams of a zone and he shoots a little runner. He hit a three to start out, and he’s just an explosive player when he’s on, but he’s a sophomore so he’s pretty inconsistent.”
Tantari is the younger brother of senior Brandon Tantari, an award-winning football player and wrestler. Josh is averaging 6.8 points and is second on the team in assists (27) and steals (17). Scharer feels fortunate to have Josh on the basketball team.
“His brother is a very good wrestler, and he’s a very good athlete. Both of them are,” Scharer said.
Prior to those two games, the Flyers were averaging 18½ turnovers. Against the Eagles and Comets they cut that down to 12 and 13.
“I told the kids, ‘You know, that’s a big difference in the game. If you can secure the basketball, you don’t give teams lay-ups at the other end all the time. If you make them earn the points, then that makes a difference,” Scharer said.
Those games demonstrated to Scharer what his team’s potential is, despite being losses.
“To be honest right now, there is not a team on the schedule I don’t think we can beat. That’s a lot different than last year,” Scharer said.
Lake’s wins have been over Oak Harbor 54-43 and Northwood 35-34, but Scharer is especially proud of his team’s 59-34 rout over Woodmore.
“We played well that night. We’ve really only played, to be honest, probably two bad halves. We had a bad half against Gibsonburg (62-38 Golden Bear victory) and we had a bad half against Delta (66-42 Panther victory).
Against Gibsonburg, the Flyers trailed by three, 28-25, at halftime and were behind by five points midway through the third quarter.
“Then all of a sudden, (senior wing Lee) Renner just went off on us. He had 29, and the (sophomore point guard Gabe) Beaber kid is a good player. We let it get out of control a little bit,” Scharer said.
In non-league action, the Flyers hope to get a win when they host Fostoria St. Wendelin Saturday, Feb. 6. The Mohawks are 1-11 and 1-5 in the Midland Athletic League.
In charge of the Mohawk program is a familiar face — former Gibsonburg girls coach Shawn Ginnan. Ginnan, at Gibsonburg nine years, is now in his third season at FSW.
The Mohawk’s record does not indicate how good a team they are, says Scharer. FSW has frequented the Division IV regional tournament on a couple occasions in recent years, but like Lake came into this season inexperienced.
Ginnan says his team is improving, and he’s hoping that Lake can be that one game when the Mohawks put everything together for four quarters.
“We’re getting there,” Ginnan said. “It’s tough. Once you think they have it for a game, or half a game, then you take a step back.”
Scharer is aware that the Mohawks are improving and could be dangerous by the time they arrive at the Lake Field House.
“The scariest thing about them is one of their losses was to Van Buren by three (58-55), and Van Buren is a good basketball team,” Scharer said. “That’s the thing about this game is that on any night you can lose.
“We just have to get to the point where our kids make that one shot and we get that breakthrough win and it gets them that confidence that lets them know we can win. That’s all it takes. We’re on the verge. There is no question about it.”
The Flyers scrimmaged St. Wendelin in Fostoria last year, but the Mohawks have a completely different team this season.
“They are very young, had nine seniors last year, and are playing only one junior who has varsity experience from last year,” Scharer said. “They have a couple kids that are pretty good rebounders (including Eli Hipsher, averaging eight rebounds).”
“When you’re graduating nine seniors that is a really tough, tough thing to deal with and play kids who really have no varsity experience. Early on that was one of our problems because we only brought back (6-7 senior Alex) Cordell and (5-7 junior) Ahmed (Ismail), who were the only guys who really had any experience at all varsity-wise. So now, we’ve gotten 10 to 12 games in and we’re getting a little more comfortable at this stage.”
Cordell leads the Flyers averaging 13.2 points and 5.9 rebounds, and Ismail leads in assists (36) and steals (23) while averaging nearly four points. Junior Kurt McKee is averaging nine points and three rebounds and 6-3 senior Joe VAncena is averaging 7.4 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Scharer is hoping he has FSW sized-up. He says this game might be the one that will demonstrate his team can win.
“They are one of those teams that play zone defense and you have to shoot the ball against a zone. It’s going to come down to whether or not you can make shots and any young team I think we can pressure,” Scharer said.
Scharer also wants to see his Flyers find gaps in the zone, something Tantari has shown he can do successfully.
“If we can get inside and we can create and get some offensive rebounds, we’ll be fine,” Scharer said.