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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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It's become common place seeing Lake’s high-powered offense lighting up the scoreboard with big numbers, and this year is no different.

Behind a well-balanced scoring attack, a stout defense and clutch shooting, Lake has opened up the season with an 8-0 record and a 4-0 mark in the Northern Buckeye Conference and is positioning itself for another great run.

For the most part, the Flyers have been dominant, winning games by convincing margins. Six of Lake's wins have come by at least 18 points, but the Flyers have had some close calls, too.

In their fourth game of the year, the Flyers rallied from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter and defeated Eastwood, 52-49, taking a two-point lead on a three-pointer by freshman Jake Rettig with 3.2 seconds remaining to narrowly avoid the defeat.

bowen2
Lake snior guard Connor Bowen
drives to the basket in the Flyers'
79-38 rout over Elmwood. (Photo
by Innovations Portrait Studio/
InnovationsVisualImpact.com)

More recently, Lake defeated Bryan, 67-64, in the Lake Holiday Tournament championship behind 35 points from junior point guard Connor Bowen. The Flyers, which trailed by 12 midway through the third quarter, rallied to take their first lead with just over six minutes remaining before holding on for the victory.

"The team is off to a great start," said coach Ryan Bowen, now in his fourth year leading the program. "Those wins (over Eastwood and Bryan) were great character-builders for our team. The boys have bought into their roles quickly and are working together nicely. This is a very unselfish group that really cares about winning over all else. The boys hate to lose and will give everything they have to get a win."

With a starting lineup that employs four guards, Bowen (6-0) runs the point with junior Jared Rettig (6-2), sophomore Brandyn Neal (6-0) senior Cody Witt (5-11) filling in at the other guard spots. Todd Walters, a 6-3 junior, rounds out the starting five at forward and Jake Rettig (6-0), a freshman, and sophomores Aaron Witt (5-9) and Adam Duncan (5-10) are the primary subs off the bench.

Bowen, a first-team NBC selection last year, leads the team with an average of 19.5 points, 9.8 assists and 6.7 rebounds with Jared Rettig (15.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg) right behind him. Neal, who transferred back to Lake this year, is averaging 10.7 points and 4.2 rebounds, Witt is helping to pace the attack with 9.1 points and Walters (7.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and Jake Rettig (7.5 ppg) are tied for fifth on the team in scoring.

Bowen a three-year starter at point guard for the Flyers, has command of the offense. He knows when to look for his teammates but is also capable of scoring on his own, both with the outside shot and because of his ability to drive to the basket and create. In addition to putting up 35 points in the Flyers' win over Bryan, Bowen also set a single-game school record this season with 16 assists in the holiday tournament’s 98-42 semifinal win over Seneca East.

"Connor has been tremendous for us so far this season," Coach Bowen said. "He is an extension of our coaching staff on the court; he makes things easy for us coaches. He brings an enormous amount of energy every practice and is our guy to run all of our offenses. His experience over his freshman and sophomore years is definitely paying off."

This year, the Flyers also put up 101 points on Genoa and 118 in a game last season. They scored at least 87 points three times two years ago. But Bowen says he has gotten his teams to be successful because of his commitment to getting the kids to buy into playing hard-nosed defense.

"We really harp on the kids to have our defense be our offense," Bowen said. "If we can get steals and rebound well, we can push the ball for open-court scores. We like to have a lot of possessions every game, so our defense has to work hard to get stops. And the kids have really found out that to be successful on the defensive end, it has to be a five-man effort. We have a smart group of players and will play multiple defenses, sometimes on the fly, and they adjust well."

The eason hasn't been without its challenges. Gone from last year are guard Ben Swartz and two key post players, Marcus Pierce (6-5) and Jayce Vancena (6-5). Swartz and Pierce graduated and Vancena, a senior, has already signed to play baseball at the University of Michigan next year and is focusing on that sport.

Saturday, Lake was to travel to Old Fort, which is 7-1 and features Hunter Perry, one of the best players in Northwest Ohio, and then faces Rossford (6-3, 4-0) in a battle between the league's top teams. Both the Flyers and the Bulldogs, who are undefeated in the NBC, were picked to finish atop the conference before the season began. 

In the last two years, the Flyers have established themselves as a premier team in the NBC. In the 2011-12 season, NBC Player of the Year Rashad Smith (19.2 ppg) and Josh Tantari led the club to a 17-6 record, a share of the inaugural NBC title and advanced to the Division III district finals. Last year, Bowen, Vancena, Pierce and company went 19-4 and just missed winning their second straight league title, falling to Eastwood, 61-60, in the final game of the regular season. Lake's record over the last two and a half years is a combined 44-10 (.815) and 26-6 in the conference, tops in the NBC.
 

And like any successful program, Bowen has helped to build a strong foundation that consistently churns out talented, capable athletes.

"It's been easy for us so far to transition from year to year with the talent we have been blessed with," Bowen said. "Every year we take the kids down south to a summer camp that is very intense and it's a great way for our team to bond. If you're not tough, you will struggle. And our kids have bought into that, and we feel they really look forward to competing in (the camp). The first year, we brought nine kids down, and the number continues to grow: we had 24 kids attend this year.

"And we've had a lot of success with our middle-school teams, placing a team in the championship game for four straight years. So we have some really good coaches working hard for us, understanding what we want accomplished at the younger levels. I have been lucky to have such great coaches to work with since I became head coach."

In addition to having a successful basketball program that is competing in a new facility at Flyer Field House, Lake is currently experiencing a successful run in regard to another major sport. In addition to having one of the state's better baseball programs, the football team, under new coach Mark Emans, turned around its fortunes, going 8-3 and qualifying for the playoffs last fall.