It was likely to happen at some point.
The state’s No. 4 ranked Lake’s boys basketball team had never pieced together an unbeaten regular season in the school’s history, so the odds of the Flyers beating Eastwood and Rossford and every other team on their remaining schedule were stacked against them.
It came true Thursday night as Eastwood took down the visiting Flyers, 71-63, behind a 23-point performance from senior guard Jacob Schmeltz. Lake coach Ryan Bowen thought it could happen.
Junior point guard Connor Bowen and his teammates, however, don’t look at it like that. They’ve been programmed, so to speak, by Connor’s father, Ryan, to focus on the present.
|Lake guard Connor Bowen scores in the Flyers' first game
against Eastwood, a 52-49 nail-biting Flyer victory. (Press
photo by Heather Rettig)
“Our goal all the time is to go 1-0,” Connor said. “We take every game like it’s a step-by-step process. If we win that game, we move on and prepare for the team we’re playing next. We just focus one game at a time.”
At the same time, Connor said the Flyers (13-1, 7-1 Northern Buckeye Conference) realized that the longer they maintained an unblemished record, the bigger the bull’s eye became. In the Division II Associated Press rankings, they were alongside state powerhouses Dayton Dunbar and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
“You feel like everybody wants to beat us,” Connor said. “If they beat us, it makes their season and we don’t want that to happen. I’m not really that surprised. We put a lot of work in in the offseason. You get results when you put the work in, and we have a lot of team bonding going on.”
The previous school record for consecutive wins to start a season was 12-0, set by the 1998-99 squad, so they got past that. Ryan Bowen, in his fourth season, led Lake to the NBC title two years ago but this team may be even better because of the chemistry between the team’s core players – Connor Bowen, juniors Jared Rettig and Todd Walters and senior Cody Witt.
“These guys have unreal chemistry,” coach Bowen said. “I’ve coached four of them ever since they were little, with an aggressive style. They trust me and I trust them. That continuity helps.”
Bowen has coached Connor, Rettig and Witt ever since they were little guys, beginning with YMCA ball. Witt joined the group in the fifth grade.
“I’ve had a pretty good connection with all of them,” Ryan said.
Having your father double as your head coach has its ups and downs. Connor and Ryan both admit to that, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s been like a rollercoaster,” Connor said. “All the time in practice, it’s always my fault and I can’t ever do anything right. That’s OK. Every time I do something wrong, he doesn’t keep it quiet. He makes sure I get the point. I never win any arguments. It is the way it is. It just makes me tougher as a person and I just have to get through it.”
Ryan said he is “hands down” harder on Connor than he is on anyone else on the team.
“He knows that and does a very good job accepting that,” Ryan said. “I’ve been his coach a long time, and the No. 1 thing I can’t do is take it home with me. As hard as I am with him on the court, it stays there. When we get home, it’s time to turn into a dad and enjoy our time together. (Parents) don’t get to see their teenagers very much. How many fathers get to spend a quality two hours every night with their son or daughter? That’s been a blessing for me.”
Connor, 17, said he and his father talk hoops all the time at home. When they’re not analyzing film, they’re checking out NBA and college games.
“When we get home, he talks about all the good stuff I did,” Connor said. “He doesn’t take anything that happens in the game home. When we get home, it’s always good from there.”
Ryan added, “I don’t take it home because I don’t want my wife (Robin) taking it out on me when I get home.”
Connor leads the Flyers in scoring (19.8 ppg), assists (8.9) and steals (3.8) and is tied for second in rebounding (5.5). He is shooting 35 percent from 3-point range, 54 percent from two-point range and 79 percent from the line.
Connor scored a career-high 35 points against Bryan and broke his own school single-game record this season by dishing out 16 assists (along with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven steals) against Seneca East.
Ryan said he’s a little surprised at how good Connor has turned out on the basketball court.
“Growing up, he’s played baseball, basketball and football,” Ryan said. “Baseball has been his No. 1 focus. He really picked up basketball in fourth or fifth grade and it kind of came easy for him. We have a court in our backyard and he fell in love with the game and just enjoys doing it. A lot of kids, you might have to ask them to go play, but he’s always got a basketball in his hands. He’s an old-school point guard who is great at running our team.”
Connor said he looks forward to one day coaching his own children.
“My relationship with my dad,” he said, “is what I want to have with my kids when I get older.”
Ryan said coaching Connor has been fun, but he also knows the family’s dynamic probably won’t end when Connor graduates next year.
“Connor and I have had some ups and downs, but it’s been a joy,” Ryan said. “I have a younger son, Jase, a seventh-grader who is a point guard for his team, so I get to do it all over again.”