Basketball on inside track

Guard+Jordan+Cox+goes+up+for+a+layup++against+Timber+Creek+on+Friday%2C+Dec.+2.+The+team+won+50-47.

photo by Chatham Farrell

Guard Jordan Cox goes up for a layup against Timber Creek on Friday, Dec. 2. The team won 50-47.

Justin Baronoff, Sports Editor

During the off-season, head coach Josh Kohn looked at his returning core and wanted to see scoring more inside the paint, as most of the points last season came from three-pointers and mid-range jump shots.

Now with five returning players, Kohn believes he can bring the team back to the playoffs in his twelfth season.

The team tipped off their 2016-2017 season with a 2-0 record by defeating Timber Creek, 50-47, on Friday, Dec. 2 and district opponent Viera, 87-52, on Thursday, Dec. 8. Forward Will Faulk has led the team with 40 points between both games.

“This season we’ve been more motivated than last season because our defense has improved and we just have more experienced players,” Faulk said.

The five returners include Faulk, center Joe Conley and guards Jordan Cox, Vecarie Pettis and Danny Garrett. Also, the team added senior depth with guards Andrew Hope and David Vabishchevich.

“I’m excited to have five guys back that all started at some point last year,” Kohn said. “I think because they are a veteran group, they know what it takes to win.”

Last season, the team finished 13-11 in the regular season and lost 81-77 to Lake Nona in the Class 7A District 6 quarterfinals. They only had three seniors and defeated both Timber Creek (67-63) and also Viera (58-54), despite it being their first time facing them due to the change from 8A to 7A. With that in mind, Kohn was skeptical going into the game on Thursday, but it did not seem to matter.

“When we played [Viera] for the first time last year, they didn’t have their full team because some of them were still playing for their football team that went deep in the playoffs,” Kohn said. “If you know a team well like Oviedo or Lake Howell, then you know how to prepare for them, but with Viera, they didn’t know much about us and we didn’t know much about them.”

Although the team finished with a winning record last season, the inexperience made it difficult for them come playoff time.

“We were a young team and we all panicked, but now everyone has worked harder to make me think we have the potential to be Lakeland bound again,” Cox said.

With the team now focusing on scoring more in the paint, Kohn hopes it will take effect now.

“It’s been an issue to go inside the post more, but we have at least three or four guys that are probably better playing inside than they are outside,” Kohn said. “The element of going inside more is something we have started to concentrate on and we’ll see how it pans out.”

Before winter break the team has five more games with match-ups against Winter Springs, Celebration, Oviedo, Winter Park and Harmony. In past seasons the team performed better after winter break than before, as the team finished 8-4 last season and then 13-4 in 2015 before losing in the state championship to Wellington. However, Kohn wants that to change.

“In the last eight years, we have won 75-80 percent of our games in January,” Kohn said. “We just have always used this first part to see where we are, but with a veteran group, we should be playing better earlier.”

The team plays their first away game tonight against Winter Springs at 7:30 p.m.

“We are a very built team with a lot of height and size that gives me no doubt that we don’t have the abilities and talent to compete with other teams,” Pettis said.

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