By Phil Keren
Southeast played tenacious defense, but struggled to score on a consistent basis in a 52-37 road loss to Lake Center Christian on Friday night.
Lake Center Christian came into the game averaging 75 points per game, but were held to 52 thanks to a strong defensive performance from the Pirates.
“I thought our defense was good,” said Southeast head coach Matt Dillon. “…We’re real proud of our kids. We have to find a way to make shots. Both teams played really good defense. They shoot the ball better. We don’t make enough shots. That’s what it comes down to.”
On the other side of the scorer’s table, Lake Center Christian head coach Greg Bryte praised Southeast’s defensive effort.
“They’re a really scrappy team,” said Bryte.
Due to a strong defensive effort from both teams, the first quarter ended tied at 8. Southeast junior Zach Keto knocked in a short jumper in the lane to give his team an 8-6 lead with just over a minute left in the first period. It would end up being the Pirates’ only lead of the contest. About 30 seconds later, Lake Center Christian freshman Brody Zook made a runner to knot the game at 8.
“It was almost like both teams were trying to feel each other out,” Bryte said when commenting on the first quarter. “We hadn’t played in over a week … we were kind of rusty.”
The game remained tight for most of the second quarter. Southeast senior Garrett Sprutte swished a 3-pointer to tie the game at 14 with about three minutes left in the second period. Lake Center Christian then closed out the first half on a 6-0 run courtesy of a pair of layups from senior Tanner Norman, and a lay-in by senior Matt Warder. The Tigers went to the locker room with a 20-14 advantage.
Lake Center Christian extended its lead to 14, 38-24, by the end of the third quarter. The Tigers never went on a huge run, but steadily scored throughout the period as five different players made baskets. That impressive display of scoring balance was noticed by Dillon.
“Lake Center is a team that we would like to try to become,” Dillon said. “They’ve got five kids on the floor at all times that can score. They’ve got five kids on the floor that can handle the basketball. That makes them difficult to defend.”
Lake Center Christian opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run to push their lead to 46-26, their largest of the game. Southeast responded when Sprutte notched a three-point play and followed that up with a trey from beyond the arc. The Tigers ended Southeast’s 6-0 run when junior Xander Stokes drove to the hoop and made a layup.
“In the second half, we extended that lead a little bit, but we could never really get it out to a comfortable, comfortable lead,” Bryte said. “I hand it to Southeast. They continued to play hard, rebound the basketball and do good things. They gave us trouble.”
While he was pleased with his team’s defensive effort, Dillon said his “young” squad needs to improve its shooting.
“We get plenty of good shots,” Dillon said. “We just don’t make enough. That’s where we have to get better.”
Sprutte led Southeast with 20 points, while junior Zach Keto added 5.
Meanwhile, Bryte said he was proud of the way his team played against a team that he knew would give a solid effort.
“We were strong with the basketball,” Bryte said. “We scored when we needed to, we did some nice things. Matt Warder played a nice floor game. Xander Stokes was on Garrett (Sprutte) most of the night and did a nice job.”
Warder scored 19 points for Lake Center Christian, while Norman tallied 13. A total of eight players made it into the scoring column for the Tigers.