Lakeview shooters share in easy win

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Jeff Remmick, right, of Lakeview works for position against Caleb Miller of Southeast Tuesday night in the Bulldogs’ win.

CORTLAND — Daniel Evans had an open look at a 3-pointer, and he nearly took it, but something stopped him.

The shot made sense, considering Evans is one of Lakeview’s best 3-point shooters, but the junior guard held back. He saw teammate Carter Huff cutting to the hoop for an open lay-up and made the pass for an easy two points during the Bulldogs’ 74-37 rout of Southeast in a Division II sectional first-round matchup.

The play from Evans to Huff was one Lakeview coach Ryan Fitch has seen a lot of lately. The Bulldogs (17-6) have now won six of their last seven games, and they’ve done it thanks to an array of shooters who, believe it or not, have a pass-first mentality.

“They share the ball, and they really don’t care who scores,” said Fitch, who added that the mindset first started in the offseason. “As long as we win, it really doesn’t matter to them who scores. I started seeing that develop over the summer and just hoped it would carry over into the regular season.”

It did, and now it’s surfacing in the postseason.

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Carter Huff (13) of Lakeview drives around Jordan Scott of Southeast Tuesday night.

A deep team with several scorers, Lakeview thrives at the 3-point line, and then finds its passing lanes. The Bulldogs have three players with at least 50 3s on the season (Evans, T.J. Lynch and A.J. McClellan). Those three also have 50 or more assists this year. They had a lot of both Tuesday.

The Bulldogs made nine from long range in a dominating first half against the Pirates (3-20) and finished 11 of 20 from the 3-point line. They also dished out 18 assists. But they’re more than just passers and shooters.

Players like Huff, who scored a team-high 16 points, along with Jeff Remmick, Drew Munno and numerous bench players add various dimensions to a team that can score from all over.

“During the offseason this past summer, we played at a lot of camps and a lot of tournaments,” Evans said. “And not a lot of us play other sports, so it was just basketball, primarily, for us, so we were hanging out a lot and playing a lot, and you learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s how you really bond as a team.”

The chemistry helped land the Bulldogs a No. 4 seed in the Division II Boardman district, and it’s given Fitch the ability to talk to his players on a different level when things aren’t working.

That was the case early in the season, when after a blowout loss to Canfield, the third-year coach let his team know that their effort and approach to the game wasn’t acceptable. There wasn’t revolt in the locker room after that, Evans said. The team understood their coach had a point, and they changed their ways from that point on.

“That was kind of like our turning point,” Evans said. “We realized that when you come out flat like that, we’re going to play at our worst, so we’ve focused on coming out as strong as we can the first quarter and putting them away early.”

That was certainly the case against Southeast.

The Bulldogs led 51-14 at halftime and played most of the second half with a running clock (Evans scored 13, and Munno had 12). The competition is going to take a step up Friday when Lakeview welcomes fifth-seeded Hubbard to Cortland. The two All-American Conference, White Tier foes split two games during the regular season, and the Eagles bring a similar outside-shooting mentality into the game.

Fitch said he and the Bulldogs haven’t talked about any game beyond the next one. They haven’t set many long-term goals since he took over in 2015. They’ve been focused on building the program to a point where it can compete on a nightly basis, and they’re at that point. If a postseason run is next in line, great. If not, Fitch and Lakeview are still enjoying the ride.

“They really share the ball, and I think that they really care about each other as people, too,” he said. “You see it at practice, you see it in games, you see it at school in the hallways when I’m here a little bit early and I see them. They just bond well together, and there’s no animosity of who had a great game and who didn’t. I attribute a lot of that to our success.”