HEATH, Ohio -- Though Friday’s matchup seemed like, on paper, a game between two of the LCL’s struggling programs, you wouldn’t have known it by the energy in the gym. Both student sections were loud and jam-packed, injecting noise and fervor into their teams’ play during most of the action and turning a typically ho-hum pairing into one filled with intensity and excitement.
The visiting Lancers of Lakewood took full advantage of the neutralization of home-court advantage brought by their supporters, and rode a wave of momentum in the first quarter led by sharp-shooting junior Austin Bowman to a double digit lead that would barely waver as the game went along. Heath would end up falling at home to Lakewood 56-44 in a game that was relatively high-scoring by LCL standards, reaching 100 combined points.
The game started off neck and neck, with each team trading blows and the game remaining within one possession for most of the quarter. However, about halfway through the first period, Lakewood junior Austin Bowman caught fire, nailing two three-pointers and finally giving his team some separation over the Bulldogs of Heath.
After adding another bucket to push his total to eight and his team’s lead to nine, Bowman received the inbounds pass from a side out of bounds with less than five seconds left in the quarter from around the half-court line. The hot junior, in a true heat check moment, pulled up from the volleyball line and fired away. Bowman would hit the improbable shot, pushing Lakewood’s lead out to 12 at 17-5 as the first quarter buzzer sounded.
However, Bowman at this point was in foul trouble, and the Lancer’s coach decided to not try his luck on getting the streaking scorer chances in the second quarter to add to his total. The junior sat out the second quarter entirely, leaving his Lakewood teammates the responsibility to maintain the lead, which they did, as Heath couldn’t find an answer offensively and stayed down 26-17 at half.
The third quarter brought back bad memories for the Bulldogs, as Bowman started the second half with another quick five points, including a three-pointer, and the Lancers lead extended to seemingly insurmountable margins past double-digits. However, Heath, led by junior Nate Langley, clawed back to make it a seven point game at 36-31 going into the fourth.
Langley did his best to keep his Heath team in it during the fourth, pouring in buckets with an array of inside and outside moves and, at one point, cut the lead to five. The fourth quarter also saw the climax of the battle between Bulldog freshman big man Brandon McLaughlin and Lancer senior Zaven Boland, who both had big nights and closed out the game strong in an exciting fourth quarter. However, Lakewood’s lead ended up being too much, and after a masterful display of late-game free throw shooting by Lancer leaders Bowman, Boland, and senior Jacob Coffey, the road team ended up pulling out a decisive 56-44 win over Heath.
Until Langley’s second half splurge, the Bulldogs of Heath had major trouble finding any sort of answer on the offensive end, an issue only made worse by the loss of freshman starter Keylan Williams, who was out with an injury. Heath was led by Langley’s 18 points and eight rebounds, followed by McLaughlin’s 10 point, seven board performance. The only other Bulldog who scored more than a single bucket was junior Austin Morrow, who had six points to go along with two boards and three assists.
Heath falls to 6-9 on the year.
Bowman started and ended the game on a hot streak, leading to a career high. The junior had 22 points to go along with three boards. The senior Boland had a nice night in the paint, gaining a double-double with 10 points and rebounds each, as well as three assist and four blocks. Senior Jacob Coffey had 10 points, junior Connor Vierstra added six to go with five boards, and senior Rickey Brink had six points on two made threes.
The Lancers climb to 4-9 on the year with the big road win.
Austin Bowman (5’10 PG/ Lakewood / 2020): In about two and a half quarters of playing time, the junior absolutely poured it in from beyond the arc and showed a confidence that ended up leading his team to a big road win on Friday. Bowman is a pass first guard and is asked to set up his team’s offense and handle the ball in a distributing role most of the game, but his smooth stroke and efficiency shooting both from deep and on the free-throw line is a great weapon for his Lancer team that lacks consistency. The guard shows major effort and composure whenever he is on the court, and, after having a career night that included four big made shots from deep, will look to lead his Lancer squad not only as an emotional leader and a passer, but as a scorer too.
Nate Langley ( 6’4 WF / Heath / 2020): Langley is an incredibly intriguing player, possessing the body of a prototypical LCL power-forward while also having the ability to pour it in from deep and mix it up on drives with a great vertical leaping ability. The junior took to most of his opportunity as a shot-taker with the aforementioned Williams being out and with the rest of his squad looking for an offensive answer on Friday, as he was all over the court on both ends making plays and taking chances in order for his team to climb back into the game. Look for Langley to build on this breakout performance and use his diverse and unique skill set as a shooter and leaper to take his game to the next level.
Zaven Boland (6’3 PF / Lakewood / 2019): Boland turned in a very active game on the glass and showed a nice touch around the rim on his way to a double-double. The senior brings major energy on the inside, scrapping for loose balls and rebounds, and also had four monster blocks in key moments for the Lancers that stopped Heath possessions in their tracks. The big man uses his body well to position himself and has a built frame that allows him to move at will in the middle. Boland, a consistent force on this Lakewood team for the last three years and a college football prospect, will look to continue his solid senior season and be a leader for his Lancer squad in need of a turn-around.
Brandon McLaughlin (6’6 C / Heath / 2022): While not as dominant of a showing as I say him last against Marysville, the freshman phenom still turned in a solid game and showed exactly why he is considered one of the premier big men prospects in the class of 2022. McLaughlin has incredible confidence and skill on the offensive end for someone his age, and can even bring his shot out to 15-feet for a jumper, a scary sight for opponents going forward. The legit six-foot-six freshman has a frame to grow into and the athleticism to be a dominant force in the LCL for years to come.