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Lakewood looks to reload on the hardwood
LAKEWOOD — In 2010, the Cougars may have enjoyed their most successful boys basketball season — but the immediate future may look even brighter.
Despite graduating 10 seniors from a varsity team that brought the school to just one win away from its first Class 2A state tournament berth, the newest edition of Lakewood basketball looks bigger, stronger and faster.
“We’re definitely athletic,” said coach Matt Hart. “We’re just going to have to get some experience. These guys were successful in JV, but we’re tested real early in our non-conference schedule and they’ll see what it takes.”
What is likely to determine success this season will be how quickly Lakewood adapts to the varsity game as it opens the season on the road versus Bellingham and Burlngton-Edison from the more physical Northwest Conference.
But the Cougars do return a duo that was crucial to its success last season in senior Tre Haslom and junior Dustin Stanton.
Haslom could be the most exciting player in the Cascade Conference, and Hart said he has improved over the summer and is turning into a leader.
“He’s a totally different player than last year,” said Hart. “He’s become a much better shooter and ball-handler — and he’s using that to his advantage by seeing the floor and finding open teammates.”
Stanton figures to be a low-post stable, as the Cougars hope for more consistency shooting the ball, which was one of the problems that led to a 1-6 start to the season. The Cougars did, however, turn around to win six of their final 10 conference game to earn a 9-15 record.
Help will be on the way, as a talented group of JV players move up, starting with point guard Caleb Graves who Hart said has already made his presence known.
“He got the chance to play at districts for us and he’s taken that next step this season already to become our vocal leader,” Hart said. “Which is nice because our two returners are more quiet guys that set the example while Caleb makes sure everybody is doing what they need to.”
Along with Graves, the Cougars will rely heavily on Justin Peterson, who is fresh off a solid football season.
“He’s just a great athlete,” said Hart. “We’ll be asking him to do a lot of different things for us, but we see him as being out stopper out there and basically shutting down the other team’s scorer.”
Around the league, Hart said he sees South Whidbey, Archbishop Murphy and Granite Falls to be near the top, along with Cedarcrest.
“They return four guards that can create problems throughout the league,” he said of the Red Wolves.