Lakewood basketball has wealth of experience

Senior guard Jacob Von Pein directs his teammates in a quick-hit offensive drill.   - Travis Sherer
Senior guard Jacob Von Pein directs his teammates in a quick-hit offensive drill.
— image credit: Travis Sherer

LAKEWOOD — When looking at the prospect of this season, Lakewood coach Matt Hart has a hard time holding back his smile.

“I have been looking forward to this since the beginning of summer,” he said. “If you’ll notice, we’re the only team without a banner in there.”

And if any year is theirs to compete for a league or conference championship, this would be it as the Cougars return eight players from last year’s effort, and have 10 seniors scratched into the roster that remember what finishing 3-17 felt like.

“The guys are excited and we’ve got a great opportunity in the front of us,” Hart said. “We’re loaded with experience.”

This seasoned group is headlined by Cameron Fry (2nd Team) and Nathan Hesselman (Honorable Mention), who both received all-Cascade Conference honors last season.

Hart is hoping that Fry, the team’s leading scorer at guard, will have more opportunities to spread the wealth in a much more up-tempo offense than Lakewood is used to playing in the past.

“We’re going to get out and run,” said Hart, who is emphasizing quick shots and transition offense even on the first day of team practice. “We had some trouble scoring last year and I don’t think that will be the case. We’re real athletic and focusing on going straight to the hoop.”

Other returners for the Cougars are forwards Michael Leach, Joseph Hawkins and Beau Wiersma, along with guard Jacob Von Pein. And Lakewood will need the experience to face a trio of teams that Hart said could top the league, including Class 1A state runner-up King’s.

“King’s always reloads,” he said. “They lost a couple but they’ll be right up there.”

Hart also mentioned Archbishop Murphy, Sultan and South Whidbey as being in a good position this year.

In this high-scoring league, Hart said he will have to focus on defensive awareness to not let the game get out of hand while trying to get as many quality shots as quickly as possible.

“We play a defense that keeps other people out of certain places and forces them to take difficult shots in difficult spots on the floor,” he said, noting that it wasn’t a style that is predicated on length of the possession.

Also helping the Cougars this year will be junior transfer Trey Haslen, who looks to be a spark plug and a major addition to Hart’s rotation.

“He’ll give us a boost, that’s for sure. Everybody is really excited to see what he can do,” Hart said.

Lakewood opens the season with an exhibition at Lynden Christian Dec. 1.

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