Lakeview Academy senior Derek Fadool has a unique perspective to appreciate the success its boys basketball program is experiencing heading into Friday's big game against No. 8 Athens Christian (16-2, 9-0 Region 8-A) Friday in Gainesville.
When Fadool, a guard for the Lions (16-3, 10-0), moved to Hall County from Princeton, N.J. in the fall of 2007, the boys basketball program was about to put together its most recent region championship team under legendary coach Seth Vining, a winner of four high school state titles and 720 career games.
Fadool knew, when his time came, he'd like to be a part of a team with the kind of chemistry that the 2008 seniors at the Gainesville private school enjoyed with the talents of then seniors David Pruitt, Haughton Carswell and Tyler Ward.
Fadool couldn't have known at that time, this year's Lakeview squad would have the pieces in place to potentially set all kinds of new school records, including the chance, still out there, to top the school record for wins in a season (23) from 1994-1995.
"Coach Vining tells us that our team has a chance to be special," Fadool said. "And we know he's going to have us extremely well prepared to go out and finish the season strong.
"It would be great to leave this program on a high note."
Lakeview Academy's certainly put itself on a path to accomplish some good things the remainder of the way.
The Lions have won 10 straight since losing a hard-fought game against North Hall in the first round of the Lanierland Tournament, as well as wins in 16 of its last 17 games.
In fact, Lakeview's other two losses were the very first two of the year: Class A's top-ranked North Cobb Christian (20-0) in the season opener, followed by a loss to Johnson on Nov. 30.
Since then, the Lions have proven very consistent offensively and won each of the last four subregion outings by an average of 32 points per game.
Lakeview's coach knows that the game against Athens Christian, the leader in the South subregion of 8-A, isn't going to make or break its ability to take the No. 1 seed into the region tournament next month, but a win would certainly keep the program on a positive trajectory.
Coach and players alike are all trying to shake the memory of failing to make the state playoffs last season, a first for the boys program at Lakeview since 2003.
"Our team this year has handled the success well," Vining said. "They know how they finish the season is going to be the key."
Vining says his senior class has done as excellent job setting the tone for what they hope turns into the 12th region championship team he's coached in his career.
"All four seniors on our team are extremely dedicated and try to do all the little things right," said Lions senior guard/forward Knox Roberts. "We're always there to pick each other up."
Senior Austin Pearson, who topped 1,000 career points Jan. 20 against Prince Avenue Christian, leads the Lions in scoring with 17 points a game, hits 55-percent of his shots from inside the arc and is 39 percent on 3-point attempts.
Six-foot-8 junior power forward Austin Montgomery is second on the team in scoring with just a shade under 16 per game, but a team-high eight rebounds per night.
Fadool thinks the change to a full-court press defense has also been a huge plus for the Lions this season.
However, all the Lakeview players feel most of the credit for their development goes right back into the work Vining's poured into the program.
They all know he's got their best interest at heart and the credentials to back the fact that he knows the game as well as anyone.
"It's an honor to play for coach Vining," senior guard Matt Askounis said. "I know he's gone out of his way to help me become a better player."
Vining has also framed some of the team goals that Lakeview needs to meet each night on the floor to be successful.
They try to score four points per minute, 80 points per night, 20 offensive and another 20 defensive rebounds each game, six 3-pointers per game, and no more than 10 turnovers, just to name a few.
So far, they've translated those specific goals into a successful first trip through the subregion schedule, with just six more to go in the regular season.
"It feels good to be in the position we're in right now," Pearson said. "But we know there's still room to improve."