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'Unselfish' Lions off to strong start ahead of rivalry game
Lakeview Academy (15-4, 7-0 8-A) hosts Hebron Christian (14-4, 6-0) at 7:30 tonight
East Hall's Andy Lara chases after Lakeview's Daniel Fadool during a Lanierland game at Johnson High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Lakeview Academy vs. Hebron Christian Academy

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Lakeview Academy, Gainesville

Lakeview Academy’s boys basketball team is off to a great start and there’s room for it to keep getting better.

Todd Cottrell is in his third season as the Lions’ head coach and he has them off to their best 19-game start since the 2011-12 season.

Last season, Cottrell’s Lions made it to the semifinal round of the region tournament and the first round of the state tournament where they played St. Francis.

Cottrell credits last year’s team and playing St. Francis as the jumpstart of Lakeview’s successes this season.

“Our guys made it to the semifinals in the region tournament and got to play in the state tournament against St. Francis,” Cottrell said. “Their approach in the offseason was different. They set some pretty high goals and some of that work is starting to pay off a little bit.”

According to Daniel Fadool, the only senior on the roster, the main goal for the team is winning a region championship.

“We’ve only done that once in school history,” Fadool said. “Winning 20 games was big, too. The last time we did that was the 2011-12 year. We also want to make a run in the playoffs.”

The Lions won region during the 2007-08 season, under legendary coach Seth Vining.

In 2011-12, Lakeview was 23-5 overall and 15-1 in region play.

This season is matching up to be much like that one.

The Lions were 16-3 through the first 19 games four years ago. The current crop of Lions are 15-4.

Lakeview lost its first two games that season. After losing the first game this season, it took them nine more contests to lose a second.

The Lions finished the 2011-12 season 10-2 at home, 9-1 on the road and 4-2 at neutral sites in their 28 games.

This season, Lakeview, through 19 games, is 7-2 at home, 4-1 away and 4-1 in neutral site contests.

The Lions are playing with a bit of an advantage this year over past seasons: experience.

“We’ve got a good number of guys who have experience. We’re not really a young team anymore,” Fadool said. “Most of our juniors have been getting a good bit of minutes since their freshman year.”

Cottrell hopes that experience will “pay dividends as we get to the end of the season and play into the region tournament.”

Also, despite only having one senior on the roster, only one player is listed under 6 feet tall.

“We have multiple options in the post this year,” Fadool said. “Carter Reeves and Josh Randolph have led the way. We start our lineups usually pretty big. I’m probably the shortest.”

Fadool said that size has also helped shooters get open and boost the offense as well.

For Cottrell, it’s something less noticeable to fans.

“The biggest thing is that everybody has sacrificed something for the good of our team,” Cottrell said. “There’s a good chance we’re going to have a different leading scorer every game. They find the guy with the best matchup or the guy with the hot hand. They’re a very unselfish team.”

Cottrell also said Fadool is playing really well right now, which is contributing to the team’s current success.

“He’s cut down on turnovers and increased in assists,” the coach said. “He’s had to change positions this year. He’s had to run the point guard for us and he’s done a remarkable job. He’s playing really well for us on both ends of the floor right now.”

Tonight, The Lions will host Hebron Christian Academy in what is expected to be a highly competitive game.

Hebron Christian is 14-4 and 6-0 in region play.

“It should be a pretty good game,” Cottrell said. “They’re undefeated in the region and it’s a pretty big rivalry, so that makes it fun. They’ve had our number the last couple of years. Hopefully we’ll play well and see what happens.”

Fadool said in order for the Lions to win they’ll need to play “a really good game, really good defense and win the turnover margin.

“We played some tough games against them last year and they have a good team this year,” Fadool said. “It should be a good game.”

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