“Our goal is to lose to Columbus Northland at the state tournament…”

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Cincinnati LaSalle

Cincinnati LaSalle finished 2009 in somewhat disappointing
fashion after leading its regional final game against Cincinnati Princeton by
five points with just over one minute remaining. The Lancers faltered in the
final 60 seconds falling to the Vikings, 64-60. So, after a 23-3 season and the loss of its two best players, what have the Lancers done? Plenty…







Cincinnati LaSalle finished 2009 in somewhat disappointing
fashion after leading its regional final game against Cincinnati Princeton by
five points with just over one minute remaining. The Lancers faltered in the
final 60 seconds falling to the Vikings, 64-60.

After the 23-3 season and losing top players Jordon Crawford
and Danny McElory, how would LaSalle respond? How about (16-2) and a No. 1 seed
in the Cincinnati D-I sector of the Southwest tournament draw.

“Well, we did have three starters back from our regional
team from a year ago,” LaSalle head coach Dan Fleming mentioned. “We have three
kids who started as sophomores in Brandon Neel, Ryan Fleming and Matt Woeste so
they were a part of a run that had pressure situations and making plays. Those
three have done a good job of showing the younger guys how to work hard and
what it takes to be a good basketball team.”

With Crawford and McElroy scoring a combine 33.3 points per
game which was nearly half of the team’s amount, even Fleming has to be surprised
by the way his team has responded in 2009-2010.

“Last year was a big learning experience for our younger
guys,” Fleming said. “Coming into the season, we needed some guys to step up
for us to be successful. So far kids have stepped and we are pretty decent as a
group. We don’t have any individual stars, but we play pretty well together.”

So, the question arises, is the time now for the Lancers or
with all the underclassmen is this team built for a serious run next year or
both?

“We can only control the present and do what we can this
year,” Fleming said. “You never know what is going to happen next year. Three
of these kids were starters on a team that was one game away from the state
tournament last year, so they knew we weren’t far away from doing something
special. It just showed our kids how hard you have to work to get to that
point.”

Neel, who was the third leading scorer a year ago, is a
6-foot-3 junior averaging a team-leading 14.9 points per game and 4.7 rebounds.
The talented Neel wasn’t a bit surprised by his team’s success thus far.

“No, I wasn’t surprised because we work hard in practice
everyday,” Neel stated. “In the summer we ran and just got ready for the
season.”

Running is something Fleming believes gives his team an
advantage.

“We give teams match up problems because we don’t have a
real big man,” Fleming declared. “We have the ability to get out and run along
with being able to spread a team out making them come out and guard us. We are
able to hide our size with pressure so our lack of size hasn’t hurt us as much
as long as we stick with our strengths.”

Ryan Fleming, the coach’s son, is another weapon along with
Neel. The 6-foot-3 junior is averaging 9.8 points per game along with 5.2
rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Woeste, a 6-foot junior, is scoring 7.2 points per game.

The graduation of Crawford left a hole at the point guard
position – that was until sophomore Josh Lemons transferred in from Roger
Bacon. The 5-foot-9 Lemons is averaging 9.5 points per game.

Other key contributors are junior Michael Schmidt (6’1, 6.1
ppg) and junior Trey Casey (5’10, 5.6 ppg).

Seniors Alex Huesmann (6’2) and Keenan Gibbs (6’4) and
junior Kole Porter (5’11) have all provided quality minutes off the bench.

The Lancers will need much of the same if they are going to
validate their No. 1 seed.

“We thought the draw went pretty well,” Fleming extended.
“We took the play-in game and everyone went around us. We want to get off to a
good start and we know that is good possibility if we can continue to come out
and guard the way we can.”

One thing that is different from year’s past is the fact
most teams were looking to stay in Southwest Ohio for regional play while in
year’s past the top-seed would jump at the opportunity to join the district
bracket that plays its regional at the Columbus Fairgrounds. However, one team
in Central Ohio has changed that theory.

“Our goal is to lose to Columbus Northland at the state
tournament,” Fleming said, being a bit facetious. “If we are fortunate enough
to make it that far we want to play them at state not in the regional.”

Fleming knows making the regional or state tournament is
certainly not a given.

“First off, there is no clear-cut favorite in Southwest
Ohio, so to be honest you have to catch a few breaks along the way and be a
little lucky,” Fleming said.

LaSalle is scheduled to play at Cincinnati Withrow on
February 15 and then at home against Cincinnati St. Xavier on Feb. 19. The
Lancers will be looking avenge an early season loss to the Bombers, 51-47. St.
X is just 10-8 on the year, but seven of those setbacks have come by five
points or less and three by a single point. LaSalle’s other loss was a 49-47
setback to Moeller, which it later avenged.

The Lancers will open up tournament play February 22 against
Talawanda (1-15) at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. The winner will meet
Amelia (1-16). The other games in that sectional include Fairfield (7-9) taking
on Cincinnati Northwest with the winner getting Cincinnati Glen Este (14-3).

Middletown (10-6), Woodward (12-5), Walnut Hills (13-3),
Elder (10-8) and Little Miami are the other teams making up LaSalle’s district.

 

 

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