As Lafayette Christian prepares for its third consecutive trip to the Top 28 Thursday, Knights coach Byron Starks said he likes that he is coming off a tough test.
Last Friday’s quarterfinals matchup with Hamilton Christian was a challenge until the final two minutes. Knights starters were in the game until the end, and Starks said that is going to help them as they take on Arcadia in the semifinals Thursday.
“It has been a good while since our guys played some extended minutes,” Starks said. “We play at a fast pace. The kids love it. It’s been good for us, but we still need to do a better job of taking good shots and getting it in the hands of the players that can make the shots.”
The Knights won their district games by an average of 54 points. They won their playoff games by an average of 42. Starks admitted the lack of competition late in the season is a concern heading into the Top 28.
“The competition in the second half of the season wasn’t what it was like in the first half,” Starks said. “It’s a concern, but we can’t rest on any of that. Our practices have been intense. We’re on a mission. We want to win state.”
The Knights have no shortage of players who can make shots. Between Jacob and Kalob Ledoux, Greg Williams and Galen Alexander, any one of them can take over a game. Kalob Ledoux showed his ability to take over when he scored 36 points against Hamilton Christian.
Still, Starks said he realized some weaknesses against Hamilton Christian that could cause the Knights fits against Arcadia. Despite being a much smaller team, Hamilton outrebounded, LCA, something Starks said must be corrected.
“Their tallest guy was 6-4,” Starks said. “We were outrebounded by a smaller team in Hamilton Christian. We have to fight harder in the paint to get to the boards.”
Starks also pointed to his team’s impatience in the early stages, which allowed Hamilton Christian to force bad passes and turnovers. LCA became impatient shooting, and Starks said he knows they’ll need to be smarter.
“Some of those shots generally will go down,” Starks said. “We took a couple ill-advised shots, and we need to be a little more patient.”
In 2014 the Knights reached the semifinals and in 2015 they reached the final. The state championship has eluded them, but Starks said he likes that he’s going in this year after a tough challenge.
“You always want to go in challenged,” he said. “Those other teams have been battled in their district. We needed this test, and I was glad we withstood the punches and overcame.
“I think it was great conditioning for us and good for our mindset that this is going to be a battle (against Arcadia). “Everyone is playing for their basketball lives; it is the playoffs. We have to play our principles.”