Updated Tue, Jan 31, 2012 5:41 pm
Basketball, maybe more so than any other sport, is about peaking at the right time. A team can play lights out basketball early in the season, but if they fade late, you can essentially put a fork in any chances of them winning a championship. Conversely, if a team struggles at the start of the year, but hits their stride late, they tend to have a huge wave of momentum heading into postseason play.
The Federal Hocking Lancers seem to be experiencing that second scenario right about now. They’ve won their last two contests, and three of their last five. During that five game stretch, the Lancers have averaged 57.5 points per game, while only surrendering an average of 48.4 to their competition. The team seems to have finally figured out how to handle a 2-3 zone look, and have been able to capitalize on open jumpers and knock down shots with more consistency. Oh, and they’re also flying up the standings of the TVC-Hocking, sitting in third place as of now at 7-6 overall and 6-4 in conference play. Seems convincing, right? By all accounts, this appears to be a team that has figured out how to play as a unit, and found a system for winning ball games. They look like they could be a serious threat when the postseason starts.
Well, Fed Hock fans, I can’t buy it just yet.
Now, as you pick your jaw up off the floor, you’re probably wondering to yourself, “Ian, how can you not be convinced that Fed Hock is clicking on all cylinders at the right time?”
It’s simple. I told you they’ve picked up wins in their last two and three of their last five. What I didn’t tell you is who those teams were that they beat. The Lancers last two victories were against Miller and Eastern, whose combined record sits at 7-17 overall and 4-15 in conference play. The third win in their last five was against 7-8 (6-5) Wahama.
The two losses? The first came on the road a 7-5 (6-4) Waterford, the team who just happens to sit in fourth in the Hocking. The second loss was in their very next contest, as the Lancers dropped a 72-56 decision to fifth place South Gallia.
There was a game scheduled with conference leader Belpre in that stretch, but it was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Still not seeing why I can’t hop on the Lancer bandwagon? Try this fact on for size, of Federal Hocking’s six remaining opponents (Wahama, Southern, Morgan, Waterford, South Gallia, and Trimble), the Lancers have already played 5 of those teams. Their combined record against those squads? 2-3. Much like the defensive formation that gave the Lancers fits in the early part of the season, Fed Hock has only been able to muster 2 wins in 5 attempts, as they topped sixth place Wahama on January 6, and beat last place Trimble back on December 20.
So, what can the Lancers do to convince me to believe in them? It’s simple really: beat Southern. If Fed Hock is able to topple the Tornadoes on February 3, they will convince me that they can compete with the big dogs in the TVC-Hocking. If they beat Southern, it will show me once and for all that they have earned that number three standing in conference.
And most importantly, if they take down Southern, they will be riding the biggest wave of momentum imaginable through the four games to follow and straight into the postseason, where hot streaks are crucial.
I will concede, that I have been impressed with how well Fed Hock has been shooting, and how they have tightened up their defense. There is no denying that this team is far improved from the squad that we saw last year, which can be attributed, in part, to the arrival of new head coach Howie Caldwell. If Caldwell can keep his team focused and determined to win games, then it is entirely possible that the Lancers can get even better than they are right now. The Lancers may not have even peaked yet.
And, as we all know, in basketball when you win is more important than who you beat.