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A perfect 10: Lake Central continues unbeaten start in Sexson's first year as coach

La PORTE -- Knees bent, feet sliding from side to side, hands up, moving up and down, talking.

That not only describes a good defensive stance, it paints am image of how Lake Central coach Ryan Sexson works the sideline during a game.

"Thee biggest thing is just playing really hard for 32 minutes, playing with passion, playing with energy, playing with enthusiasm, having a real mindset that we're going to guard you," Sexson said after the Indians moved to 10-0 with a 65-35 dismantling of La Porte in the Duneland Conference opener Friday. "It starts with defense. When everybody's playing hard defensively, giving it everything they've got, it's amazing how it makes you more unselfish offensively. I think that's the biggest change for the program."

Sexson took over for Dave Milausnic, a near two-decade fixture at the school who won 253 games, and has LC off to its best start in over 30 years with a team that graduated its leading scorer (Brandon Escobedo) among five seniors who accounted for over 60 percent of the team's scoring, while returning 6-6 Jeff Smith (10.7 ppg) and guard Xavier Williams (8.2).

"Coach Sexson preaches energy at every practice," junior Zach Greene said. "A few practices ago, he's like, that's not the Zach Greene we know and love. I think the transition was different. The first couple weeks, there was definitely an adjustment, but we all bought in the first couple weeks."

While La Porte was successful in bottling up Smith offensively, the trio of junior Zach Greene (17), Williams

Ryan Sexson

(14) and Dorien Beatty (13, five steals, four assists) carved up the Slicers in transition and from the perimeter in an electric 46-point second half that jolted a 19-12 game out of its malaise.

"He got a little fiery, talking at halftime, got us going," Williams said of Sexson, the former coach at Calumet College of St. Joseph. "Everything he says works. When we listen to him, we play well. The biggest thing was the defensive side of the ball, our intensity while we're playing. A lot of times, we get complacent and he'll get into us. We make our money on the defensive side of the ball, especially since we're kind of an undersized team."

A 12-point halftime, in most cases, would seem like a pretty good defensive effort, but not with this Indians group.

"We came out sleep walking, not how we usually play, how we're supposed to play," Greene said. "We cleaned it up at halftime. The second half is what the LC culture is from now on."

A Smith and-one and consecutive Greene breakouts off steals by Beatty quickly pumped the lead from seven to 14 out of the half and LC was just warming up.

"I didn't like the way we started," Sexson said. "I think we kind of slept walked through the first half, especially defensively. I know we only gave up 12, but we looked a step slow. Offensively, we weren't real sharp. We got ourselves together at halftime. That looked more like Lake Central basketball in the second half. If you're putting effort in that other end, it's amazing how the shots start going in and the balls start bouncing your way."

Williams, a future Iowa running back, Greene, and Beatty (twice) banged 3s to double the score at 40-20.

"We're really capable of shooting the ball," Sexson said. "Zach can make shots. Jake can shoot from beyond the arc. The second half, we went to Jake early, they brought that double from the corner, we raised, got 'em on the '45' (wing) and that's where we got a bunch of shots. We're always going to start with the paint. That's the way we've got to play. If you're going to go one on one with Jake, good luck. If you're going to double, we're going to spray it out to guys who can make shots, then you add in getting some buckets off our defense."

In scramble mode, La Porte went to its trap and LC dissected that for several layups to move its lead to as many as 31.

"We work on it every day," Sexson said of the Slicers' 1-3-1. "The JV gives us a really good look. If you play us man to man, I like our chances. If they go zone, you can see it, we went to a quick hitter and got a layup and they got out of it."

The Slicers, who came in averaging nearly 59 points per game, only scored less once this season (31), that against No. 1 Fishers.

"They run a lot of half court motion, so you really have to jump to the ball," Sexson said. "We were going to help off a couple guys. We weren't really guarding them. If we did get clipped, we had somebody at the rim at all times. With that security of Jake back there, we could really get up there and pressure them on the perimeter. I don't think you ever expect to be 10-0. Once Xavier got his basketball legs and became the threat that he is, he gave us a lot more depth. He's a really good on-ball defender, too. When we play hard defensively, we're a tough out because offensively, we share it, we move it, we're pretty unselfish."

La Porte committed more turnovers (16) than it made shots (15).

"I don't even think we played our best game," Williams said. "If we put a full 32 minutes together, we could be a special team."

For LP, the only upside -- and it's a stretch -- was it didn't have to make the long bus ride home from St. John, like last year, when the Indians won 67-46.

"We knew they were capable of doing it," Slicers coach Jordan Heckard said. "They did it to West Side. It's why they're 10-0. They shot it well. They scored at a high clip in the second half. They are dialed in. They do what they do really well. They stick to their game plan. They're just tough, physically strong. It's hard enough digging out of a seven-point hole against those guys, let alone a 25 or 30. It feels insurmountable."

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