WINONA LAKE – When Chris Hohm took over the head coaching position at Lakeland Christian Academy in 2014, the team won three games the year before and had nowhere to go, but up.

Now in his fourth year with the Cougars, and his first class now seniors, the team has soared to new heights and is aiming for the program’s first sectional victory.

LCA has tallied the most wins in school history this year; topping 10 wins for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

The success can be attributed to practice, patience and positivity.

“It has always been about improvement since I got here,” said Hohm. “When I took over, the wins were few and far between, so we had to just look at improving.”

Players have been able to practice in the gym more and increase their overall basketball IQ. That has allowed the team to feel more comfortable on the court and translated to taking care of the ball better and improving individual skill sets.

The upperclassmen have had to be patient with the team’s success as well.

“Over time, we’ve been able to start to gain experience, and this year we are playing the juniors and seniors that were getting varsity time as freshmen and sophomores,” Hohm said. “Being older, stronger and smarter has helped with the transformation of the win column, but also having a cohesive unit has made a big difference.”

The Cougars will play in the Class 1A Sectional 52 at Hamilton High School. LCA is set to play Fort Wayne Smith Academy in the opening round. The teams are familiar opponents, having played each other each of the last four seasons. The Fighting 54th hold a 3-1 advantage in the series, with the Cougars garnering their first victory this season. LCA won 54-48 on Feb. 3 when the two teams played in Winona Lake.

The Cougars are taking the regular season victory as a confidence booster and know they can win the matchup.

“Since I’ve been here at LCA, we have either lost or did not play our sectional opponent in the regular season,” said Hohm. “It’s nice that that game was fairly recent as well, so we can easily recall the different plays and strategies that we had used the first time and make the necessary adjustments for the second game.”

LCA knows it needs to improve and fix its mistakes from the last time the two teams played. The Cougars allowed Smith’s Justin Booker to score 27 points, more than half of the team’s scoring. Booker is a dynamic scorer and LCA will look to slow him down and prevent him from getting open lanes that will allow him to drive to the basket. Aside from that, the team will have to box out better on defense, as they gave up 17 offensive rebounds.

“We have done a good job of knowing our roles this year, and we need to continue to play within those roles,” Hohm said.

Senior Josh McDaniel, who is averaging 19.1 points per game, leads the Cougars on offense. Juniors Jake Harmon and Landon Twombly are scoring just under 10 points a contest.

Win or lose in the sectional, Hohm wants people to remember how close the team is and how they act like a family and how they succeeded.

“They truly love being around each other on and off of the court,” he said. “We also want people to remember this group for being a talented team, as we’ve been able to accomplish many on the court goals that were set this year.”

LCA hopes to cross winning the program’s first sectional game off the team’s goals list for the year.