WINONA LAKE – Building a viable, competitive boys basketball program has been a process for Lakeland Christian Academy and fourth-year head coach Chris Hohm.

Three seasons ago the Cougars endured a 21-game losing streak, which they snapped in the last regular season game.

The win totals increased to four and eight in the last two seasons, respectively, and with this season comes hope for the most successful season at LCA since the 2008-09 campaign, the last time the Cougars reached double-digit victories.

“There’s definitely a sense of excitement, and there’s a little pressure because now we have an expectation to win games. In the past we were just about competing, and if we won, that was awesome,” Hohm said.

“With that comes the possibility of disappointment from not hitting goals. But it’s definitely more exciting to be able to have higher goals than just competing.”

Some of the goals are to win the newly-formed Hoosier Plains Conference, a six-team league in which no school had a winning record last year, and to get the first IHSAA sectional win in program history.

Five seniors lead the Cougars. Josh McDaniel led LCA with 17 points a game last season. Elijah Raymond had five points and five boards per contest, and Jeremy Gross was around four points a game last year.

Noah Twombly returns after leaving about halfway through last season, and Trae Harris rounds out the senior class.

Junior Landon Twombly also returns, having averaged almost 11 points and a team-high five rebounds a contest last season. Classmate Jake Harmon averaged eight points, and Braxton Keller came off the bench to get three points and three rebounds a night.

Hohm admitted to being nervously excited at the prospect of having so much experience this season.

“I’m excited to find out exactly what we’re like after a couple of games,” he said. “We’re putting in some new things this year, and working on what sets will work best with which players. I feel very confident with our top seven, and Trae Harris is working on earning some minutes as an eighth player.

“I feel I can start any five of our top seven on any given night and feel pretty confident in that. What we need is production from all of them, rather than hoping somebody has a big night and no one does anything.”

The goal of winning a sectional game can be somewhat dependent on the draw, Hohm said.

“Our sectional is an interesting sectional, in that we have a couple of teams in Lakewood Park and Fort Wayne Blackhawk that are top 10-15 among 1A schools,” he said. “They are a tough draw no matter when you play them in the sectional.

“But the rest of the teams we feel like we can take a shot and maybe get that first win. We all know it’ll be huge when we get that first sectional win, and for the seniors this year, who won one game as freshmen, that would be especially sweet.”

Hohm said he hopes Lakeland Christian fans will share his enthusiasm for the upcoming season.

“Our fans will see the continued improvement we’ve made and will keep striving toward. It’s exciting to think that this year’s seniors could win more games than they lose,” Hohm said. “The guys are really close, and they pick each other up. They’re very positive with one another. I think when we do our weekly devotionals it helps bring our team together, and that’s something you don’t get at a public school.”

The Cougars open their season Tuesday when they host Caston. LCA’s first Hoosier Plains game will be Jan. 13 when it hosts South Bend Trinity.