Senior Nate Reimink of LCA moves along the baseline during Saturday morning's sectional game with Lakewood Park Christian. Photos by Gary Nieter
Senior Nate Reimink of LCA moves along the baseline during Saturday morning's sectional game with Lakewood Park Christian. Photos by Gary Nieter
HAMILTON – Perhaps the most successful basketball seasons in Lakeland Christian history reached its conclusion Saturday night as the Cougars fell 63-49 to Bethany Christian in their 1A sectional championship game at Hamilton High School.

The Cougars fought valiantly but it was the superior three-point shooting of the Bruins (eight makes to four) along with a 23-11 run spanning the entire third quarter that carried the home team on the scoreboard to victory.

“Credit to Bethany, they played a heck of a game,” Lakeland Christian head coach Taylor Long said. “Our group had a ton of pieces this season and when they came together we were more than competitive. I don’t think a betting man would pick us to win 19 games this year and be co-conference champs, but we did that. These guys were willing to buy in and it turned into one really successful year.”

Both teams began the game with long possessions meant to grind away at the opposing defense, which had already played one game that morning due to Friday’s weather. LCA star Seth Martin wasted no time getting his name into the stat sheet, scoring all eight of the Cougars’ first quarter points. As the first quarter wore on and both sides began to show more signs of comfort, possessions began to speed up. This worked nicely for the Bruins, who were able to jump out to a seven-point lead after eight minutes.

Lakeland Christian would erase the deficit rather easily in the opening minutes of the second period. A couple of three pointers by Alex Cook and Micah Martin followed by a Seth Martin layup highlighted a 9-0 run that saw the Cougars take their only lead of the game. Bethany Christian, which had an answer for everything LCA threw at it Saturday night, had little trouble getting back in front with a couple of threes of their own. After the Bruins regained control of the contest, the game began to slow down once again, with both teams making unforced errors such as risky passes or more than a few traveling violations. At halftime, Bethany Christian held on to a six-point advantage.

Bethany would spend a majority of the third quarter extending their lead. After shooting relatively well in the first half, the Bruin offense exploded in the second, unleashing a three-point barrage that LCA was unable to keep up with. With the threes continuing to fall, as well as anything and everything else Bethany Christian put up, the LCA deficit reached 18 before a timeout halfway through the quarter.

Outside of some outside shooting from his teammates in the second quarter, Martin continued to be the focal point of the Cougar offense. Oftentimes being doubled and sometimes even triple teamed, Martin continued to battle on his drives to the basket. Despite the tough defense determined to stop him, Martin was still able to get whatever he wanted on a plethora of possessions, finishing his night with a game-high 30 points.

“He’s been an incredible leader for this team, had an incredible year in every statistical category,” Long said. “I’m so proud of the season he’s had and all of the work he put in. Everyone that watched him play this season could see how much it paid off. It’s a little disappointing tonight because I know how badly he wanted that sectional championship, but tonight doesn’t take anything away from the incredible year he’s had.

Trailing by almost 20 points heading into the fourth, the Cougars refused to give up. LCA employed a full-court press for a majority of the eight remaining minutes, which led to some successes. Lakeland Christian was able to force a couple of turnovers in the backcourt and convert the chances into easy buckets to begin shrinking the lead. Bethany Christian would give them some help on the other end with some missed free throws, but not enough for LCA’s comeback to become a serious threat.

“This was a resilient group that didn’t want to see its season end tonight,” Long said. “They battled until the very end which truly has been a theme for this group all season long.

Still down by double figures with under a minute to go, the entire Cougar starting five, which featured four seniors, were substituted out of the game to a standing ovation from the LCA faithful.

The Cougars defeated Lakewood Park Christian 50-34 earlier Saturday in the sectional semifinal game. Cook led the team in scoring in the morning contest, putting in 20 points. Martin added 14.

According to, Lakeland Christian’s 19 wins this season were the most in school history. Notable returners for next season are sophomores Micah Martin and Josiah Rice.

“The future holds a lot of workouts and skill development,” Long said with a smile on his face. “We’ve got some young guys coming up that I’m really excited about, excited to develop and see what we can become.”