Lutheran gets accustomed to winning

February 07, 1994|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,Contributing Writer

"When you're on top," winning coaches say, "everyone wants to bring you down."

This is a concept Baltimore Lutheran's boys basketball team has not had to worry about for at least the last decade.

The Saints, who compete in the Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference -- haven't had a winning season since 1983 and their gymnasium is devoid of any MSA championship banners.

With Lutheran (10-5, 7-2) scheduled to play only three more regular- season games, the winning season is inevitable, but whether or not they have the wherewithal to secure their first MSA title should be determined within the next 48 hours.

"For a change, teams are no longer taking us for granted," said Lutheran coach Tom Lentsch, whose team will have to win today at Mount Carmel and tomorrow at Greater Grace to maintain its footing atop the C Conference standings.

"When teams used to play us, they would say, 'Oh, it's only Baltimore Lutheran,' but now they're gearing up to beat us. Now we're the team to beat in the league."

The Saints lost a key element in its defensive scheme and its leading scorer when Damian Valentine, who had met Lutheran graduation requirements, enrolled at Towson State University at the end of last semester. With his departure went his 14.7 points a game, as well as 5.4 rebounds and five steals per contest.

The Saints lost their first league game last Tuesday to Bowling Brook, 68-56, before dropping its second, a 52-51 decision to Park, on Thursday.

Lentsch offered no excuses for the Saints' two recent losses and is confident his team can bounce back.

"They played real well and we played real bad," he said.

The Saints welcomed the return of 6-foot-4 senior Mike Freund, who suffered a broken hand in December.

In Freund's absence, Saints 6-foot senior point guard Joel Davis picked up the pace and is averaging 14.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists a game.

"We've been talking all season about how we have to do everything possible to try and bring home a championship for the school and for the fans," said Davis, a three-year starter for the Saints.

"When we went 4-16 last year, a lot of our friends would make fun of us about it and we want to prove to them that we are a good basketball team and we want to make them proud."

Curtis Miller and Matt Langley have done what they can to make their supporters proud. Miller, a 5-11 senior forward, is averaging 12.7 points a game, 6.5 rebounds and is shooting 74 percent at the foul line. Langley, a 6-3 senior forward, is averaging 10.7 points and 5.6 rebounds a game and is the Saints' top three-point shooter at 47 percent.

For Lutheran to succeed, sophomore guards Jason Hughes and Alex Bickel must continue to improve and provide more scoring. Until they do, Lentsch has asked his seniors to "take more charge and to step up."

"We've surprised a lot of teams this year, but that's only because we had such a terrible season last year," Lentsch said. "The chemistry is a whole lot better this year.

"The biggest difference this year is that the seniors have really made a decision to win. They want to be able to look back on this season and say, 'We were the ones who finally did it.' "

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