Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Top-ranked Garland Lakeview has unfinished business
GARLAND - When Garland Lakeview players lose focus or aren't working hard enough in practice, coach Tony Mauldin knows how to straighten things out. "You're not practicing like the No. 1 team in the state!" he shouts.
It's good motivation for a team that, although it might not always practice like the top Class 5A team in the state, has been playing like it. That's recognized in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches rankings, which have Lakeview (19-1, 2-0 in District 10-5A) at the top of 5A.
The rankings are nice recognition, but the motivation doesn't come from defending the top spot. The motivation is being No. 1 at the end of the season, especially after coming tantalizingly close to a title last year. Lakeview lost to Fort Bend Bush, 65-58, in the championship.
"We know we can get back there and win it," senior guard Toddrick Gotcher said.
But there's a lot of work to do before then, most of which comes during intense practices that mirror Lakeview's style of play: full-speed, full-time. Lakeview pressures all over the court, forces turnovers and pushes the pace to wilt opponents.
"We just keep on with our press and get the other teams tired," Gotcher said, "and that's when we perform."
It showed last year, as Lakeview fell behind in several playoff games. Lakeview trailed Temple by 19 in the first half of the regional final and it was down 13 to San Antonio Wagner in the first quarter of a state semifinal. Lakeview rallied to win those games, earning it the reputation as a comeback team.
Now Lakeview, which plays host tonight to Sachse (7-10, 1-1), is simply known as an excellent team. The leaders are Gotcher, a 6-3 shooting guard who signed with Texas Tech, and Chris Jones, a 6-2 point guard who signed with UNT. Gotcher (16.1 points, 6.7 rebounds per game) and Jones (15.4 points, 7.1 assists) are part of a deep rotation that's needed for Lakeview's breakneck pace.
That pace is even faster this year, Jones said. But there's room for improvement.
"We need to work harder on our press," Gotcher said. "We need to deny the ball and get more steals. We need to get at least 15 steals per game."
Fifteen steals per game is one team goal. Another goal for Lakeview, which suffered its only loss to private-school power Arlington Grace Prep, is to take five charges. When Lakeview reaches those numbers, it usually takes care of business.
"Unfinished business" is what a sign says on Lakeview's locker-room door. Finishing that business means ending the season at No. 1, the only time the top spot really matters. For now, the ranking only puts a target on Lakeview's chest.
But that might be good for Lakeview.
"We actually love the target because it makes us work harder," Gotcher said. "Coach gets scared sometimes because of the fame, but we just like to work hard."