This is uncharted territory for Phil Argento and the Lutheran West Longhorns. In the last four years, Lutheran West hasn`t lost a game before Christmas.
But with Tuesday`s 75-65 defeat to Wickliffe, the Longhorns already have their first setback of the young season.
"This is not something we`re used to around here," said Argento, who is in his sixth season as Lutheran West coach.
Losing is not something the Longhorns are accustomed to at all, regardless of the time of year. Lutheran West compiled a 59-1 record during the past three regular seasons. This year looks just as promising, but it hasn`t unfolded that way - yet.
The Longhorns have appeared sluggish at times, the hunger on defense fading in and out, according to Argento. Some of that could be attributed to the difficulty of playing a Tuesday night road trip on the east side of Cleveland.
"You still have to find a way to play past that," Argento said. "Usually, you get over that flatness through defensive effort. You get some momentum through that and it carries over to your offense. But if you`re only showing up on offense and three guys are asleep on defense, you`re not going to have a lot of success."
But while the Longhorns are struggling to iron out their early season kinks, so too is just about every team in the PAC. Wellington (1-2) and Keystone (1-1), two of the favorites in the Stars Division, have yet to hold an opponent under 56 points, while Buckeye (1-1) and Brookside (0-2) have yet to take off.
Meanwhile, in the Stripes Division, only Oberlin at 2-1 holds a winning record. Every other team - including Lutheran West (1-1), Clearview (1-2), Columbia (0-3), Brooklyn (0-4) - are at .500 or below.
"Luckily, we`re not alone," Argento said. "And if you look around our conference, no one`s started the year with a bang. But we can`t concentrate on that. We have to worry about ourselves and fix what we need to fix to be successful."
The roller coaster has started for North Olmsted. The Eagles won their opener against Bay by 10, lost by 25 to Valley Forge, then beat Brecksville by 17.
What`s that signify? A team that is still learning how to manage the expectations of being among the favorites in the Southwestern Conference.
The Eagles are a traditionally hard-nosed defensive team that plays unselfish basketball. But in the early going, North Olmsted`s struggled badly in its half-court sets - taking too many shots after just one or two passes.
"We`re forcing things too much," Eagles coach Tim Schmotzer said. "When you put people up in the stands, the kids often get caught up in the emotion. And they`re teenage kids trying to make things happen and trying to live up to expectations."
Admiral King coach Mike Scott says this year`s team is the deepest he`s had in four years manning the Admirals` bench. Scott runs his rotation at least 12 players deep. And that depth has already paid dividends.
Though the season is only one week old, Admiral King will be without fast-rising point guard Malcolm Barnett (fractured elbow) and forward Tyrell Holley (flu) for tonight`s matchup against Warrensville.
"One of the things I love about that depth is it allows us play very different styles," Scott said. "We can go with a larger lineup. We can go quicker. We can go with a shooting lineup or a ball-handling lineup. That`s a coach`s luxury and it`s something I haven`t had in the past."
Avon`s ability to apply fierce defensive pressure on every corner of the court is a big reason for the Eagles` 2-1 start. In its first two games, Avon put up a combined 132 points before being held to 43 points by Amherst last Saturday.
"Everyone wants to play 94 feet," Avon coach Jim Baker said. "The kids enjoy it, the fans enjoy watching it. But if you don`t have the numbers and you don`t have the athletes, you can`t play that style. This year, we have the quickness and numbers to really extend our defense. And that`s when we`re at our best."
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7135, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with news for this notebook and nominations
for player of the week.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Steve Isaac, von, post
LAST WEEK: Isaac scored 38 points and hauled in 27 rebounds in his last two games, putting up 17 points and 17 boards in a victory over Clearview, followed by a 21-point, 10-rebound performance against Amherst. Isaac also had four steals against the Comets, establishing a presence in the passing lanes.
BIO: Isaac is quickly making his third year at the varsity level a memorable one, averaging 16.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. Avon coach Jim Baker describes his senior center as "charitably 6-foot-3," which, in other words, means Isaac is an undersized post. Size hasn`t limited him one bit. Isaac has shown a proficiency from the outside, adding 3-point range to his arsenal, while flashing improved ball-handling skills. Isaac is hoping to play basketball at the college level and is considering Windsor, Heidelberg College, Bluffton and Mount Union. He remains undecided on a major at the moment.