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BOYS BASKETBALL: Lakeland cagers letting loose with a walloping effort, Eagles’ gearing for banner campaign

By: Scott Burnstein, January 17, 2014, 8:00 am

WHITE LAKE – The kind of weather the area is in the midst of experiencing is an appropriate metaphor for Lakeland’s boys basketball club.

It’s been a bear of a winter so far and Lakeland is a bear of a hoops squad, hard-nosed, hungry and nothing but heart.

The Eagles are 6-2 and in first place in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Northern Division.

On Thursday night, while a blizzard was blanketing the city outside, Lakeland was warm and toasty inside, going on the road and trouncing league-rival Waterford Mott 56-37.

Lakeland is deep, athletic, balanced and experienced.

Head coach Bob Brugger returns all 12 players off last year’s roster and uses each and every one of them.

“This is a true team, they’re physical, the have a great attitude and they love to play defense and rebound,” Brugger said. “That’s a pretty good combination to have on your hands. They were put through the grinder the last couple of years and now they’re battle-tested and beginning to reap some of the rewards.”

Anchored by its frontcourt, Lakeland let’s its big guys dictate the style of play for the rest of the group, which is rough and rugged.

Senior forwards, three-year starters and co-captains Nick Troxell and Brad Govan (both 6-foot-4) fuel the Eagles’ fire, with Troxell playing tough on the wing and Govan holding things down in the paint.

“We like to pack it in and hit the glass, let our offense come from our defense,” Troxell said. “The mindset is to get into the paint as much as you can and play strong every second of the game.”

Govan is a football star in the fall and is just as gritty on the hardwood.

“We’re a difficult match-up for other teams,” he said. “We’ve played together for a long time and that pays off with how we mesh with each other on the court.”

Augmenting Govan and Troxell in the Eagles’ frontcourt is 6-foot-4 junior banger Jake Menzel, another bruising presence down low.

Juniors Timmy Brotherton, Grant Osborn and Luke Ells and senior Ross Heiman spearhead the Lakeland backcourt.

Brotherton is the point guard and pacesetter. Ells has given the Eagles an unexpected jolt this year, displaying steady marksmanship and a spunky demeanor – out the blue, a threat to drop double-figures any night.

Osborn and Heiman (all-league quarterback on the football field) are a pair of sparkplugs that can do a little bit of everything and compete with dogged tenacity on both ends of the floor.

Earlier this week, Osborn drilled a buzzer-beating triple to send the Eagles to a win over Walled Lake Northern.

“You never know who’s going to hurt you with this bunch,” said Brugger of his wealth of artillery. “I’m sitting there on the bench as the coach and I don’t even know and that’s what’s been exciting.”