LUCAS — Ethan Sauder found his range.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Sauder scored a career-high 22 points as Lucas won its first Mid-Buckeye Conference championship since 1991 with a 65-52 win over St. Peter’s on Friday at the Cub Cave.
“It feels great. I’ve never scored over 20 ever,” said Sauder, who connected on four 3-pointers and all six of his free throw attempts. “Last year I used to his those (3s) and this year I haven’t been doing that so I worked hard and I felt confident today.
“I stayed an hour late after practice on Wednesday with my coach and I got as many shots up as I could and it certainly helped.”
A 5-foot-10 sophomore, Sauder scored just eight points in an upset loss at Northmor on Tuesday. That underwhelming 56-49 loss was still fresh on Sauder’s mind Friday.
“We worked hard all week in practice because we lost to Northmor,” Sauder said. “We wanted to (put that behind us) and get this win.”
The Cubs last won a conference title in 1991 while members of the MBC. Lucas was a member of the North Central Conference from 1998-99 to 2012-13 before rejoining the new-look MBC for the 2013-14 school year.
The Cubs were 10-2 in the NCC under Todd Krill in 1999-2000, finishing a game behind Ontario. Lucas was 22-3 that year and advanced to the Division IV regional tournament for a second straight year, falling to Worthington Christian in the regional championship game.
Extended postseason runs have been hard to come by since then. Before last year, Lucas hadn’t won a sectional championship since 2009-10.
“It’s been a while,” Lucas coach Taylor Iceman said. “Lucas had success in the 2000s but we were in the NCC. It was a meat-grinder.”
“That was the last time Lucas was seriously good at basketball … and they didn’t even get to play in a game like this.”
Lucas has been trending in the right direction since Iceman took over for the 2015-16 season. The Cubs have won 7, 14 and 15 games in Iceman’s first three seasons and are 13-5 with four regular season games remaining. Lucas earned the No. 5 seed in the Division IV Willard district and will play No. 11 Buckeye Central in the sectional semifinals at Galion on Feb. 26.
“I keep telling everybody we haven’t played our best game yet,” Iceman said. “If we can figure it out and play consistently, we’re pretty good.”
If Sauder and Co. continue to play with confidence and consistency, the Cubs could be in for a memorable March.
“Ethan played really well,” Iceman said Friday. “He’s had a good season, but in his eyes he hasn’t been playing very well. I know what he is capable of doing.”
For now, Sauder and the Cubs will enjoy a conference title. Lucas could complete a perfect run through the MBC with a win at home Friday against Loudonville.
“I’m happy for our team,” Sauder said Friday. “We’ve worked hard to get here.”