Lancaster did all they could to slow down Pickerington Central defensively and with a patient offensive approach Friday as the Gales fell 62-37 to the Tigers in their first Ohio Capital Conference-Ohio Division game.
"Our boys came out and executed our game plan for about a quarter and a half," Lancaster coach Luke Truex said. "They did the little things. We were attacking (and) everything we got was going inside."
That approach lead to tight first quarter that ended with Central holding a 14-11 lead. The Tigers extended their defensive pressure past the half-court line in the second, forcing the Gales (2-2, 0-1) into 10 first-half turnovers. Those takeaways fueled an 18-6 Central run that gave the defending Division I state champions a 32-20 halftime lead.
"They are long and athletic and what got them going was transition," Truex said. "They've got some people who can put the ball in the hole a little bit."
The Tigers are again expected to be one of the best of the OCC-Ohio, and Truex said the first league game was a good barometer for the Gales.
"You don't get to many opportunities to compete against the state champs," he said. "The guys took that as a challenge tonight, and I believe in my heart that they took that challenge. They competed and that's what we are going to take away."
Lancaster was led by senior Trevor Cohen, who hit three 3-pointers in scoring nine points. Ryan Thomas added seven points and five rebounds, four offensive.
The Gales' troubles continued in the third, resulting in four more turnovers and a 45-26 deficit to begin the fourth. The third was punctuated by a transition dunk from the Tigers' Ja'Sean Tate. The junior, who is committed to play at Ohio State, finished with 17 points. Junior Connor Kern led Central with 22.
"The ball was going in for them, and it wasn't for us," Truex said. "Them extending that defense out there created long shots, and long shots lead to long rebounds. It comes back to their transition. It's very difficult to guard for 92 feet."
Another Tate dunk with six minutes left in the game brought the Tigers' fans and the reserves to their feet. With a 53-27 lead, Central coach Jerry Francis pulled his starters.
Despite the lopsided loss, Truex saw some positives.
"This is a maturation process for our team and they saw what they are capable of," he said. "My boys went out and competed hard. There are signs of some good stuff."