CEDAR LAKE | There’s the scorer’s mentality that encourages its user to shoot and shoot, because eventually they’ll drop.
There’s a defensive mentality that encourages stop after stop with the promise of eventual capitalization on the offensive end.
Lowell senior Zack Van Hook employed both mindsets Wednesday night as he overcame four missed layups in the early going to erupt for 16 second-quarter points as Lowell’s defense was its go-to offense in a 69-22 win at Hanover Central in the season opener for both teams.
“Our defense is the No. 1 thing,” Van Hook said after scoring a game-high 20 points in the rout. “We pride ourselves on that, and we’re going to do that every night. We came out and played great as a team.”
Hanover Central (0-1) beat the first-quarter buzzer to end the period down 8-7, but Lowell scored the next 10 points and led by double figures the rest of the way, peaking at the 47-point final margin.
Lowell’s press begat fast breaks, and Van Hook continually leaked out for easy baskets after steals. He scored in a variety of ways, though, knocking down jumpers and creating a few defense-to-offense plays single-handedly with steals and layups and/or dunks.
“My teammates got me the ball, and we forced a lot of turnovers in the half court,” Van Hook said.
The Red Devils (1-0) led 34-12 at halftime. There are eight seniors on the roster, so despite an array of tall talent, a defensive mindset isn’t a hard sell for the mature group.
“We try to pay up-tempo, and we do that based on playing hard on defense,” Lowell coach Nate Richie said. “I’m happy with the guys and the focus they brought on defense.”
When Van Hook wasn’t binging on offense, teammates such as Williams Barker (11 points with three 3-pointers) and Aaron Hamm (nine points, seven rebounds, four steals, two blocks) were keeping Hanover honest.
“Barker and Hamm weren’t surprising in our minds, because those are some of our senior leaders,” Richie said. “Hamm is relentless and creates so many opportunities for teammates. Barker got in position to knock down some shots, and that showed that guys were being patient.”
Jesse Wilkening led the Wildcats with nine points in a dominant effort by Lowell. Hanover shot just 7-of-16 on free throws.
“I saw 32 minutes of effort, 32 minutes of high energy,” Richie said. “As long as we continue to see that, we can continue to get better, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”