LAKE STATION — In coach Bob Burke’s first six years as head coach of the Lake Station boys basketball team, he never had a player score 40 points.
He remembers when guard Brian Patterson — who graduated in 2015 and is the Eagles’ all-time leading scorer — came close a few times. But even Patterson couldn’t reach that level.
However, in Lake Station’s third game of the season, Burke finally had the chance to witness history. Senior guard Dominique Smith scored 41 points in the Eagles’ three-point loss to Griffith. And despite the performance coming in defeat, it helped Smith reach the 1,000-point mark for his career and become the sixth player to achieve the milestone in Lake Station history.
“Usually when a guy scores 40, he’s just dominating the ball,” Burke said. “But Dominique didn’t do that. He made the right passes when he needed to. He ran the offense and to see that, to me, it shows lot of growth from the past.”
Smith is a four-year starter under Burke and was named Lake Station’s Most Valuable Player as a freshman. Since Smith received the accolade, Burke said it was difficult at times to get Smith to see his potential: He could be one of the best players in the area, not just the best player on his team.
But over the past two seasons, Burke said Smith has really embraced that challenge and worked on his game tirelessly with assistant coach Eric Pearman in the offseason.
Pearman guided Smith through workouts at Lake Station and their local YMCA over the summer and helped the senior retool his shot. Pearman said Smith used to push the ball from his waist whenever he attempted a jumper, but now the senior has a more fluid shooting motion and releases the ball from in front of his face.
“Last year he shot 17 percent from the 3-point line and 39 percent from the field,” Pearman said. “So obviously going into his senior year we had some things to fix.”
The change in his release has paid dividends for Smith early on. Entering Friday’s matchup with Wheeler, the senior was averaging 26 points per game and shooting 53 percent from the field, 62 percent from behind the arc and 75 percent from the free-throw line.
But against the Bearcats, Smith’s dominate offensive performances came to an end. He scored eight points and his first basket didn’t come until the 4:18 mark of the third quarter. Smith banked in a 3-pointer from the right wing, followed it up with an and-one floater with 10 seconds left in the quarter and secured his final bucket on a driving layup late in the fourth quarter.
Despite his quiet night, Lake Station pulled out a 58-45 Greater South Shore Conference victory over Wheeler. The Eagles held the Bearcats (2-1, 1-1) to just six points in the second quarter and outscored them 15-10 in the fourth quarter to get back in the win column.
Senior guard Sean Gooch led the way for Lake Station (3-1, 1-1) with a game-high 18 points and every Eagles player that entered the game scored. Smith wasn’t pleased with his individual performance but he wasn’t upset about it either. He said, more than anything, having a collective team effort lead Lake Station to victory was a nice change of pace.
“It was a very good win for us because usually each game one or two people scores a lot of our points,” Smith said. “So it was nice for everybody to get a little touch and get a little love.”
Before the game, Smith was presented with a commemorative plaque and the game ball from his 41-point outing against Griffith on the road. And even though he didn’t follow it up with another eye-popping performance against Wheeler at home, he said he was just happy to have his family and friends in attendance to see him get honored.
“It means a lot,” Smith said. “I didn’t know all of them were coming, so it made it better that I was able to go over there and give them (the awards). It was exciting.”