ST. JOHN — This past week of practices haven’t been kind to Lake Central senior guard Nick Anderson.
He couldn’t buy a basket, never got hot. He wasn’t getting into rhythm or scoring with any consistency.
Then the real games started.
Anderson dropped 35 points on his home floor to lead his Indians to a season-opening 58-47 win over defending Class 2A state champion Andrean. The shot he couldn’t find at practice showed up when fans bought tickets to come see him play.
“I guess I’m not a good practice shooter,” Anderson said.
Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic said despite Anderson’s practice struggles that he wasn’t worried about how he’d come out come game time. Anderson wound up finishing 8 of 19 from the floor and was 13 of 14 from the free-throw line.
He also connected on 4 of 9 3-pointers, and when a pair quickly went down for him off catch-and-shoot looks early in the first quarter Milausnic said he could tell Anderson found his rhythm, again.
“You could tell two minutes in,” Milausnic said. “That performance doesn’t surprise anybody on our bench, though. We’ve seen all summer what he’s capable of doing.”
Anderson’s breakout came at Andrean’s expense.
The 59ers offense couldn’t get the ball inside to star junior forward Kyle Ross and fell behind 15-4 after one quarter, forcing Andrean to play catch up.
The visitors climbed within three points three minutes into the second half only for Lake Central senior forward Hunter Zezovski to bury a much-needed 3-pointer to give the Indians breathing room.
“That was a big shot by Hunter,” Anderson said. “That really helped keep them down and gave us back the momentum.”
Senior guard Eric Goodes led Andrean with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and was instrumental in closing the gap multiple times. But anytime the 59ers, who were without junior Nick Flesher as he returns from football, would come within a possession or two Lake Central would answer.
“We were inconsistent, and that’s what did it for us,” Andrean head coach Brad Stangel said. “Credit to them, especially because of what Anderson did, but the lack of consistency is what put us where we were.”
While Andrean struggled to knock the offseason rust off, Anderson thrived in live game action.
The lone moment he showeds sign of frustration came late in the fourth quarter when he rimmed out his 13th free-throw attempt of the night. He yelled something at himself as he ran back on defense.
He was 12 of 12 up to that point.
“I knew it, too,” Anderson said.
Anderson could laugh about it postgame with the win — Lake Central’s first to open a season in four years — and 35 points in the bag.
“It’s not a one-man team,” Milausnic said, “but he was the man tonight.”