Lakeside boys basketball players felt the mood of the school changing shortly after basketball season started.
After the high of football season, the Panthers boys dropped their first seven games and their classmates settled into the mind set of a lost season.
"After the first couple games, the kids say nobody expects you to win," Lakeside coach Ryan Morningstar said. "And everybody's kind of excited even if you're close -- 'Oh, you almost beat Richmond.'
"We shouldn't be that."
The Panthers, who printed "Faith" on the backs of their team shirts this season, have started changing attitudes of late. They beat Butler and Hephzibah back-to-back days last weekend. They came from behind to beat rival Greenbrier on the road. Lakeside had lost at home to the Wolfpack to start the season.
Before playing host to Evans this past Friday, Lakeside had improved its region record to 3-7, and the mood in Lakeside's commons area was at least somewhat more positive.
"It gives us confidence going into our other region games," Panthers senior Khadi Tshishiku said of Lakeside's victory over Greenbrier. "We lost to them before and have become a better team as the season progressed."
Morningstar points to junior A.J. Bennett as a reason for his team's improved play. Lakeside worked for weeks to find an identity after having lost its core leaders from a season ago. That included flipping players in and out of the point guard spot.
Bennett eventually stuck, and Lakeside's offense has been better for it, Morningstar said.
"When he first got in he was trying to score and create things," Morningstar said. "Now he does a good job of setting kids up and making an extra pass."
As Morningstar will point out, the Panthers have an uphill climb. Their region record places them in the bottom half of 3-AAAA teams with nine games left before the region tournament.
But the signs of improvement are there.
Morningstar played nine players during the victories over Butler and Hephzibah. Nine players scored in each of those games.
Morningstar has said his team doesn't have a go-to player, that it will take the whole team. Senior Michael Punch could be that guy on offense. He scored 17 points to help beat Greenbrier. But the Panthers have too many other good shooters for it all to fall on him.
On the defensive end, Lakeside is led by Tshishiku and rebounding is handled by fellow senior and football teammate Chris Hartfield.
If Lakeside can continue getting production from each role, the winning could continue. And maybe the expectations for Lakeside's boys will shift.
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