The Lockwood boys basketball team is one of the few remaining unbeaten teams left in Southwest Missouri.
In fact, the Tigers are making a claim at being one of the better teams in the area. Lockwood’s off to a perfect 10-0 start to the 2020-21 season — perhaps its best start to a season in program history.
“Definitely not,” Tigers coach Ethan Baker said when asked if he could think of a better way to start a season. “When I came in last year, the kids were coming off a tough transition year. They won nine games, but we had a really big junior class. Those kids are all-around athletes, so they’re pretty much busy year-round. Coming into it, I knew we had a good summer and I knew we had a good chance of being good.
“We’re not somebody that’s going to blow teams out all the time, but we’re pretty tough-nosed. They are a very competitive, special group to be around.”
Lockwood won its own tournament — the 58th annual Dennis Cornish Classic — earlier this season. The Tigers beat Lamar 53-26 in the championship game on Dec. 5. Another early season highlight win came against Class 1 powerhouse Golden City, who went to the Final Four last year.
The Tigers’ starting lineup consists of four seniors and one junior — 6-foot-4 point guard Max Schnelle, 5-10 guard Blaine Garver, 6-4 combo guard Kane Cooper, 6-2 forward Dylan Gallup and 6-3 post Spencer Neal. Cooper is the junior.
Schnelle, the reigning Southwest Conference Player of the Year, paces the team points (17), rebounds (10.7), assists (4.6) and steals (3.7).
“Max was the quarterback of the football team and he basically fills the same role on the basketball team,” Baker said. “I think what’s special about him is he leads us in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals. If it’s a close game, he’s never going to come out. He knows he’s going to be playing all 32 minutes.”
Garver and Cooper also average doubles figures for Lockwood, scoring 12 points and 10, respectively.
“Kane was at Lockwood as a freshman and he moved away to Central last year, then he came back for his junior season,” Baker said. “He’s been a nice addition for us.”
Neal is chipping in five points while averaging five rebounds a night. Gallup, an Evangel baseball signee, is adding three points, four rebounds and two assists per game.
“We’re definitely long and we can spread teams out with our 2-3 zone defense,” Baker said. “A lot of times teams might just pass the ball around the spiking line around the volleyball court for a decent part of the possession. We take a lot of pride in that.”
The Tigers feature three players who come off the bench — 6-6 post Brayden Hamilton, 5-7 guard Elijah Kerr and 5-10 guard Clayton Robertson.
Lockwood has averaged 57 points per game and won by an average of 20 points. The Tigers are making 46% of their shots while outrebounding opponents 36-26. Another area of strength for Lockwood is inside, where they are averaging 37 points per game.
Baker has lofty goals set for his team.
“We knew coming into it we had big goals,” Baker said. “Nonstop no matter what our goals are, we just have to focus one game at a time and not think ahead. We want to win conference and district. While I don’t think it will be easy by any means, hopefully if we can go one game at a time and focus, we can get there.”