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Wednesday

August 2014

27

Boys basketball

Tower of Babel: LCL scorer shines

Lightning hoopster lighting it up at Lake Country Lutheran

Although he's somewhat reserved, he's candid about one thing. He couldn't be doing all this without his teammates.

Lake Country Lutheran senior Matt Babel's scoring frenzy continues. After 15 games, the Lightning offensive juggernaut is averaging 25.4 points per game. Babel is 104 for 122 (85%) from the free throw line, shooting 44 percent from 3-point range and averaging a team-best 6.7 rebounds per game. But still, it's not a one man show.

"I know I couldn't do anything without my teammates," Babel said. "They're the ones setting me up with screens and they've been great when it comes to getting me the ball where I can score. I've been fortunate."

Babel's heightened offensive production is the product of hard work, playing on exceptional AAU teams and passion for basketball.

"The truth of it is Matt simply loves to play," said Lake Country Lutheran coach Cole Braun. "I've had the pleasure of coaching Matt all four seasons here. Basically the coaching staff has just been able to guide him. He's done the rest of it on his own. He paid attention to his weaknesses as a young player and addressed them."

Braun was the junior varsity coach when Babel first arrived at Lake Country Lutheran. After his freshman year, Braun and then-head coach Mark Newman flip-flopped roles.

"He self-taught himself, getting better with his ball handling, penetrating," Newman said. "He used to be known as a shooter, now he's known as a scorer. He's a leader that you want on the floor even if he didn't score. He's fun to watch."

The Lightning leader draws all kinds of attention as other defenses gear up for him on a nightly basis. The zones or box-and-ones haven't discouraged Babel a bit.

"Every game we play, they're focusing a lot of attention on Matt, but the pressure hasn't affected him at all," Braun said. "He's always our leader no matter what they throw at him."

He ranks fifth in the state in scoring according to Wishoops.net, and tops in the Milwaukee area. Babel scored a season-high 36 points against Hope School on Feb. 8, but he's cleared 30 points seven times this year. With at least three games remaining, he should clear the 1,000-point plateau in his career after entering the week with 951.

Earlier this season, Babel missed six games after breaking a small bone in his ankle. He was sidelined four weeks but did everything humanly possible to get back on the floor.

"Everyone did a lot to help me return," Babel said. "The doctors said sometimes it can take eight weeks to heal, so I can't complain.

Babel has always been a gifted shooter, but he's giving opposing coaches even more headaches by becoming a double threat.

"In past years I really wasn't driving to the basket much," Babel said. "I tended to stay outside by the 3-point line because I thought that was my main game. But now I realized I can get to the basket, and it's really helped."

Braun says it has helped his standout shoot from the cheap seats at a higher rate.

"His three-point percentage is up 10 percent from last year," Braun said. "Now that he's expanded his game, he's that much more dangerous."

The senior is getting some attention from state schools like the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, UW-Whitewater and UW La Crosse, the school in which he's most interested. Babel, the son of Dave and Kim, is enticed by the physical therapy program there.

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