Revamped LWA eyes playoff push


After notching double digits in victories last season and reaching the semifinals of the Private Schools Athletic Association boys’ basketball playoffs, Lawrence Woodmere Academy appears on track to do more damage this winter.

The Tigers won 14 of their first 18 games and swept the first go-round of the PSAA slate, including a thrilling 72-71 victory over Long Island Lutheran B.

“Last season was really rewarding,” third-year LWA head coach Hank Williams said. “We improved tremendously from my first year here. We won the league regular-season title and made it to the semis where we lost to Stony Brook. We brought in some new pieces and so far, so good. We’re hoping to keep it going in the second half.”

LWA assumed the driver’s seat to repeat as regular-season champs with back-to-back wins over LIL and Martin Luther.

The Tigers had four players score in double figures Dec. 19 against Lutheran, including sophomore center Caleb Ourigou (14) who tapped home the winning bucket with 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Sophomore Josh Smith led all scorers with 19, senior Christopher Clark added 18, and senior Nil Rahola had 13.

Following a two-week break in the action, LWA returned to the court Jan. 4 and took down Martin Luther, 80-66, behind sophomore Sylvanus Tabe’s 20 points and freshman Hank Williams Jr.’s 14. The Tigers blew open an otherwise tight game in the third quarter, outscoring Martin Luther by a 25-9 margin.

Each of the team’s losses have come against non-league opponents: St. John The Baptist, Chaminade and Eagle Academy. Coach Williams said the 79-62 defeat to Chaminade Jan. 6 was a learning experience.

“We’re playing well, but seeing Chaminade was a team I’d like to see us emulate,” Williams said. “When we start playing the way Chaminade played against us, moving the ball really well and playing their hearts out, that’s when we’ll reach our full potential.”

The Tigers returned two key contributors from last season. Williams Jr. thrived as an eighth-grader, averaging 19 points per game on the way to earning PSAA co-MVP honors. He’s one of four being asked to bring the ball up the floor now. He hit 73 treys last season and has more responsibility than serving as a shooting threat.

Also back in the fold is senior Christopher Williams (no relation), who also runs the point at times and is a sound decision-maker who’s added more scoring to his resume.

Smith and Clark also operate in the backcourt. Clark is the team’s best defender, the coach said, and brings the ball up the floor the most. Smith is a lights-out shooter who can also get to the rim. Rahola is another guard who defends well and can get hot offensively.

At 6-foot-9 and 6-8, respectively, Ourigou and Tabe are intimidating in the paint and often are on the court at the same time. Tabe is averaging 17 points and leads the way on the boards.

On Jan. 24, the Tigers played on a bigger stage at Nassau Coliseum and led in the fourth quarter of a 63-57 loss to Friends Academy. Smith’s 16 points paced the offense. The coach said it was a good learning experience against a disciplined, quality opponent.

“We can start any of the seven kids who play a lot,” coach Williams said. “Their chemistry is good and we’re just trying to improve every day and go as far as we can.”