Coach Zach Parr is hoping a quirky regular-season schedule plays to the Lakewood High School boys basketball team's advantage.

Coach Zach Parr is hoping a quirky regular-season schedule plays to the Lakewood High School boys basketball team's advantage.

The Lancers, who are far younger than they were a year ago when they won a league championship for the first time since the 1979-80 season, open Friday at Thornville Sheridan. They'll then return home to play the next five games, including the MSL-Ohio Division opener against Whitehall on Dec. 7. Overall, eight of the first 10 games are at home.

"I don't know what happened with the schedule," said Parr, whose team finished 17-4 last season and won the outright league title at 11-3. Division IV district-champion Newark Catholic was the runner-up at 10-4. "But with such a young team, well, I think that may help. We're hoping we'll get some of the large crowds out we had last year and that should help our new kids get comfortable."

The Lancers, who went 9-1 at home last year and defeated the Green Wave 62-50 in a key second-round MSL-Ohio game to earn a split in the season series, return only three key players. They are senior guards Bryan Large and Justin White and junior guard Ross Watts.

Large, the lone returning starter, averaged 14.3 points per game a year ago to earn Division II honorable-mention all-district honors. At times he showed the ability to take over a game, scoring 25 and 23 points in consecutive outings during the Lancers' 13-game winning streak. He scored 20 or more points four times, despite not being a real 3-point threat. He'll likely share time at point guard with Watts and senior guard Cory Leindecker

"He's by far our most experienced player and our leader," Parr, whose first team at Lakewood finished 4-17 in 2007-08, said of Large. "We'll ask him to do a lot of things and he's capable of that. We'll ask him to be aggressive on offense. He's worked hard on his jump shot because he wants to be a more complete player. He'll have to be a defensive leader, too."

With 6-foot-5 Dave Whittington expected to miss the season with a knee injury, the only other senior is 6-2 center Allen Rigsby. He'll be helped in the low post by 6-0 junior Dillon Overman, a first-year player who Parr said might be the strongest player on the team. The roster also features 6-3 junior center Brandon Wright, sophomore guards Kyle Vaubel, Carson Meleau and Tre Blevins, and 6-2 freshman center Joe Cramer.

"We've got a little experience, especially in the backcourt, but right now there are a lot of open minutes in the post," Parr said. "We'll probably get out and run even more than last year, and as coaches we're still trying to find the right combinations."

Lakewood was seeded third for the district tournament last year, but was upset 70-41 by eighth-seeded and eventual district-champion Watterson in the second round.

Parr graduated seven players. They included 6-6 center Ryan Mack, point guard Jarrod Rock, honorable mention all-district wing Adam Parlet and 6-4 forward Ryan Davis, a three-year standout who made first-team all-district last season after averaging 16.4 ppg.

"We got a little spoiled with that senior class," Parr said. "We're a different team, definitely, but the kids we have now will have the opportunity to step up and keep this thing going in the right direction."