^AC?;= V E R O B E A C H N E W S W E E K L Y ! D E C E M B E R 1 5 , 2 0 1 1 ! 34 VBHS boys hoops looking for 3rd consecutive district title BY MICHAEL BIELECKI VERO BEACH NEWSWEEKLY Heading into the 2011-2012 season, expectations were high for Vero Beach High School Basketball Coach Chuck Loewendick. After 24 years at the helm, it would almost be wrong to expect anything less from a coach with a 489-190 career record at Vero Beach. The Fighting Indians were 3-1 heading into play this week with a game against a strong Martin County team. This would be cause for concern under most circumstances, but Vero Beach’s loss was to Orlando Christian Prep -- which boasted a pre-season ranking of 41st in ESPN’s Powerade Fab 50 national ranking system. Loewendick’s teams traditionally are built upon superior defense, ball control and pre-season conditioning -- and with a front line that tops out at around 6-foot-3, this team is right in line with the teams from the past. But what really stands out about this year’s unit is the senior leadership. “With a lot of seniors on the team this year, there is such a high level of trust between us all,” said senior forward Lance Roache. “With all of the experience we have playing with one another, every single one of us out there knows where each other is going to be at all times. Knowing that about each other makes us a much better team.” Roache, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound bruiser, and senior forward Dwayne Hoilett, a 6-foot-3 230-pound athletic specimen, played tight end and defensive end respectively on the school’s 9-2 football team. Rounding out the front line rotation are senior 6-foot-3 center Cedric Mayes and 6-foot-1 forward Paul St. Mary. Roache and St. Mary are the unit’s effort players, setting picks, playing tough low-post defense and collecting offensive rebounds. Mayes PHOTO BY SAM WOLFE Jamario Lambert plays both guard and forward for Vero Beach High School. and Hoilett provide inside scoring and shot blocking to this undersized group of post players. The backcourt is fast and athletic, boasting two of the football team’s top three receivers in Charlie Miller, 5-foot-11, and Jeremy Bell, 5-foot-10. Miller, who averaged 20 points, four assists and three steals per game last year, is the catalyst that sets the tone for the team on both offense and defense. “We have the most experience and talent every time we step onto the floor in district play,” Miller said. “We’re two-time defending district champions and we intend on playing like it all year.” Miller, who shares the point guard duties with Bell, is an excellent ball handler, a good t3--point shooter and can dunk to finish off his drives to the basket. In short, he plays about sixinches taller than he is, thanks to the solid-rocket boosters he calls legs. Bell is known for his hounding man-to-man defense. Few players are faster with the basketball in their hand and he runs Loewendick’s team to perfection. It seems no matter how fast he plays, Bell never seems to tire or slow down. Jamario Lambert, standing a lanky 6-foot-2, is the team’s swingman. Depending on who is on the floor, he’s athletic enough to play guard and plays above the rim enough to play forward. Lambert has one of the team’s two 20-point games so far this year (Miller has the other) to go along with a handful of rim-rattling, crowd-pleasing dunks. Senior shooting guard Nick McGoye provides 3-point shooting and another ball handler off the bench, with sophomore guards Javonte Bagley, Brandon Shaw and Will Dawkins all ready to step into the rotation in case of an injury. Most of this team has been playing together since middle school, so great team dynamics is a given. They play the fierce man-to-man defense their coach demands of them and they have some very explosive athletes which can sometimes make their defense seem impenetrable. In a weak, three-team district, it is all but a sure thing they will advance past either Treasure Coast or St. Lucie West Centennial. The only thing keeping the Fighting Indians from reaching the state’s final four could be it lack of height. Connor Moore contributed to this story.