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January 29, 2014

Dakota boys basketball coach touts toughness of MAC Red

By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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Dakota boys basketball coach touts toughness of MAC Red
The Macomb Dakota boys basketball team is one of three teams in the MAC Red with one loss in divisional play. Pictured is Cougars junior forward Jon Hall, right, during a Jan. 17 matchup with Utica Eisenhower.

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Macomb Dakota boys basketball team has been working on making improvements in a number of areas, Cougars coach Paul Tocco said.

The Cougars, 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division at press time, need to limit turnovers, improve their offensive possessions and start games with more intensity if the team is to become a force, Tocco said.

“We’re starting to play more together as a team,” the coach noted. “We feel we’re capable of playing much better overall, and we believe we can still improve our team chemistry and define our roles as teammates.

“This group gets along really well and enjoys playing together. Practices are very competitive and are definitely helping us improve daily.”

Those improvements will be key in Dakota remaining a factor in the race for the Red title. Three teams — Dakota, Utica Eisenhower and Romeo — all had one league loss at press time. The division is tight, as just 1.5 games separates first place (Eisenhower) and fifth place (Clinton Township Chippewa Valley).

Tocco said there are no days off in the Red. He said every game is a fight for a team to maintain or improve its standing in the division. Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, currently in fourth place in the division, has won the last two Red titles.

“We try not to take any team lightly in this league,” Tocco said. “I don’t believe anyone is a favorite this early in the season.”

Tocco said two players — senior forward Brian Orr and senior guard D.J. Lazarus — have led the team thus far. Orr and Lazarus, who are both three-year varsity players, have led in scoring for most of the season.

Tocco said Orr and Lazarus, along with senior forward Tyler Piekarski, have what it takes to lead the team to a successful season.

“They have been in some big games the last two years, and we are hoping that their experience will continue to help us win big games,” Tocco said. “(Lazarus) has already won two games with last-second shots, and (Orr) has led us in scoring a number of times since returning from an early-season injury.”

Tocco said Dakota coaches, who he gives a lot of credit to, are working on developing a very good group of underclassmen. The Cougars roster features 15 players, including 11 who are sophomores and juniors.

“They all make this team capable of winning a division title,” Tocco said. “We’re competing with passion and intensity every day, with the goal of winning the MAC Red and winning a district championship.”

Dakota next hits the court for a matchup against L’Anse Creuse North at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at L’Anse Creuse North.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Jason Carmel Davis at jdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1107. Twitter Follow Jason on Twitter.