LAKE MILLS — Lake Mills boys basketball coach Kyle Menke knew he had the pieces in place for a successful year after the Bulldogs finished 16-7 a season ago.
Heading into Friday’s Top of Iowa Conference West Division showdown at home against Garner-Hayfield-Ventura, the Bulldogs are 6-0 overall and 4-0 in conference play and are playing with a lot of confidence.
“The key to our start has been every player doing a little bit more than what they did last year offensively,” Menke said. “We started talking about what we need to do in the summer and so far the kids have done a great job.”
The Bulldogs rank in the top 10 in Class 1A in points per game and are shooting around 50 percent from the field with a potent inside-outside attack of Jacob Langenbau and Charlie Dugger leading the way.
“Jacob is a very unselfish player, always looking to pass when we get the ball into him,” Menke said. “Our kids know that they can expect a pass from him if they can get open. A lot of the time it’s been Charlie getting open. He’s spent a lot of time shooting the basketball since he was a little kid and he knows he has the green light from the coaching staff to take the shot if he has a good look.”
Dugger, a 6-foot senior, has been lethal from behind the 3-point line this season, ranking in the top 10 in the state, regardless of class, in 3s made while connecting at a 50-percent clip.
“I really feel comfortable behind the 3-point line,” Dugger said. “I’ve taken a lot of 3-point shots and it seems like they’re falling most of the time.”
Meanwhile, Langenbau has also been shooting near 50 percent from the field and also leads the team in rebounds and steals. Both he and Dugger have scored in double figures in each of the Bulldogs’ six games this season
“I knew I had to step up this year,” said Langenbau, a 6-foot-2 junior. “I’ve just been trying my best to either score when my teammates give me the ball inside or kick it back out to them for a shot.”
While Dugger and Langenbau have been Lake Mills’ top offensive threats, the Bulldogs are far from a two-player scoring machine.
Luke Groe played in his first game of the season on Monday and scored 26 points, Tony Hanna has been a steady scoring threat and distributor – leading the team in assists – while Zach Throne, Tyler Swenson, Grant Fjelstad and Tommy Katkis have been productive as well for the Bulldogs.
“We’ve been getting contributions from a lot of guys and they have all put in the time to get better,” Menke said. “We have a really nice mix of guys in our rotation. We have shooters and we have a good inside attack. We’re trying to have that balance and it’s been fun seeing it all come together.”
Ball movement has also been an integral part of Lake Mills’ offensive success. Their unselfishness has the Bulldogs ranked in the top five in the state in assists.
“It’s so much fun playing on this team because we do a great job sharing the ball,” Langenbau said. “We’re doing a great job finding guys for open looks and on any given night we can have a different guy leading us in scoring.”
Dugger added that having so many players that can help the team in a variety of ways has been instrumental in the perfect start.
“We have so many offensive weapons and we’ve been able to get everyone involved,” Dugger said. “It’s led to a great start so far.”
Despite everything clicking early in the season, Menke knows his team will have to continue to improve if the Bulldogs want to win in a competitive TIC West Division.
“I’ve done this long enough to know that you better bring you’re A game every game,” Menke said. “If you don’t you can almost expect to walk out of the gym with a loss. There are so many good programs in the Top of Iowa Conference and you have to be prepared each night and give your best effort.”