MACON — Ezra Schaal almost looks like he's in a game of mental chess with his defender on the basketball court — deciphering the path of least resistance to the hoop.
When the LSA senior gets defenders one-on-one, he uses a series of jab steps, pump fakes and head fakes to blow by his defender.
That's exactly what he did Tuesday in LSA's 60-50 non-conference win at Meridian.
The 6-foot guard finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds — securing a double-double after three quarters for the Lions (5-0).
“I use my speed and if I have someone on my hip it’s downhill from there," Schaal said.
LSA first-year coach Tom Saunches knows the story all too well. Schaal and teammate Grant Karsten (four points on Tuesday) used to give Saunches fits when he was the coach of Argenta-Oreana.
Now, he's happy to have the pair on his side.
“I had to coach against him last year, I think we ‘held’ him to 29," Saunches said. "He and Grant just ate us up last year."
The Lions led Meridian from the 3:15 mark in the first quarter until the 3:47 mark in the third.
Meridian (3-3) put together a 10-0 run sparked by a pair of triples from Garrett Meisenhelter, who led the team with 16 points, to turn an eight-point deficit into a two-point lead.
“Give them credit, their defense did a good job," Meridian coach Jay Driscoll said. "Offensively, Garrett got going in the second half with some threes. We did a nice job of moving the ball and finding him. We got some defensive stops so that helped."
Over the next two minutes, the Lions went on an 8-0 run to re-take the lead that held for the rest of the game.
“I didn’t get nervous," Schaal said. "We just had to slow things down and play basketball the way that we play basketball."
Garrett Guske answered Meridian's 10-0 run with a layup, then Schaal found Jacob Whitehead for an easy layup on an inbound. Guske followed with a pair of free throws and Whitehead answered with a putback to give LSA a 41-35 lead with :45 seconds left.
“I was most pleased when they took a lead in the third quarter, we answered with six points," Saunches said. “We got ourselves together and got the ball into the right hands."
Meridian pulled to as close as four midway through the fourth, but never got back within one possession.
LSA made 8-of-11 free throws in the final two-and-a-half minutes.
“It came down to when they needed it, they made big plays," Driscoll said. "They got some putbacks and made some hustle plays and they made their free throws down the stretch."
Cameron Getz had 14 points for the Hawks and Connor Hurelbrink added 12 rebounds.
Xavier Todd and Tanner Heick each scored seven off the bench for LSA.
“We didn’t execute on the offensive end and still scored 60 points," Saunches said. "We did a great job of switching screens and we’re all the same size. So it doesn’t hurt if one man switches to another."