Sure, last season was a success. But it doesn’t give the Lyons Township boys’ basketball team the best memories.

After starting 11-0 and standing at 15-1 near the end of January, the Lions lost six out of their final nine regular-season games. Their 8-4 finish in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference placed them in second.

The team did recover to win its own regional before bowing in the first round of the Morton Sectional. But, said swingman Mike Scavuzzo, “We never fully recovered to where we were before.”

LT understands what happened. “We know we didn’t defend well down the stretch before the State tournament,” said coach Conte Stamas. “And it cost us a conference championship.”

A call for tougher D tops the agenda as the Lions head into the 2005-06 campaign, Stamas’ sixth as bench boss.

“We’ve been really working hard on a lot of ball pressure?”in-your-face, hard-nose defense,” Scavuzzo explained. “We’re going to have days where we don’t shoot well. If we play defense, we’ll be a tough team to compete with.”

Productivity on offense doesn’t seem to be a concern, despite the graduation of four of last season’s starters, including leading scorer Adam Powers (who averaged 15.7 points per game).

The lone returning starter is Scavuzzo, a 6-foot-3 senior guard/forward who was third on the team in scoring last season and enters his third season on the varsity squad.

The core surrounding Scavuzzo may lack varsity experience, but seems quite capable of making things happen.

The team’s top threat from beyond the arc, senior Mark Skorvanek, a 6-2 guard, fell one step short of competing in last season’s State three-point shooting contest.

The MVP on last season’s sophomore team, 6-4 guard/forward Grant Porter was called up to varsity for the stretch run and saw significant playing time in the playoffs.

James Murrey, a 6-5 senior forward/center, logged plenty of minutes off the bench last season, though he will be sidelined for at least the first week with a stress fracture in his foot.

In Murrey’s absence, LT will depend heavily on 6-3 junior Nick Pavilonis in the post. Pavilonis emerged as the team’s sixth man last season, but broke his foot at the York Christmas tournament and missed the remainder of the campaign.

Much of the offense last season ran through Powers, the 6-7 230-plus-pound center (now playing college ball at Dartmouth) who also led the team in rebounds (8.1 per game).

“This year, it’s going to be more guys driving into the lane to get the ball inside because we don’t have that horse in there who can just lock in and use his strength,” Stamas explained.

LT opens the season tonight (Wednesday) at its own Thanksgiving tournament, which will pick back up on Friday and Saturday.

The team opens conference play next Friday at defending champion Oak Park and River Forest, one of several legitimate contenders for this year’s crown.

“Conference has been a toss-up every year,” added Stamas. “This year is no different.”