Allison Lacher is a big piece of Marlington's basketball puzzle

Mike Keating
The Alliance Review
The Review Athlete of the Week, Marlington's Allison Lacher (15), shoots during a game against Boardman in November.

LEXINGTON TWP. — Playing with a sense of finality in her senior campaign, Allison Lacher is doing her part to help the Marlington Dukes author a successful season.

In her fourth year of varsity competition, Lacher is part of what Marlington coach Mike Stadulis calls his "starting six" on a team that has overcome the fluidity of a schedule affected by COVID-19 to play seven games, including three against Eastern Buckeye Conference opponents.

In those contests, Lacher has averaged 13.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game to lead a balanced team to seven straight wins, including three by 30 or more points.

The Review's Athlete of the Week, Lacher credited several factors for Marlington's fast start.

"We're playing hard, we're playing great defense and we're playing together," she said. "To me, the [hardest thing] about basketball is blending with your teammates to become one unit."

Lacher is part of a veteran cast that includes senior forward Mary Mason, sophomore guards Maria Warner and Elizabeth Mason and sophomore forward Lexi Miller. There also is the addition of 5-foot-11 freshman post Chelsea Evanich as another inside presence.

"I was excited about [our potential] because we had Chelsea coming up [from middle school] and she gives us more height and could give us a good inside game," Lacher said. 

Marlington's Allison Lacher, The Review's Athlete of the Week, is averaging more than 13 points per game for the Dukes.

With Lacher, who stands 6-0, Evanich and the 5-10 Miller, the Dukes have an abundance of height, which is a change from recent teams. When Lacher was a freshman, the team was smaller and more guard-oriented. With Evanich and Miller, Lacher has been able to become a more well-rounded player.

"Coach Stu has allowed me to play on the perimeter and shoot from the outside more than I have the first three years," Lacher said. "It has made us a more versatile team and it has also helped me. I want to play college basketball and I know 6-0 is tall for a high school player, but there are a lot of girls my height and even taller playing in college."

Seven wins don't make a season, but one against West Branch was rewarding. Marlington handed the defending EBC and Division II state qualifier West Branch a 38-24 loss on the Warriors' home court December 12, snapping a 17-game losing streak dating back to nearly nine years to the date.

"We struggled with our outside shooting, but we were aggressive defensively," Lacher said. "I know it was early, but it was a big win, because we not only hadn't beaten them for nearly nine years, but the games we lost to them since I've been playing weren't that close."

With more inside weapons and overall added length, the Dukes turned the tables on West Branch in their most recent contest, especially during the fourth quarter. In the final eight minutes, Marlington outscored the Warriors 13-0 to break open a close game.

"Our defense caused some turnovers and they decided to spread it out," Lacher said. "We just kept playing disciplined defense, keeping them outside. On offense, we were able to make a few 3's and score inside. It was a great fourth quarter and a great win for us."

Showing an improved touch from beyond the arc, Lacher converted a 3-pointer in that West Branch win as part of her 13 points, and she also pulled down nine rebounds. She also was happy to share the win with Mary Mason, her classmate and teammate, and a driving force behind her gravitation to basketball.

"Mary and I have played together since the fourth grade," Lacher said. "In fact, she was the one who asked me to come out for the team, because I was tall. I was very nervous at practice because I wasn't very good. But I also liked playing, so I didn't want to quit. I've played with Mary for nearly nine years and she's been a great teammate."

Once she committed to basketball, Lacher worked on her game with the same type of conviction she has shown in the classroom to earn a 3.9 grade-point-average, crediting assistant coach Kirk Miller for transforming her from an unpolished post into a versatile all-around player.

"Coach Miller worked with me on my post moves and pushed me hard to become a good player," Lacher said. "Because of his help, I've become more aggressive and finish better around the basket."

While she enjoys basketball and would like to play it at the next level, she also isn't defined solely by the sport. Lacher can play the piano and clarinet and also sings in the choir. 

On the court, Lacher hopes Marlington has the components to continue making sweet music on the hardwood.

"We all have different strengths, but we can play together as a team and want to do well," Lacher said. "When I was a freshman, we won a lot of games and made it to the district final [losing 54-46 to Norton]. We haven't come close to going back to that game, and I'd like to at least get back there, or go even farther."

Allison Lacher of Marlington, The Review's Athlete of the Week, pulls in a rebound against West Branch. Lacher is averaging more than 8.0 rebounds per game for the Dukes.