Area D-I district madness claims Centerville, Wayne

Published: Saturday, March 09, 2013 @ 7:47 PM
Updated: Saturday, March 09, 2013 @ 7:47 PM


            Wayne's Ronnie Ortiz fouls La Salle's Connor Speed while fighting for a loose ball during their Div. I district championship game at UD Arena in Dayton Saturday, Mar. 9, 2013. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
            E.L. Hubbard
Wayne's Ronnie Ortiz fouls La Salle's Connor Speed while fighting for a loose ball during their Div. I district championship game at UD Arena in Dayton Saturday, Mar. 9, 2013. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD(E.L. Hubbard)

March Madness has a different meaning for our best Division I area high school boys basketball teams. Might as well rechristen their postseason Black Saturday.

Springboro was the last in line to do what no area D-I team has done since 2009: win a district championship. The Panthers played the last of four games late Saturday night at UD Arena. They faced a daunting task: Mighty Cincinnati Moeller.

Earlier Centerville, then Wayne fell. The Elks (15-11) were game for a half, then wilted to far superior Cincinnati Walnut Hills, 68-54. Wayne (21-5) left its game in Huber Heights and was dismantled 59-43 by Cincinnati La Salle.

District D-I finals, traditionally played on Saturday, have not been kind to area teams. Last year Troy, Beavercreek and Springboro all were leveled. In 2011 it was Troy, Wayne, Trotwood-Madison and Meadowdale going down. In 2010, Fairmont, Trotwood, Wayne and Northmont fizzled.

No area team has advanced to a D-I regional since Matt Kavanaugh’s free throw with less than one second left was the difference in Centerville’s 52-51 shading of Trotwood-Madison in a 2009 district final.

Since then, Trotwood was been reclassified as D-II and Centerville has rebooted under first-year coach Brook Cupps.

One or two seasons of area D-I teams not advancing past this level are lean years. Four years is a trend. How has this happened?

“It’s a different mentality at La Salle and St. X and Moeller, the (Greater Catholic League) schools,” Wayne coach Travis Trice said. “They have things set in place. They’re holding those guys more accountable. It’s more like a military standing. We gotta be tougher on our kids. That’s the bottom line to it.”

Trice is old-school that way. So are many of his area peers. That’s a tough sell. I could never write some of the best stories I’ve been told by various coaches about that subject through the years.

The GCL style of D-I hoop hasn’t changed. Best to gird yourself with a neck roll when playing these often-undersized over- achievers. It’s usually ugly, physical and effective.

Five times since 2003 GCL teams have played for state titles, winning twice. To do that, dismantling an area team in a district final is a given.

It’s the system that works so well for the GCL, not the style. Trice conceded as much.

“Here in the Dayton area or coaching at Wayne, guys think that they’re entitled to something and they don’t necessarily have to work as hard,” he said. “In the GCL, the bottom line is they come with more of a hard-hat mentality. They’re used to doing what they’re told to do. Here, it’s really tough for us. A lot of cases we’re dealing with kids who have to work to be mentally tough and just aren’t.”

Cupps is the new guy in the D-I metro coaching fraternity. In many ways, he groomed a small-school GCL way of doing things at Graham. The Falcons bought in. So have the Elks.

It wasn’t long ago that Centerville was a district final regular. That 2009 team won its fourth district championship in eight years.

It took half a season for Cupps to win over the Elks with his new style of commitment. The rest could be Centerville program history in the making.

“It’s interesting. It’s been a fun part of it for me, just seeing the change,” Cupps said.

“One of my biggest concerns of leaving Graham and coming here was the kids. I didn’t know the kids. I knew that the kids at Graham were great kids and would do anything that I asked them to do and were fully invested. I told these guys that they’ve given us the exact same thing. They’re as bought-in and committed to what we want to try to do.”

None of what Trice and Cupps reflected on are guaranteed difference-makers at the district level. But at this point, they sure are good building blocks.

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Coach suspended after 161-2 rout

Published: Friday, January 16, 2015 @ 6:50 AM
Updated: Friday, January 16, 2015 @ 6:50 AM

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You may expect a coach to be suspended for losing too many games. But what about when his team wins one?

That's exactly what happened to the head coach of a high school girls basketball team in California after they beat the other team 161-2.  

That is not a typo.  The Arroyo Valley High School girl's basketball team beat Bloomington High School  by nearly 160 points the Sporting News reported.

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But despite putting the bench in, they still scored and handily beat their opponents. 

That's where the suspension comes in.  According to the local newspaper, Arroyo Valley's school board suspended Michael Anderson for two games .

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported Anderson played the starters for the first half and they scored an average of 13 points a minute, or 104 points in the first 16-minute half.

Some say putting the bench in the second half was too little too late.  The Daily Bulletin said Anderson should have slowed the game once it became obvious that the other team was no match.  They did report that Anderson imposed a 23-second wait on shots for his team. 

Another coach suggested in a Daily Bulletin story, that Anderson should have followed his lead when a score is one-sided and let the other side score and change the way the team played further, going so far as to not block a shot or steal the ball.  

As for the team, they handily beat their opponents in the first game of Anderson's suspension.  Arroyo Valley beat Indian Springs 80-19 Wednesday night.  Anderson will return courtside on Monday.

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It’s Duke for Luke

Published: Monday, March 24, 2014 @ 8:07 PM
Updated: Monday, March 24, 2014 @ 10:14 PM

Watch the moment the crowd found out his decision

Luke Kennard went from being the most beloved figure in the history of Franklin High School basketball on Monday to someone that much of America will love to hate.

And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It happens,” said Kennard, who verbally committed to national power Duke University on Monday night. “I’m pretty sure it happens to every recruit who goes somewhere. My family and this community is going to support me and that’s what it’s all about. That’s all I care about.”

Landing Kennard was all Duke and a half-dozen other national powers cared about once Kennard revealed that he would commit this spring. Although he made up his mind about a week ago, he didn’t publicly announce the long-anticipated decision until Monday night before about 1,000 fans, teammates, community well-wishers and family at a packed Darrell Hedric Gymnasium at the school.

The event included the Franklin icon whom the fieldhouse is named after. The occasion also served as a celebration for Kennard being named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball last week, among many other player of the year honors.

Duke won out over Ohio State and Kentucky. A natural homebody, Kennard was linked to OSU because of its relative close proximity to Franklin. UK seemed to be in the running because he grew up a Wildcats fan and his father Mark Kennard played at nearby Georgetown College.

Michigan, Michigan State, Louisville and North Carolina also initially were in his final choices. He cannot sign until the early signing period in November.

Kennard informed all the schools that were in the running for his services that he wouldn’t be committing to those schools on Sunday.

Kennard insisted on speaking to Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski about the decision. Like so many other coaches to recruit Kennard, Krzyzewski and top recruiting assistant Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski flew into Springboro’s Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport on Monday afternoon, made the short trip to Franklin and learned of the good news from the celebrated 6-foot-6 junior.

Kennard said he mentally committed after visiting the Durham, N.C., campus earlier this month.

“Just being around Coach K and the players and how the program was run, you could tell it was a really special place,” Kennard said. “I could see myself fitting in there. Coach K talked to me about that. I really appreciate what he’s done for me. I felt at peace with my decision and it was the best fit for me.

Kennard averaged a state-best 40.0 points this season. He also was good for 10.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 steals for the Wildcats (20-4).

He had a breakout offensive season, surpassing 50 points three times. He set most significant single-season and career offensive records, including a 59-point outburst in the final home game against Monroe.

Kennard anticipates playing early at Duke and not necessarily in any one position.

“Coach K said putting me at a certain position wouldn’t be doing me a favor,” he said. “He said I’m a playmaker; I’ll be playing everywhere.”

Kennard is easily the most heavily recruited area basketball player in recent hoop history. No other area boys player is believed to ever have suited up for the Blue Devils.

Alison Bales of Beavercreek played for Duke’s women’s basketball team as did Alexis Rogers of Lakota West before transferring to Bowling Green State University.

Kennard owns a 4.25 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. Also a football standout, he shared the state’s Division III offensive player of the year honors last fall. He intends to play football as a senior, but also may not.

Kennard likened Durham to Franklin.

“We had a plan to get it over with this spring,” he said. “It was hard keeping it in from all my friends. It was a struggle. I just felt a peace about it. Now I can enjoy my senior year and that’s what it was all about. It’s a big stage with a small, home-town feel. That’s what I really liked about it.”

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Two big reasons why Fairmont should be favored to repeat

Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013 @ 6:03 PM
Updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013 @ 6:03 PM


            Fairmont beat Twinsburg 52-48 to win the Division I title in Saturday's state championship basketball game at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus on March 16, 2013. Barbara J. Perenic/Staff
            Barbara J. Perenic
Fairmont beat Twinsburg 52-48 to win the Division I title in Saturday's state championship basketball game at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus on March 16, 2013. Barbara J. Perenic/Staff(Barbara J. Perenic)

Losing two straight state championship games was tough enough. A third? Don’t even think about it.

“It’s amazing,” said senior wing Alona Skipper after helping Fairmont defeat rival Twinsburg 62-58 in Saturday night’s girls high school basketball Division I state championship at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.

“It’s not just for me. It’s for the whole team and coach (Tim) Cogan. I feel that I can graduate with peace now.”

Skipper and senior Chelsea Welch were members of four straight Fairmont teams that advanced to the state tournament. As freshmen, their Firebirds team lost in the semifinals. The last two seasons they were swept by Twinsburg in the title games.

Never before had the same two girls teams met in three straight state title games.

“Unfinished Business” was Fairmont’s mantra. It would need that extra motivation to end Twinsburg’s unbeaten season and overcome its Ms. Basketball, Purdue University-bound Ashley Morrissette.

To do that, Fairmont went to its inside power game of 6-foot-2 junior front-liners Makayla Waterman (24 points) and Kathryn Westbeld (13 points, 12 rebounds).

They are two of the most sought-after uncommitted recruits in the Midwest. Both have scores of offers. Westbeld has posted her select seven: Connecticut, Duke, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Southern Cal and UCLA. Waterman also has an offer form OSU.

“Their big girls are both high-level (NCAA) D-I players,” Twinsburg coach Julie Solis said. “We did not do a good job defending them.”

They’re also two big reasons why Fairmont should be a favorite to defend its first state title. Also returning will be starting guard Danie Shafer, a 5-7 junior who transferred in from Wayne after last season.

“I wanted to do it for coach (Cogan),” Westbeld said. “I wanted to do it for my team. I wanted to do it for the city of Kettering. Just to bring (the title) back, it’s an amazing experience for us, especially with our seniors leaving. There was nothing more that we wanted than this championship.”

Waterman’s previous season high was 19 points, way back in mid-December. It was nothing less than a breakout effort by Waterman, who was slowed by knee surgery in summer 2011.

“That was the Makayla that we’ve been waiting for,” Westbeld said. “She had the best game that I’ve ever seen her play.”

Each is a formidable presence. Together they are program definers.

“We have such great chemistry,” Waterman said. “Losing Chelsea and Alona are going to be a big loss but I think we’ll be able to be back here next year.”

Fairmont ends its championship season 27-1. In the last five seasons, the Firebirds have won at least 22 games each season, haven’t lost more than four and are a combined 121-14.

And its great run isn’t done.

“What’s been great about this program is it’s been stable and it’s continued to stay in a positive light,” Cogan said amidst hundreds of Fairmont revelers last Saturday.

“Did I think I’d be here for 13 years? No. Here we are 13 years later and I’m still as passionate as I was 13 years ago. I’m just a little smarter.”

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Alter beats Dunbar in regional final thriller

Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 @ 7:18 PM
Updated: Saturday, March 16, 2013 @ 7:18 PM

With 31 seconds left in the game, Alter star Jaaron Simmons is heckled by a fan. You must see what comes after that.

None of the 4,000 people crammed into sold-out Trent Arena expected anything less than another epic Alter-Dunbar game Saturday afternoon in the Division II regional final, not even after the Wolverines missed their first 12 shots and fell behind by 17 points.

As expected, Dunbar stormed back and eventually took a one-point lead with 64 seconds remaining. But the Wolverines missed four free throws in the final 32 seconds, the last of which ended up in the hands of Alter senior Jaaron Simmons, whose uncontested layup with 9.6 seconds remaining lifted the Knights to a 60-59 victory.

“That was about as exciting of a game as I’ve seen in a long time,” said Alter coach Joe Petrocelli, who will take his ninth team to the state tournament in his 50th and final season at the school.

“This is pretty doggone special,” Petrocelli added. “You can’t script a tournament or a run like this. Every one of these games has shocked me. I’m dead serious. I would never have believed it. When we started out the season, I was just hoping to have a winning season.”

Alter, 21-5 and ranked No. 7 in the final Associated Press state poll, will face No. 2 Bishop Watterson in the state semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Columbus. No. 10 Dunbar, the defending state champion, finishes 21-7.

“They were well prepared and did a great job,” Wolverines coach Peter Pullen said of the Knights. “They jumped on us early, and we had to fight and struggle to get back in it.”

Simmons scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the first half to help Alter race to a 14-2 lead after one quarter and a 27-10 cushion midway through the second. But Pullen switched defensive assignments in the second half, and senior Myron McGuire limited Simmons to a pair of field goals, the last of which came on a rush-up-the-court scramble after a missed free throw and resulted in the game winner.

“Actually I was about to pass it,” Simmons said. “I saw Nate (Burger), but then I saw how small (Dunbar defender A.J. Harris) was, so I just finished it.”

The Wolverines got 25 points from junior Williams Green and 15 from sophomore Harris, whose two free throws with 1:04 remaining put Dunbar up 59-58, its first lead since 2-0.

“They weren’t going to roll over and play dead,” Petrocelli said. “That would have been nice, but then we wouldn’t have excited the crowd.”

But after coming all the way back to take the lead, both Green and Harris missed a pair of free throws in the final 32 seconds to set up Simmons’ heroics.

“The final minute is still going through my head,” Pullen said. “There’s so many things. But it came down to what has hurt us in every game we’ve lost – free-throw shooting.”

Dunbar, which also got 10 points from senior Damarion Geter, was 19 of 30 from the line, while Alter was 18 of 23.

Senior Michael Spencer added 12 points for the Knights, who will be making their first trip to state since 2003.

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