New enrollment figures shake-up boys basketball divisions


The recently announced new enrollment figures from the OHSAA will bring a shake up to the 2007-2008 high school boys basketball season. Moves by Toledo Libbey, Wooster Triway, Columbus Africentric, Bedford St. Peter Chanel and Hamler Patrick Henry headline Ohio’s “new look.”  
Contributor Kurt J. Stubbs II takes a look across the state at the major changes.

The recently announced new enrollment figures from the OHSAA will bring a shake up to the 2007-2008 high school boys basketball season. Moves by Toledo Libbey, Wooster Triway, Columbus Africentric, Bedford St. Peter Chanel and Hamler Patrick Henry headline Ohio’s “new look.”  

Eastern District

The eastern district will once again place teams in all four divisions with the likes of Zanesville and Tri-Valley moving back up to Division I.  Several other schools will be changing divisions, sectional sites and possibly even district and regional sites.

The move for Zanesville and Tri-Valley will be new in terms of the upcoming season, but it’s not a place they haven’t been before. The Blue Devils were in D-I until the 2003-2004 season when they dropped down to D-II. Zanesville enjoyed its four-year stay in D-II, making three consecutive regional trips from 2005-2007.

The Scotties of Tri-Valley haven’t been in D-I since the 1996-1997 season, a campaign that was ended by Zanesville. The Blue Devils went on to become state runners-up that year.

This move hurts both teams.

Zanesville and Tri-Valley return two of the best teams in the eastern district and in D-II, both are legitimate challengers for another trip to Athens for the regional. They were the two district representatives last season. Both would have to deal with a loaded Chillicothe squad in D-II (featuring Anthony “Humpty” Hitchens, “Sugar” Ray Chambers, Stuart Beverly, Caleb Knights and Seth Dawes), but with the step up, the likes of Cincinnati Moeller, Cincinnati St. Xavier and Columbus Northland may be in the waiting.

The Blue Devils and Scotties both return quality players. The Blue Devils will bring back seniors Logan Aronhalt, Cedric Harris, Andre Harris and up and coming junior Joe Prati.

The Scotties return four of their top six players in seniors Cameron West, Adam Bice, Aaron Shumaker and junior Jordan Ayres. The Scotties, with 409 boys, were just three over the limit to remain in D-II.

Overall, D-II lost three members but gained two. Gone are the aforementioned and St. Clairsville. The Red Devils drop to D-III. Entering the D-II fray are Coshocton and West Muskingum.

The Redskins of Coshocton were just three boys (229) over the limit from staying in D-III, but don’t feel sorry for them according to head coach Tom Hilgenberg.

“To be over by three kids is tough and some might say we were unlucky,” Hilgenberg said. “However, we aren’t the only school in the state that got unlucky so it’s just one of those things you have to deal with. We were one of the largest schools in Division III, now we can see what is like to be one of the smallest. I don’t think it changes a whole lot for us as our ECOL schedule prepares for physical Division II-type games.”

The Redskins return a deep senior group combined with some talented sophomores.  

Coshocton will most likely end up at the Zanesville sectional along with Cambridge, Meadowbrook, Morgan, Maysville and Philo.

“If the sites stay the same, this is where we will most likely end up,” Hilgenberg said. “It should be very interesting with Cambridge and Meadowbrook both being in our league.”

This sectional, in my opinion, really has no frontrunner. It should be wide open. If you are looking for a sleeper team go with Philo as they return both Scott and Todd Williams. If the sectional started today I would have to go with Coshocton as my favorite, but never count out Cambridge.

It would seem right for newcomer West Muskingum to join the Zanesville sectional being just down the road and its style of play may be better suited for D-II. The Tornadoes have the big, physical bodies that can bang and play low scoring games. On the flip side, D-III teams rely more on quickness and perimeter shooting which seems to bother the Tornadoes.  For example, Tuscarawas Valley gave them all kind of trouble in the district with that style of play last season. Overall, I think the move to D-II really benefits West Muskingum.

The Tornadoes return a nice core of players led by juniors Josh Osborne (18.1 points) and Wade Smith. Seniors Miles Nessline and Nathan Shumate are also back. West Muskingum will once again be big and physical. It will need to find a point guard to replace the departed Tyler Hardcastle, who meant a lot to his team’s success (19-3) last season. Also gone is big man Wes Kanavel.

If they happen to get shipped to Coshocton, West Muskingum would join Dover, West Holmes, John Glenn, River View and New Philadelphia. Zanesville was the other team in this sectional last season. Dover has to be the odds on favorite at this site with the return of 6-foot-6  senior Eric Dummermuth (14.2 points.) who is also an all-state soccer player.

The D-II Steubenville sectional should remain the same minus St. Clairsville. The teams should be: Steubenville, Beaver Local, East Liverpool, Buckeye Local, Harrison Central, Claymont, Richmond Edison, Indian Creek and Carrollton.

I would say Claymont, Indian Creek, and Steubenville are the early favorites. The Mustangs return one of the best low post players in the district in senior Zach Golec, Indian Creek has a well-balanced team back, and Steubenville has one of the best scorers in senior DeTroy Smith (18.9 ppg.). 

In all, there will be 21 schools competing in D-II for the 2007-2008 campaign.

D-III will look a bit different.

Coshocton and West Muskingum are exiting while Toronto is heading for D-IV, but enter St. Clairsville and Buckeye Trail.

The Red Devils, as long as I can remember, have never been in D-III. Buckeye Trail, conversely, was in D-III as recently as 2004-2005. Trail was district runner-up that season to a Nate Davis-led Bellaire squad.

St. Clairsville is a welcome edition. They play extremely hard, are well disciplined and love to shoot the three-point shot. Some would say they arrived in D-III a year to late with the squad they possessed last season, but don’t tell that to head coach Kim Clifford.

“Good basketball is good basketball,” Clifford said. “There are good teams in every division. We played Zanesville extremely well in the district last season because it was a good match up for us. A lot of teams in Division III are similar to us, which should create more quality match-ups.”

St. Clairsville is usually a guard-oriented squad lacking the big man to compete further in the D-II tournament.

“In my opinion, the one difference between Division II and III is you have a better chance in earlier round games in Division III,” Clifford said. “At the district level, everyone is good no matter what division. Also, Division II squads usually have more big guys than Division III but again good basketball is good basketball.”

The Red Devils lost nine seniors from last season’s (17-6) squad, but have a nice group coming in that has been part of a 59-1 run in the reserve ranks. The only player who logged significant minutes last season was senior Anthony Vincent. Senior Dustin Hynes would have been a major contributor had he not broken his leg in the pre-season.

The Red Devils will most likely end up at the Meadowbrook sectional with Barnesville, Bellaire, Monroe Central, Shenandoah, Union Local, Martins Ferry and Fort Frye.

Buckeye Trail, on the other hand, could go either way. The last time they were in D-III the Warriors competed at Meadowbrook, but that would make nine teams at one site and six teams at the other (Claymont). I don’t think the district will let nine and six happen. Who will be the odd team out? I think it has to be either Buckeye Trail or St. Clairsville. The other teams have already been at a site for a least a year.

The Warriors have a nice squad returning led by senior Brock Davis and sophomore Bobby Beros. However, they lost second team all-Ohioan Jordan Thompson.

Veteran Buckeye Trail boss Dave Linn knows it is always tough no matter what division.

“We will be one of the smallest Division III schools in the state, but Division III and IV both have good basketball,” extended Linn. “The addition of St. Clairsville will make it even more challenging. Add them with Garaway, Tuscarawas Valley and a loaded Meadowbrook sectional and that is pretty tough.”

Though, Linn likes what he has coming back, he knows the alternative wouldn’t have been any easier.

“We will be more balanced this season but we still have a good bit of youth on the floor,” Linn said. “We are doing some good things this summer as we are 4-2 in both of our leagues (Buckeye Trail and Cambridge). We are playing some good competition that will get us ready for Division III, but Division IV would have been no picnic either with Malvern, Hiland and Shadyside.”

The Claymont sectional lost two squads in Coshocton and Toronto.

As of now, the Claymont sectional has the following teams: Sandy Valley, Newcomerstown, Indian Valley, Garaway, Tuscarawas Valley and Ridgewood.

If you are looking for a favorite in each sectional I would go with Fort Frye, Martins Ferry and Union Local at Meadowbrook; and Garaway, Tuscarawas Valley, and Indian Valley at Claymont. Trust me – there is a ton of balance in D-III for the upcoming season so I’m not sure anyone is a lock.

D-IV had two changes with Buckeye Trail moving out and Toronto entering. And Toronto is no stranger to D-IV. The Red Knights played in the smallest division as recently as the 2004-2005 season.

Toronto will be under the leadership of an old face. Greg Mitts takes over the head coaching duties just three years removed from being the girls coach at Toronto. Mitts has been the girls coach at Meadowbrook the past three seasons and was an assistant boys’ coach at Toronto before taking the girls job. According to the new boss, it will be a little bit different but much of the same.

“It’s a good news-bad news type of thing,” Mitts said. “We aren’t in Division III anymore but your reward is to play Hiland, Malvern and Shadyside.”

Toronto lost in the district final to Hiland in 2003, which is a game they led by nine at half time. The new boss thinks they can get back to that level.

“Our guys have no idea what I expect,” explained the energetic Mitts. “To me, there is no reason why we can’t get back to 2003 where we were competing for a district title. We have some good seniors coming back along with a real nice sophomore class that can be good if they work at it.”

The Red Knights could go either way, but it seems likely they may end up at Ohio University Eastern (OUE) where the sectional should look something like this: Beallsville, Hannibal River, Frontier, Shadyside, Bellaire St.John, Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans, Bridgeport and Toronto. The New Philadelphia sectional should remain the same with: Hiland, East Liverpool Christian, Conotton Valley, Strasburg, Caldwell, Malvern, Tuscarawas Central Catholic, Steubenville Catholic Central and Wellsville.

D-IV is going to be very solid as well, but Malvern has been my pick since the end of last season. Hiland will also be very good and Wellsville is my sleeper at the New Philadelphia sectional. At OUE I look for Shadyside and River to be the district representatives as they were last year.   

Around the State 

Northwest District

The northwest district will be the site of one of the biggest changes, and in my opinion, the biggest. Toledo Libbey will drop down from D-I to D-II. Why is this so big? Well, the Cowboys return almost everyone from their (19-3) squad that was upset in the district by Toledo St. John’s. They return four starters and six of their top seven. Included in those six is Ohio State recruit and arguably the best player in the state – William Buford.

Don’t tell 15-year head coach Leroy Bates Libbey is the favorite because he doesn’t buy into that kind of talk.

“We still have to go out and compete no matter who the opponent, and that is all just paper talk,” Bates said. “It’s a major accomplishment to get down to state no matter what division.”

Bates knows what it takes. He was an assistant coach the last time a Toledo school won a state championship (Toledo Scott in 1990).

“We have four starters back and a nice bench so we should be well prepared to play against our Division I schedule, which should help us in the Division II tournament,” Bates said. “I was with Scott when they won it so it would just be a wonderful feeling to get back down to state.”

Along with Buford (6-5), the Cowboys return senior starters Brad Sandridge (6-3), Julius Wells (6-5) and Anthony Brown (6-3). Seniors Brad Burton (6-2) and Lance Jones (6-5) will by vying for the other spot.

Don’t be surprised to see Libbey battling Dayton Dunbar for the state championship. Also, look for Chillicothe, Poland or perhaps Cleveland Benedictine to make a trip to Columbus as well.

Other changes of note are Maria Stein Marion Local moving up to D-III and Port Clinton dropping down to D-III.

Also in the northwest, Hamler Patrick Henry’s move to D-IV will ruffle some feathers. The Patriots return three of their top four scorers in the 6-foot-6 Tietje twins (Kevin and Kyle) and Zach Botjer.

Head Coach Kent Seeman knows he has some holes to fill, but the pieces are there to put it together.

“We have three of our top four scorers back, so that is a good start,” Seeman said. “However, we still have some holes to fill. We need to find a solid situation at point guard, but we have six seniors coming back and a couple talented sophomores so we should be fine.”

Northwest Ohio is always good in small school basketball, and this season will be no different. Seeman knows there will be some schools dropping down who will also play a huge factor along with some schools already present.

“We have a good squad coming back, but Division IV is always tough in our area,” mentioned the second year coach. “This season will be no different with a lot of good teams already in this division and Defiance Ayersville and Haviland Wayne Trace   dropping down.”

Some of those teams already in the district are: New Knoxville, Plymouth, Van Buren, and Toledo Christian.

Patrick Henry is proving they will be a major competitor already by their summer play. Two weekends ago they were at Bluffton for a shoot out where they defeated the tournament champion Fort Loramie in pool play and lost a close game to highly touted Toledo Christian (22-1 in 2007). 

Northeast District

The northeast district had some big changes with Canfield and Olmsted Falls moving to D-I, Wooster Triway moving down to D-III, Rittman moving up to D-III and Beford St. Peter Chanel and Warren JFK dropping to D-IV.

Wooster Triway was state runner-up in D-II back-to-back years in 2005 and 2006. They lost a lot from those squads but still managed to get back to the district final in 2007 before losing to Navarre Fairless 64-63 in overtime.

Sixth year head coach Keith Snoddy remembers Triway’s previous stay in D-III vividly.

“In 1988, Triway made the state tournament, but I wasn’t on the bench,” Snoddy said. “I was an assistant the four previous years, but decided to take some time off to work on my farm. It just so happened that year they ended up at state, and I also missed the 1991 trip to state.”

He has mixed feelings about dropping down to D-III, but he knows it’s going to take time regardless with a bunch of new faces.

“I will miss the Canton Field House for our sectional as we will now most likely be at Wooster,” Snoddy said. “On the flip side, we will be more familiar with the teams in our sectional. We are kind of in a rebuilding mode, so it might not be a bad thing. It’s going to take some time but we will be okay.”

The Titans return just one starter in two-guard Kenny Goldstein, but have sixth man Heath Clark back along with a good freshman class. A couple freshmen may even see some varsity time. Triway will need to replace the entire post, which will make them rely on the quickness and shooting ability. Triway will face new foes Willard and Ashland this season.

The Titans are also the largest D-III school in the state (226 boys) along with Belmont Union Local, Massillon Tuslaw and Ottawa-Glandorf.

Rittman is another school on the move to D-III. A year removed from the D-IV regional final, the Indians will now have to deal with likes of Canton Central Catholic, Rocky River Lutheran West, Akron Manchester, Triway, Youngstown Ursuline, and Cleveland VASJ.

Kenny Pease and Sam Trogdon will return to lead the way.

Bedford Chanel was always a major player in D-III now they will become an even bigger force in D-IV. The Firebirds return 6-foot-5 junior Lamar McKnight (10.8 ppg.) along with fellow classmates Jo’vaugh Brown (5-10), Arthur Jordan (6-4), and Ryan Betori (5-10).

St.Peter Chanel was defeated by Rocky River Lutheran West in the district final last season, 71-64. Chanel dropping to D-IV is bad news for Canton regional contenders Malvern, Windham, Lutheran East, Shadyside and Hiland. 

Central District

The central district is always interesting and this season will be no different. Columbus Africentric is probably the biggest story as they will drop back to D-IV. The last time the Nubians were in D-IV they were hoisting the state title trophy. The championship was later stripped due to an illegal player.

After two quality seasons in D-III, the Nubians are back in their birthplace. Africentric will be a major player in the D-IV district along with Worthington Christian and Harvest Prep. Tim Mapp (16.2 points) returns to lead the Nubians.

In D-III, Columbus Academy and Morral Ridgedale will move up from D-IV. They both have a shot at the district crown.

Columbus Academy (16-5) returns first team all-state performer, senior Chris Crockett. The 5-foot-10 senior was good for 23.6 points per contest a year ago. He will be joined by fellow senior Jake Beatley (14.8 points) and juniors Max Hoster (6.9 points) and Cameron Baker (6.8 points)

Morral Ridgedale (15-9) welcomes back 6-foot-5 senior J.R. Weston. The third team all-Ohioan averaged 23.9 points. Also returning are fellow classmates Levi Lutz and Ryan Leslie.

The big change in D-II is Utica moving up from D-III. I’m not sure if they will go to the sectional that leads to the Athens regional or if they will be in the Wright State part of the bracket. Regardless, they should bump up and be a major player with several players returning. Senior Zack Walton (6-4) brings back his 18.5 points per night along with sophomore Justin Dassylva, who started as a freshman at point guard.

They along with Delaware Buckeye Valley, Columbus DeSales and Canal Winchester will all be primed for big seasons.

The big change in D-I is Columbus Beechcroft jumping up from D-II.  Beechcroft made the regionals last year in D-II, but may find the slopes a little steeper in D-I.  

Southeast District

The southeast district had just a few changes. Marietta dropped from D-I to II, which should be a relief for it. The Pioneers will no longer be playing the likes of Canton McKinley, North Canton Hoover, Canton Glen Oak, Massillon Perry or Warren Harding.

Richmondale Southeastern has moved up to D-III, where it made the regional in 2003.

The biggest change is probably Oak Hill, which drops down to D-IV. The Oaks were in the D-III regional last season before bowing out to Wheelersburg. Long time Chesapeake head coach Norm Persin guided the Oaks to the regional in his first season at the school. Oak Hill returns 6-foot-5 combo guard Casey Love. In all, the Oaks return 10 of 13 players from last season’s roster.  

Southwest District

There were some changes in the southwest district, but of all the districts, this one was the least affected. Here things remained relatively unchanged.

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