An early look at how the Eastern District boys basketball draw is shaping up


Eastern District Boys Basketball
The Eastern District is down to just one remaining unbeaten. After a
wild weekend of high school hoops, the Malvern Hornets are the only
unbeaten outfit left in the district. Coach Dennis Tucci’s squad beat
Sandy Valley (74-52) this past Friday to advance to (11-0).

The Eastern District is down to just one remaining unbeaten. After a wild weekend of high school hoops, the Malvern Hornets are the only unbeaten outfit left in the district. Coach Dennis Tucci’s squad beat Sandy Valley (74-52) this past Friday to advance to (11-0).

Two squads came into the weekend with unblemished marks, but left with narrow defeats. Zanesville, after beating Ironton on Friday night, fell to unbeaten Warren Harding (60-58) on Saturday at the Play-by-Play Classic in Columbus. The Wellsville Tigers saw a furious rally come up short against Berlin Center Western Reserve (62-61) for its first setback of the season.

The season is more than half way over and teams are starting to jockey for position in their respective sectionals. I will take a look at each individual sectional and attempt to break it all down. Remember, these are opinions but you have come to the right place for highly educated ones.

Division I

Columbus District

Zanesville (11-1) and Tri-Valley (12-1) will both be participating in the Central District along with Southeastern member Logan. The Blue Devils are certainly no stranger to Ohio’s big boy division as they competed in the Division I ranks as recently as 2003. Zanesville won a state championship in Ohio’s top division in 1995 and earned a runner-up trophy in 1997. The Scotties, on the other hand, haven’t competed this high since the 1997 season when they were knocked off by Zanesville.

Zanesville is enjoying a fine season despite suffering its first loss on Saturday to Warren Harding. In a game filled with runs, the Blue Devils erased a 12-point late fourth quarter deficit to tie the game up. However, with less than five seconds remaining Harding junior standout Desmar Jackson put up a floater that was off the mark but rangy 6-foot-8 senior Damian Eargle was on the spot for the rebound putback as the clock expired (60-58).

The Blue Devils are certainly capable of competing with almost anybody in the state with their length, athleticism, and high basketball IQ. The Blue and White play extremely good defense and are always in the passing lanes. They are very well coached under Scott Aronhalt. They have done a lot better job this season on the boards, and the emergence of junior Joe Prati (10.2 ppg./6.2 rpg.) has sent them from being good to real good. Prati was outstanding on Saturday as he has been all season with a career-high 17 points.

Everyone knows Logan Aronhalt’s (21.9 ppg.) ability, but the improvement of everyone else around him has made this team extremely good. Cedric Harris (15 ppg./6 apg.), to me, is the best point guard in the district. The smaller Harris has an unbelievable pull up jumper and his handles are second to none. Andre Harris (11 ppg./7.3 rpg.) is the x-factor. When he goes out of the game there is a huge drop off in the energy level. The 6-foot-4 senior, who plays about 6-foot-8, is a great defender and tireless worker on the offensive end.

Zanesville has the best chance of any team in the Central District to challenge the ultra-talented Columbus Northland Vikings led by 6-foot-9 sophomore Jared Sullinger (Ohio State commit) and 6-foot-4 senior combo guard Devon Moore. However, bitter rival Newark will be lurking as well. The Blue Devils knocked off Newark earlier in the season. Don’t get me wrong, it will be a tall order to upset Northland but Zanesville has the personnel and big game experience to do so.

Tri-Valley, who is coming off a huge win Saturday night over Reynoldsburg (51-50), likely grabbed some respect for the upcoming tournament draw. Cameron West sank two free-throws with nine seconds remaining to give the Scotties the win.

The Scotties, who were just three boys over the limit from being Division II, will try and compete with schools that have over twice as many boys (Gahanna Lincoln, Hillard Davidson, and Hilliard Darby). This Scotty team will not back down from anyone.

The Black and Gold have a veteran squad led by inside studs Aaron Shumaker (14.3 ppg./6.2 rpg.) and Akron football commit Adam Bice (14.2 ppg./5.2 rpg.). Shumaker, who came off the bench last season, has really improved his overall game. The guards are solid in senior Cam West and junior Jordan Ayers. Look for Ayers to step up his game come tournament time.

I wouldn’t put this team in the Northland/Zanesville category, but they are going to be a thorn in somebody’s side. This team is capable of getting to the district, and anything can happen from that point.

Division II

Coshocton Sectional

This sectional is stock piled with parody. There a lot of quality teams in this sectional and none really stand out over the others. However, Guru has his eye one team in particular that is laying in the weeds waiting to unleash its venom on this sectional. I will get to that in a few.

Two teams will advance from this sectional to district play at the Steubenville Arena.

Six teams at this site have winning records: West Muskingum (10-2), Maysville (10-3), West Holmes (8-5), John Glenn (7-6), Morgan (7-6) and Meadowbrook (6-5).

The other four teams are all dangerous. Cambridge (4-8) has some talent, but just can’t seem to get on the same page. Claymont (5-7) has two outstanding players in Zach Golec and Josh Brinley. Philo (4-8) just knocked off Maysville last Tuesday and have two good players in senior Scott Williams and junior Todd Williams and River View (1-11) has been pesky all season.

West Muskingum owns the best record at this point, but plays Tri-Valley and Maysville again. The Tornadoes are led by juniors Josh Osborn (20.2 ppg.) and Wade Smith (15.5 ppg.) along with senior Nathan Shumate (10 ppg.). West Muskingum is well coached and has some talented players, but for one reason or another has struggled in tournament play up until last year’s district appearance in Division III.

Maysville has been a pleasant surprise thanks in large part to the improvement of 6-foot-2 junior Eastin Lewellen who dropped quite a bit of body weight from last year which has been a big reason for his growth as a player. Lewellen is averaging 20.8 points per game. He is flanked by fellow junior Jared Cox (10.3 ppg.). The Panthers under first-year boss Jesse Rupe have overachieved in my book. This team is capable of earning a spot in the district, but I still feel they are a year away.

At last, the West Holmes Knights. The team referred to as hiding in the weeds. The Knights hidden away in Holmes County are silently going about their business playing against some quality competition in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and also out of conference play against the number one ranked team in Division III, Findlay Liberty Benton. One well kept secret is 6-foot-3 physical specimen Ben Snyder (15.4 ppg./6.4 rpg.). Snyder had a rebound and putback with 2.8 seconds remaining against Wooster to give them a 56-54 triumph this past Friday. He has been an animal on the inside all season long. John Miller, a 6-foot-1 senior, has been the Knights leading scorer throughout the season around 16 points per contest. Other top support comes from junior Ethan Holt. Coach Kelly Seboe’s unit is a feel good story of sorts with a lot of off season detractions. Watch out D2 Eastern District, this may be the best team.

John Glenn is young and I mean really young. Sophomore Rob Metry and freshman Jake Heagen are two names basketball junkies will be hearing for a good while. Metry is coming off a 26-point effort which included making 12-of-13 field goal attempts in a 58-54 surprising win over Morgan. This is a dangerous team that no one will want to play come tourney time.

Morgan is a team I feel can be one of the two to advance. However, it appears they are a little inconsistent. For instance, this past Tuesday the Raiders knocked off previously unbeaten Tri-Valley then fall to John Glenn. This team has the right ingredients to get hot and advance led by seniors Lucas Williams (16.5 ppg.) and Brady Bowman (15.9 ppg.). Also, do-it-all point guard Tyler Hickerson is solid. Catch this team on the wrong night, and one will be in trouble fast.

The Meadowbrook Colts have arguably the best player at this site in Phillip Biggs. The one problem is most of the kids around him are talented but young. Defenses in the tournament will scheme to take away Biggs, and I’m not sure they have enough fire power on offense to combat that situation.

Early picks: West Holmes and West Muskingum


Steubenville Sectional:

This site has seen some changes in terms of the participating teams. Claymont moved to Coshocton, while St.Clairsville dropped to Division III. Coshocton, Dover, and New Philadelphia have changed addresses and will now compete at the Jefferson County-based site.

Two teams will advance from this sectional to district play at the Steubenville Arena.

The above mentioned East Central Ohio League teams that will enter this sectional own the best records thus far along with Buckeye 8 members, Edison and Indian Creek.

Five teams are above the .500 mark, while a like amount is below the average mark. Dover (10-1), Edison (9-2), Coshocton (8-3), New Philadelphia (8-4), and Indian Creek (7-6) are the five teams with winning records.

Beaver Local (1-9), Carrollton (1-13), East Liverpool (4-7), Harrison Central (2-11), and a dangerous Steubenville (4-6) outfit are the remaining competitors.

The Tornadoes proved to me this past Friday they are the best team at this location with a 56-41 win over Coshocton. It was their 15th straight win over the Redskins. The Tornadoes bounced back after their first loss of the season to Fairless (48-45) on Tuesday. Dover is led by 6-foot-6 senior Eric Dummermuth (24.0 ppg./11.8 rpg.), who had another typical night with 21 points and 16 boards in the win over Coshocton. Dummermuth likes to play on the perimeter, but can be very dominant in the paint. He has very good bounce and has a very smooth left-handed stroke. His brother, Kyle, is an excellent defender and is coming on as a scorer. With that being said, the key to this team is guard play. It was a little shaky early in the year, but appears to be improving. Junior Corey Lisowki and sophomore Marcus Mamarella (12.2 ppg.) handle the ball quite a bit. The former tossed in 17 markers in last Friday’s victory, while Mamarella is one of the finest young athletes in the district. This team is the odds on favorite to advance, but guard play will determine how far this team can go.

I’m still sold that Coshocton, although young, is the next best team. The Redskins are led by senior standout Rydell Chrisman (18.7 ppg.), but for the most part the other main offensive contributors are sophomores. The Redskins started the season 7-0, but have since dropped three of their last four including a 78-67 setback to previously winless Carrollton on Saturday night. Don’t fear, this team is just suffering through some growing pains. The two wins prior to this stretch were both 2-point wins over Meadowbrook and New Philly. This is an obvious sign of a young basketball team. Sophomores David Brown (10.2 ppg.), Christian Taylor (6’6), and Dom McCluskey have all had quality nights offensively. Now, with all this being said, this team is certainly capable of being upset early in tournament play.

New Philadelphia is a safe pick to me. This squad certainly has the talent to make it to the district. The Quakers usually have a different leading scorer each night, which makes it difficult for opposing coaches to scout. Get a pencil or pen and jot down these names because they all contribute. Senior Kevin Thurman, who shoots the rock very well, is the most consistent scorer. Seniors Vinnie Granato and Bryant McKnight are two others. Junior center John Stephenson is emerging and juniors Tyler Dummermuth and Tyler Korns are also talented. A pair of sophomores are also stepping up in Cody Cox and Jordan Demattio. Watch out for this contingent.

Edison has silently been going about its business in the Buckeye 8 and head coach Todd English deserves a lot of the credit. The Wildcats have two losses to St.Clairsville and Martins Ferry, but English and his bunch already avenged the Purple Rider setback. This team has a lot of players the common fan may not know. Bryson Anderson has been outstanding, while Corey Wickham and Loren Mynes take turns having hot shooting nights. Both Wickham and Mynes are streaky shooters that when they make one then next seven or eight have a real good chance of going through the net. Cale McCoy and T.J. Mack are also enjoying fine seasons. Edison is a good basketball team, and very good at home. Is this team capable of competing against some of the ECOL heavy weights? Time will tell, but for right now this is one of the best stories in the district for a school in much need of a positive.

Indian Creek is up and down, which is why they are just one game above the .500 mark. Some nights the Skins are very good and others mediocre. Senior Mike Smith can play with anybody at this sectional. He is long, athletic, and can score in traffic. He has very nice game from 15 feet in with his ability to elevate above the defender and score. Senior Jim Wood has improved immensely, and on nights when he plays well the Redskins are tough to beat. However, in the game of basketball the main key is guard play especially in the tourney. How well does a team handle ball pressure. This could eventually be Creek’s demise in tournament play.

Steubenville is under .500, but always capable. Senior DeTroy Smith is one of the premier scorers in the district. Sophomore Dwight Macon is an emerging star and Jeryl Christian is solid in the paint. DeMichael Jordan is another kid improving game by game. This is a team one doesn’t want to see in the first round.

Other players to watch for:
Ethan Russell of Beaver Local is outstanding, Hunter Borland (14.7 ppg.) of Carrollton, and Nate Howard and freshman Jason Dickey of East Liverpool.

Early Picks: Dover and New Philadelphia
Sleeper Pick: Steubenville

Division III

Claymont Sectional

The Claymont Sectional lost Toronto, but has two new kids on the block in Bellaire and Martins Ferry. This should be an entertaining sectional with a good bit of depth. Garaway is the definite favorite for the top seed, while slumping Tuscarawas Valley is holding onto the two-seed like a cat on a screen door. Indian Valley is hanging around and Martins Ferry is emerging with a big game tonight against St.Clairsville.

Two teams will advance to district play at New Philadelphia.

Four of the eight teams have winning records in Garaway (11-1), Tusky Valley (9-4), Martins Ferry (8-4), and Indian Valley (7-5). The other four are Bellaire (4-8), Ridgewood (4-7), Sandy Valley (3-8), and Newcomerstown (0-12).

Garaway, of any team in Division III, has the specific ingredients to advance not only to district play but regional action and possibly further. The Pirates have two outstanding vertern guards in Tyler Gerber and Chase Stingel. The former, next to Harris of Zanesville and Tucci of Malvern, is the best point guard in the district. Gerber is a teammate of Harris on Team CBIZ on the AAU circuit. Gerber had 23 points and an amazing 14 steals in a 80-30 over Conotton Valley this past Friday. The Pirates lone setback was to undefeated Malvern (47-45) in a game they led most of the contest. Furthermore, coach Dave Shutt’s group has excellent play in the paint led by freshman sensation Paul Honigford (6’7), and juniors David Gerber (6’3) and Heath Myers (6’5). Finally, every top notch basketball team has a tremendous defender and junior Devin Schie is that kid for the Pirates. This team shoots a high percentage from the field, defends, and doesn’t turn the ball over too often which almost always equals a high success rate.

Tuscarawas Valley has hit a mid-season rut. The Trojans are playing without injured leading scorer Jacob Brown, but at any rate the Red and Black are just plain struggling. The PAC-7 is a very tough conference, and one TV was picked by many to win. Coach Steve Franks’ team started the year 6-0, but has since dropped four of its last seven games. It started with a five-point loss to Garaway, then a three-point loss to a winless Triway team, followed by a 25-point drubbing at the hands of an ultra-talented Timken squad, and finally another 25-point rout by a red-hot Fairless team this past Friday. TV is on the road tonight against a good Alliance Marlington team that could result in another L. This schedule doesn’t get any easier with another game with Triway, Timken, and Fairless to close out the season. The final two games of the regular season against Timken and Fairless will tell what this team does in the tournament. If they play well TV will go on to advance to the district, if not, it could be disappointing end to a highly anticipated campaign. This senior oriented team needs to come together and pull through. Remember, this team played in the regional final a year ago with four starters returning this season [Steven Spillman (10.0 ppg.), Jacob Brown (15.2 ppg.), Pat Kane (8.8 ppg.), and Kurt Elsasser (11.0 ppg.)].

The Purple Riders of Martins Ferry have opened up a new gym and things are looking on the up and up. The Riders enjoyed a successful weekend with wins over Indian Creek on the road and opened up the new gym with a thrilling 71-69 overtime victory over Linsly (WV). Derek Edwards, who poured in 27 points in the triumph of Linsly, has been a warrior all season. Edwards is a winner, plain and simple. His backcourt mate is fellow senior Tony Sabatino. The coach’s son is a pure shooter, but often times has trouble creating for himself. The interior for the Riders is solid with 6-foot-6 sophomore Jordan Burress (15 markers against Linsly), 6-foot-5 senior Josh Bable, and 6-foot-4 senior Steve McIntosh. Junior guard Clay Francis has also been adequate. The Purple has struggled against what I like to call “basketball schools” in recent history, which is why I thought this sectional was a bad fit for them with the likes of Garaway, TV, and Indian Valley. However, this team has a lot of toughness and a proven winner at guard which tells me this team is going to be a tough out.

Indian Valley is right where they need to be at this point. The Braves will most likely finish three or four, which gives them a choice of bracket to participate. One would think IV likely will stay away from Garaway a team that defeated them 57-27 earlier in the year. The Braves, under first-year head coach Andy Dean, posses one of if not the best players in this sectional in Brian Gasser. The 6-foot-3 senior can play inside or out. Senior Joe MacAdam and junior Zach Baker are also capable. The Braves are on the road tonight against Coshocton, which should tell us more about the growth of IV. Dean’s outfit lost (60-57) to the Redskins in the season opener.

Bellaire is streaking, and now winners of three straight. The Big Reds are simply outscoring their opponents. Led by a pair of sophomores and a junior the Big Reds avenged losses to Union Local and Buckeye Local this past week while also defeating Harrison Central for a second time. The Reds are certainly capable on offense with sophomore guard Ryan Feller leading the way. The heady guard scored 66 points in the three victories including a 35-point and 10-rebound outburst against Union Local. Sophomore swing man Levi Crozier has also been stellar. The lengthy Crozier scored 29 points and snared 14 caroms in the win over Buckeye Local. Junior Anthony Hocker has shot the basketball from the perimeter extremely well all year. One night these three kids are all going to be clicking and will pull a big upset.

Other players to watch:
Jordan Tozzi of Sandy Valley, Jared Kreitzer of Ridgewood, and J.C. Rine of Newcomerstown.

Early Picks:
Garaway and Tuscarawas Valley
Sleeper: Indian Valley

Meadowbrook Sectional

The Byesville-based site is completely top heavy with St.Clairsville and Fort Frye. Union Local and Shenandoah are above .500, but are entirely too inconsistent.

Two teams will advance to district play at New Philadelphia.

St.Clairsville (9-2) and Fort Frye (10-2) appear to be a class above the rest. Union Local (7-5) has been plagued by lack of depth, injuries, and foul problems and no one knows which Shenandoah (7-4) team will show up. The other teams are Monroe Central (3-9), Barnesville (5-7), and Buckeye Trail (4-7).

The Red Devils lost nine seniors to graduation off a team that made the Division II district final a year ago and gave Zanesville all they wanted, and returned basically one kid with any real varsity experience in Anthony Vincent. Senior Dustin Hynes would have been a key contributor, but missed the majority of the year with a broken leg. Honestly, I don’t believe last year’s basketball success had much to do with this team’s great start. Head coach Kim Clifford has a top notch hoop program but last year’s roster was filled with a lot of highly skilled players with above average basketball IQ’s. This team is more athletic with a lot of physical and mental toughness. One word to describe this senior group is ‘winners.’ The success of the football team (12-1) carried the attitude over to the basketball gym where the Red Devils only have two L’s and both were to a talented Weir (WV) team. The Red Devils play a host of individuals with a relentless pressuring style of play. It’s full court man-to-man for 32 minutes and there is no letting up. Vincent and Hynes along with fellow seniors Michael Bigelow, Derrik Baugh, and Anthony Skrabak are showing great leadership that is always a key. Juniors Ryan Jarvie and Kaz Pata get major minutes along with heady sophomore Daniel Slavik who starts at guard. Senior Delioun Jackson, a Linsly transfer, has showed signs of brilliance off the bench. When a team plays St.Clairsville they better have depth or it will be a long night. St.Clairsville is a favorite to advance in this sectional. To me, the Devils are mirror image of Tuscarawas Valley.

Fort Frye has struggled of late in the scoring department going 1-1 this past week. The Cadets only scored 20 points in a 36-20 setback to bitter rival Waterford and just 34 in a 34-32 win over River on Friday night. With that being said, the Cadets have only lost two games. Warren knocked off Fort Frye earlier in the season by one point when the Cadets squandered away a 16-point fourth quarter advantage. Coach Dan Liedtke’s crew is led by senior post Derek Thompson and junior guard Jarrod Arnold. Thompson has showed signs this season of the excellent player that he is and on other nights he seems nonexistent. Thompson elevates extremely well and has above average post moves and I look for him to turn it on come tourney time. Arnold is an excellent shooter, but at times streaky. The x-factor is Brandt Thieman. This kid has all kinds of potential at 6-foot-3. The junior is a better scorer than he has showed thus far in 2007-2008 and if he plays well offensively this team can be really good. The return of junior Tyler Stevens and Mason Lang will definitely help on the defensive end. The former is very good on defense and the latter is even better. Lang has been around a long time and as he gets in better shape this team will be hard to beat. The Cadets should advance as well.

Union Local is a mystery team. They have two of the best offensive players in Division III (Eastern District) in juniors Jordan Barbina (20.8 ppg.) and Joby Barr (18 ppg.). However, this team has been too inconsistent. Defensively this team has struggled. They have a hard time stopping penetration with lack of communication. Coach Ben Porter prides himself on defense and hard work and this has to be very frustrating to him. This is not to say UL can’t win one half of this sectional. Barr missed the St.Clairsville encounter with an injured back leaving Barbina to carry the majority of the scoring load. Junior post Kyle Blackman (7.2 ppg.) is unstoppable one night and then spends most of the next game on the bench in foul trouble. Senior Zach Azallion (8.8 ppg.), other than Barbina and Barr, has been the Jets most consistent player offensively. Depth with this team is a major issue as well especially with the foul problems. Blackman, Barr, and senior Sam Nardo have all fouled on more than one occasion this year. I still believe this team is dangerous, but Barbina, Barr, Blackman, and Azallion have to become more cohesive. Trust me, Barbina and Barr can play with anyone offensively but the question remains is this team capable of locking a team up defensively.

Shenandoah has been quiet all year with no real big name players, and on certain nights a different team show up. But, when this team plays together the Zeps are a pretty good basketball team. They have some size inside with Aaron Bridgman, and junior Cody Johnson and Jacob Hupp are both athletic. Garrett Chapman is a quality guard and Caleb Schwieterman can shoot the basketball. Shenandoah is certainly going to be a tough out for someone depending on which teams comes to play.

Other players to watch:
Brock Davis of Buckeye Trail.

Early Picks:
St.Clairsville and Fort Frye
Sleeper: Union Local

Division IV

New Philadelphia Sectional

This sectional has a lot of depth in my personal opinion. Malvern is great and Wellsville and Hiland are good, but there are some teams underneath those squads who are capable on any given night of pulling an upset.

Two teams will advance to district play at Byesville.

Malvern is currently the only unbeaten team in the Eastern District with a perfect (11-0) mark. Wellsville (12-1) dropped its first verdict this past weekend to Western Reserve (62-61). Hiland is (8-4) and quietly going about its business. Strasburg (7-6), an upstart Tusky CC (6-6) team, Steubenville CC (5-6), and Toronto (4-7) are all more than capable of pulling a major upset. Conotton Valley (1-10) is the remaining squad.

Malvern is the best team in the district (Division IV). Does that mean they will advance to the regional, no. Upsets are always an option, but this team is just so talented. The three-headed monster of seniors Zak Kapron (21.5 ppg./11.5 rpg.) and Trevor Halter (18.3 ppg./6.4 rpg.) and junior Tyler Tucci (15.5 ppg./8.6 rpg./8 apg./2.5 spg.) produce every night for the Hornets. Sophomore Adam Wackerly has improved as a scorer and Jamar Stephens is a good defender and capable scorer. This team also has some depth. Kapron, Halter, and Tucci don’t just put up numbers these three produce huge numbers. Kapron is a double-double machine, Halter is a match up nightmare, and Tucci’s basketball IQ is incredible (father Dennis is the head coach). I think it’s safe to say Malvern will be wearing its uniforms in Byesville.

Wellsville is another outstanding team, and everybody would love to see a Tiger/Hiland sectional final. I’m assuming Hiland will join Wellsville’s half of the bracket. Wellsville is led by the Carter brothers senior Zane (14.8 ppg.) and sophomore Jeremy (17.1 ppg.). These two kids are tremendous for a Tiger outfit that is one of the best kept secrets in the district. D.J. Douglas has been a consistent scoring threat as has Jaimon Edison (10.1 ppg.). Nate Carman (6’5/270) has been a bear on the boards and can provide some scoring. Here is the catch. Coach Bug Thompson just recently unleashed sophomore Deshaun Pullie in the loss to Reserve. Pullie answered the call up with 19 points. The Tigers are going to be a tough out. The Orange and Black have length, athleticism and scoring punch.

Hiland has gone a bit unnoticed this season after being much talked about last year en route to a trip to the Final Four in Columbus. The majority of the scoring came from seniors, so head boss Mark Schlabach needed some time to get this team where he wanted them. I wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to play this team come tourney time. Hiland has losses to Malvern, Garaway, West Holmes, and Youngstown Ursuline all of which are very good basketball teams. Remember this Schlabach has been to the state tournament three of the past four years (twice with Loudonville) and made the regional final in 2006. The guy can coach. Seniors Clinton Yoder, Matt Beachy, and Jon Weaver have stepped up and 6-foot-4 junior Colton Troyer is emerging as well. Senior point guard Casey Kaufman is very heady and always seems to make things happen. Kaufman is very athletic and rebounds the ball well for his size. Hiland has a tough week coming up to say the least with Malvern tonight and Division II number one ranked Dayton Dunbar on Friday. The Hawks, if they the shoot ball well, are capable of taking anyone out with maybe the exception of Malvern.

Tusky CC is a team that appears to be moving in the right direction. The Saints are playing their best basketball of the season, and at the right time. Senior guard Zach Ross has been outstanding all season. During the tournament draw, be aware of the Saints.

Other players to watch:
Jonathan Shaw of Strasburg, Zach Stewart of Toronto, Chris Gale of Steubenville Central, and Tyler Yosick of Conotton Valley.

Early Picks:
Malvern and Hiland
Sleeper Pick: Tuscarawas CC

Ohio University Eastern Sectional

This half of the district is also interesting. Shadyside, on paper, is the best team the Belmont County site has to offer. Rosecrans is emerging in that next spot and Frontier has been hot of late as well. River is a mystery team. Bridgeport lacks a quality win, Caldwell is better than its record, Beallsville will struggle in this sectional, and St. John is just too inexperienced.

Two teams will advance to the Byesville district.

Shadyside (9-2) may not own as much of a gap as I originally thought, but are still the clear-cut favorite. Rosecrans has played some pretty good competition and currently stands at (6-5). Frontier is on the move at (6-4), while River is fluttering at (5-5). Bridgeport is (5-6), Beallsville checks in at (4-7), Caldwell owns one win (1-9), and St. John (0-13) has yet to crack the win column.

Shadyside, who I will get my first look at tonight, hasn’t played its best basketball yet which is not good news for future opponents. The Tigers have jumped on top of a lot of teams early on only to put the game on cruise control for the remains. The Orange Black own two losses, but both came to Wheeling Central (WV). Shadyside is loaded with kids who can shoot the basketball and it brings a lot of match up problems with guard quickness and length. Seniors Jared Andes, Billy Merryman, and B.A. Holloway lead the way on the outside. All three kids are capable of having huge nights. Andes can score in a variety of ways and also go in and snag a tough board. Merryman is more of a shooter and Holloway would be considered a scorer. Sophomore Justin Andes can also dial up from distance. The younger of head coach Ed Andes’ boys, Justin, is a very basketball smart kid. Both Andes boys are long and can shoot off the dribble. Senior Drew Kennon is the only true post player on the roster. Senior Dustin Sadlowski works hard on the defensive end and brings a lot of energy to the team. Two kids off the bench provide a huge spark in junior Nathan Butts and Dylan Kimble. The former is a scorer and the latter likes to penetrate off the bounce and create with his quickness. This team has a nice cohesion of length, quickness, and ability to score the basketball. The Tigers one weakness is a physical inside presence.

Rosecrans is elevating its play at the right time led by three seniors (Jared Lewis, Kyle Colopy, and Don Miller). Lewis (15.0 ppg.) is a bull on the interior. The senior is a very strong kid with some quality post moves. He is the leader of this team. Colopy (12.5 ppg.) is also enjoying a fine season along with Miller (10.5 ppg.). The former knocked down five triples including 17 points in a loss to Maysville this past Friday. Junior Josh Agin (8.9 ppg./7.1 rpg.) is always lingering around double-double status. Sophomores Vincent Joseph and Josh Kohler are emerging as well. This is a well schooled basketball team with some decent size that has a real good chance of being the other team to advance.

The Frontier Cougars are dangerous. Returning five starters from last season, the Cougars got out of the gate a little slow but are starting to turn the corner. Junior Ben Huntsman is a highly skilled big man for the Cougars who is a nightly double-double man. Coach Roger Kirkpatrick’s group is also streaky behind the arc. Brandan Murphy, Justin Ross, Derek Kendall, Bobby Brunoni, Ethan Morris, and Tyler Binegar all see quality minutes and are capable of providing scoring punch. Huntsman’s twin brother Zach is another force in the paint. Frontier, to me, is a team that could get hot and advance. They have the ability to be that good.

The River Pilots have been a bit of disappointment to some, but let us face it, they lost a quality point guard in Kyle Earley to graduation. The Pilots were left with no true guard who can handle the pill. Look at what happen to Harrison Central with the departure of Ben Hodkinson. The Pilots are solid on the interior with Zac Hammond and Terry Kirkland. Those two have good length, and Hammond can score the basketball foul line extended with the best of them. Junior Tyler Ash is starting to assert himself as the scorer many thought he may be. Don’t count this team out. The Pilots were a district qualifier a year ago in a little bit of surprising fashion, but don’t be shocked if the Pilots do it again. The thing holding them back, as mentioned before, is the lack of a true point guard which will hinder them against ball pressure.

Other players to watch:
Chaz Lindsey and Mike Bachie of Bridgeport, Jordan Darby of Beallsville, and Chase Russell of St. John.

Early Picks: Shadyside and Rosecrans
Sleeper Pick: River

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