New Knoxville putting together another solid, undefeated season


New Knoxville Basketball
New Knoxville doesn't field a football team, so sometimes the Rangers can get lost in the Midwest Athletic Conference shuffle. When basketball season starts though, rest assured, the Rangers race to the tip of everyone's tongues. Currently 15-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state, New Knoxville is aiming for a second straight undefeated regular season…and more.

Last Friday at Versailles, New Knoxville boys basketball coach Dan Hegemier was shaking his head. Not because his team had been beaten. In fact they had just beat the host Tigers 80-54. Hegemier was shaking his head because he had been forced to play a zone defense.

An old school coach, Hegemier prides himself and his team in playing man-to-man defense and when forced to do otherwise he is not a happy camper.

“I was very disappointed in our man-to-man defense,” Hegemier said. “I like to play man-to-man and that wasn’t very good.”

Everything else for the Rangers the last two seasons has been much better.

Last year the Rangers were a perfect 20-0 and this year they are 15-0 and five games away from another perfect regular season. The Rangers only loss in their last 41 games is a 60-57 decision to eventual state champion Georgetown in last season’s D-IV regional final. The Rangers are currently ranked No. 1 in the AP state poll.

The key this year and the last few years is very simple to Hegemier.

“Good players and don’t have a coach that will screw up,” Hegemier said. “We have unselfish and quality players.”

There were a number of questions about the level of talent coming into the season. All-Ohio and MAC Player of the Year Ross Stienecker graduated leaving a huge void. But, Hegemier has replaced Stienecker and his 20 points per game with balanced scoring and hard nosed play.

Four Rangers are averaging double digit scoring, led by 6-foot-7 junior Brad Piehl, who is averaging for nearly 13 points per game. The only traditional post player on the team, Piehl has combined size with quickness to control games for Hegemier.

After Piehl there is very little fall off in scoring. Tony Meyer is dropping in 12.3 points and hitting nearly 59-percent of his three point attempts. Meyer is the engine driving the machine with his high energy and ability to do more than just score. The 5-11 senior guard is dishing off nearly six assists a game. Defensively he is a disruptive force averaging almost four steals.

Meyer’s backcourt mate Austin Arnett is matching Meyer’s scoring with 12.5 points per game. Rounding out the three headed monster at guard is Austin Luck, the designated shooter. Luck is the zone breaker having hit 47 3-pointers heading into last weekend’s games.

Put all this firepower together and what you get is a team that has not lost a regular season basketball game since February 2006.

But it is on their home court where the Rangers have been an unstoppable force, not just beating teams, but rolling over of them.

At their home gym, lovingly known as “The Barn,” New Knoxville last lost to Russia in January 2006. Since then the Rangers have redefined home court advantage.

Tucked deep into the school, the barn is a small, ruckus place where the fans sit right on top of the floor and the noise bounces off the walls, swelling like a wave. It is an intimidating place for any team – just ask Lima Shawnee.

The AP’s No. 14 team in D-II was the latest victim, losing 72-53 last Saturday. In typical fashion, the Rangers put four players in double digits and held the Shawnee to a mere 22 second half points.

Other noteworthy victories include routs of Upper Scioto Valley (88-10), Waynesfield-Goshen (80-26) and Minster (81-38). The Rangers also own impressive wins over Anna (78-55) and Fort Recovery (73-40).

With the victories piling up and New Knoxville racing towards another MAC title, one game remains fresh in the minds of the Rangers – last year’s regional final. The defeat to Georgetown has provided motivation and could be bad news for the rest of D-IV this season. As the Rangers ride into the tournament Hegemier’s crew will be looking to complete some unfinished business and win a state title. New Knoxville begins its run towards Columbus on February 22 in the Coldwater Sectional

Until then remaining regular season dates with St. Henry and Marion Local are circled. Currently Marion is undefeated in the MAC as well and the Flyers visit the Barn on Feb. 8.

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