Division III Boys Basketball State Tournament Preview: Fresh faces making the trip to Columbus


Division III State Tournament

The 87th Annual State Boys Basketball Tournament welcomes some fresh faces in Division III this season. Two teams are making their first trip to Columbus and the other two are only making their second. All are aiming to raise the state championship trophy for the first time in the respective history of their schools.

The 87th Annual State Boys Basketball Tournament welcomes some fresh faces in Division III this season.

Two teams are making their first trip to Columbus and the other two are only making their second.

All are aiming to raise the state championship trophy for the first time in the respective history of their schools.

Dayton’s Crusaders

Dayton Christian made the state tournament one other time in 1997 but the Warriors are headed back to Columbus under first-year head coach Chip James.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity,” James said. “We’ve got eight seniors that have dreamed about this since they were little kids. They remember when that team went to state in 1997.

“They couldn’t be more excited to have this opportunity.”

When DC Has The Ball

Dayton Christian finished a respectable 14-7 last year but James has amped up the unranked Warriors (22-4) to get them into the state tournament with stout defense allowing 47.1 points per game.

“The number one thing I try to do as a coach is to try and get these kids to understand that if you play defense and if you’re tough you can play with anybody on any night no matter what,” the 27 year-old coach said.

“The backbone of our defense is man-to-man but we feel we can use some of our athleticism to get up in the full court and play people in the full court.”

Guard Aaron Deister a four-year starter and is the second all-time leading scorer for DC averaging 13.7 points per game this season. He is also the team leader in assists, steals and free throws.

Guard Nathan Serenius is good for 12 points per game and is the Warriors best defender, according to James.

In the paint, 6-foot-6 senior forward Kenny Florkey contributes 8.5 points per game and 6-foot-7 senior forward Aaron Bryant chips in 5.7.

Rounding out the starters, senior wing Casey Weber leads the team in three-point percentage scoring 7.1 points per game this season.

The Shot Heard ‘Round The World

Recognize Weber’s name?

If so, you probably saw him on YouTube, ESPN or any given national news outlet earlier this month as he became an instant sensation.

In the 63-46 sectional finals win over Arcanum March 6 at the  University of Dayton, Weber sunk a 90-foot shot at the third quarter buzzer.

ESPN caught wind of the amazing shot and came out to DC for a practice to film a feature on Casey and his shot.

“When ESPN called and wanted to send a crew out the day before the district final game, which was the biggest game I had ever coached in and the biggest game these guys had ever played in, my initial thought was it was too much of a distraction,” James said.

“At the same time, it’s a once in a lifetime thing for (Weber) and our team so we decided to go ahead and do it. I was thinking to myself that we have eight seniors and they’ve got to be mature enough to handle this.”

And James’ senior didn’t let him down.

“Even though there were cameras and lights and microphones everywhere, we really focused in and had a great practice that day and all week with all the hoopla,” he said.

“The thing I was most surprised about was our maturity and ability to take that in stride and continue to work hard.”

For good measure, here is another look at Casey’s amazing shot:



On Semifinal Opponent Defiance Tinora

Like DC, Tinora boasts a solid defense and that is one of the main concerns for James. The Rams allowed just 38.4 points per game this season.

“I don’t think I slept for a minute (the other night) just thinking about how we’re playing a team that holds teams to under 40 points,” James said. “They are very well-balanced, very disciplined and you can see they take defense personally, which I think all great teams do.”

But James feels confident in what his team brings to the court offensively.

“We have to do a good job handling the different defenses that they bring to the table,” he said. “We’re going to have to come out and play a great offensive game. It looks to be the best defense we have faced all year.”

Grabbing The Opportunity By The Horns

Tinora is making its first trip to the boys basketball state tournament in school history. The Rams are 73-58 under sixth year head coach Rob Mahnke.

“We feel very pleased to be making it down to the state tournament,” Mahnke said. “The whole community should be down there supporting us and I know the team is making the whole community proud.”

The state tournament is obviously unfamiliar territory for the Tinora squad.

“(It) is a huge stage and I am sure there are going to be some butterflies but this is a group that handles that stuff well,” said Mahnke. “I think this team handles adversity and pressure very well.”

When Tinora Has The Ball

The unranked Rams (22-3) are paced by seven seniors and have depth on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

“Offensively, we like to get up and down the floor and get some early transition baskets. We’ll try to push the ball in that respect,” Mahnke said. “If we can’t do that, we’ll run the offense and try to get the shots we’re looking for.

“(On defense), we like to press teams full court going from a man-to-man press to a zone press.”

Captain and senior forward J.R. Wuo leads the team in scoring with 9.8 points per game and is the second leading rebounder with 8.7 boards per outing. Fellow captain and senior center Jon Gerken, who stands in at 6-foot-6, accounts for 8.4 points per game and is the leading rebounder for Tinora.

Wing Taylor Wiemken is a four-year starter averaging 6.2 points per game.

Senior guard Trey Meyer nets 4.2 points per game and is Tinora’s top three-point threat, according to Mahnke.

At the point, senior guard Zach Beilharz runs the offense and chips in 2.8 points.

Coming off the bench, junior guard Treg Lymanstall, junior center Jon Garmyn, senior forward Gregg Gerken and sophomore guard Landon Drewes contribute to the Rams attack.

Drewes is also the Tinora quarterback in the fall for the football Rams.

On Semifinal Opponent DC

For Mahnke, going up against DC begins with play in the backcourt.

“Dayton Christian has some guards that present all kinds of problems defensively,” he said. “They are extremely quick off the dribble, they can pass the ball extremely well and they are very good shooters.”

But he does not overlook the players and size DC has in the paint.

“The big guys inside are very solid as well, rebound hard, have good post moves and (DC) is a team that would expect at state with a lot of balance,” Mahnke said.

As for reaching Tinora’s 50.3 points per game on offense, Mahnke feels DC presents some challenges defensively.

“They love to pressure the basketball and run up and down the floor,” he said. “That is one of the concerns we’re looking at. They typically like to play man-to-man but we have seen them play some zone.”


Coming Back To The Capital City

In only his second season as head coach, Kevin Noch has led CCC to the state tournament for the second time in school history.

The Ironmen were bounced in the state semifinals in 2002.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to be part of the Final Four,” Noch said.

When CCC Has The Ball

No. 9-ranked CCC (22-3) is a big team that also relies heavily on its depth in a multifaceted offense.

“We are a pretty in-depth team as far as using all 13 players at times,” said Noch. “We have a lot of offenses we run and we run a lot of different sets for each of our five starters.”

Sophomore center Anton Grady, who stands in at 6-foot-8, is the leading scorer for the Ironmen with 11.6 points per game.

Brandon Campbell is the senior floor general at the point position and scores 10.2 points per contest.

Junior wing Chall Montgomery is a threat both inside and outside netting 11.3 points per game. 

Senior wing Derrick Bufford is fundamentally sound, according to Noch, and adds 8.9 points while senior forward Demetrius Bennett chips in 4.5 points.

Sophomore forward Marvin Davis, senior guard Earl Locklear, senior guard Tra’vaughn Moore and junior guard Isaiah Shakespeare contribute valuable minutes off the bench.

“Everybody on the basketball (court) at any time is a threat because everybody is able to contribute on the offensive end,” Noch said. We have been pretty balanced all season.”

On defense, CCC pressures the basketball holding teams to less than 48 points per game this season.
“We just like to play defense and that is one thing that we started two years ago and we’ve got it to where we want it this year” said Noch.

On Semifinal Opponent Piketon

Piketon boasts a starting lineup that averages nearly 6-foot-4 and Noch believes rebounding will be the key to the game.

“The biggest thing we saw when we saw them play is they crash the boards phenomenally. Four guys are hitting the boards on the offensive end all the time,” he said.

“They are a really solid basketball team and I think if we can keep them off the boards, keep the pace up and down the way we like to play and put a lot of pressure on them I just think that we’ll be able to compete.”

Streaking At The Right Time

Piketon is making its first trip in school history to the state tournament and the Redstreaks are 69-45 under fourth-year head coach Jeff Lisath.

“We’re very excited to get to Columbus and make it to the Final Four,” he said. “Naturally, our kids are excited and our coaches are excited as well as the town of Piketon. We’re just looking forward to getting there and playing.”

Lisath won a state title as player for Portsmouth in 1978 and again as an assistant coach for the Trojans in 1988.

When Piketon Has The Ball

No. 8-ranked Piketon (24-2) will get the ball up and down the court and averages of 70 points per game but will also set up the half court offense.

“When teams want to make it a track meet, we’ve been able to play that way but I would much prefer to play a half court game and get some good shots off and come down and play solid half court defense,” Lisath said.

Senior forward Jordan Brabson averages 19.0 points per game and is a 1,000-point career scorer. Junior center Caleb Southworth joins Brabson in the frontcourt and is good for 5.1 points per contest.

“Both are excellent athletes and they are two 6-foot-6 kids that can get up off the floor and jump,” Lisath said. “I see them playing extremely well and I know for sure they won’t back down.”

Senior point guard Cody Smith has also eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career and averages 19.1 points per game.

Sophomore guard Evan Legg chips in 12.3 points and 6-foot-6 sophomore Keenan Brush adds 4.5 points.

“We have some guys that are very athletic and can do some things for us,” Lisath said. “They have done well against post players all season long and you just have to fight and play aggressive and not back down.”

The Redstreaks also like to go to the bench with senior forward Kenny Helton, sophomore Jared Vulgamore, junior guard James Lewis and sophomore forward Jamie Helton coming off the pine.

“We like to play a lot of people and we feel our bench has been good all season long,” said Lisath.

On Semifinal Opponent CCC

Lisath is confident heading into the semifinal match up having seen teams similar to CCC in the regular season.

“It is certainly not a type of team that we haven’t seen but certainly it is a team that could cause some problems for us,” he said. “We’re going to have to handle the ball well, we’ll have to hit the boards and play a good, solid basketball game and I think our kids will be up for the challenge.

“If we remain focused, stick to our game plan and do the things that got us here, we’re going to be okay.”


Division III State Basketball Tournament Vitals


Thursday, March 26
Cleveland Central Catholic vs. Piketon, 5:15 p.m.
Dayton Christian vs. Defiance Tinora, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 28
Division IV Championship: 2:00 a.m.


Dayton Christian (22-4)
Location: Miamisburg
Nickname: Warriors
Boys Enrollment: 139
Final 2009 Ranking: Not Ranked
State Appearances: 2009, 1997
Head Coach: Chip James
School Rec.: 22-4 (1 yr.)
PPG: 60.2; OPP: 47.1
Probable Starters
F 21 Kenny Florkey, 6-6, Sr., 8.5 ppg
F 24 Aaron Bryant, 6-7, Sr., 5.7 ppg
G 5 Aaron Deister, 6-0, Sr., 13.7 ppg
G 1 Nathan Serenius, 6-3, Sr., 12.0 ppg
G 15 Casey Weber, 6-0, Sr., 7.1 ppg

Tinora (22-3)
Location: Definance
Nickname: Rams
Boys Enrollment: 151
Final 2009 Ranking: Not Ranked
State Appearances: 2009
Head Coach: Rob Mahnke
School Rec.: 73-58 (6 yrs.)
PPG: 50.3; OPP: 38.4
Probable Starters
F 1 JR Wuo, 6-3, Sr., 9.8 ppg
F 22 Taylor Wiemken, 6-0, Sr., 6.2 ppg
C 42 Jon Gerken, 6-6, Sr., 8.4 ppg
G 14 Trey Meyer, 5-10, Sr., 4.2 ppg
G 4 Zach Beilharz, 6-2, Sr., 2.8 ppg

Cleveland Central Catholic (22-3)
Location: Cleveland
Nickname: Ironmen
Boys Enrollment: 182
Final 2009 Ranking: 9th
State Appearances: 2009, 2002
Head Coach: Kevin Noch
School Rec.: 37-10 (2 yrs.)
PPG: 64.5; OPP: 48.6
Probable Starters
F 43 Demetrius Bennett, 5-11, Sr., 4.5 ppg
C 51 Anton Grady, 6-8, So., 11.6 ppg
G 23 Brandon Campbell, 6-0, Sr., 10.2 ppg
G 13 Chall Montgomery, 6-3, Jr., 11.3 ppg
G 21 Derrick Bufford, 6-4, Sr., 8.9 ppg

Piketon (24-2)
Location: Piketon
Nickname: Redstreaks
Boys Enrollment: 216
Final 2009 Ranking: 8th
State Appearances: 2009
Head Coach: Jeff Lisath
School Rec.: 69-45 (4 yrs.)
PPG: 70.0; OPP: 57.0
Probable Starters
F 02 Jordan Brabson, 6-3, Sr., 19.2 ppg
F 00 Keenan Brush, 6-6, So., 4.5 ppg
C 42 Caleb Southworth, 6-6, Jr., 5.1 ppg
G 11 Evan Legg, 6-2, So., 12.3 ppg
G 34 Cody Smith, 6-2, Sr., 19.1 ppg


Semifinals: Piketon over Cleveland Central Catholic; Dayton Christian over Tinora
Finals: Dayton Christian over Piketon

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