Newark Catholic’s boys basketball team has entered uncharted
territory by winning a school-record 14-straight games to start the
season. The Green Wave are currently ranked No. 1 in Division IV by the AP and No. 3 in the OHSH/JJHuddle Power Poll. Regardless, NC may be off to an undefeated start, but head coach
Drew Meister says his team’s play isn’t always perfect. Things,
however, are starting to come around.
Newark Catholic’s boys basketball team has entered uncharted territory by winning a school-record 14-straight games to start the season. The Green Wave are currently ranked No. 1 in Division IV by the Associated Press (AP) and No. 3 in the OHSH/JJHuddle Power Poll.
Regardless, NC may be off to an undefeated start, but head coach Drew Meister says his team’s play isn’t always perfect. Things, however, are starting to come around.
“We are just getting into the second round of conference play (Mid-State League),” Meister relayed. “Through the first fourteen games, there have been some nights we didn’t play very well. The first ten were not so good, but the last four we have been hitting our stride . That is pretty typical of teams I have coached. With all the sets we put in throughout the year and all the different things we try to do on defense it sometimes takes a while for us to get comfortable.”
For the year, the Green Wave is averaging nearly 67 points per game while giving up just 43.5. They haven’t had a game closer than eight points.
It was just four years ago that Meister and the Green Wave won just two games. However, last season, NC rolled off 10-straight wins to start the year and finished the regular season (16-4) before making a run to the regional final. The Wave lost to eventual state champion, Oak Hill, 56-52 to finish a remarkable year (21-5). Despite six seniors returning, Meister wasn’t ready to crown his squad state champions.
“It is hard to anticipate how a team is going to respond or what you are going to get from a team that enjoyed its first success last year,” Meister said. “Before the season started, I told you defense was a concern I had about this team, so I wasn’t really sure at that point but now after holding teams to 36 percent shooting I feel pretty good.”
Newark Catholic has been getting production from all six of its seniors, but lately it has been 6-foot senior guard James Moerman lighting up the scoreboard for the Wave. Moerman is averaging over 20 points per game in his last three outings and is finding a lot of success behind the arc.
“We had to redefine James’ role a little bit this year,” Meister said. “He is use to being the floor general and was very good at it, but lately he has become a perimeter threat that can also break you down off the dribble.”
Moerman had 23 points in a win over Licking Valley, and 22 points, five assists and five steals against Columbus Academy. Before his last three games, the senior guard never scored 20 or more in a single-game. He is averaging a little over 10 points per game for the season.
Backcourt mate Matt Dawson, who leads the team at 17 points per game, is another kid adapting to a new role.
“Dawson is required to be a smart off-the-ball offensive player,” Meister said. “The opponent likes to take away his first option, so he has to be patient and go to option number two. Every night the other team’s best defensive player will guard him, so it is never easy. He has really matured as a player in that he can still fill the role as a scorer, but do it by staying within the offense.”
Dawson scored 25 points in the win over Licking Valley. In that game, Dawson and Moerman combine for eight 3s. The team was 8-of-11 from distance.
6-foot-4 senior Nate Adams, a Youngstown State football recruit, is the most versatile player for the Green Wave, and a kid Meister says is capable of leading the team in all categories.
“Nate can go from one night leading us in points to the next leading us in assists, rebounds, or steals,” Meister said. “He is our most versatile performer.”
Adams is averaging 13 points per game.
Much like every good team, NC has one kid that Meister believes is his glue-guy.
“Phillip Taylor makes us a non-finesse team and that is what we want,” Meister claimed. “He is the type of kid that will get a random big rebound to get us an extra possession. He leads the team in free-throw percentage as well. Taylor will clock into work every night. He gives us that identity that we are striving for, but we wouldn’t want to go without any of these kids.”
Taylor, a 6-foot-3 senior, is averaging around six points per contest.
6-foot-4 senior Kevin Cox is averaging nearly 10 points per game, and senior guard Derek Adam is around six points a night.
The Green Wave will look to remain unbeaten Friday night when they host Hebron Lakewood before Tuesday’s showdown with Bexley. NC knocked off the Lions at home, 62-54 in OT, in their first meeting.
“Bexley is a tough place to play, but we feel good about it since we won there last year,” said Meister. “We just need to stay in the right mind-set and see how much we have progressed since the first time around. First, we have to take care of Lakewood. They have two very good players, and play a stingy zone.”
Though, six regular season games remain it’s none too early to start looking at possible tournament match ups.
Newark Catholic and Harvest Prep are the odds-on favorites out of the Central District to reach regional play, but Meister mentioned one other team that could factor into the equation.
“Columbus Tree of Life is a good under the radar team with a very good player,” the Wave boss stated. “We scrimmaged them before the season, and beat them in the tournament last year. In the tournament, you can’t overlook any team.”
So which side of the bracket does Tree of Life join, NC or Harvest Prep?
“They have scouted us twice, and personally I think we are easier to scout,” Meister believes. “We are not what you would call a great warm-up team and we aren’t physically imposing.”
As for Harvest Prep, the NC head man knows what they bring to the table.
“Coach (Mike) Thornton has done a great job with this group.” “They are doing some different things this year, and I really think the injury to (Shakir) Dunning is going to help them in the long run with the young guards gaining tons of experience before he comes back. They are athletic and just create many problems for any team.”
Regardless of which two Central District teams making the regional, they will be joined by one team from the Southeast and one from the Northwest. One regional game will be held at the Columbus Fairgrounds with the other being contested in Athens at Ohio University with the two survivors meeting at the Fairgrounds.