With the bad taste of last year’s first round tournament exit still lingering, Continental High School’s boys basketball team is looking to take a bite out of something sweet – say a state title possibly? So far so good. Just two years removed from a 3-17 season, the Pirates are 16-1 and ranked No. 1 in the state in Division IV.
Continental High School’s boys basketball team is prepared for take off.
The Pirates, who are the No. 1 ranked D-IV team in the OHSH/JJHuddle Power Poll, are off to a (16-1) start with three games remaining in the regular season. In a way, the season hasn’t been surprising to head coach Kevin Homier but he knows there is still work to be done.
“We had a huge summer,” Homier said. “We traveled a lot and played really well. This is a veteran group, so I am not really surprised by the way we have played. But you never go into a season just expecting to win sixteen of your first seventeen games. I knew we had an opportunity to be good, but our league is very tough.”
Continental, which finished the regular season at 14-6 a year ago, was upset in the sectional opener by (6-16) Patrick Henry. That loss is what Homier says has fueled his team’s fire.
“I really believe that loss is what motivates this team,” Homier believes. “We have been focused on March all year and that is really where we have put our energy.”
Continental’s lack of success in last year’s tournament allowed Homier to throw curve ball into this year’s draw. The Pirates were awarded the No. 2 seed behind Kalida in the Elida District, but instead of taking a bye Homier elected to jump at a play-in game. Continental plays Lima Perry on March 3 at 8 p.m. with the winner getting Lima Temple Christian.
“It was a little disheartening that we got the number two seed, but it all worked out in the end,” Homier said. “We have given ourselves an opportunity, but that really means nothing. We chose to play an extra game because this group has never won a tournament game, and that really threw things off. Columbus Grove voted us the number three seed and I think they really wanted to play us rather than Kalida but they also wanted to play an extra game.”
With Continental placing itself in a play-in game, Columbus Grove elected to do the same thing and will now play Rawson Cory-Rawson on March 3 at 6:15 p.m. with the survivor receiving Kalida (14-2).
Grove (14-3) lost to Kalida (50-44), but handed Continental its only loss of the year, 43-40 in overtime. Kalida, on the other hand, lost to Archbold, while Continental defeated the Blue Streaks.
“They really wanted to play us, but we threw it all off,” Homier reiterated. “Our league is unbelievable top to bottom, and us playing so well early really hurt us in that game. Prior to that game, we had won our last seven games by an average margin of twenty-eight points per game. So when we got in a tough ballgame against Grove, we really didn’t know what to do.”
The Putnam County League that Homier speaks of consists of Continental, Fort Jennings, Kalida, Miller City, and Ottoville. Homier believes the league is as good as he can remember.
“I have been around basketball in this area since 1972 and from top to bottom this is as good as I can remember,” Homier said. “When you get ready to tip off, boy you better have your shoes on.”
Continental has certainly had its shoes on this year outscoring its opponents by nearly 20 points per game (60-40). The rigors of the nightly competition can take its toll on the team that lacks on the defensive end, but that is the area Homier feels his team has improved the most.
“We are much quicker and stronger on defense this year,” Homier relayed. “We have matured physically by getting in the weight room and now we are able to put a lot more pressure on the basketball. We are able to recover quicker and seem to have a better recognition of finding the other team’s better players.”
Offensively, the Pirates have gone by committee.
“This may sound cliché, but we do everything by committee,” Homier extended. “You never know from one night to the next who it will be to step up. We are extremely balanced.”
The Pirates are shooting 56-percent from the floor and 40-percent from 3-point range, but an Achilles heal has been their 65-percent clip at the foul-line.
One glowing statistic that Homier mentioned was the turnover difference.
“We are forcing 21 turnovers and committing just a speck under 10,” Homier stated. “That was just the opposite two years ago when I started these same kids as freshmen (two) and sophomores (three). We certainly suffered at times.”
Continental likes to go as many as nine-deep with interchangeable parts and the ability to rotate easily. The Pirates start three seniors and two juniors, who Homier mentioned above as the same five starters that were victims of a (3-17) season just two years ago.
Homier’s son, Brock, is the starting point guard. The junior is averaging 10 points, seven assists, and 3.4 steals per game along with shooting an astounding 52-percent from three-point land.
6-foot senior Chase Ordway leads the Pirates in scoring at 13 points per game, while shooting 42-percent behind the arc.
6-foot-4 junior John Spitnale mans down the interior and gets 11 points and a team-leading five boards per night.
The other two starters are a pair of 6-foot-1 seniors in Ben Schwartzman and Damon Schmidt who both average 8.5 points. The former leads the team in free-throw shooting at 82-percent.
The bench is solid and led by 6-1 junior Austin Sharp (4 ppg.), 6-0 senior Chris Baden, 6-2 senior Curtis Weisenberger, and 6-2 senior David Flattman.
The Pirates will be at Kalida on Friday before locking up with Defiance Tinora at home on Saturday. Continental will close out the regular season on the road next Friday against an injury-plagued Pandora-Gilboa outfit.