JJHuddle Boys Basketball D-III Preview: All-Ohio, Top Teams & More

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JJHuddle Ohio High School Boys Basketball Previews

The D-III boys high school basketball season is almost here…Find out what you need to know before tip-off arrives. JJHuddle is YOUR HOME for Ohio HS Boys Basketball. Preseason All-Ohio Teams, Top Returning Teams & Players, Sleepers & More…


Division III Overview

When the clock struck zero on the 2011-2012 campaign, Cincinnati Summit Country Day was left standing atop the Division III mountain top following a 53-37 triumph of Portsmouth in the state championship game.

Summit CD captured its first boy’s basketball gold with a sparkling (26-1) mark.  The Silver Knights tournament run consisted of just one game under a double-digit margin, while giving up just over 34 points per game in the seven contests.

With the start of the 2012-2013 season quickly approaching, many are wondering if we will see much of the same in Division III.  Summit CD returns four starters along with the addition of one of the top sophomores in the state, so a chance for a repeat is a definite possibility. It would be one thing if we just based this off its returning talent, but when a team puts so much emphasis on the defensive end of the floor there isn’t much not to like.

The task of repeating is not an easy one and history proves that notion. Cincinnati North College Hill (2005-2007) and Akron SVSM (2000-2001) are the only two schools to repeat in DIII since the four-division inception starting in 1988. Furthermore, along with SVSM and NCH, just St. Henry and Orrville are the only other teams in DIII with more than one title in the past 25 seasons. 

Southwest Ohio has dominated DIII since 2003 winning six out of the 10 championships. If it weren’t for a major upset in 2010 when Columbus Bishop Ready knocked off heavily favored Cincinnati Taft, SW Ohio would likely be looking for its fourth consecutive gold trophy.

SW Ohio will once again host a heap of talented teams including Roger Bacon, Versailles, Middletown Bishop Fenwick, Miami East, Jamestown Greeneview, Hamilton Badin, Dayton Stivers, Cincinnati Madeira, and Cincinnati North College Hill.

This isn’t to discount the other districts, but there is a distinct gap between the depth in SW Ohio compared to the remainder of the state. This is not to say teams like Bloom-Carroll, Ottawa-Glandorf, Lima Central Catholic, Ironton, Leavittsburg LaBrae, Beachwood, and Bedford Chanel won’t pose a legitimate threat to SW Ohio’s reign of dominance.

Here is a look at some of D-III’s top teams and players.

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Basketball Scores:

If you follow Ohio high school basketball, this is the place to share what you know, and to learn what you don’t.

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to Boys & Girls Basketball. The information for each school is
collected in a single page, with forms to submit your reports as well as
areas to
read scores and more from other fans, coaches and participants. Sounds
easy…and it is. Exteremly…

How To Report/Get Real-Time Scores

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Preseason All-Ohio Teams:

FIRST TEAM:
Kevin Johnson (6’2/Sr.)- Cincinnati Summit Country Day
Isaac McGlone (6’2/Sr.)- Bloom-Carroll
Zac Carter (5’10/Sr.)- Ironton
Peyton Aldridge (6’7/Jr.)- Leavittburg LaBrae
Evan Bradds (6’7/Sr.)- Jamestown Greeneview

SECOND TEAM:
Andrew Benintendi (5’11/Sr.)- Cincinnati Madeira
Johnny Davis (5’11/Jr.)- Beachwood
Antonio Woods (6’0/Jr.)- Cincinnati Summit Country Day
Ryan Logan (6’6/Sr.)- Fredericktown
Trey Fletcher (6’5/Sr.)- Ironton

THIRD TEAM:
Chase Lawson (6’2/Sr.)- Eastern Brown
Joey Schmitz (6’0/Jr.)- Bloom-Carroll
Carlas Jackson (6’3/Jr.)- Cincinnati Roger Bacon
Michael Rosebrock (6’4/Sr.)- Ottawa-Glandorf
Daniel Aronowitz (6’5/Sr.)- Columbus Academy

HONORABLE MENTION:
Shon Smith (5’10/Sr.)- Fort Frye
Noah Bramlage (6’7/So.)- Ottawa-Glandorf
MaCio Teague (6’2/So.)- Cincinnati Summit CD
A.J. Hickman (6’3/So.)- Miami East
Alex Bare (5’8/Sr.)- Dawson-Bryant
Austin Bruns (6’4/Sr.)- Coldwater
Austin Frentsos (6’2/Jr.)- Cincinnati Roger Bacon
Austin McBee (6’0/Sr.)- Minford
Beau Justice (6’0/So.)- Peebles
Brandon Barnes (6’1/Jr.)- South Point
Cameron Mack (6’1/Jr.)- Ontario
Chad Winner (6’4/Sr.)- Versailles
Christian Grove (6’3/Sr.)- West Lafayette Ridgewood
Cody Schau (6’2/Sr.)- Martins Ferry
Craig Randall (5’10/So.)- Girard
Craigen Moore (6’2/Sr.)- Piketon
Dale Kernan (6’0/Sr.)- Newton Falls
Dane Held (5’10/Sr.)- New London
David Linane (6’0/Sr.)- Gilmour Academy
Desmond McElroy (5’8/Jr.)- Youngstown Ursuline
Drew Cline (6’5/Sr.)- West Salem Northwestern
Drew Crabtree (5’11/Sr.)- North Union
Duane Troyer (6’0/Sr.)- Sugarcreek Garaway
Eli Hurst (5’11/Sr.)- Shenandoah
Erik Edwards (6’3/Sr.)- Cincinnati Roger Bacon
Ethan Noble (6’3/Sr.)- Wickliffe
Frank Catrine (6’0/Jr.)- Middletown Bishop Fenwick
Jacob Bailey (5’11/Sr.)- Belmont Union Local
Jake Ullman (5’10/Jr.)- Belpre
Jared McCray (6’6/Jr.)- Minford
Jay Zollars (6’2/Sr.)- Dayton Christian
Jayllen Carter (6’2/Sr.)- Portsmouth
Jeremy Holley (6’5/Jr)- Elyria Catholic
Jeremy Quinlan (6’3/Sr.)- Brookfield
Kyle Ahrens (6’4/So.)- Versailles
Max Carney (6’4/Sr.)- Federal Hocking
Preston Williams (6’0/Sr.)- Youngstown Ursuline
Ryan Strollo (6’2/Sr.)- Youngstown Ursuline
Tim Cross (5’10/Sr.)- Pymatuning Valley
Trent Arey (5’10/Sr.)- Peebles
Wes Beam (6’4/Sr.)- Zane Trace
Zach Farmer (6’3/Sr.)- Piketon
Zach Stopper (6’2/Sr.)- Columbia Station Columbia

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Preseason Notes

*The JJHUDDLE Division III Player of the Year returns in Kevin Johnson of Cincinnati Summit Country Day.

*Returning JJHuddle Divison III All-Ohio perfomers include Isaac McGlone of Bloom-Carroll (1st Team), Peyton Aldridge of Leavittsburg LaBrae (1st Team), Zac Carter of Ironton (2nd Team), Evan Bradds of Jamestown Greeneview (2nd Team), and Andrew Benintendi of Cincinnati Madeira (3rd Team).

*Andrew Benintendi, who is an Arkansas baseball commit, is the reigning AP Division III Player of the Year as he shared the award with the graduated Dion McKinley of Portsmouth.

*Returning Associated Press Division III All-Ohio performers include Peyton Aldridge (1st Team), Andrew Benintendi (1st Team), Isaac McGlone (1st Team), Evan Bradds (2nd Team), Ryan Logan of Fredericktown (2nd Team), Shon Smith of Fort Frye (3rd Team), Zac Carter (3rd Team), and Michael Rosebrock of Ottawa-Glandorf (3rd Team).

*Division III- NCAA Division I commits include Summit Country Day’s Kevin Johnson (Cincinnati), Greeneview’s Evan Bradds (Belmont) and Bloom-Carroll’s Isaac McGlone (Eastern Kentucky).

*Division III- NCAA Division II commits include Fredericktown’s Ryan Logan (Stonehill) and Chase Lawson of Eastern Brown (Wheeling Jesuit).

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Top Teams

NORTHEAST OHIO

*Beachwood (14-9)
The Bison return plenty of talent from last year’s district finalist squad where Beachwood lost a heartbreaker to Bedford Chanel in double overtime, 69-67.

The Bison welcome back five of their top nine performers from last year’s squad. Johnny Davis III (5’11/Jr.) leads the group of returnees following a sophomore campaign where he averaged better than 16 points per outing. Division 1 schools are courting Davis, only a junior.

The Bison also return Jon Tramer (6’1/Sr.), Sterling Sanders (Jr.), Julio Stevens (Jr.), and Jordan Richardson (6’3/Sr.).

Beachwood will have to replace departed seniors Ellis Cohen, the team’s second leading scorer, along with Alex Hohl, Anthony Valentine, and Jared Moss.

Beachwood will face a more than formidable schedule with Massillon Washington at the Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout, Gilmour Academy, two with Richmond Heights, Lakewood St. Edward, Barberton at the Play 4 Cancer Shootout, and Mentor Lake Catholic.

Bottom Line: The Bison should be the favorite at the Painesville District, but Bedford Chanel is never to be counted out. Beachwood could also get resistance from Gilmour Academy and Columbia Station Columbia. Johnny Davis is the best guard in the region, hands down, which gives Beachwood a very good chance of making its first trip to the state tournament.

*Leavittsburg LaBrae (22-1)
The Vikings enjoyed one of if not the best seasons in school history with an unbeaten regular season before falling to Burton Berkshire in tournament play.

LaBrae returns three starters led by JJHUDDLE 1st Team All-Ohio performer Peyton Aldridge (6’7/Jr.). Aldridge, who has several Division 1 offers and is regarded as one of the five best juniors in Ohio, averaged 16 points per game as a sophomore. The versatile Aldridge will be joined by sharpshooter John Richards (6’0/Sr.) and Nate Middleton (6’0/Sr.).

Other returnees include Carl Brown (5’10/Sr.), Paul Zigmont (6’2/Sr.), and Chris Clevenger (5’9/Sr.). The newcomers looking to provide head coach Chad Kiser with depth are Marcel Richardson (6’3/Jr.), Justin Jenkins (5’9/So.), Tyler Shiamone (5’11/Sr.), and Kenny Hall (6’3/Sr.).

“Our team should be very strong again this year behind (Peyton) Aldridge,” Kiser stated. “Aldridge is one of the state’s top juniors. John Richards is a three-year letter-winner and provides the team with an outstanding outside threat. Depth will be a strength for our team as we will go ten deep each game.”

LaBrae’s schedule includes encounters with Youngstown Ursuline, Warren Howland, Malvern at the Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout, and Poland.

Bottom Line:
The Vikings have a chance to enter regional play this year with a strong possibility of making a trip to Columbus. Aldridge will be a handful for any team in the Canton Regional. Possessing the best player in nearly every game you play is a definite bonus. Replacing departed starters Matt Szorady and Carrinton Herron will be a must, but LaBrae appears to be much deeper than in past years.  Beachwood, Bedford Chanel, and Youngstown Ursuline could be possible roadblocks for the Vikings. 

CENTRAL OHIO

*Bloom-Carroll (23-1)
The Bulldogs have been one of the best Division III programs for years, and that won’t change this season. Bloom-Carroll welcomes back one of the best backcourts in Ohio in Isaac McGlone (6’2/Sr.) and Joey Schmitz (6’0/Jr.). 

McGlone, who secured 1st Team JJHUDDLE All-Ohio honors as a junior, averaged 17 points, 5.4 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game. The Eastern Kentucky commit shot 40 percent from three and 80 percent at the charity stripe. McGlone, who is deceivingly long, is one of the most complete guards in the state with the ability to score when needed and create for others.

Schmitz has improved and grown every year of his high school career and look for him to be even better this year. He averaged 12 points, shot 41 percent from distance, and 83 percent at the line.

Seniors AJ James (5’8) and Dalton VanAtta (6’0) join McGlone and Schmitz from last year’s starting line up. James is a deadly shooter, while VanAtta missed much of last year with an injury.

Keep an eye on returnees Derek Carson (6’4/Sr.), Trevor Butler (6’3/Sr.), Andrew James (6’2/So.), Tyler Sorg (6’3/Jr.), and Jordan Bachman (5’11/Jr.).

Canal Winchester transfer Brandon Manley (6’5/Jr.) was ruled ineligible by the OHSAA and the appeal was denied as well according to sources close to the situation.

B-C plays a solid schedule featuring Bishop Hartley, Detroit Westside Christian, Columbus Academy, Logan Elm, Canal Winchester, and Teays Valley.

Bottom Line: The Bulldogs, who went through the regular season unbeaten, were upset in the districts last year by Worthington Christian derailing a team with state tournament hopes. B-C has a chance to redeem itself this year, but a cold shooting night could spell trouble with a lack of size. Replacing the graduated AJ Ireland and his nearly 19 points per game will be key as well. Tom Petty coached teams usually play its best basketball come tournament time, and this year should be no different.

SOUTHWEST OHIO

*Cincinnati Summit Country Day (26-1)
Summit CD has been dominant over the past two seasons in Division III since the arrival of head coach Michael Bradley and some elite talent. The Silver Knights are (47-5) over the past two seasons with a state championship and a regional runner-up in 2011.

Look for the reign of terror to continue for at least another two years with the return of several key pieces and the addition of some others. Graduation took Holden Hertzel, who was the heart and soul of last year’s team and sharpshooter Tommy Kreyenhagen, who was injured much of the year. Also departed is big man Matt Fry. Though, four talented starters return along with an exceptional sophomore transferring to the school.

Kevin Johnson (6’2/Sr.) leads the group of returnees coming off a junior year, which he won the JJHUDDLE Division III Player of the Year award. The University of Cincinnati commit has continued to improve during the travel season, and has solidified himself as the top point guard in Ohio.

Antonio Woods (6’0), who is arguably the best guard in the junior class, will join Johnson in the backcourt. Woods quarterbacked the Silver Knights’ football team, which enjoyed an undefeated regular season and a playoff win.

Senior Jake Rawlings (6’0) and Division 1 football recruit Mike Barwick (6’1/Jr.) are returning starters as well. Rawlings and Barwick will be the glue guys for a team entrenched with basketball talent.

The biggest addition will come from MaCio Teague (6’2/So.), one of the state’s best sophomores, who transferred back to Cincinnati after spending his freshman year at IMG Academy in Florida. Teague is an assassin on offense with the ability to score points in bunches. He will certainly be a welcomed attraction.

The list of returnees also includes Joe Kreyenhagen (5’11/Jr.), Brett Tepe (6’4/Sr.), and David Herring (6’1/Sr.). Newcomer Evan Davis (6’0/So.) should contribute as well.

Summit CD’s schedule will be one of the better DIII ledgers in Ohio with the likes of Dayton Dunbar, Dayton Jefferson, Lakewood St. Edward, Wilmington, and Cincinnati Taft.

Bottom Line: The Silver Knights will be a much different team this season offensively with the addition of Teague, and playing mainly four guards with Barwick banging around inside. Summit CD’s calling card has been defense over the past two years giving up just 33 points per game a year ago, so it will be interesting to see if the added offense takes anything away from the smothering defense. If Summit continues to get it done on defense, there will be plenty of blowouts this season. The only concern would be the lack of size in the paint, but very few teams will be able to match up with Johnson, Woods, and Teague on the perimeter.

*Cincinnati Roger Bacon (17-9)
Roger Bacon surprised quite a few people a season ago with its run to the regional title game before bowing out the eventual champion, Cincinnati Summit CD (54-44). The Spartans dropped down from Division II, which helped, but they lost almost the entire varsity roster from 2011.

Coach Brian Neal did a tremendous job last year with such an inexperienced group, but now the kids are seasoned veterans and the expectations will be much higher.

All five starters return from a team that won 17 games competing in the brutal Greater Catholic League. Seniors Erik Edwards (6’3) and Jake Westerfeld (6’3) join juniors Carlas Jackson (6’3), Austin Frentsos (6’3), and point guard Reggie Williams (5’10).

Jackson led the team in scoring at 12.7 points per contest and Frentsos followed at 11.1. Edwards added 10.6 points and a team-leading 8.1 rebounds.

“We return everyone from last year’s league, sectional, and district championships,” Neal explained. “We hope to make a run to the regional again, but with all the talent Summit Country has, we may all be playing for second.”

Despite all the optimism, one glaring setback occurred just a few weeks ago. Talented sophomore Dahmere Epperson (6’2) suffered an injury in the preseason and will not be able to play until January.  Epperson averaged 4.5 points per game as a frosh, but his production is expected to vastly increase this year.

Fred Moore (6’6/Jr.), Tyler Oldfield (6’2/Sr.), and Cody Niesen (5’10/Jr.) played sparingly last season, but should provide depth.

Bacon will play a meat grinder schedule once again in the GCL. Division I powers Cincinnati Moeller, St. Xavier, La Salle, and Elder all loom along with Winton Woods and four games at the Republic Bank Classic at Lexington Classic.

Bottom Line: Don’t let Neal’s comments fool you; both he and his team won’t be playing for second place. The Spartans have the talent, size, and depth to pose a legitimate threat to Summit Country Day’s reign. Roger Bacon will likely have some losses coming into tournament play thanks to the schedule, but it will be battle tested for sure. It make take some time for Epperson to get back into form, which is why we look for Roger Bacon to be playing its best basketball by tournament time.

*Versailles (22-3)
The Tigers are looking to become the first MAC school to make the state tournament since New Knoxville in 2008. For most conferences that isn’t a long time, but considering the MAC’s dominance throughout the first part of the 21st century, we thought it was noteworthy. The MAC hasn’t been represented in DIII at the state level since St. Henry beat Versailles in the 2004 title game in an all MAC final. Marion Local was also there in 2004.

Coach Scott McEldowney believes his team has the look of a contender.

“We have a very positive outlook and have high goals set,” McEldowney said. “We hope to once again compete for a MAC title and make it back to the regionals. We have our second and third leading scorers and rebounders returning, and maybe the most athletic team we’ve ever had. This should be an explosive team that will benefit from an up tempo style.”

Versailles will rely on returning starters Chad Winner (6’4/Sr.) and Kyle Ahrens (6’4/So.).  Winner averaged 14 points and five boards, while Ahrens added 13 and six.  Look for both to increase their output.

Other returnees include Damian Richard (6’3/Jr.) and Jacob Heitkamp (6’2/Sr.).

The list of newcomers consists of Nick Campbell (6’0/Jr.), Jacob Wenning (6’1/Jr.), Evan Philpot (6’4/Jr.), Dominic Richard (6’2/Sr.), Craig Pothast (6’4/Sr.), and Ryan Knapke (6’4/Jr.).

Versailles will compete in the “mighty” MAC with key league games against St. Henry, Delphos St. John’s, Fort Recovery, and Marion Local along with a very good Versailles Holiday Tournament including Miami East and Anna.

Bottom Line: Versailles should be a very good team this season led by Winner and an even more productive youngster in Ahrens. The Tigers will compete for a league title and should be a favorite to return to regional play. Versailles has Madeira, Hamilton Badin, Dixie, and Clark Montessori in its district among others. Making the state tournament is possible, but Summit CD, Roger Bacon, Bishop Fenwick and many others are standing in the way.

*Middletown Bishop Fenwick (15-9)
The Falcons had a great run last year making the district championship game before losing to fellow Greater Catholic League foe Roger Bacon, 54-48. The Falcons return five of their top seven players from that team including leading scorer (11.3 ppg.) and assist man (4.1 apg.) Frank Catrine (6’0/Jr.), who also finished second on the team in rebounding (5.2 rpg.) and was named to the 1st Team GCL North.

Jeff Klaas (6’3/Jr.) returns as the team’s third leading scorer (7.4 ppg.) and third leading rebounder (4.7 rpg.) from a year ago. John Luke Arrington (6’6/Jr.), Kevin Christie (5’10/Jr.), and Will Sennett (6’0/Sr.) will also be welcomed back. Arrington scored (5.3 ppg.) and ripped down a team-leading seven boards per game. Christie was good for just under five points and Sennett countered with just under four points.

Six others from last year’s roster are slated to return as well, but the Falcons will need to replace the GCL North Defensive Player of the Year in Nick Durham and the team’s second leading scorer in Connor Ridge, who averaged just a shade under 10 points per game.

The Falcons will be tournament tested following a stiff schedule, which includes a three-game trip to Vero Beach, Florida following Christmas, two games with Dayton CJ, Columbus Bishop Hartley, two with Kettering Alter, Cincinnati Elder, Cincinnati Roger Bacon, Hamilton Badin, and West Carrollton.

Bottom Line:
The Falcons meeting with Roger Bacon at home on January 4th could be a precursor to a future tournament match up between the two GCL schools. North College Hill, Shroder, and Anna also loom in the district, but Fenwick has a real good chance of advancing to the regionals if it can get by Roger Bacon. If the Falcons can stay in  Division III when the new enrollment figures come out this spring, they have a legit chance of a real nice two-year run with four of their top five being juniors..

NORTHWEST OHIO

*Ottawa-Glandorf (19-7)
The Titans are no strangers to athletic success especially when it comes to boy’s basketball. O-G won a state championship in DIII as recently as 2008 and captured the 2004 DII title behind Tim and Eric Pollitz. The Titans returned to the Schottenstein Center last year for the first time since ’08, but came up short in the semis against Portsmouth, 74-66.

“We are very excited about the upcoming season and hope to build off last year’s tournament success,” said O-G headman, Tyson McGlaughlin. “We have very good kids who play very hard. Some of our strengths will be our ability to defend and rebound along with having good size and length.”

McGlaughlin returns all five starters from that team. Matthew “Chewy” Kaufman (5’11/Sr.) returns at the point guard spot joining shooting guard TJ Metzger (6’0/Sr.). Metzger averaged 12 points per game as a junior.

The frontcourt will feature seniors Caleb Siefker (6’4, 5 ppg.) and Michael Rosebrock (6’4, 12 ppg.) along with talented sophomore Noah Bramlage (6’7, 6 ppg.). Rosebrock, who earned AP 3rd Team All-Ohio, led the team in rebounding at eight boards a game and Bramlage added six.

“We look for Bramlage to have a break out year,” McGlaughlin stated.

Bramlage has offers from Wright State and Miami (OH) along with other interest.

Alex Westrick (6’7/Sr.), Eric Beckman (5’9/Sr.), Jaylen VonSoson (6’5/Sr.), Jake Leopold (6’0/Sr.), and Alex Schroeder (5’9/Jr.) will provide the Titans with size and depth.

The Titans compete in the Western Buckeye League, which is an outstanding conference. The WBL sent two teams to the state tournament a year ago in O-G and Elida. The Titans have tough league games with Elida, Wapakoneta, and Van Wert along with out-of-conference encounters with Findlay, Lima Central Catholic, Bowling Green, Napoleon, Lima Senior, and Perrysburg.

Bottom Line: Ottawa-Glandorf has all the ingredients to get back to Columbus with experience, size, and talent, but Division III in NW Ohio is always tough. O-G will be getting a late start with several players enjoying a long football ride. The schedule, as always, will have them prepared for tournament play. Bramlage is the x-factor. If he has a break out year, which most believe will happen, O-G will be an even more serious contender.

*Lima Central Catholic (22-3)
LCC is just three years removed from capturing the Division III state championship in legendary head coach Bob Seggerson’s final season. The Frank Kill era is now in year three after losing to rival Ottawa-Glandorf in each of the past two tournaments. The Thunderbirds lost in the district championship in 2011 and the regional championship last season by a combined eight points.

“We will be looking to move the ball quickly up and down the floor,” noted Frank Kill, LCC’s head coach. “We will have lots of speed, but a lack of size underneath. We will be looking for leadership on the floor since losing three players due to graduation that had started three years.”

LCC was favored in both of those contests, so how will they respond as the underdog this season. The Thunderbirds will have to replace three veterans in Tyler O’Connor (Michigan State FB), Billy Taflinger, and John Kidd. Senior Tre’on Johnson (5’9) and junior Bruce Hodges III (6’0) return as starters.

The list of returnees includes seniors Sam Huffman (6’2), Tom Judy (6’4), and Jarren Crawford (6’1) along with talented juniors Cory Stewart (6’4), Darius West (6’1), and Martyce Kimbrough (6’1).

The newcomers are headlined by one of the state’s best young point guards in freshman Xavier Simpson (5’9). Simpson runs a team very well and is a solid defender with a high basketball IQ. Junior Mykale Rogers (6’3) and sophomore Jake Williams (6’3) should also make an impact.

LCC, who will be in its last year in the Northwest Conference, has circled December 15th’s date with Ottawa-Glandorf as a marquee game.  Though, the clash with the Titans is just one of 10 games in December for the T-Birds.

“We will play a full schedule the month of December playing ten games, and having to deal with a late start because of the football playoff run,” Kill mentioned.

Bottom Line: It seems LCC wins 20-plus games on the regular. This year should be no different, but with a different look. With the return of Johnson, Hodges, Stewart, West, and Kimbrough along with welcomed addition of Simpson, the T-Birds should be more up-tempo than in year’s past. Plain and simple, LCC will have to get by O-G if its want to return to Columbus.

SOUTHEAST OHIO

*Ironton (19-6)
The Tigers were oh so close last year falling to Portsmouth in the regional final, 50-40. It has been a four-year process for Coach Mark LaFon when he decided to start point guard Zac Carter and forward Trey Fletcher as freshmen. Carter and Fletcher, who are part of a talented senior class, have scored a lot of points over the past three years, but getting to Columbus is something that has eluded them. Ironton has reached the regional final twice and the district final once in the past three seasons.

Ironton appears to be a clear favorite in the Athens Regional as graduation depleted Portsmouth and Chesapeake, but there are no sure things in tournament basketball. However, Carter (5’10/Sr.) and Fletcher (6’5/Sr.) are a good place to start.  Carter averaged 21.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.1 rebounds a game as a junior shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line. Carter, who earned 2nd Team JJHUDDLE All-Ohio, scored his 1,000-point as a junior. Fletcher, a versatile lefty, was just as impressive scoring 20 points and grabbing 7.8 rebounds a night.

Along with the two headline grabbers, Ironton returns nearly its entire roster with the exception of the graduated Nolan Johnson. Seniors Josh Glover (5’11) and Trevor White (6’3) were starters last year and classmates Darrius Boykin (5’10), Dion Brown (6’3), Aaron Stephens (6’4), Tanner Dutey (6’1), and Sean Lawless (5’10), junior Nate Garred (5’10) and sophomore Joe Bowling (6’1) are back from last season’s postseason roster as well.  

The Tigers will play a solid schedule against rivals Ashland (KY) and Portsmouth along with competing in the Jr. Orange Bowl Classic in Miami (FL) and two games at the Ironton Classic.

Bottom Line: Carter and Fletcher are arguably the best one-two combination in Division III, which will be hard for any team to contain. If Ironton commits to the defensive end, this could be the year the Tigers return to the state tournament for the first time since a runner-up finish in 2005. 

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Don’t Sleep On These Teams

Archbold, Bedford Chanel, Brookfield, Chesapeake, Cincinnati Madeira, Cincinnati North College Hill, Columbia Station Columbia, Columbus Academy, Columbus Bishop Ready, Dayton Stivers, Eastern Brown, Elmwood, Fort Frye, Gilmour Academy, Hamilton Badin, Jamestown Greeneview, Liberty-Benton, Miami East, Minford, Newton Falls, Ontario, Patrick Henry, Peebles, Piketon. Portsmouth, Spencerville, Wheelersburg, Worthington Christian, Youngstown Liberty, and Youngstown Ursuline.

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