By Mike Dyer
Roger Bacon back at state for first time since taking down the King and SVSM in 2002, Spartans focused
Brian Neal will never forget one particular conversation with the late Bill Brewer. One of the funniest anecdotes from Brewer occurred before St. Bernard Roger Bacon went up to the 2002 state Final Four in Columbus.
Brewer said everything would stay as normal as possible for the trip to Columbus – even down to the attire.
So it’s awfully ironic that Neal – now in his ninth season as the Spartans head coach – had a similar theme in practice this week with his players and preparation for the trip to Ohio State. Neal brushed off any notion that Roger Bacon would let down its guard going into the Schottenstein Center for its Division III state semifinal game against Lima Central Catholic at 2 p.m. Friday.
Roger Bacon had a physical practice Tuesday afternoon and didn’t veer from any particular routine. It was all business. Players were competing like it was November instead of mid-March.
Roger Bacon is making its first state Final Four appearance since 2002. Yep, the same year as the famous Division II state final against St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Neal often thinks of Brewer, who died of a heart attack in November 2007. He also thinks often of former Roger Bacon athletic director Joe Corcoran, who died in February 2013.
“I miss them both,” Neal said.
Corcoran was also an assistant with Neal on the famous 2002 Roger Bacon team led by head coach Brewer. The Spartans defeated LeBron James-led Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 71-63 in the Division II state final. There is a photo of Corcoran holding the Sports Illustrated cover which featured James after the Spartans won.
As The Enquirer’s Tom Groeschen pointed out, Roger Bacon was the only Ohio team to ever defeat James in four years.
“We know they had a great player,” Brewer told The Enquirer after its win over James, “but we thought we had a better team. But talk is cheap, and you’d better go do it.”
That was Brewer, Groeschen said.
That upset by Roger Bacon is still talked about to this day from fans and media in the Queen City. Even this week, this year’s team is aware of the 2002 state title and its history, but they want to make their own name in the trophy case. Roger Bacon (22-4) has six seniors on this squad, including senior guard Carlas Jackson, who was named an Associated Press Division III state player of the year on Tuesday night.
Jackson is the son of former University of Cincinnati basketball player A.D. Jackson, who was on the 1991-92 NCAA Final Four team.
This year’s Spartans also have senior Austin Frentsos, who like Jackson, is a 1,000 points scorer. Senior post player Fred Moore averages 11.5 points and seven rebounds. Another reserve, sophomore guard Trey McBride, averages eight points and is the son of former Xavier University player Walt McBride.
Neal likes the toughness of this squad and says the Spartans are playing their best basketball of the season as of late and he hopes that continues on Friday afternoon.
He is also grateful to have received an outpouring of support from some of the players on the 2002 state champion team including Josh Hausfeld, David Johnson and Marcus Smith. How appropriate. “They are encouraging the guys to finish the deal,” Neal said.