D-IV Boys Basketball Preview: Northwest District arguably Ohio’s deepest

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The 2014 campaign came to a close with the Convoy Crestview Knights hoisting the hardware following a perfect (29-0) season. Head coach Jeremy Best and his boys were poetry-in-motion smothering teams with suffocating pressure defense and dialing up timely offense. The Convoy crew was the first DIV team to finish the year unbeaten since that powerful New Knoxville squad in 2008.

Crestview lost its three studs in Cam Etzler, Tyson Bolenbaugh, and Damian Helm, but don’t sleep on the Knights as they will certainly continue to be a factor. With the graduation loss of the above mentioned players, the door is open for teams like Tri-Village, Harvest Prep, Columbus Africentric, Cincinnati Aiken, Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas, Georgetown, and Russia to make a run at the gold.

In our opinion, DIV is as deep as its been in quite some time. We are really looking forward to Ohio’s small school scene more than we have in awhile.

Northwest District Preview

Maria Stein Marion Local (22-6)
*Lost to Tri-Village in the regional finals.

Returnees:
Luke Knapke (6’10/Sr.); Ryan Bruns (6’8/Sr.); Dustin “Doc” Rethman (6’0/Sr.), Cole Griesdorn (6’1/Jr.), and Dustin Seitz (6’4/Sr.).

Key Newcomers:
Collin Mescher (5’11/Sr.) and Kyle Homan (5’9/Jr.).

Key Stats:
● Luke Knapke averaged 12.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
● Ryan Bruns totaled 10 points per game and blocked 62 shots.
● Doc Rethman scored nearly nine points a game.
● Cole Griesdorn averaged 7.2 points per outing.
● 2013-2014 Midwest Athletic Conference Champions. 25 of 30 players in the basketball program play football. The Flyers are three-time defending state champions in football, which is about to be four.

From the Coach:
“We are excited about the seniors,” mentioned Marion Local coach Kurt Goettemoeller. “With
the expected late start due to football, we will have to hit the ground running. We hope to be
more consistent on a game-to-game basis and hit our peak right around tournament time.”

Season Outlook:
The Flyers are getting use to late starts thanks to their uber-successful football program, so
don’t look for any hangovers once basketball starts with this group. Marion Local has the
frontcourt to be crowned state champs with Toledo commitment Luke Knapke and Ryan Bruns,
who is drawing Division 1 and 2 interest. The question mark remains at guard. Are the Flyers
good enough at the guard spot to get over the hump? Look for big contributions from Doc
Rethman this season after a full year quarterbacking the football team. The rest of the guards
are improved, which should pose problems for the rest of MAC. The Flyers are definitely on a
short list of teams capable of advancing out of the Kettering Regional.

Haviland Wayne Trace (23-4)
*Lost to Convoy Crestview in regional finals.

Returnees:
Corbin Linder (6’2/Sr.); Ethan Linder (6’3/So.); David Sinn (6’6/Sr.); and Jake Arend (6’3/Sr.).

Key Newcomers:
Luke Miller (5’11/Jr.); Cole Shepherd (6’3/Jr.); and Justin Speice (6’6/Jr.).

Key Stats:
● Corbin Linder averaged 15 points per game and cashed in 78 three-pointers a year ago. He needs 19 three-point goals for the Wayne Trace career record. In addition, Corbin needs just 125 points to reach 1,000 points.
● Ethan Linder tallied 14.8 points a night as a freshman.

From the Coach:
“We really like our depth at the guard spot this year,” mentioned Wayne Trace head coach Jim Linder, who is also the father of Corbin and Ethan Linder. “We have a four-year starter back in Corbin Linder and Ethan Linder is only a sophomore point guard with a year under his belt already. Jake Arend is a two-year starter back with experience as well. This team competed in the regional a year ago and we hope that we can take it one step further this year. Staying healthy will be a big key for us this year.”

Season Outlook:
The Raiders won 23 games a season ago and were just one win away from playing in the final four. Unfortunately, Wayne Trace ran into Convoy Crestview, which happened to be their third meeting of the year. The Raiders only other setback came by a deuce to Lincolnview following a game with Crestview. WT is loaded in the backcourt with the Linder brothers and the Raiders certainly have the look and ingredients to make another deep run in March. Corbin Linder is a fantastic shooter and Ethan Linder is a smooth operator at the point guard position especially considering his age. The younger Linder’s size and length will pose serious problems for the opposition. If the regions remain the same, Wayne Trace will have an excellent chance at returning to Columbus for the first time since 2008. In our opinion, on paper, The Raiders would be the favorite at Bowling Green.

Convoy Crestview (29-0)
*2014 Division IV State Champions.

Returnees:
Connor Lautzenheiser (6’0/Jr.); Mitchell Rickard (5’11/Sr.); and Preston Zaleski (5’10/Sr.).

Key Newcomers:
Cody Mefferd (6’1/Jr.); Braden Van Cleave (6’4/So.); Nate Owens (5’10/Sr.); and Jake Lippi (6’1/Sr.).

Key Stats:
● Connor Lautzenheiser is the leading returning scorer at 10 points per game.
● The Knights finished 29-0 a season ago and won the state championship, but it will need to replace their big three of Damian Helm (15.2 ppg.), Tyson Bolenbaugh (10.7 ppg.), and Cameron Etzler (9.8 ppg/5 apg).

From the Coach:
“We believe that this team is a group that has the components to be a nice squad,” said head coach Jeremy Best. “We have holes and roles to fill from last year’s team. However, we are confident that our current players will embrace our challenges. We hope to be able to really put pressure on our opponents’ defense by utilizing our guard play. We need to develop depth, but this will happen as the season progresses.”

Season Outlook:
Watching the Crestview Knights a year ago was a thing of beauty. The full court pressure, outstanding point guard play from Cam Etzler, and the presence of Helm and Bolenbaugh gave opposing teams nightmares. Those players are gone, but we agree with Coach Best, this team is going to surprise people. The Knights may have to do things a little differently, but the kids and this program are too good to drop off the map. We really look for Connor Lautzenheiser to have a breakout year. Lautzenheiser, who has caught the attention of several NAIA and Division 2 programs, showed flashes of his potential at last year’s state tournament scoring 11 points and dishing out six assists in the state title game. In addition, senior Preston Zaleski should take on a more prominent role. Zaleski, who was the quarterback of the football team, averaged nearly four points a game last year, which included 10 points in the championship game. Also, keep an eye on sophomore Braden Van Cleave, who has a lot of potential. This is a team that no one will want to play when the brackets are released.

Spencerville (16-6)
*Lost to Arlington in the district semifinals.

Returnees:
Zach Goecke (6’0/Jr.); Mason Nourse (6’0/Jr.).; Dakota Prichard (6’2/So.); Bailey Croft (6’4/So.); Griffen Croft (6’4/So.); and Jacob Meyer (5’11/So.).

Key Newcomers:
Damien Corso (6’3/Jr.); Chandler Schrolucke (6’4/Jr.); Grant Goecke (5’11/Sr.); and David Wisher (5’8/Jr.).

Key Stats:
● Zach Goecke scored 13 points per game as a sophomore.
● Dak Prichard averaged 10 points per game as a frosh.
● Mason Nourse was good for 10 points a game a year ago.
● Bailey Croft tallied six points a game as a freshman.

From the Coach:
“We have a bunch of players back from last year,” noted Kevin Sensabaugh, Spencerville’s
head coach. “We have some talented players, but team chemistry will be the key. If we can develop some chemistry, we will be able to compete at a high level.”

Season Outlook:
Spencerville was extremely young a year ago and won 16 games, but the young Bearcats gained a lot of experience. Spencerville will play a very difficult schedule, which Sensabaugh says is by design. The Bearcats play non-league games against Lima CC, St. Henry, Delphos St. John’s, Marion Local, Lima Bath, Elida, and New Bremen not to mention games against conference foes Convoy Crestview, Delphos Jefferson, Paulding, Lincolnview, and Columbus Grove. The Bearcats will be a major player for years to come, but this team has a legitimate chance to compete for a trip to Columbus this season. The Bearcats carried all the signs of a good, young basketball team a year ago. At times, inconsistent, but capable of beating good teams on any given night. Coach Sensabaugh thinks team chemistry is going to be a major factor for his team, and if the ‘Cats can come together, talent certainly won’t be an issue. It will be interesting to see if Spencerville’s district goes to the Kettering Regional again, which on paper, looks to be very difficult.

Plymouth (22-3)
*Lost to Sandusky St. Mary’s (66-54) in the district.

Returnees:
Tyrell Edmiston (6’4/Sr.); Tyson Beebe (6’0/Sr.); Hunter Bailey (6’1/Sr.); Tyler Taylor (6’3/Sr.); Dodge Collins (5’10/Jr.); Logan Myers (6’3/So.); Austin Nester (6’0/So.); and Remington Smedley (6’4/Jr.).

Key Newcomers:
Bailey Howell (5’9/Jr.) and Jarrod Reed (6’1/So.).

Key Stats:
● Tyrell Edmiston averaged 16 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and three blocks a game as a junior. He went over the 1,000-point mark a year ago and will likely surpass the 1,000-rebound mark this season. He was Honorable Mention JJHuddle All-Ohio.
● Tyson Beebe scored 19 points per game and scored his 1,000th point as a junior.
● Dodge Collins scored 10 points per game and connected on 69 three-point goals.
● The Big Red averaged 68 points per game, while giving up just 49. Plymouth will be looking for back-to-back Firelands Conference championships.

From the Coach:
“We have high expectations with our top eight players back from last year’s 22-3 team,” noted Plymouth head coach Troy Keene. “ We will find out what we are made of the first five days of the season with games against Buckeye Central, Galion, and Colonel Crawford. If we work hard and mentally prepare, we should make a long tournament run.”

Season Outlook:
Not many teams can say they have eight players returning from a 22-win team, and even less can claim two 1,000-point scorers among those eight. Tyrell Edmiston and Tyson Beebe should enjoy another stellar year, which means another big season for the Big Red. If the districts remain the same, look for Plymouth to be battling Buckeye Central for a trip to the regional.

Other Top Teams in the Northwest District
Oregon Cardinal Stritch, Miller City, Buckeye Central, Sandusky St. Mary’s CC, Gibsonburg, Stryker, Defiance Ayersville, Edgerton, Hopewell-Loudon, Delphos St. John’s, Toledo Christian, Ottawa Hills, Ottoville, Van Wert Lincolnview, New Bremen, Upper Scioto Valley, Lima Perry, New Knoxville, Minster, and Mansfield St. Peter’s.

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