D-IV Boys Basketball Preview: Southwest District is Ohio’s toughest


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.

Southwest District Preview

Tri-Village (26-2)
*Lost to Convoy Crestview (54-50) in state semis.

Returning Starters:
Colton Linkous (6’4/Sr.); Damion Cook (6’5/Sr.); Mason McCabe (6’4/Sr.); Taylor Vanwinkle (5’9/Jr.).

Key Newcomers:
Gavin Richards (5’11/So.); Brett Boyter (5’9/Jr.); Knox Morris (5’10/Jr.).

Key Stats:
Tri-Village is coming off another stellar season recording 26 wins for a second-straight year, while the Patriots are 72-7 over the past three seasons. T-V not only won a bunch of games, but broke some records as well. The Patriots totaled 581 assists and 1,0004 rebounds a year ago, which are both tops in school history. The reigning Cross County Conference Champions shot nearly 60 percent from 2-point range, and according to the Ohio High School Basketball
Coaches Association, that ranked No. 1 for consecutive seasons.
Tri-Village led Convoy Crestview, 24-17, in the closing moments of the 1st half in a state semifinals contest, before getting outscored, 15-4, in the 3rd quarter leading to its demise. Trust us, with what T-V returns and if this past summer was any indication, the Patriots have a chance to be special.
“The theme for this year is ‘Fear the Tradition’ via sweat equity this year’s team hopes to clean up some unfinished business over the next four months,” mentioned head coach Josh Sagester. “The difficult ending this tight-knit group endured lit our veterans and newcomers fire in hopes another opportunity will await.”
The Patriots will have to replace the 2014 JJHuddle DIV Player of the Year in Tyler Cook. Trying to fill his shoes won’t be easy, but T-V won’t be empty-handed. Senior Damion Cook would be a good place to start on the interior. Cook averaged 16.6 points and 11 rebounds per game as a junior along with totaling a school-record 330 rebounds, which included a 26-rebound performance. Cook and fellow classmate Colton Linkous were both Honorable Mention JJHuddle All-Ohio. Linkous, who has a prototypical basketball body and smoothness to his game, is coming off a season where he accounted for 19.4 points, five rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. Linkous totaled 543 points as a junior, which ranks him second in school history. In addition, the 6-foot-4 righty tallied 91 three-point field goals, which included 10 triples in a single game, both school records.
The biggest key to the team could be the return of point guard Tyler Van Winkle. The junior may not be the biggest guy on the floor, but Van Winkle is as tough and solid as they come. Tyler’s ability to distribute the basketball and handle pressure in big game situations could give the Patriots a chance to hoist the gold at the end of the season.
Mason McCabe is another key piece to the Tri-Village puzzle. The 6-foot-4 senior brings terrific length and athleticism to the Patriots’ line up. McCabe has a chance to have a breakout campaign with his ability to impact basketball games in a variety of ways. McCabe has the ability to make plays that you can’t coach with his length and versatility.
“We return four of our top six players from last year’s state semifinal team,” Sagester said. “As always, expectations loom large within the Patriot Nation. We are 72-7 overall and 34-2 in the league over the last three years and we hope to protect the tradition as we gear up for another campaign.”
Junior guards Brett Boyter and Knox Richards along with talented sophomore Gavin Richards provide Tri-Village with plenty of depth and shooting ability at the guard spots.

From the Coach:
“We have really tried to ‘beef’ up our non-league schedule in preparation for the year,” Sagester noted. “Our league always produces some very good products as well. A few measuring stick games I see right away are Franklin-Monroe, Troy Christian, Miami Valley, Twin Valley South, Russia, Winchester (IN), Miami East, and Coldwater.”

Season Outlook:
The Patriots have a legitimate chance to cut the nets down in Columbus at the end of the year, which would give T-V its first boy’s basketball state title. In our opinion, T-V was clearly the second best team in Ohio a year ago. In DIV, when you have two studs like Linkous and Cook, a solid point guard, a dynamic athlete, and depth at guard that is a real recipe for success. The Patriots will be nearly impossible to come from behind against with the number of kids that can handle the basketball. T-V will spread teams out and really make the defense guard. With nearly every kid on the team being a threat from behind the arc, dribble penetration and kick outs are going to be the norm in New Madison. Cook, at 6-foot-5, plays much bigger than his size and gets excellent position in the post. His ability to score over both shoulders and compete on the glass like a man possessed, gives the Patriots an edge on the interior as well. If Cook stays out of foul trouble throughout the tournament, Coach Josh Sagester and his boys could be the only team left standing when the dust settles.

Cincinnati Aiken (16-10)
*Lost to Russia in the district finals.

Damon Harris (6’3/Sr.); Elijah Gordon (6’7/Sr.); Jawaun Home (6’2/Jr.); Carlik Jones (6’0/Jr.); Cameron Moore (6’6/Jr.); and Samanta Griffin (6’2/Jr.).

Key Newcomers:
Isaiah Lyles (6’5/So.) and Lonnie Berry (6’4/So.).

Key Stats:
● Carlik Jones averaged around 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game as a
● Damon Harris averaged nearly 11 points a game along with grabbing five rebounds.
● Cameron Moore averaged nearly 10 points and 11 rebounds a night.
● Head coach Leon Ellis is just 18 wins shy of 100.

From the Coach:
“I scheduled a very tough non-conference schedule and we will have a very tough conference schedule, which should prepare us for the tournament,” said Leon Ellison Jr., the Aiken head man.

Season Outlook:
On paper, Cincinnati Aiken would be your 2015 state champs. However, Coach Ellison would be the first to tell you, talent doesn’t win championships. In last season’s Oak Hills High School District Championship, Aiken fell to Russia. Not even the most biased Russia fan would tell you the Raiders possessed more talent. Though, as the Falcons found out, that mattered very little. Aiken will be one of the frontrunners for the gold trophy, but in the tournament, the Falcons must be able to knock down perimeter shots or they will see the same type of defense that Russia played on them a year ago. With four returning players receiving D1 interest, and the addition of sophomore Lonnie Berry (Colerain transfer) another D1 recruit, the Falcons may not just be a good D4 team, they may be the frontrunner to win a conference filled with DI and DII teams.

Georgetown (19-6)
*Lost to Lockland (64-60) in the sectional.

Jake Cropper (Sr.); Gage Bradley (Sr.); Jacob Miller (Sr.); Tanner Pack (Sr.); Jonathon Staggs (Sr.); Clinton McElroy (Sr.); and Daniel Broadwell (Sr.).

Key Newcomers:
Evan Cotter (Jr.); Christian Linville (Jr.); Chris Dietrich (Jr.); Jacob Moler (Jr.); Jacob Cady (Jr.); Solomon Underwood (So.); and Jacob Rockey (Jr.).

Key Stats:
● The Georgetown G-Men return 14 from players off its 15-man roster from a year ago.
● The G-Men won the 2007 State Championship finishing the year undefeated.
● Jake Cropper averaged a team-leading 17.1 points per game adding 7.3 rebounds.
● Gage Bradley averaged nearly 13 points and eight rebounds a night.
● Jacob Miller stuffed the stat sheet tallying nearly 11 points, five assists, five steals, and four rebounds a game.
● Tanner Pack scored 9.3 points per contest.

Season Outlook:
We were extremely high on the G-Men a season ago, but perhaps we were a year early despite Coach Jerry Underwood’s team winning 19 games. Georgetown will be a major player in DIV with 14 of its 15-man roster returning. The G-Men aren’t blessed with great size, but experience, balance, and depth should go a long way. Cropper, Miller, and Bradley have been the best three players for the G-Men since they stepped on the floor as freshmen despite Bradley missing his sophomore year with an injury. The senior class owns 52 wins over the the last three campaigns including a 21-win season two years ago. We won’t be surprised if the G-Men surpass that win total in 2015.

Russia (22-5)
*Lost to Marion Local in the Regional Semis.

Nolan Francis (6’1/Sr.); Gavin Hoying (6’4/Sr.); Jacob Pleiman (6’5/Sr.); Jordan Gariety (5’11/Sr.); Adam Hoying (6’2/Sr.); Bryce Cordonnier (6’1/Sr.), and Ryan Magoto (6’1/Sr.).

Key Newcomers:
Justin Gariety (6’0/Sr.) and David York (6’5/Sr.).

Key Stats:
● Francis averaged 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and three assists per game.
● Gavin Hoying tallied 13 points and 7.4 rebounds a night.
● Jacob Pleiman scored nearly eight points per game and added 5.3 rebounds.
● Jordan Gariety totaled 8.5 points per game.
● Adam Hoying produced nearly five points a game.

From the Coach:
“We return seven lettermen from our 22-5 season last year,” said legendary Russia boss Paul Bremigan. “This group of seniors and juniors have been very successful during their careers. Our JV team was undefeated last year and our freshmen lost one game. The competition throughout the program will make our players better and prepare them for the season.”

Season Outlook:
Paul Bremigan has won 415 games in his coaching career, which included a state runner-up in 2002. Could this be the year Raiders reward him with a state championship? District and regional play are going to be extremely challenging, but Russia proved a year ago its capable of playing with the big boys by beating a very talented Cincinnati Aiken team. If the Raiders want to get to Columbus, the veteran squad will likely have to get through the state’s toughest path.

Troy Christian (24-3)
*Lost to Tri-Village in the Regional Semis.

Grant Zawadzki (6’0/Sr.); Dusty Poteet (6’7/Sr.); and Isaih Fairley (6’5/Sr.).

Key Newcomers:
Corde’ Donald (6’3/Sr.)

Key Stats:
● Troy Christian has won four consecutive MBC League Championships and back-to-back district titles, which includes a state semifinal appearance in 2013. The Eagles are 46-2 in conference play over the past four seasons, and currently own a 27-game conference winning streak. TC is 50-6 over the past two seasons, which included being ranked in the AP Poll for the first time in school history.
● Grant Zawadzki averaged 23.4 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.9 steals per game as a junior. He was 1st Team JJHuddle All-Ohio and 2nd Team AP All-Ohio. He owns 1,370 career points and 463 assists.
● Corde’ Donald averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as a junior at the Miami Valley School.
● Dusty Poteet tallied four points, five rebounds, and two blocks a game a season ago.
● Isaih Fairley played in just 10 games a year ago following ACL surgery.

From the Coach:
“The Southwest Division IV is loaded,” stated Troy Christian head coach Ray Zawadzki, who is 85-36. “We have the potential to be a dangerous team this year as we have a lot of scoring weapons and experienced winners with high expectations. Our strength will shift from a longrange shooting team to a rebounding and pound it inside group. Luckily we have four months to raise our level of play up to the heights of the powerhouse programs in Division IV.”

Season Outlook:
Troy Christian is going to be a legit threat in Division IV for the simple fact it has Grant Zawadzki and other teams do not. The NAIA Indiana Wesleyan commit is one of if not the most competitive kids in the state of Ohio. A true alpha dog, Zawadzki, has a chance for a special senior season. The addition of Donald should pay huge dividends. Coach Zawadzki believes he will have an immediate impact on the program. A totally healthy Fairley is primed for a big season. Those three along with Poteet, who could have a breakout year, should have the Eagles playing late into March.

Other Top Teams in the Southwest District
Franklin Monroe, South Charleston Southeastern, Lockland, Fort Loramie, Jackson Center, and Lehman Catholic.


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