County boys ready to play basketball

Basketball season is about to tip off for the area boys teams, and that means the Hillclimbers of Urbana are going to be competing for another Central Buckeye Conference/Mad River Division title after winning the last three straight.

Urbana graduated a lot of talent, but has a lot returning, also.

Sam Niswonger and Cameron Logwood are back in the back court, along with Jace Underwood.

The post will feature a rotation of Najhea Honore, Levi Boettcher and Kalen Howell – all are big and talented.

Riley Emmons and Ty Horsley are also playing varsity.

The Hillclimbers have been remarkable the past several seasons, ripping off regular-season wins with abandon.

But despite that success, the team hasn’t been able to advance past the sectional tournament the past few years.

Also in the CBC/MRD, Graham may struggle early with a lack of experience returning to the squad.

“You’ll see improvement gradually throughout the year,” GHS Coach Mike Smart said. “We’re rebuilding. No question.”

Only Andrew Ford and Conner Wiley return to the Falcons with letters from last season, but neither played extensive roles.

Now, along with Chuck Baumgardner in the post and Daniel Newport, those two will be relied upon heavily. However, the Falcons will rotate several players into the lineup with the hopes that fresh bodies will bring solid defense.

“Everything in practice is going to be short and intense. We’re playing a lot of different guys, a lot of different defenses,” Smart said. “We do have some speed. And we need to learn how to transition. We’ll have to play smart. We’re small. We’re going to have to shoot the ball well to win.

“The thing we’re most complimented on is how hard we work. We don’t always work smart yet, but we work hard.”

To the north, West Liberty-Salem will return plenty of talent from last season.

Austin Miller will play in the post, with fellow senior Ross Kelley handling the ball. Kannon Stillings, Luke Woods, Tyler Louden, James Loffing and Dillon Callicoat will all see playing time, with Neil Markin, Max Eggleston, Trevor Burden and Braden Miller in the mix.

“We had a really good summer. The expectations are really high,” WL-S Coach Darrin Leichty said. “We obviously think that we can compete for a league title.”

The Tigers are fighting injuries and other freak happenings.

“If we get healthy, we can do a few more things,” Leichty said. “There’s some pretty important roles that guys are going to step up into. We’ve got to gel together quickly.”

The Tigers want to run and gun, keeping Miller from being double-teamed in the post. They also want to pressure in the full court.

At Triad, the Cardinals return several guards, including starters Colby Watson, Ryan Boyd and Hadley LeVan. The rest of the lineup is battling for playing time.

“You’ve got to give the kids a chance to fight for it,” THS Coach Matt McCurdy said. “We want to go out and compete and get better every single day. If we do that in practice, we should be able to translate that to games.”

The boys in red and white are looking to compete for an Ohio Heritage Conference title.

“Our kids understand our philosophy and the tempo we want to have,” McCurdy said. “If you can win on the road in our league, that’s going to be the difference.”

Also in the OHC, Mechanicsburg is returning a ton of seniors to the squad.

Mack Cushman, Joey Butsch, Joey Butcher, Tim Miller, Bobby Welch, David Harvey and Colton McMannis all come back.

“We have to continue to learn the system and get familiar with each other. We’ve had a good off-season, and we need to continue to build on that,” M’burg Coach Matt Siegel said.

Bryce Waring and Chris Taylor are also going to see playing time.

“We just want to get better every day and be competitive. Play hard and have fun,” Siegel said. “We are constantly working on the fundamentals offensively and defensively.”

Because of the football team’s post-season run, the Indians have altered their schedule – the team now opens with Cedarville on Friday, Dec. 4.

By Justin Miller

Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller