Scioto Valley Conference Boys Basketball Preview & Predictions

Posted: November 23, 2018 in Opinion, Sports, Things I Love
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Although I’m not coaching this year I still have a pretty intense interest in Southern Ohio basketball, the Scioto Valley Conference in particular. With that in mind I thought I’d write my inaugural SVC Preview and Predictions blog. I have a fairly extensive knowledge of the teams, coaches and players so I think I can provide some unique insight you won’t find anywhere else. Hey, I coached in the league for 13-years and have been watching games for as long as I can remember.

With that in mind, I talked to all eight of the SVC’s coaches who gave me their opinion of their team along with predictions of how the SVC will finish in 2018-2019, top to bottom. Those individual opinions will remain anonymous of course. And yes, I coached at one of these schools but I believe I can give an unbiased look at what to expect. Keep in mind that, although all coaches communicated with me to an extent, some shared more than others. Such is the nature of the beast.

I believe the SVC will be as close from top to bottom as it’s been in years. The gap has closed from first to last, without a doubt.

Here’s how I’ll do it. I’ll give an alphabetical rundown of each team with some coach’s comments included, along with my Player of the Year candidates sprinkled in. Finally I’ll give you my predictions and tell you how the SVC coach’s predictions tallied up.

Let us begin . . .

Adena Warriors 

Zach Fout

Coach Kyle Bradley’s Warriors return a ton of talent that includes seven players who played big minutes last season, and although they went 6-16 last year they were in nearly every game. Coach Bradley will run a lot of different sets with plenty of cutting and screens, and they’ll be difficult to match up with in a man-to-man defense. Adena has the horses to get it out and go offensively, and I believe they will.

The Warriors return all but two players from last year’s squad, including Senior Zach Fout, who averaged 15.5 ppg last season. He also drained 41 three-pointers and was 7th in the SVC in steals. Clearly this young man has the potential to be a Top 3 player in the conference. At 6′-4″ he’s explosive, athletic, and will be a tough matchup for any team in the league. Adena also returns Senior Caleb Foglesong, who came on strong toward the end of last season and had a good summer. Coach Bradley also expects Junior Dylan Gallagher to contribute big and says Dylan has put in the work required to get him to the next level. Other returning players for Adena are Sophomores Jacob Shipley, Jarrett Garrison, Logan Bennett, Nate Throckmorton and Preston Sykes.

From Coach Bradley:

“With the amount of varsity minutes we return it’s time for us to take the next step. Competing every night out at a high level and extending weeks, and not days, together is the focus. Moving into year three we finally feel as though the team has a really good grasp of our philosophies. We went out and challenged ourselves all summer and we are looking forward to getting started at Lucasville Valley on December 1st.”

Adena has the experience and talent to compete in every game in which they play, and the sooner the Warrior players realize this the better. It’s Coach Bradley’s third year in Frankfort and the Warriors are poised to make a run. Believe me, with Fout leading the way Adena can win the SVC.

Huntington Huntsmen

Elijah McCloskey

Coach Eric Snyder’s Huntsmen will feature one of the best 1-2 punches in the league, but due to the suspension of one of them we’ll have to wait until game 5 to see them play together. One part of that dynamic duo is Elijah McCloskey, a 4-year starter and quite possibly the league’s best player. McCloskey averaged nearly 15 ppg last season to go along with 34 three-pointers. He was also 5th in the league in steals. The other half of the combo, and missing the first 4-games, is Seth Beeler. Beeler is a super quick, athletic slasher who knocked down 27 threes in 2017-2018. He’ll take a lot of pressure off McCloskey in the Huntsmen offense. Other returnees are seniors Nate Snyder, DJ Kinzer and Canaan Knowles. Snyder is a good 3-point shooter who plays hard, and although he’s more of a catch-and-shoot player he’ll have to help out with ballhandling until Beeler returns. At 6′-3″ Kinzer will provide some length the Huntsmen so desperately need, and he can also give the team some added scoring punch. According to Coach Snyder, Knowles is the team’s “Junkyard Dog” who plays hard and with a high motor. Senior Andrew Cox is another player expected to contribute, the kind of kid who gives everything he’s got while understanding his role. Believe me, that’s often a rare combination. A new face for Coach Snyder this year is senior Jonathon Fisher. While only 6′-1″, Fisher can give the team a toughness in the paint that will be valuable come the dog days of January. Other players to watch include 6′-0″ senior Joe Phillips, 6′-3″ sophomore Nick Haines and 5′-7″ freshman Dalton Haubeil.

From Coach Snyder:

“Our motto this year is ‘Overcoming Perception’. It’s been 7-seasons since Huntington has had a winning season. These kids just need to know what it feels like to win. They have the potential to win, we just have to believe and take that next step.”

The Huntsmen will be a reflection of their coach – tough and persistent. They’ll will play a hard-nosed style of basketball and have the potential to be in every game. They’ll go as McCloskey goes, and he and Beeler will form a lethal combination. If this team can get through the first few games without losing confidence and if a couple players step up to form that third and fourth option, the Huntsmen will surprise some people, mark it down. The Mighty Huntsmen simply have to believe.

Paint Valley Bearcats

Cruz McFadden

New Coach Bobby Williams inherits a 17-win team that returns 4-starters, but due to having a late start because of the football team’s playoff success, having to learn a new system, and learning to play without Ross County’s all-time leader scorer Dylan Swingle the folks in the Valley might have to be patient with this team early. That said, when this team jells they’ll be as good as anybody. The Bearcats return all-district Bryce Newland, a 6′-4″ player who can not only score (15.0 ppg) and shoot the 3 (46 last season), but can also hit the boards (10.7 per game last season, good for 4th in the SVC). If Newland has developed his inside offensive game enough to balance his prowess from the perimeter he’ll be a Top 4 player in the league – at least. The Cats also return Cruz McFadden, like Newland beginning his third year as a starter. The Cruzer finished 4th in the league in assists last year as well as finishing 6th in steals, and when he attacks the basket he causes a myriad of problems for opposing defenses. Another returning starter is senior Caden Grubb, a never-say-die, clutch leader who is one of the better defensive players in the SVC. Grubby also averaged 4.6 assists per game last season, good for third in the league. The last starter returning for the Bearcats is 6′-4″ senior Hunter Hamlin, the team’s defensive stopper last year who also hit some big shots in tournament play. Other players who might make a splash are PJ McAllister (last year’s 6th man), Judson Bevan (an athletic 6′-3″ junior with a ton of potential), freshman Cordell Grubb (a scoring machine in JH), junior Colton Skaggs, and senior Justin Draise.

The Bearcats are expected to go deeper on their bench this year as well as playing a more full court style on both offense and defense. If players 5 through 8 can step up and contribute it will help their cause tremendously. They’ll also need McFadden, Grubb and others to knock down perimeter shots as I fully expect Newland to be face-guarded nightly.

From Coach Williams, via the Chillicothe Gazette:

“I think the potential is great,” Williams said. “I don’t expect to have a honeymoon period here coming off their success from last year. I’m expecting to come in and win immediately with this group.”

Paint Valley has been to the districts four of the last five years, and there’s no reason to think they can’t do it again. If everything comes together as it should, come mid-January “The Jigger” will once again be rockin’.

Piketon Redstreaks

Blake Reader

If there’s one thing you can count on down in Piketon, it’s that the Red Streaks will play a full-court trapping game, they’ll get the ball out and run, and they will play hard.

Always scrappy, this year’s Piketon team will have a nice mix of experience and youth while being bigger than in years past. Although SVC scoring champ Tanner Purdue will be hard to replace, they’ll return 3-starters from last year’s District Runner-Up – Alex Blanton, Scottie Lightle and Blake Reader. Blanton was 4th in the SVC in steals, and Reader is a tough kid who took an incredible 20 charges.

From Coach Evan Legg:

“We have a great group of young players coming through the program, and they are learning and improving every single day. As always our goal is to compete for an SVC Championship, get back to The Convo and compete for a District Title.”

The Streaks like to play a lot of kids, and as Coach Legg’s younger players gain experience they’ll only get better. Although last season’s 19-wins will be tough to improve upon, Piketon has been a fixture at The Convo for what seems like forever. They feel like they belong there, and that’s half the battle. Expect the Streaks to have more players involved in their offense, perhaps having as many as 3 or 4 players averaging in double figures. Traveling to “The Oven” and battling the Streaks is always a tall order for any SVC team, and this season should be no different.

Southeastern Panthers

Lane Ruby

Coach Rick Strausbaugh’s Panthers return several player’s from last year’s team, including point guard Lane Ruby, a 5′-9″, lightning quick whirling dervish who is nearly impossible to contain without defensive help. A possible 2018-2019 SVC Player of the Year candidate, Ruby averaged 10.5 points per game last season, was 6th in the league in assists, 4th in free throw percentage and 8th in steals. Like McCloskey at Huntington, Ruby is the straw that stirs the Panther’s drink. Southeastern also returns 6′-4″ junior postman Reece Wheeler, 6′-0″ junior Aaron Gillum, 6′-4″ sophomore Aarick Hill and 6′-2″ senior Noah Dresbach. Wheeler snagged 6.7 rebounds a game last season, good for 8th in the SVC. He was also 5th in the league in blocked shots and averaged 8.7 points per game. Gillum pitched in with 7.5 points.

New players with a chance to contribute are 6′-0″ freshman Aiden Estep, 6′-0″ freshman Luke Corcoran, 6′-1″ freshmen Derek Wheeler, 6′-1″ freshman Aaron Evans, 5′-7″ freshman Parker George and 5′-11″ junior Jared Sulpher.

I expect Ruby and Wheeler’s point averages to increase considerably, and at least one other player, possibly Dresbach, needs to approach double figure scoring for the Panthers to compete. Like I said, Ruby is the key. As long as he’s on the court Southeastern will be a dangerous team. The folks in Richmond Dale and Londonderry always have high expectations for this tradition-rich program, and that will not change this year. That said, it’ll be a big challenge for the Panthers to crack the Top 3 in the SVC.

Unioto Shermans

Unioto lost an amazing group of seniors last year, including Co-SVC Player of the Year Logan Swackhammer, sharpshooter Brandon Kennedy, ridiculous athlete Gabe Fisher, and bruiser Peyton Hill. Friends, those four never lost a league game. Because of these losses a lot of fans are expecting a below average year for the Shermans, but let me tell you a secret – they’ll be good again. Sure, they may finally lose a game or two, maybe even three, in the league. But they’ll still be fighting for the SVC title come February, believe me. One reason is that the Unioto kids expect to win. They believe they will, they know how to, and they more often than not do. Of course, as they say you can’t have a circus without the elephants, but I believe they have enough of those too. The Shermans will go 10-deep, and as always they’ll have shooters. You’re going to see more balance from Unioto this year as they have several different players capable of leading them in scoring on any given night.

Their top returners are 5′-11′ experienced senior Chance Smith (19-threes last year), 6′-2″ junior Cade McKee and 6′-2″ senior Gabe McBee, but they also have several players who have shown promise over the summer and in the preseason. Coach Matt Hoops speaks highly of senior guard Justin Manson and his development, and sophomores Isaac Little (he’s a player to watch) and both Carson and Cameron DeBord are expected to contribute as well. All three saw some time with the varsity last year. Hoops says 6′-3″ sophomore Aiden Loeffler is a great athlete who also had a good off-season, and newcomers Josh and Jeremy Lambert will only add to Unioto’s depth. Another kid mentioned by Hoops as having an outstanding summer is sophomore Gunnar Greenwalt.

So yeah, depth. I believe I mentioned at least 11-players in that last paragraph. Bottom line? If you thought this was the year you were going to see Unioto kicked around, you may want to think again. The Tanks aren’t going anywhere.

From Coach Hoops:

“We’re going to be very deep. A lot of different guys are going to play, and a lot of different guys are going to score. You’re going to see a different Unioto. And if and when the streak does fall people are going to celebrate that, but this team is not the team that’s won 4 gold balls. This team hasn’t won a game yet.”

Note: A little bird told me we can expect some new wrinkles regarding Unioto’s defensive schemes in 2018-2019. Stay tuned.

Westfall Mustangs

You’re going to see a different team than last year’s 4-win Mustangs, according to Head Coach Josh Rodich. Last season the ‘Tangs were pretty young. This year, the roster features 9-seniors, two of which were not on the squad last year. 6′-5″ Nate Reed moved to Westfall from Florida and 6′-6″ Jared Kaiser has been medically cleared to compete this year.

In addition, the Mustangs return four starters including senior Kaleb Farmer, junior Jay Wyman, junior Jayden Hammond and junior Trent Hampton.

Coach Rodich says Farmer is a coach on the floor, that Hampton has really worked to improve his perimeter shooting, and that he expects Hammond to carry a bigger scoring load this season. In addition, Hammond will make the rare move from center to guard this season.

From Coach Rodich:

“The Mustang community should expect to see a much-improved team this year with lots of depth, experience and added height.”

I have no idea how good the two new kids are, but if they can contribute at all it could completely change the complexion of this team. That said, the Mustangs will need improved guard play to compete with the top teams in the SVC.

Zane Trace Pioneers

Cam Evans

Bottom line, the Zane Trace Pioneers are loaded. Led by Player of the Year candidate Cam Evans, the Gary Kellough coached Pioneers are widely considered to be the favorite to win the Scioto Valley Conference (you’ll see the coaches predictions in a bit). Evans, a 1st Team All-SVC team member last year, averaged 15.0 points per game and 3.1 assists while shooting nearly 70% from the line. Point Guard Colby Swain and Chad Ison will contribute at both ends of the floor, and 6′-6″ post man Nick Nesser returns to patrol the paint. Coach Kellough likes the defense Triton Davidson brings to the table, so expect him to see extensive action as well. Davidson shot an incredible 73% from the floor last season. We’ll also see Luke Johnson spending a lot of time on the floor.

Coach Kellough says that Cam Evans has taken his game to another level. If this is true he’s really going to be fun to watch, not to mention the absolute handful he’ll be for SVC opponents.

Zane Trace ratcheted up the competition their team faced over the summer as well as in preseason scrimmages in an effort to prepare them for what lies ahead, not only in the always tough SVC but the D2 tournament in February. Coach K’s teams are known for their tenacious defense and disciplined, minimal turnover offense. Expect this year to be no different.

So there’s the rundown. Of course injuries, internal dissent and other factors can influence a season in any sport, especially basketball, the ultimate team sport. Chemistry is key.

My Predictions

  1. Zane Trace – With Cam Evans playing at a high level and Coach K on the bench I believe the Pioneers have to be the favorites.
  2. Unioto – The Shermans aren’t going anywhere, folks. Trust me. They’ll be deep, confident and well-coached.
  3. Adena – I might have the Warriors low here. They have the athletes to win it all, and Fout will be a beast.
  4. Paint Valley – The Bearcats can finish higher, but they’ll have some catching up to do first. They’ll be rolling by mid-January.
  5. Southeastern – With Ruby leading the charge the Panthers will be dangerous every night. He’ll need help though.
  6. Piketon – A lot of players will have to step up to fill the void left by Tanner Purdue, and the Streaks will need to find a go-to player. That said, Piketon knows how to win.
  7. Huntington – McCloskey is a given, Beeler has potential, but a lot of others will need rise to the occasion.
  8. Westfall – If the two new post players can play this can totally change, believe me.

SVC Coach’s Predictions:

Teams were ranked 1-7 with a coach not being allowed to vote for his own team. A team received 1-point for a first place vote, 2-points for a second place vote, and so on. Hence, the lower the score the better. Here are the teams, their rankings by the other coaches, and their point totals:

1. Zane Trace: 1-2-1-1-1-1-1 = 8

2. Adena: 4-3-2-2-6-1-2 =20

Unioto: 2-1-4-2-2-5-4 =20

4. Paint Valley: 3-4-3-3-3-2-5 = 23

5. Southeastern: 5-6-4-4-4-3-3 = 29

6. Piketon: 6-5-6-5-6-5-4 = 37

7. Huntington: 7-5-6-5-7-6-6 = 42

8. Westfall: 7-7-7-7-3-7-7 = 45

SVC Player of the Year Candidates, ranked 1-5

1. Cam Evans -Zane Trace

2. Zach Fout – Adena

3. Elijah McCloskey – Huntington

4. Bryce Newland – Paint Valley

5. Lane Ruby – Southeastern

Food for thought: Unioto last lost a Scioto Valley Conference game on December 6th, 2013, nearly 5-years ago. During that span, under Head Coach Matt Hoops, the Shermans have won 69 SVC games in a row. The team that beat Unioto that night? Zane Trace. Who do the Shermans open up with in league play on December 7th this season? Zane Trace. Better get their early, folks.

Enjoy the season, folks. Cheer for your team, don’t be too hard on the officials, and enjoy the greatest game in the world – basketball.

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