New era upon us at state

Published:

New era

upon us

at state

COLUMBUS — While one era came to an end at the 91st state boys basketball tournament another has begun.

After a half century of coaching Kettering Alter's Joe Petrocelli, the second winningest coach in Ohio high school basketball history behind Kalida's Dick Kortokrax, went out with a bang by reaching state in his 49th and final season at the helm.

Meanwhile, a pair of 6-7 freshmen - V.J. King of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Seth Towns of Columbus Northland - showed why they are considered among the best in the land at their age in their first of what could be many visits to The Schottenstein Center.

King helped SVSM to the state finals only to come up short in Saturday's title game with Columbus Watterson while Towns and Northland were beaten in the semis.

"He exceeded my expectations," SVSM coach Dru Joyce said of King, who moved in from Charlotte, N.C. "He handled all the comparison to LeBron (James, a SVSM grad) and being highly ranked in the country."

King played junior varsity basketball in sixth grade, which is permitted in North Carolina. In seventh grade King split time between JVs and varsity before becoming a varsity starter as an eighth grader for United Faith Christian Academy, coached by Muggsy Bogues.

Formerly from Cleveland, the family then relocated from Charlotte to northeast Ohio. While King came in, five team members transferred out in late summer. But those that stayed found success with King aboard.

"Coming from a different state, they really accepted me," King said. "I was nervous at first in a new system, but they showed me the ropes and it's been fun."

King is projected to reach a height of 6-9 or 6-10.

"If he doesn't grow another inch he's tall enough," Joyce said.

While Towns failed to get his unbeaten Northland team to the Division I state finals, the ninth grade phenom more than held his own in the semifinals against Mentor. Towns had 12 points and three boards with just one turnover in 25 minutes of action in the tough semifinal loss to Mentor.

"The bigger the stage the better he's going to perform," Northland coach Sean Taylor said of Towns, whose brother Armani was the lone senior on the Northland squad. "He has that killer instinct. What he did didn't surprise me at all."

With Northland a regular state participant with three Final Four appearances in the past five years, the future looks bright for Towns and the Vikings.

Speaking of regular state participants, Petrocelli had Alter down to state five times in his tenure, on three occasions winning state crowns. That eluded the Knights on Friday in Petrocelli's last season in charge.

"I never thought of it as my career coming to an end but that was it," the 75-year-old said after the game. "If it was going to come to and end I'm glad it was here."

It was close to a story-book finish for the Knights, with wins over the favorites (Dayton Thurgood-Marshall) and defending champions (Dayton Dunbar) along the tourney trail.

"I would have drawn up two more wins," Petrocelli said of anything he would have done different. "But I'm 75 and I had a lot of fun. I've been here so long we have a brother scoring list from top to bottom and a father-son list from top to bottom. We have records that nobody else has.

"It's been great fun, I've had a ball. I'll miss it ... (but) I'll still come to the games. I won't miss coming to the (state) tournament here, I have two tickets. I can sit up there and criticize the officials."

And then, for the first time in memory, the media members at the press conference gave an ovation to a head coach as he stepped down from the podium.

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