For the first time in Western Buckeye League history there will be two teams representing the league at the boys state basketball tournament.
While Ottawa-Glandorf is making another trip to Columbus, Elida is making its initial appearance at the state tourney.
"Our schedule does nothing but help us in getting ready for the tournament," pointed out Elida coach Denny Thompson, whose team will face another state newcomer in St. Clairsville (23-2) on Friday at 2 p.m. in the Division II state semifinals. "The WBL this year was exceptional, with Defiance having an outstanding team. Our last three games of the (regular) season set the tone for our tournament run (LCC, Celina and Defiance). There was a great atmosphere at Defiance and to come out and win that helped our confidence a lot."
Elida (23-3), which tied with Defiance for first place in the WBL with 8-1 records - one game ahead of O-G - takes a veteran team to state against a St. Clairsville squad that does not have a senior on its roster.
"We're small but athletic," St. Clairsville coach Kim Clifford said. "We'll full-court pressure from end to end."
The game matches Elida's Reggie McAdams and St. Clairsville's Dan Monteroso, which shared D-II player of the year honors this season with two others.
"Monteroso is one of those guys that can just play," Thompson said of the 6-3 standout who averages 26.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. "He's a fans' kind of guy. He puts it on the floor, he gets it to the basket and he hits pull-up jumpers. When you watch him you can tell he's just having fun."
The all-time leading scorer at the school has received looks from Lehigh, Yale, Ball State and Akron.
Ironically, Akron is where McAdams is headed following a career that currently includes 1,680 points and 240 blocked shots.
Dakota Mathias gives Elida another big offensive threat at 13.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Aric Thompson (8.2 ppg), Cory Royster (11.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and defensive stopper Ebin Stratton complete the Elida starters with Mike McDonald (4.9 ppg) the main sub.
Monteroso is joined in the St. Clairsville lineup by Riley Carlton (5-10, 14.2 ppg), Jerrid Marhefka (6-0, 9.2 ppg), Adam Jeffries (5-11, 9.0 ppg) and Joel Giffin (6-2, 40 points on the season). Subs Dylan Campbell (6-1) and Jared Burgey (5-10) provide outside shooting for a team that has hit 219 triples on the season. In addition, the Red Devils are 286-393 at the foul line.
"We have to rebound the basketball to be successful," Thompson said. "I feel like we win games at the defensive end. We have to stop people and that's one thing we have done well this year (allowing 46.7 ppg)."
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D-II OPENER: The first Division II game on Friday at 10:45 a.m. features top-ranked Dayton Dunbar and Mentor Lake Catholic.
Dunbar, 26-0 on the season, features three Division I college recruits and two more in the future. Gary Akbar (6-5, senior), the Division II player of the year headed to Cleveland State, leads Dunbar at 16.7 points per game. Seniors Andre Yates (6-2, 14.5 ppg, Creighton) and Deontae Hawkins (6-8, 16.2 ppg, Wichita St.) also start along with junior Damarion Geter (6-8, 6.8 ppg) and freshman AJ Harris (5-11, 8.2 ppg).
Mentor Lake Catholic (23-2) comes in off a 65-63 regional final win over defending D-II state champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. Joey Vuyancih (6-0, senior, 18.7 ppg), whose sophomore brother Tony will also be at state playing for Lakewood St. Edward, leads the Cougars. Mark Baniewicz (6-3, junior, 11.8 ppg), Danny Schweikert (6-4, senior, 9.7 ppg), Mike Whalen (6-0, senior, 8.7 ppg) and Zavier Powers (6-4, sophomore, 7.0 ppg) complete the starters.