Boys basketball: CBC Kenton Trail title up for grabs

SPRINGFIELD — Midway through Central Buckeye Conference boys basketball play, the Kenton Trail Division title is up for grabs.

Three teams — Kenton Ridge (6-6), Shawnee (9-5) and Jonathan Alder (7-7) — are tied atop the division at 3-2, while the three remaining teams — Tecumseh (5-10), Bellefontaine (7-7) and London (6-8) — are each one game back at 2-3.

After back-to-back second-place finishes, Shawnee is hoping to unseat three-time defending division champion Jonathan Alder.

The Braves are seeking their first Kenton Trail title since winning four in a row between 2012 through 2015. Shawnee hopes to win one more before moving to the CBC Mad River Division next winter.

“It’s really wide open,” said Shawnee coach Chris McGuire. “It’s going to come down to which teams can grind out some victories on the road and hold court at home. It seems like everyone has kind of beaten everyone. Those Friday night games, you’ve got to play well to be able to win.”

The Braves have won four straight games, including a 43-39 victory over Jonathan Alder on Jan. 13 and a big 35-33 nonconference win overMarion Local on Jan. 15 at the Fort Loramie MLK Classic. The Division IV eighth-ranked Flyers frontcourt includes two players over 6-foot-8.

“It was a fun experience for us,” McGuire said. “It was a grind it out kind of game. We were up most of the game and were able to hold on.”

The key to the success has been pressure defense and transition offense, he said. They’ve allowed less than 40 points per game during their winning streak.

“Defensively, if we can limit teams and make it tough on teams, it puts us in the best chance to be successful,” McGuire said. “We’ve got all the pieces we need to defend and be good defenders. If we can limit teams and get the ball out and push the ball up, we can attack and get offense off of our defense. It just makes us a much better team when we can defend and get out and go with it.”

Kenton Ridge is seeking its first Kenton Trail title since 2009. The young Cougars squad is 6-6 this season, but have lost four games by six points or less.

The Cougars have three players averaging double figures — juniors Ckai Rogan (12.5), Canye Rogan (10.1) and Logan Fyffe (10.1) — but the key has been a balanced offense, said Cougars coach Brian Smith, who took over for Kris Spriggs this winter.

“We could have any of our five, six, seven players be our leading scorer every night,” Smith said. “It’s been a different kind of attack every night. We’ve got a couple guys who really know their role. We have a couple guys who are assist guys and defensive guys. We play unselfish and I think that’s been the biggest key. I don’t think teams are able to pick one guy and shut him down. We can throw several guys at each team.”

The Cougars have lost back-to-back games against Bellbrook and North Union. They face a tough test against Jonathan Alder at 7 p.m. Friday at Kenton Ridge High School.

Kenton Ridge fell to the Pioneers 58-54 on Dec. 2. They trailed by 16 after three, but stormed back in the fourth quarter with 27 points, nearly pulling off the comeback.

With just two seniors, the Cougars are still learning how to finish games, Smith said.

“We’re going to have to finish games better,” Smith said. “We’re figuring out how to be ready every single night. I think we’re finding out teams are waiting for us and they’re ready for us. We’re not running into anyone who is going to lay down. Every night is a tough night. We’ve told them several times that there are no easy games left. Every game you’re going to have to bring it and be ready.”

Here’s a look at other conference races throughout the area:

CBC Mad River: Indian Lake (7-7, 5-0) is one game ahead of defending champion Urbana (10-4, 4-1) through the first round of conference play. The Lakers beat the Hillclimbers 94-89 in triple overtime on Jan. 6.

Ohio Heritage Conference South Division: Greeneview (13-2, 10-0) remains undefeated in the OHC South, one game ahead of Cedarville (13-3, 9-1) and 1.5 games ahead of Catholic Central (11-4, 7-2). The Rams and the Irish have each won eight straight games, while the Indians have won four straight. The OHC plays a 16-game league schedule, including two games against their division foes and one game against schools from the OHC North.

OHC North: Fairbanks (10-6, 8-2) is 1.5 games ahead of West Liberty-Salem (8-6, 6-3). The Panthers will travel to West Liberty-Salem on Feb. 24.

Greater Western Ohio Conference: Last year’s D-I runner-up Centerville (13-2) is 7-0 in the conference with seven games to play. Wayne (10-3, 7-1) lost to the Elks 85-56 on Jan. 5. Springfield is 3-10 and 1-5 in the conference.

Metro Buckeye Conference: Dayton Christian (8-6) leads the conference with a 6-0 mark, two games ahead of Middletown Christian (8-6) and Legacy Christian (7-7) at 4-2. Emmanuel Christian is 5-9 and 2-3 in the conference.

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