In the 10 years since it joined the Metro Buckeye Conference, the Emmanuel Christian Academy boys basketball team have never won a conference title.
The Lions haven’t finished second since its first season in the conference.
This season, the Lions are hoping to change that. They’re off to a 7-0 start, including 4-0 in the conference.
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On Friday, another test awaits when they travel to Legacy Christian Academy (8-2, 4-0). The two teams have combined to win 15 straight games.
The matchup with the Knights has been looming on the Lions’ schedule for several weeks. The team knew it was coming up, but wasn’t able to fully prepare until last week, said Lions coach Danny Moore.
“They’ve got a good group of guys,” he said. “They’re very talented. We have him to play them at Legacy, which is an extra check mark for them. … It’s definitely an advantage.”
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The veteran Lions’ squad is no stranger to making school history. After starting 3-9, the Lions won seven of their last 13 games and advanced to the Division IV district finals for the first time in program history.
The Lions have four players scoring double figures, including Casey Swank (14.6 points per game), Adonis Davis (14.0 ppg), Fred Shropshire (10.9 ppg) and Jason Channels (10.9 ppg).
Emmanuel has three road wins against Ohio Heritage Conference opponents and beat defending MBC champ Troy Christian earlier in the season, which Moore said has prepared his team for Friday’s game at Legacy.
“I feel like this used to be a young team,” he said. “We’ve kind of been through that. Now I feel like it’s easier to keep them focused for one game at a time, saying ‘This is what we need to do tonight’.”
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After back-to-back losses to Stivers and Reynoldsburg, Legacy Christian has won eight straight games, including road wins over Minster and Waynesville.
The Knights are led by 6-5 senior forward Erik Uszynski, who leads the team in both scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounds (8.1 rpg). 6-6 freshman post Mike Sharavjamts is also averaging 10.1 points per game. Sophomore guard Roman Newsome (9.8 ppg) and senior forward Keano Hammerstrom (8.9 ppg) have also been steady for Legacy.
“We can’t let them be too balanced,” Moore said. “Uszynski can go for 20 in the post. They’ve got (Sharavjamts), he’s big and he can shoot from the outside. It’s about how do you guard him. … They’re really good with offensive rebounds. We can’t give second shots.”
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A victory on the road would give the Lions a bit of cushion in the league race moving forward. They’ll host the Knights in Springfield on Feb. 1.
“Going on the road, if we could steal one, it would put us in a great spot,” Moore said. “I think our guys are mature enough to handle that now.”
First-place matchup: A matchup of Ohio Heritage Conference division leaders will take place on Friday night in Union County when South division leader Catholic Central (8-1, 5-1) travels to play North division leader Fairbanks (6-1, 6-0).
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The Irish dropped its first game to West Liberty-Salem last week. The Panthers have won six straight conference games since dropping its season opener to Jonathan Alder on Nov. 30.
Catholic Central’s Sabien Doolittle (14.3 ppg) and Fairbanks’ Cross Hackathorne each rank among the top-10 leading scorers in the conference.
Big win: Southeastern’s Owen Flannery scored 24 points as Southeastern beat Clark County rival Kenton Ridge 59-55 on Dec. 27.
Charlie Bertemes added 17 points and Bryce Grim scored 14 points for the Trojans (4-5, 3-3 OHC South Division).
Speaking of the Cougars: Kenton Ridge (4-3, 2-1) faces a key Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division game on Friday when Jonathan Alder travels to Springfield.
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The Pioneers (6-2, 3-0) are tied for first place in the division with London (8-1, 3-0). The Cougars are one game back.
KR junior Tyler Eberhart leads the CBC in scoring at 20 points per game.