Boys Basketball: Urbana, Graham again battling for CBC Mad River crown

Urbana sophomore forward Reid Taylor shoots during a Division II sectional final game against Shawnee last season. FILE PHOTO

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Urbana sophomore forward Reid Taylor shoots during a Division II sectional final game against Shawnee last season. FILE PHOTO

Over the last decade, the Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division boys basketball title has lived on Route 36 in Champaign County.

Urbana and Graham have won or shared the title nearly every year since 2008. The lone other school to win the division title was Northwestern in 2017 — when Urbana played in the CBC Kenton Trail.

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This year is no different — Urbana (4-2 overall) is tied for first place in the division with Benjamin Logan (4-2) at 2-0. Graham (5-2) is tied for second with North Union (3-2) at 1-1 in the division.

The Hillclimbers host the Falcons at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Urbana in a key early season divisional matchup.

This year, every team in the league will have a say in who takes home the title, Urbana coach Jeremy Dixon said.

“I know it’s cliche, but I really think anybody can beat anyone this year in our division as opposed to past years where two or three were at the top and the rest were kind of lagging behind,” he said. “I really this this year it’s wide open. … It’s as well-rounded of a division as its been in a long time.”

Urbana’s program has been one of the most consistent programs in the area. The Hillclimbers haven’t had a losing season since 2008 and have won 15 or more games for eight consecutive seasons. The Hillclimbers have won six total CBC Mad River titles, including four of the last five.

This year, Urbana has several newcomers after graduating seven seniors, including Mad River Player of the Year Levi Boettcher, who is now playing at Wittenberg University.

“Everybody is pretty much getting their first varsity experience,” Dixon said. “I like our group, we just need some experience.”

The Hillclimbers are led by senior Reid Taylor (14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game) and junior 6-foot-7 post player Grant Hower (13.7 ppg and 6.5 rpg). New addition Isaiah Fonseca is also averaging 10.2 points and 3.5 assists per game.

Defensively, the Hillclimbers have been consistent, Dixon said, keeping them in the game in losses to Kenton Ridge and Carroll. They’ll have to stay sharp against their rivals on Friday night.

“(Graham) has some guys who can score in a lot of different ways,” Dixon said. “They’ve got some guys who can shoot. They can score inside. … They’ve got threats on the floor at all times and that’s going to be a challenge for us.”

The Falcons won four straight between 2008 and 2011. Recently, the Falcons have struggled, failing to post a winning record since it last shared the title with Urbana in 2013.

Graham finished 10-13 a year ago, but won five straight to open the season under new coach and Falcons alum Grant Hall, a 2012 graduate. Hall was previously on staff at Centerville under former Graham coach Brook Cupps. He’s working hard to help the team understand the tradition at Graham, including bringing back alumni to speak to his players.

“I love it, obviously, coaching at my alma mater,” Hall said. “I know most of the families and most of the kids. Being able to create that player-coach relationship has been awesome. I love impacting young men’s lives.”

Graham enters Friday’s contest having lost back-to-back games to Benjamin Logan (70-69 in OT) and Brookville (62-54). The Falcons led Ben Logan by 14 entering the fourth quarter, but allowed the Raiders to get back into the game.

The Falcons are led brothers Brevan and Brady King. Senior Brevan King is averaging 20.6 points and 8.9 rebounds, while sophomore Brady King is averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Junior Kevin Miller is averaging a double-double (10.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game) and senior Chase Adams is scoring 10.0 points per game.

Back-to-back: Springfield (3-2) faces another tough weekend with back-to-back games against Northmont (4-3) and Hilliard Bradley.

The Wildcats host the Thunderbolts on Friday. They’ll travel to Columbus to play Hilliard Bradley in the Capital City Coaches for a Cure Classic at Capital University. Tickets for the day-long event are $12 at the door. The Wildcats will play in the final game of the day at 8 p.m.

Rivalry game: Two district rivals will meet this weekend in Springfield.

Northeastern (2-4) travels to Kenton Ridge (2-2) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night. The schools have split the last two matchups — KR won 80-43 last season, while Northeastern won the 2017 game, snapping a five-game losing streak to the Cougars.

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