NEW MIAMI — While the stage is huge for the New Miami High School boys basketball team, the stakes are even bigger.
The Vikings shocked No. 2 seed Gamble Montessori 48-47 on a Jordan Robinette runner at the buzzer last weekend to advance to the Division IV district finals for the first time since the 2002-2003 season.
The reward for New Miami is a game against seventh-ranked Springfield Catholic Central at 9:30 on Friday night at the University of Dayton Arena.
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“This is huge,” NM coach Jared Lee said. “It is exciting, and it is a great opportunity. We set making UD as a goal at the beginning of the season and we accomplished that, as well as get a chance to set some new goals.”
New Miami senior Nate Hobbs said the Vikings are enjoying the experience and have no desire to see it end.
“I never thought we would make it this far,” Hobbs said. “The Village has been great. Our fans come out, support us, and they have been great. It has been crazy, and I am glad I am doing it with my boys. We are a family, and I couldn’t think of a better group to enjoy this.”
A defensive and rebounding stalwart, Hobbs is fine with being a role player. The 6-foot-1 forward averages 2.8 points and 3.3 rebounds a game, as well as drawing about “170 charges,” according to Vikings assistant coach Kevin Lakes.
“I just show up, play defense and rebound,” Hobbs said. “As long as we play as a family and keep our heads, we can go pretty far.”
“(Nate) is a guy who accepts his role, buys into it, never shies from it, and embraces it,” Lee said. “He will tell you his job is to play defense and rebound. He does all the little things that don’t show up on a stat sheet and gets all these other guys excited and helps us win.”
Jordan Robinette leads the Vikings with 16.7 points a game, with brother Trey Robinette averages 14.2. Deanza Duncan gets 14.4 points a game, while big man Ronnie Bowman chips in 9 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest.
New Miami has won five in a row and stands 16-9, but Catholic Central will present a huge obstacle.
The Irish stand 21-3 and start five seniors who took the Irish to the regional semifinals a year ago, losing a close game to eventual state champion Maria Stein Marion Local.
Sabien Doolittle leads the Irish with 15 points and 9.5 boards a game, while Mykah Eichie chips in 13.6 points and 6.2 caroms. Point guard Trey Dunn scores 10.1 while dishing out a league-high 4.7 assists a game.
Peyton Harris averages nine points and Jayden Borden scores 6.5 a game for SCC, the champion of the Ohio Heritage Conference South Division.
The Irish like to play their five a long way, and coach Cody Saransen said his squad benefits not only from senior leadership, but also the experience of playing deep into the tourney a year ago.
“I would like to think it gives us an advantage,” Saransen said. “We were fortunate to play at UD last year, so our guys have played on a big stage.
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“Our seniors have been phenomenal, and what they have been able to do for this program is incredible. They are leaving behind a nice legacy. These guys accomplished so much … they are just enjoying the moment.”
Both coaches agreed Friday’s game features two teams with similar styles. Neither team is driven by big men. They use their guards and speed to score in a multitude of ways.
“I know we will have to rebound the ball,” Saransen said. “(The Vikings) are a young group that is not afraid. They are confident and won’t back down.”
He said the same qualities apply to his squad, a notion Lee was quick to second.
“They are very good,” he said. “When you have 32 teams left in the state, none of them are bad. They won over 20 games, and it will be a big challenge for us. They are very athletic, shoot the 3 very well, and they can really play.”