John Wheeler is excited about his second season as coach of the Northridge High School boys basketball program.

John Wheeler is excited about his second season as coach of the Northridge High School boys basketball program.

The Vikings have an eight-player varsity team, but the group could find itself in contention for a MBC title.

Northridge lost seven seniors from a team that finished 8-13 following a 44-27 loss to Fredericktown in an opening-round Division III district game.

"The seven seniors pretty much started for us, but we also had a lot of injuries, so the people we have this year got a lot of playing time," said Wheeler, whose team opens Saturday at home against Tree of Life before playing a non-league road game Dec. 8 at Liberty Union. "We have a young group that works hard in practices. We're already three or four months ahead of where we were last year because the kids are more familiar with what we want and looking forward to competing for a league championship."

E.J. Snyder is Northridge's only senior.

A 6-foot-3 forward/post player, Snyder averaged 2.9 points per game last season. Snyder will be a part of the Vikings' offense featuring four guards with a post player.

The Vikings also have juniors Tony Rios (6-5) and Bill Andrews (5-11) in the post.

"Tony is a back-to-the-basket post player, so we plan on posting up to him quite a bit," said Wheeler of Rios, who averaged 2.1 rebounds per game last year. "He's pretty athletic and a pretty strong passer. We plan on having the ball in the (center's) hands quite a bit no matter who's in there."

Northridge will have a five-guard rotation of juniors Justin Howard (6-1), Cody King (5-11, 2.6 ppg) and Nick Nixon (5-9), as well as sophomores Connor Burke (5-10) and Aaron Estep (5-8).

"We have five guys who will run the point," said Wheeler, who is assisted by Jordan Burnworth, Tom Roberts and Dave Hollabaugh.

"The way we play, we don't want to specialize."

The Vikings finished sixth in the MBC at 6-8, behind Loudonville (12-2), Centerburg (11-3), Utica 8-6) and Johnstown-Monroe (7-7) and Fredericktown (7-7) and ahead of Danville (4-10) and East Knox (1-13).

"We want to compete for league title this year even though one of youngest teams in league," said Wheeler, whose Vikings open league play Dec. 11 at home against Fredericktown. "There are at least four teams in the MBC with four starters back and Loudonville has three starters back. So, for us to win, we have to mature quickly. We have to not make careless mistakes in order to be successful."

•The girls basketball team opens with three MBC games - Thursday at home against Fredericktown, Saturday at East Knox and Dec. 12 at Centerburg.

Last season, the Freddies swept Northridge 44-23 and 35-23 and the Vikings lost both games to East Knox, 44-33 and 50-31. They lost to Centerburg 57-51 and 64-26 last season.



Dec. 5 vs. Tree of Life Dec. 8 at Liberty Union *Dec. 11 vs. Fredericktown *Dec. 15 at East Knox *Dec. 18 vs. Centerburg *Dec. 22 at Johnstown-Monroe Dec. 29 at Grandview for Bobcats Holiday Classic vs. Grandview Dec. 30 at Grandview for Bobcats Holiday Classic vs. Hartley or Wellington Jan. 6 at Columbus Academy *Jan. 8 at Danville *Jan. 12 vs. Loudonville *Jan. 15 at Utica Jan. 19 vs. Heath *Jan. 22 at Fredericktown *Jan. 26 vs. East Knox *Jan. 29 at Centerburg *Feb. 5 vs. Johnstown *Feb. 9 vs. Danville *Feb. 12 at Loudonville *Feb. 19 vs. Utica

*MBC game