The Eastmoor Academy boys basketball team isn't expecting to shift from what has made it successful when it meets Wauseon in a Division II state semifinal at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, March 23, at Ohio State.
Throughout a district tournament run that included a 61-49 win over Columbus South in a final March 10 at Worthington Kilbourne as well as in both of their regional tournament wins, the Warriors relied on their defense to set the tone.
They followed a 55-37 win over Fairfield Union in a regional semifinal March 16 at Ohio University by building an early lead and blowing past McArthur Vinton County 69-48 in a regional final March 18 at OU.
Eastmoor held Vinton County to 17-for-44 shooting as it improved to 22-6.
Wauseon enters the state tournament 26-1.
"What helped us was our defensive effort and our ability to grab rebounds and eliminate second-chance shots," 6-foot-8 junior forward Stanley Williams said. "This is my first time going to the (state tournament). I'm happy we made it this far. We work hard in practice every day. We deserve this."
Although Eastmoor went just 7-16 a year ago, five players on its roster have seen action in state-tournament play.
In 2015, the Warriors lost to Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 60-34 in a Division III state semifinal. Junior forward Tariq Brown and junior wing player Isaiah Hairston were starters that season, while senior guard Zion Parham, junior guard Taevion Kinsey and junior forward Tim Smith also saw action against VASJ.
Kinsey was named district Player of the Year this season.
Smith had a team-high 16 points against Vinton County, while Brown scored 14, Kinsey 11 and Parham 10.
"It's very exciting to know we're going back to states," Smith said. "The thing that I'm looking forward to for Thursday is that we get to play on a bigger stage and we'll have more fans to cheer us on."
Wauseon is led by 6-9 junior post player Austin Rotroff, who averages 12 points and was named first-team all-district, and senior guard Carter Bzovi, who averages 15 points. Brooks Gype, a junior guard who was honorable mention all-district, also is a key player.
The Eastmoor-Wauseon winner will play Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary or Trotwood-Madison in the state final at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, March 25, at Ohio State.
St. Vincent-St. Mary features the Northeast Inland District Player of the Year in senior guard Jayvon Graves, who averages 21.5 points and is a University at Buffalo commit, as well as senior guard Jonathan Williams, who averages 14 points.
Trotwood-Madison features the Southwest District Player of the Year in 6-4 senior forward Torrey Patton, who averages 20.5 points. Junior guard Myles Belyue averages 18.5 points and sophomore forward Amari Davis averages 16 points.
Third-year coach Jim Miranda is back in a state tournament for the fifth time. In addition to the Warriors' state appearance in 2015, he led Eastmoor's football team to a Division III state runner-up finish in 2006 and guided its girls basketball team to a state runner-up finish in 2005 and a state semifinal in 2007.
"It's absolutely awesome," Miranda said. "If we can continue to play defense the way we've been playing it, we'll give ourselves a chance."
fall in state semi
For the first time in program history, the Africentric girls basketball team lost a state semifinal game when it fell to eventual champion Gates Mills Gilmour Academy 65-54 in a Division III semifinal March 17 at Ohio State.
The Nubians, who finished 25-4, had reached the final in their previous seven state appearances, winning five championships, including last season, and finishing as runners-up twice.
"For good teams, it's about what they do after a loss," sophomore guard Jordan Horston said. "We don't want to feel the same way next year."
Africentric was leading Gilmour Academy 41-34 with 5 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter when the Lancers got hot from the outside.
Gilmour Academy finished with 11 3-pointers to set a Division III state semifinal record, with four coming on consecutive possessions early in the fourth quarter as it built a 58-49 lead.
The Nubians are losing five seniors, including guards Kynnedy Azubike, Chyna Chambers and Leah Morrow.
Horston, who was named first-team all-district in her second season as the Nubians' point guard, had 17 points against Gilmour Academy but made just eight of 23 shots from the floor.
Freshmen guards Alexia Smith and Nyam Thornton also were starters, while 5-10 junior forward Iyanna Hairston saw key action in the state semifinal as well.
"It's tough," coach Will McKinney said. "... Just getting (to state) is not the easiest thing to do. It's a roller-coaster of emotions. Losses hurt, but this is the state final four."
Nubians pick Daniels
to be football coach
During his eight seasons as an assistant coach for the Walnut Ridge football team, Clarence Daniels Jr. helped the Scots post a 54-27 record and make one playoff appearance.
Among the teams Walnut Ridge dominated the most during that time was Africentric, which it outscored by an average of 54.5 to 6.0.
The struggles the Nubians endured during his time at Walnut Ridge -- and before that -- didn't scare Daniels from pursuing what he considered a positive opportunity when he was hired as the Nubians' coach earlier this month.
A 1992 Mifflin graduate who played for West Liberty State University, Daniels takes over for Mark Treece, who coached the Nubians to a 2-8 record each of the past two seasons.
Africentric has lost 36 consecutive City League-South Division games.
"They haven't always been successful in football, but at the same time, I saw it as an opportunity to build on the momentum at the school," Daniels said. "I was a teacher at Walnut Ridge, but I pursued a job at Africentric so I could make sure I'd be in the building. I've got an opportunity to teach seventh- and eighth-grade history at Africentric, so I'm going to have my hand out there on the young guys."
During his time at Walnut Ridge under coach Byron Mattox, Daniels coached the offensive line and special teams and also coached at the junior varsity level.
Although Daniels takes over a program whose only non-losing season came when it went 5-5 in 2008, Africentric recently opened a new gym and also will have a new football stadium for the 2017 season.
"There's a brand-new football field, and it looks great," Daniels said. "That's going to be one of my main attractions in getting kids out. We want to change the culture and make it competitive."
retires from coaching
Staying busy has never been an issue for Jim Martiny, even when his endeavors have changed.
After guiding the Briggs girls bowling team to its fifth consecutive state tournament appearance this season, Martiny is retiring from a high school coaching career that has spanned nearly four decades.
"More fishing" is among the things Martiny plans to do in the coming years. He also volunteers at Columbus Downtown Career Center.
Martiny is planning to help Jo Dimond, the Central District tournament coordinator for bowling, from an organizational capacity as well.
Martiny retired from teaching at Briggs after the 2009-10 school year and stepped down from coaching girls tennis for 30 years after that school year. He also coached boys tennis at the school for 12 years.
The Bruins' girls tennis team reached the City final in each of its final 10 seasons under Martiny.
He had been Briggs' bowling coach since 2007, and has long been an example of how much of a difference stability can make to City League athletics programs.
"Martiny is the best coach you could ever ask for," said senior bowler Bailee Smith, who finished seventh in the Division I state tournament March 10 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl as the Bruins placed fourth as a team. "He helps us all out individually and with us as a team."