Having what senior guard James Dean calls a “bond as a brotherhood” has been at the forefront of how the Reynoldsburg boys basketball program has reacted to recent adversity.
Coach Scott Davis was placed on administrative leave Feb. 5 after what Reynoldsburg administrators called “an incident between Davis and one of our students” during a 60-59 overtime win over Central Crossing the night before.
On Feb. 18, Davis submitted his resignation as an employee of the school district effective March 17. He is no longer the Raiders’ coach, ending an eight-year tenure.
“There’s nothing we can do about what happened,” senior guard Nick Wallace said. “We’ve just got to keep going forward. It’s brought us closer together and we’re working harder for each other. We’ve come together as a family.”
Shawn Elliott served as interim coach during the final two regular-season games and will be in that role Feb. 22 when the 17th-seeded Raiders open the Division I district tournament at home against 27th-seeded Dublin Scioto.
Reynoldsburg, which beat the Irish 48-47 on Jan. 18, lost to Pickerington North 64-57 on Feb. 7 in its first game under Elliott and beat Lancaster 61-56 on Feb. 14 to close the regular season at 12-10.
The Reynoldsburg-Scioto winner plays Friday, Feb. 28, at 15th-seeded New Albany in the second round, with the winner to face sixth-seeded Walnut Ridge, 44th-seeded Westland or 49th-seeded Columbus West in a district semifinal Wednesday, March 4, at the home of the better seed.
“We’re just trying to keep the ship righted,” Elliott said. “Kids in general are resilient, but with this group, we told them it wasn’t going to be just one person that was going to carry us through, it was going to be all of us together and they’ve stepped up.”
Under Davis, the Raiders continued to be the consistent winner they had been while going 217-120 with winning records in 14 of 15 seasons under former coach Chris Rider. Reynoldsburg won its first Division I district championship in 2006, earned five league titles, was a district runner-up twice and earned another district title in Rider’s final season in 2011-12.
Davis is a 1991 Pickerington graduate who had served as an assistant at Delaware for four seasons, guided Jonathan Alder to a 27-16 mark in two seasons and led Beechcroft to a 51-37 record in four seasons.
That set up a tenure with the Raiders that included making district semifinals in each of his first two seasons as well as in 2017, and then winning the program’s third district championship in 2017-18 when it went 19-8 and lost in a regional semifinal.
Reynoldsburg followed by going 20-6 last season, falling to Pickerington Central 50-49 in a district final.
The Raiders were 11-9 when Davis was placed on administrative leave and went 123-71 with winning records in seven of his eight seasons.
According to Elliott, Davis did a “phenomenal job” and helped provide him with a “different perspective” on coaching.
“My (first) three years here, I went to two district (finals under Davis),” Wallace said. “I’ve always thought he was a good coach. He’s had many successful years and winning years, winning a district championship, going to a district championship (game) last year after losing a ton of seniors, so to me he’s been a very successful coach. He’s brought a lot into my game so I can appreciate that.”
Elliott had been an assistant at Gahanna for six seasons before joining Davis’ staff. He was serving as the junior varsity coach and as an assistant on varsity when he was named interim coach.
The Raiders entered this season having lost four starters but returned one of their top players from last season in senior forward Sean Moore and have been boosted by the play of Cooper Davis, a sophomore guard who is Scott Davis’ son and remains with the program.
“One thing we value a lot is just family,” said Dean, who has committed to play football at Tiffin but has played an increased role in the backcourt this season. “Cooper’s been a part of us the past couple years. We’ve brought him in with open arms and we’re going to keep him with open arms as long as we can. I feel like (Scott Davis) brought a winning attitude into the program (and) he’s brought the best out of everybody. He’s just taught everybody to have a tradition of winning and to have a good attitude.
“(Elliott has) really stepped in and has really brought in a good attitude into this team. Coming into this tournament, we have something to prove.”