Notebook: Canal Winchester Indians boys basketball team sets foundation for future

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Stephan Byrd helped Canal Winchester go 13-9 overall and 8-5 in the OCC-Capital Division in Zach Olson's first season as coach.

That the Canal Winchester boys basketball team finished 13-9 despite having an entirely new starting lineup did not necessarily surprise coach Zach Olson. 

“I knew early on what kind of group we had just by seeing how hard they worked on a daily basis. It was a matter of guys getting comfortable in their roles in different situations as to how they’d compete as a unit,” Olson said of his first season with the Indians, which ended Feb. 26 with a 78-72 loss at 18th-seeded Northland in the second round of the Division I district tournament. “I’ve seen us evolve in that aspect. I never once questioned the attitude, effort and spirit of this club.”

Freshman guard Cortez Freeman averaged a team-high 13.7 points, ahead of senior guards Kevian Poindexter (13.0) and Anthony Millner (11.7). 

Canal Winchester, which was seeded 24th in the district tournament, went 8-5 in the OCC-Capital Division to finish third behind Worthington Kilbourne (12-2) and Westerville South (8-2), who were determined co-champions by the OCC despite a disparity in games played.

Millner was named first-team all-league. Freeman and Poindexter were second-team all-league.

Juniors Stephan Byrd (forward) and Andrew Miles (forward/center) are eligible to return. Byrd is a Cincinnati football commit and Miles was honorable mention all-league.

Groveport Madison boys basketball coach Lamont Hampton said there was plenty on which to build in his first season, as the Cruisers went 6-13 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Buckeye.

Eight of those losses were by nine points or fewer.

“They played hard for me every night, which means a lot,” Hampton said. “We lost a lot of close games this year and that just tells me we need to learn to win. (That means better) shot selection, rebounding and free-throw percentage, (which was) 64 percent for the year as a team. 

“We need to make more winning plays and less mistakes when it matters most in the game. We were very inexperienced (with) several seniors and juniors that were playing varsity for the first time this year.”

Senior guard Scotty Lomax averaged a team-leading 13.5 points and was first-team all-league. Junior guard/forward Kenyatta Whiteside (11.5 points) was second-team all-league, senior guard Elyjah Aekins (5.0 points, 3.0 steals) and junior guard Marlon Elliott Jr. (8.0 points) were special mention all-league and junior point guard Duane Davis (8.0 points) was honorable mention all-league.

Also eligible to return are juniors Abubakar Diallo (guard) and Jamal Sanfo (forward), both of whom missed considerable time because of COVID-related issues.

Groveport's Jace Nincehelser battles Reynoldsburg's Marcus Collins in a 145-pound match earlier this season. Nincehelser went 0-2 at 145 in a Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Watkins Memorial.

•The Canal Winchester and Groveport wrestling teams each advanced one competitor to the Division I district tournament March 6 and 7 at Hilliard Darby, and the Cruisers’ qualifier kept a perfect record intact in the process.

Jake Nelson was 10-0 entering district, having gone 3-0 in a sectional Feb. 27 at Watkins Memorial to finish first at 220 pounds. The senior qualified for state last year, when he went 45-3, but the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Nelson was ranked fifth in the state by BoroFanOhio.net to end the regular season.

Also competing but failing to advance for the Cruisers were C.J. Barnett (138, fifth, 3-2), Cohen Hartner (126, 1-2), Cameron Ross (152, 1-2), Derrick Sells (182, 1-2), Jacob Johnston (160, 0-2), Jace Nincehelser (145, 0-2) and David Sells (195, 0-2).

Groveport finished 10th (48.5) of 10 teams behind champion Westerville North (275). 

Canal Winchester’s Bobby Davies advanced to his first district tournament by finishing third at 113 in the Watkins Memorial sectional, where the Indians finished ninth (55) as a team.

Falling short of district were Mason Fry (heavyweight, fifth, 2-2), Micah Dollery (120, sixth, 2-3), Ethan McGlone (152, sixth, 1-3), Trent Morningstar (170, sixth, 1-3), Eli Cassady (145, 1-2), Dylan Lowe (220, 1-2), Chase Newsome (160, 1-2), Cian Rose (138, 1-2), Gabe Bennett (182, 0-2), Chase Crago (106, 0-2), Jaiden Gunderson (132, 0-2) and Kayden Leck (120, 0-2).

At district, the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state March 13 and 14 at Darby.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

CANAL WINCHESTER BOYS BASKETBALL

Record: 13-9 overall

OCC-Capital standings: Worthington Kilbourne (12-2), Westerville South (8-2), Canal Winchester (8-5), Big Walnut (7-5), Westerville North (7-7), Delaware (3-7), Dublin Scioto (2-8), Franklin Heights (2-12)

Seniors lost: Bryce Barnes, Andre Heglar, Anthony Millner, Kevian Poindexter, Graham Snider, Luke Twiss and Kazi Welch

Key returnees: Stephan Byrd, Cortez Freeman and Andrew Miles

Postseason: Defeated Lancaster 61-51; lost to Northland 78-72 in second round of Division I district tournament

GROVEPORT MADISON BOYS BASKETBALL

Record: 6-13 overall

OCC-Buckeye standings: Pickerington Central (10-0), Reynoldsburg (8-2), Newark (6-4), Groveport (4-6), Lancaster (2-8), Central Crossing (0-10)

Seniors lost: Elyjah Aekins, Corey Evans, Jamier Friedman, Scotty Lomax, Brandon Saint Victor and Papa Sy

Key returnees: Duane Davis, Abubakar Diallo, Marlon Elliott Jr. and Kenyatta Whiteside

Postseason: Lost to Marysville 53-48 in first round of Division I district tournament