By Mark Brown
Cincinnati Herald Contributor
For most, Cincinnati’s winter has season yielded rather mild and welcomed temperatures, giving-way to the typical frigid temps that often dominate this time of year.
However, to the contrary, and ire, of the Xavier women's basketball team, January temperatures in the Big East Conference, resulted in nothing but a cold/frozen landscape for the Musketeer women...leaving them with a struggling program where expectations, and reality, are close to intersecting -- and the end result may not be a favorable collision….for a program that showed much promise at the beginning of the 2016-2017 campaign.
After winning 9 of the first 13 games the month of January garnered nothing but challenges for the Musketeers—who lost 7 of their first 9 Big East Conference games.
Currently at 11-12 (overall) 3-8 in the Big East conference, Xavier is on a slippery slope toward conference irrelevancy—as they are currently in the 8th spot of the ten-team conference. And as any conference aficionado can attest to conference wins, or losses (in their case), are typically the measuring stick of a program's success, or the stinging narrative of their failure.
While Xavier has desperately tried to stem the tide of a compromised season the reality of their mounting losses has begun to overshadow any early season success—success that might help them avoid an eerie resemblance to last year’s end-of-season collapse—where they lost their final seven games.
Evidence to their conference struggle became apparent after a tough weekend—with an overtime loss to Georgetown (69-64) followed by a 72-47 drubbing by Villanova—their fifth loss in a row. After the Georgetown loss head coach Brian Neal had few thoughts on how to stem the tide back in the Musketeers favor. “I don’t have any answers,” said a frustrated Neal, now in his fourth season at Xavier. “I don’t know how many fouls we had on offense where we are just bumping into people. We had twenty-two fouls, bailing them out of tough situations. You just can’t give a team twenty-two more shots. We’re fouling, putting them at the free-throw line…and we can’t get a rebound, and we are turning it (the ball) over.”
As to the team being in some form of funk…with the losses, Neal felt otherwise. “I don’t think we’re in a funk,” he said. “We just made a lot of mistakes…unforced mistakes. You just can’t do that.” On this night a search for the positive was difficult to find. “We executed our offense at times, and shot a decent percentage,” said Neal, searching for something good. “I thought we were competitive. But playing hard and being competitive….you have to make the right decisions. We just didn’t make decisions.”
After a mild reprieve in February, with a 53-43 win at Butler, the Musketeers frigid hardwood gets no less slippery as they prepare for home games versus Big East leader DePaul (Feb. 10) , followed by Marquette (Feb 12). From there it’s back on the road @ Villanova (Feb. 17) and @ Georgetown (Feb 19). Xavier will close-out their regular season at home versus Creighton (Feb. 24) and Providence (Feb. 26).
Forest Park—If all goes as planned, Winton Woods High School girls’ crew will have its first practice on the lake at Winton Woods Park on March 1. Team members have been practicing three days a week on indoor rowing machines in the school’s erg room and have spent a few Saturdays at the rowing tanks underneath the Montgomery Inn Boathouse, practicing with oars. The team’s eight-man shell is ordered, and Crew Coach Pat Riester hopes it arrives before March. “When we get on the water, I'll be talking to the girls about constantly striving for improvement,” he said. “Any day we end practice better then we started is a good day.”
The rowers’ first regatta is the Cincinnati High School Invitational at Harsha Lake in East Fork State Park on April 8. Riester said the team will compete in the Girl's Novice 8+. The race will be 1500 meters and will be six lanes across, similar to what's seen in the Olympics.
Riester recently had his first rower, Aversa Prentosito, pass 100,000 meters of logged workouts and said a few other girls are close behind. The biggest challenge his novice rowers face in their first year is moving together. “To work on this, we’ll do a lot of drills on the water in the boats that are impossible to do on the machines,” Riester said. “Going from the machines to the tanks and to boats is a challenge because the oar has a different feeling. Being on the water three or more days a week will make a huge difference.”
Riester said he’ll eventually want his rowers watching the shoulders of the girl in front of her, but right now watching their own oar is okay. “I want them to feel what their blade does in connection to what they do with their body,” he said.
The coach said he hasn’t yet chosen a coxswain—the crew member who steers the boat, but he does have some people in mind. Riester said, “They are motivators who steer and relay information from the boat to the coaches and vice versa. Sometimes they can feel or see something in the boat that I can't. I also think it's crucial for them to know the stroke, so they can tell their athletes what they should be feeling.”
Riester and his rowers will be facing some of the best teams in the Midwest in their first race. “When we carry the boat down to the dock on April 8, I want these girls to be excited as I push them off. We can only control what happens in our boat, so if we give maximum effort, I'll consider that a success. After this first race, I want us to be excited about the process.”
By Lannis Timmons
What a night for high school basketball…Taft vs Hughes with all the marbles on the line!
Playing in front of a sold-out crowd, Taft came out swinging, jumping out to an 8-3 lead, but by the 4:00 Hughes had tied the score 8-8, but by the end of the quarter, Taft grabbed a 20-17 behind the hot shooting of Demarco Bradley Jr. as the sophomore guard scored 9 points, and Malek Green was blocking shots as well as scoring around the basket.
As the second quarter started, Adrian “AJ” Smith and Giovanni Santiago carried the scoring load for the Big Red as each player scored 6 points. Santiago, did a great job of running the show as well as getting to the basket and pulling up, making midrange jump shots. As both teams went back and forth, Hughes walked in the locker room with a 31-30 lead.
During the second quarter, Taft got some positive energy from Justin Newman as he got to the basket and did a good job defending it.
In the second half, Dwayne Rosado started doing what he does, and that’s making three’s. Dwayne made four three’s in the quarter, as Smith and Santiago were helping Rosado keep Hughes in the driver’s seat by scoring five points each. Even though Corey Long scored only nine points, he still managed to grab ten rebounds.
In Taft’s defense, they were playing without Chris ‘Sean Stringer (Grown Man), who is Taft’s second leading scorer and their go to guy around the paint. Taft struggled to get the ball in the post, and when they did, Hughes was right there doubling down and rotating in the paint, forcing Taft’s bigger post players out on the perimeter where it made their job a little easier.
Hughes had built a eight point lead 43-35, but Bradley and Newman kept the Senators close as both of them scored six points as they cut the lead down to two 43-41. But Rosado scored one of his three pointers to end the quarter with the Big Reds leading 46-41.
Hughes used the fourth quarter to break open a close game with the Three Amigos…Smith, Rosado, and Giovanni, combined for 20 points. The three of them scored timely baskets when Taft was trying to make a run at them, Smith finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds. Rosado put up 21 points and 3 rebounds. and Giovanni Santiago had 15 points 6 rebounds, and his 9 assists made it hard for the Senators to climb back in it.
With the tournament draw right around the corner, I look for both Taft and Hughes to have a decent tournament run.
By Lannis Timmons
Playing in front of a sold-out crowd on Senior Night, the LaSalle Lancers out lasted the St. Xavier Bombers 57-44. From the start the Lancers made it hard for the Bombers to get into their offense as they kept pressure on the ball from baseline to baseline. It looked like the Lancers were going to make this game a blowout until Chase Wolf found his shooting touch from the three-point line, and Daniel Keyes could get to the basket and finish with a couple of strong lay ups.
The Lancers had a balance attack on offense, as C.J. Fleming led the way, as the senior finished with 17 points as he went 3-5 from the 3-point line, and Tre Crigler chipped in with 15 points. Senior Da’Meak Brandon set the table in Lancers half court sets as he finished with 5 assists while scoring 8 points of his own, and on defense, he was solid, as he got 2 steals that turned into baskets.
As the 2nd quarter started, LaSalle went on a 4-0 run as the Lancers went up by double figures 20-8, but then St. Xavier came to life as Gage Hammann, Daniel Keyes, and David Wassler scored 2 points each to bring St. Xavier closer as the quarter expired with the Lancers up 24-17 going into halftime. During the 2nd quarter St. Xavier made some adjustments on defense, which slowed the Lancers down for a while, as they won the quarter 9-8.
As the 3rd quarter started, LaSalle looked like they were going to put the game away, as they stretched their lead to 35-21 with 4:23 to go in the quarter, as Fleming and Crigler both scored 3 point baskets, and Josh Whyle made 4 free throws and collected 5 rebounds. But then St. Xavier went on a run themselves, by cutting the lead down to 9 points as Chase Wolf found his shooting touch from the 3-point line again, and Bobby Jefferson found ways to score around the basket. But when the quarter was over, LaSalle was able to go back up to a 10-point lead 40-30.
When the 4th quarter started, the Lancers went up 47-34, as Fleming hit another one of his 3 point goals and Crilger was able to fill the lanes and finish with a layup and knock down 2 free throws. After that, the Lancers were up 20 with a 57-37 lead. Both teams emptied their benches as the Bombers were able to cut the lead down to 13 as the final quarter ended with the Lancers winning 57-44.
I look for the 2nd seeded Lancers to make run in the tournament, as they open with Winton Woods Warriors, and St. Xavier will play Lakota West.
Forest Park—Winton Woods City Schools is celebrating with four of its student athletes who signed letters of intent on National Signing Day. The signing ceremony was held at the district’s Board of Education offices.
Signing letters of intent for football were Andrew Kerobo, University of Tennessee Martin; Jerron Cage, The Ohio State University; Lorenzo Gist, Lenoir Rhyne University; and Will Simpson, Otterbein University.
By Lannis Timmons
The Shroder Jaguars and the Spartans of Roger Bacon got together Friday, March 3, at Princeton for the Sectional Championship.
Roger Bacon ended the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, while Shroder ended their regular season on an eight-game losing streak.
Roger Bacon’s height proved to be too much for the Jaguars, and, as they have won the Sectional Championship three years in a row, they did so again this year with a 64-49 victory.
Both teams were filling each other out; Shroder came out in a 1-2-2 match-up zone, while Roger Bacon started playing man-to-man. The Spartans slowly found themselves leading 15-11 at the end of the first quarter. Alec Pfriem and Craig McGee were scoring inside and out for the Spartans.
Shroder had a hard time boxing out the taller Spartans in their zone, as Roger Bacon got three and four shots at the basket during some of their earlier possessions.
Roger Bacon started the second quarter on a 10-0 run as Pfriem continued to get to the basket; whether he was driving to the basket or making 3 point shots. Alec lead the Spartans with 12 points going into half time as the team lead by ten, 28-28.
As the third quarter started, the Jaguars showed some promise but Roger Bacon went on a run and increased their lead to 17 with a score of 38-21. Robert Johnson led the way for the Spartans as he and McGee scored six points in the quarter. By the 4:38 mark of the quarter, Shroder went on a 10-3 run behind the scoring of Steve Stewart and freshman Nekhi Smith to try and keep Shroder close. Stewart scored nine points in the quarter as smith chipped in with four points. After a time out, Roger Bacon went on another run 10-0 and pushed the lead to 48-34. During that run, Alec Pfriem McGee and Johnson combined for 12 points.
In the fourth quarter, Craig McGee scored seven points as he got three steals and turned them into baskets, while Robert Johnson scored seven points as well as made 5-6 from the free throw line. Derrick Heard and Niklai each scored six points in the fourth quarter for Shroder, but it wasn’t enough as Roger Bacon coast on with the 15-point win 64-49.
I take my hat off to the Shroder Jaguars as they got to the Sectional Championship after coming off an eight-game losing streak to end the regular seas. A lot of teams would have gone through the motions, but instead Coach Will Johnson and his staff kept his kids positive and focused. I look for Shroder to make some noise next year..
I also would like to congratulate CPS schools, as they had Walnut Hills, Shroder, Woodward, Withrow Hughes, and Taft playing for Sectional Championships. I would like to wish Roger Bacon a lot of luck as they’ll play for the District championship. Good job Coach Brian Neal and staff.
By Lannie Timmons
The Friars Club Fall Basketball League has come and gone again, with more than 150 youth participating in the league.
We wanted to make sure that we let all the parents, coaches, and Friars Club staff know how much we appreciate their support, and we must mention Keith Braswell, Jeff Mason, and Rodney Riley, for these brothers have supported us every year…3 years now. Special shout outs to Jim Lallathin…St. Xavier, Coach Darnell Parker…Clark, Scott Kerr…Purcell Martian, Leon Ellison…Princeton, Shaun O’Connor…Withrow, Shannon Minor…North College Hill, Carl Kramer…Moeller, and former Princeton Coach Jamal Walker!
If you get a chance, go out and see some good and exciting high school basketball, and the main thing, come out and support the kids. Here's a list of kids you want to keep your eyes on.
Darius Basely, Princeton, 6’8 185 lbs. He has committed to Ohio State.
Chase Kendall, Moeller, 6’2” 165 lbs. An all-around player.
James “Trey” Mack, Finneytown, 6’1 150 lbs. Quick off the dribble.
Jaylen Mason, Winton Woods, 6’3 170 lbs. Jaylen he can guard from 1-4 on defense
Brandon Gilbert St. Xavier, 6’8 190 lbs. The “Greyhound.”
David Wassler, St. Xavier, 6’8 220 lbs. David has a good touch around the basket.
Chase Kendall, Moeller, 6’2 165 lbs. Chase will compete on both ends of the court.
D’Shawnti Hawkins, Clark, 5’8 145 lbs. “The Floor General.”
Dionte McBride, Woodward, 6’3 176 lbs. He can take you off the dribble and rebound with the big boys.
Michael Grant, Walnut Hills, 6’3 170 lbs. Competes at a high level.
Antwuan Brown, Reading, 6’2 165 lbs. Two-year varsity starter.
Mario Freeman, Princeton, 5’6 145 lbs. He guards baseline to baseline, Mario is right there at the top.
Greg Philia, Roger Bacon, 6’1 165 lbs. Roger Bacon’s future.
Antonio Holman, Little Miami, 5’11, 155lbs. He can shoot the three with anybody.
Rodney Wiley, Colerain 5’10 150 lbs. Shake and Bake with a jump shot.
Elijiah Pitts, LaSalle, 6’1, 160 lbs. Elijiah is like a “human engine”…lots of energy.
B.J. Ransford, St. Xavier, 5’11 160 lbs. B.J. Can do a little bit of everything.
Carrington Valentine, Moeller, 5’10 160lbs. Carrington comes with a lot of energy.
Jared Baldock, Finneytown, 5’8 140lbs. Mr. Baldock is one smooth customer with the ball.
Nathan Stieritz, Moeller, 6’4 180lbs. Boxing him off the offensive glass is a must.
Kahlil Davis, Princeton, 6’0” 158lbs. Mr. North South
Dairius Barker “Diezel,” North College Hill, 5’8” 140lbs. Scores in bunches.
Micah Thomas, Clark, 6’5” 177lbs. Most improved player.
Aaron Ward, Princeton, 6’6” 185lbs. Glass eater.
Jamal Walker, Princeton, 5’4” 145lbs. Real point guard. Clutch player.
Cole Cronas, Ross, 5’9” 155lbs. Cool Hand Luke.
Avery Wilson, St. Xavier, 5’5” 145lbs. Future of St. Xavier.
Justin Szczepanski, St. Xavier, 6’2” 160lbs. Shoot with the best of them.
Richard Kolb, St. Xavier, 5’5” 148lbs. Makes his teammates better.
Steven Gentry, Purcell Marian, 5’8” 157lbs. High basketball IQ.
Kionte’ Thomas, Hughes, 5’10” 155lbs. 3-point shooter.
TJ Grove, St. Bernard, 6’3” 170lbs. St. Bernard’s future big man.
Michael Mitchell, North College Hill, 6’0” 160ls. The left-hand bandit.
Miles Watley, Withrow, 5’10” 155lbs. Wall to wall. Competes all the time.
Shamar Tate, St. Bernard, 5’9” 155lbs. The most improved player on and off the court.
Hakeem Griggs, North College Hill, 5’7” 135lbs. Good feel for game-good jumper.
Tymere Tuck, Roger Bacon, 6’0” 150lbs. One of Roger Bacon’s top freshman.
Ty McCullen, Fairfield, 6’0” 155lbs. The silent assassin. In the right place at the right time.
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