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Posted On: 12/1/17 7:34 AM
The Three Rivers Athletic Conference has sent a basketball team to regionals 4 years straight including a state runner up just 2 years ago with Lima Senior. This league is very competitive and top heavy in basketball with Toledo St. Johns, Toledo Whitmer, Lima Senior, Findlay and Toledo St. Francis has joined the top of the league within the last couple of years. The last 4 years, a team from the T.R.A.C. has been represented in the regional finals including a state runner-up finish by Lima Senior in 2016.
Toledo St. John’s
Toledo St. John’s finished 25-3 won the T.R.A.C. last year. St. John’s lost Riggs, Fretti and Anderson from that team but the Titans return T.R.A.C. player of the year, Williams. Williams committed to play basketball next year at VCU and he will be a tough matchup for every opponent because of his ability to shoot from the outside but he also has the size and strength to play under the basket. While opposing teams will key on Williams, they still have to plan for King, who has several Division 1 college basketball offers as well. He is a quick guard that has a nice pull up midrange jumper as well as the ability to hit 3’s. Speaking of 3’s, Moyer is a deadly 3 point shooter and he doesn’t need much room to get his shot off. Christie, a transfer from Toledo Central Catholic, should fill in at point guard. Another transfer, McKinstry from Fremont Ross will add another athlete and big body for Ed Heintschel.
After the January 12th, 13th games, Toledo St. Johns will have a pretty good idea of where they stand in the conference as they will have played the 3 best teams in the league as well as being battle-tested with 4 games in San Diego over Christmas break and a big non-conference showdown with powerhouse St. Eds.
Key Games: (** League Games)
Toledo St. Francis
Toledo St. Francis won 19 games last season and took an interesting approach in the tournament electing to stay in the same bracket as Toledo St. Johns. This turned a lot of heads but head coach Travis Lewis has his team believing they can beat anyone on any given night. The Knights lose 2nd team all-league wing Burnham and 1st team all-league point guard Coleman-Graham but return a good nucleus of players to compete for a league championship this year. The Knights should get a big year from big man Harris who finished 2nd team all-league last year. Harris runs the floor really well and has a pretty good midrange/3 point shot that could create mismatch problems for his opponents. Swerlien and Wells, both earned honorable mention last year, are high energy guys who can defend at a high level but they also can shoot the ball. McNeal and Sonnenberg should see a lot of minutes as well. St. Francis also had a really solid jayvee team last year so they’ll be able to plug in a few of those guys into the varsity rotation this year.
Toledo St. Francis begins the season playing at home against Sylvania Southview and then has 4 away games in a row. St. Francis will have their hands full in the middle of December as they travel to Lima Senior and Whitmer in the same week.
Whitmer went 17-6 last season and lost in the district semi-finals against an athletic Toledo Bowsher team. The Panthers lose a lot of star power in Rayford, Witcher and Franklin from last year, but return a strong core that can help Whitmer finish in the top half of the league. They’ll be led by point guard Syroka , who is a true point guard and floor general. He has good vision and handles but creates a lot of things for his teammates as well. Leon Hughes has a motor unlike anyone else in the league. Keller should see a lot of minutes and he has the ability to knock down open shots.
Whitmer has a strong schedule this year including a tough TRAC game to begin the season at Findlay. The Panthers will then take on St. Francis and St. Johns in 2 games before heading to Florida over Christmas break. After Christmas break, Whitmer will take on Tol. Central Catholic and then face a tough non-league team in Ashland.
Lima Senior is coming off a 16-8 season and an overtime loss in the sectional finals to Toledo Whitmer, their 3rd loss to Whitmer that season. Losing 1st team all-league player Jar Ward, who posted 23 points per game, will hurt the Spartans as well as losing Coleman and Quinones due to graduation. Coach Simpson will look for King, 2nd team all-league last year, to step up in a big way this year. The Spartans will also rely heavily on Miller at point guard and look to get some production out of a few of the role players they had last year such as: Curtis, Long, Fox or Clair. Puerto Rican 6’8 post player Colon is eligible to play this year after sitting out last season. The Spartans may end up starting 2 freshmen in 6’6 post player Cameron and point guard Rawlings. The Spartans could be a team that will beat some teams they probably shouldn’t on paper but they could also lose a game or two they shouldn’t. You can also expect them to play extremely hard for their head coach.
The Spartans begin the season playing Anthony Wayne and then traveling to Oregon Clay. Then, Lima Senior will find out how good they really are facing St. Francis, playing 2 potential teams from out of state in the Kewpee Classic and then heading to St. Johns. Things won’t get any easier over Christmas break as the Spartans will play Elida, a division 2 regional finals team with a lot of returning players.
Findlay is coming off a 15-9 season and a close loss to Toledo Bowhser in the sectional finals. The Trojans lose 2 key players that did a lot for them in Nunn, a 1,000 point scorer and 1st team all-league selection as well as Hapner who was a double-double threat on any given night. Findlay returns a handful of guys who should keep Findlay as a tough out every night. RJ Nunn, little brother to Kyle, should have a really big year with his ability to hit the 3, pull up off the dribble and his experience as he’s been playing varsity for the last 2 years. Roth had a pretty good season last year and is one of the best 3 point shooters in the league. Both Nunn and Roth were honorable mention all league last year and they’ll be looking to improve on those honors this year. Schumm and Gutting will be getting most of the work in the paint while Logsdon will play a wing.
Rucki is a well-respected coach in the league and always finds a way to get his teams to finish in the top half of the league with his Triple series and other wrinkles he puts into his offense.
Findlay has a favorable schedule as they begin with two different Toledo City League teams in Start and Woodward, then a league game at home with Whitmer. After the Whitmer game, Findlay will be favored in 6 of the next 7 games. The only game they won’t be favored in is a home league game against St. Francis. Findlay should start 7-2 but with Coach Rucki, they could easily upset Whitmer or St. Francis and find themselves 8-1 or 9-0.
Toledo Central Catholic
Toledo Central Catholic finished last year 8-16 but lost 8 games by 4 points or less. The Irish lose Triplett, who led the team in scoring as well as Harris and Fields. Central Catholic returns Cole, a 6’5 post player who started varsity last year as a freshman. Grombacher, Copeland, Sanders, Burks, Bishop, and Friar should provide some quality minutes for head coach T.J. Hunt. The Irish had an athletic freshman team last year and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see quite a few sophomores on the varsity team this year. The Irish will be a long, athletic team that should be able to defend at a high level.
The Irish will be in division 1 this year as they were in division 2 in previous years. The month of January is a brutal stretch for Central Catholic as they’ll play Whitmer, Clay, Massillon, St. Francis, St. Johns, Findlay, Elida and Ross with 5 straight away games to end the month.
The Little Giants finished 7-16 last year and played Toledo St. Johns really tough in the tournament game last year. Ross loses point guard Drunkenmiller and the left-handed 3 point specialist Trolio. Head coach Mark Gedeon has to like this group and the experience this group has coming back with 6’1 Sewell, 6’4 McKinstry and Lewis, 6’3 Root, 6’2 Burling, and guards Johnson, Anderson and Campbell.
The Little Giants also have a really tough schedule to begin the year as they open with non-league opponent Anthony Wayne. After Anthony Wayne, Fremont Ross plays the toughest teams in the T.R.A.C. 5 games in a row. The good news is that in those 5 games, they’ll play 4 of them at home.
Key Games (** League Games)
Oregon Clay has a solid core group of guys returning this year with quite a bit of experience. Clay will look for seniors Bush, Bliss, Calkins and Meinke to lead the team as well as juniors Warner and Novak. With new head coach Dave Rodriguez this year, the 3rd coach in as many years, Clay will look to get over the hump turning close games into some wins.
Clay begins the season playing 4 of their first 5 games on the road. Playing for a new head coach, getting off to a good start could create a lot of enthusiasm and energy for the program and the first year head coach.
Key Games (** League Games)