City league full of stars againWritten by Norm Wamer | | email@example.com
When last season’s basketball stars graduated, many wondered what the City League would do for an encore.
The Libbey Cowboys, led by Ohio State guard William Buford, made it to the Division II state finals, only to lose by an eyelash, while the Whitmer Panthers made an improbable run to the Division I state semi-finals, led by Purdue guard Ryne Smith. On top of that were terrific seasons by St. John’s, St. Francis, Waite and Central Catholic.
The list of seniors who graduated in June is too long to list, but a number of teams were ravished. Libbey and Whitmer practically lost their whole squads, and the Cowboys even lost their coach, Leroy Bates.
Waite and Scott lost all of their starters; St. Francis and Clay lost their 6-foot-9-inch starting centers; and Central Catholic and Start lost key starters, including their coaches Paul Patterson and Gil Guerrero.
Who was going to fill the voids? Where were the super sophomores going to come from and was there anyone who could give St. John’s, who returned all five starters, a run for the City League title?
December is not over, and we have answers to all those questions. First up was the NWO Prep Sports Showcase where City League teams went 4-1 with St. John’s, Rogers, Scott and Central Catholic all scoring victories over good teams from outside the region with only Libbey dropping their season debut.
The bigger story might have been the varsity debuts of some super sophomores. Libbey had an undefeated freshmen team last season and unveiled the starting inside tandem of 6-foot-5-inch Maurice Taylor; 6-foot-4-inch Delvin Williams, along with five other players for a total of seven sophomores who saw playing time. Taylor had 20 points and six boards despite the loss. St. John’s, like they needed more talent, got big contributions from sophomores Nick Felhaber and Zach Steinmetz, the latter who had 12 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Next, enter former Scott coach and current Rogers coach Earl Morris. The biggest question of who would make a run at the City League title was answered Dec. 19 when Rogers upset St. John’s 72-62. Rogers not only knocked off the pre-season favorite Titans, but the Rams led from start to finish, despite four of their five starters being in major foul trouble and a sub-par performance from leading scorer sophomore Damon Powell.
Rogers lost a non-league game at Findlay the next night, but the Rams have a major leg up in the City League since every team only plays each other once during the regular season. Coach Morris is a proven winner and although Rogers won just two league games last season, the Rams returned all five starters, showed extreme quickness, along with inside and outside games and terrific ball-handling.
The City League also has a terrific crop of big men. St. Francis 6-foot-11-inch junior center Storm Stanley recently uncommitted from West Virginia and shows improvement in stamina, along with good passing skills and post moves and soon could be dominating. Start boasts 6-foot-8-inch senior center Devin Russell, who has committed to the UT, and Rogers is powered by 6-foot-8-inch, 285-pound post-player Dalante Heard.
The City League has already seen Waite upset St. Francis; Bowsher surprise Scott; and Central Catholic throw a scare into St. John’s, while Woodward nearly knocked off Libbey. So get ready, get your tickets or grab your radio and strap in for a great City League ride.
Norm Wamer is program director of Sports Radio 1470 “The Ticket” WLQR-AM and hosts “The Front Row” weekday afternoons from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.