By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
MIAMI COUNTY — Boys basketball season is only one full week and a couple days old. The girls have been playing for one week more than that.
But it’s never to early to look at developing trends and talk about what they might mean.
With that, here’s a handful of storylines, observations and early takeaways from the first couple weeks of the new season as Miami County’s basketball teams do their best to show fans who they are — or to find out for themselves, in some cases.
* Youth Movement
In the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division girls standings, seems to be all about the youngsters.
Troy’s girls are off to a 4-1 start, their best start since going 5-0 to begin the 2005-06 season. In coach Aaron Johnson’s previous two seasons, they started 3-1, only to finish around the .500 mark or slightly better. And the Trojans have done so with a freshman, point guard Macie Taylor, leading the way.
Taylor lead the GWOC American North in scoring, averaging 18.0 points per game, and is second only to Springfield’s Mickayla Perdue (21.0 points per game) in the overall GWOC. Along with juniors Tia Bass and MaKenna Taylor, both averaging 11.0 points per game and tied for second in the division, the trio has Troy averaging 44.0 points per game as a team — with Troy not finishing a season averaging more than 40 points per game since the 2011-12 season.
But two-time defending GWOC American North champion Tippecanoe — which graduated all but one of its starters from last year’s regional runner-up team — has its own cast of youngsters, led by sophomore Ashleigh Mader, who is also tied for second in the GWOC American North with 11.0 points per game. She, junior Kendall Clodfelter and senior Brooke Aselage brought back the most experience from last year’s Red Devils, and with the help of a group of newcomers, the Devils are off to a 3-1 start.
Both teams will get to find out who they really are Saturday — Tippecanoe travels to Troy for a key division showdown. They can’t get caught looking ahead, though, as Tippecanoe hosts Greenville and Troy travels to Butler Wednesday night, with Butler also 2-0 in division play to begin the season. This will be a very telling week in the GWOC American North for the girls all around.
But that youth movement isn’t just limited to the GWOC, as Troy Christian has been led by a freshman early this year, too. Sarah Johnson is averaging 14.3 points per game for the 4-1 Eagles, who just showed they can contend with one of the county’s toughest teams in a narrow 46-43 loss to Covington over the weekend. The Eagles’ first matchup against Metro Buckeye Conference co-champion Legacy Christian isn’t until next calendar year on Jan. 7, 2019, but the showing against the Buccaneers should give the team confidence.
* The Stars
Aren’t All Gone
Sure, the offseason saw the graduation of a high number of star-caliber players that had led their teams for the majority of their high school careers. Bethel’s Caleb South and Ryan Rose. Troy’s Zach Reichelderfer. Troy Christian’s James Anderson. And many more still.
That’s not saying everyone’s gone, though.
Bethel still has one star left from its back-to-back Cross County Conference champion and district runner-up teams in senior Kendal James. Playing behind South and Rose, James still had a solid season last year. But now that he’s at the forefront, he’s been putting on a show, averaging 19.3 points per game and helping stake the Bees out to a 3-0 start. His best showing of the year has been a 27-point effort in an overtime win at Tippecanoe, including scoring six unanswered points himself in the extra period to help Bethel put that game away.
And on the girls side, the CCC has a pair of stars still in Miami County in Covington’s Sammi Whiteman and Miami East’s Morgan Haney. The two seniors have been on a tear, with Whiteman averaging 23.5 points per game and Haney 20.2 points per game, leading their respective teams to contention in the league once again. But with Franklin Monroe and Tri-Village both boasting strong teams this year, the battle for the CCC is long over.
But the county’s current leading scorer is Milton-Union’s Kristen Dickison. The senior is averaging 28.8 points per game, tops in the Southwestern Buckeye League overall, hitting the 30-point mark in three of the Bulldogs’ four games this season. Milton-Union hosts three-time defending SWBL Buckeye champion Waynesville Thursday in an early-season matchup with huge league implications for the rest of the year.
* Records Don’t Lie,
Or Do They?
There definitely isn’t a big enough sample size to talk records yet — but there’s still a few observations to be made.
Bethel’s boys weren’t expected to be as good after graduating most of its regulars from the past few years — so the Bees have gone out and won all three games so far heading into Tuesday’s late matchup against 4-0 Graham. And the Bees girls, who finished the regular season .500 last year, have started strong, as well, winning their first four games before dropping two straight to tough Arcanum and Troy teams. At 5-2, they seem poised to make a run at a winning record this year.
And no one really expected Troy Christian’s boys to have much success after the graduation of James Anderson — so they went out on opening night and beat a tough Franklin Monroe team, led by another legit star in Ethan Conley, then lost a hard-fought matchup against Springfield Catholic Central, which reached the Sweet 16 in the postseason last year and returned nearly everyone from that team. The Eagles faced the Metro Buckeye Conference’s last remaining undefeated team, 3-0 Emmanuel Christian, in a late Tuesday matchup.
One team has already matched its win total from all of last year in the Milton-Union boys team. The Bulldogs won two straight to open the season after going 2-21 last year — the team hasn’t won more than three games since the 2014-15 season. And even though they ran into a hot-shooting and also-improved Newton team on Saturday and fell to 2-1, the Bulldogs have been reinvigorated by the return of coach Rusty Berner and could surprise plenty of people this year.
Two teams that are undoubtedly better than their early records indicate are the Tippecanoe and Miami East boys. The Vikings, in particular, sit at 0-4, but they’ve been competitive in all four of those games against quality competition, such as West Liberty-Salem, Franklin Monroe and Graham. And Tippecanoe dropped its first two games of the year to defending GWOC American North co-champion Sidney and to Bethel in overtime before holding off Piqua for its first win to sit at 1-2. The Devils will likely get to the .500 mark against 0-4 Greenville Friday leading into next week’s matchup against Troy.
And what about the Trojans? After only two games, it’s more difficult to tell about them than anyone. One of those games was against that winless Greenville team, a 40-point opening-night win. The other was a 19-point loss to Sidney in which Troy fell behind 16-1 halfway through the first quarter but was only outscored 51-47 the rest of the way. It’s difficult to even say if the Trojans’ next game, against the other defending GWOC American North co-champion at Butler on Friday, will really show more, with the Aviators coming into the matchup at 4-0. Troy is still finding itself, and it may not find the answers to its questions until later in the season.
Luckily, there’s plenty more season left.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.