By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — The year 2015 brought plenty of change and lots of surprises.
Many of Miami County’s basketball teams are hoping 2016 brings more change — for the better.
With new coaches in a number of places, star players lost for the season and new stars taking up their mantle, 2015 may have seen the boys and girls basketball landscape in Miami County undergo some sizeable shifts, but when all was said and done, the perennial powers and old rivalries still held sway. But with more than half the season still to go, 2016 may have more surprises in store.
* Boys Basketball
Troy’s boys welcomed a new coach in longtime Russia coach Paul Bremigan — and they did so in big fashion, defeating St. Marys 66-44 in his debut. After that, though, the Trojans dropped six of their next seven, including the last five in a row, to go into the new year at 2-6. Half of those losses were by 10 points or less, though, as the Trojans struggled in the first quarter of all of them, only to fight back in the end.
That fight will be important going forward — Troy and Butler (1-6) are the only two teams in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division with sub-.500 records . Troy has already lost to the top two teams in the division in Trotwood and Greenville. After traveling to West Carrollton on Tuesday, the Trojans return home for the weekend against Butler Friday and Tecumseh Saturday.
Tippecanoe (5-4, 1-2 Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division), meanwhile, is going into the new year on a high, champion of the Buckeye Insurance Group Holiday Tournament at Piqua. Since an eight-point loss to division leader Tecumseh, the Red Devils have won three straight — including a stunning victory over the Arrows in the BIG title game.
New coach Joel Visser has Tippecanoe competing — aside from that loss to Tecumseh, all of the Devils’ losses have been by four points or less, and with momentum carrying them, they seem poised to make a run. They host Bellefontaine Tuesday before embarking on a four-game road trip — a stretch that will decide where their season goes from there.
No boys team enjoyed 2015 quite like the Miami East Vikings (8-1, 4-0 Cross County Conference), though. They won their first seven games of the season, only falling in a competitive game to last year’s Division III regional champion Chaminade Julienne at the Versailles Holiday Tournament. With plenty of big games on the horizon — the Vikings’ next four are against Lehman and Troy Christian before CCC rivals Covington and Bethel — none loom larger than a Jan. 26 date against CCC co-leader and reigning D-IV state champion Tri-Village.
Bethel, under new coach Brett Kopp, won its first five games before an overtime loss to Yellow Springs, following that with a CCC defeat at the hands of Twin Valley South. Now 7-2 and 4-1 and winners of two straight, the Bees host county rival Troy Christian Monday. They’ll get their cracks at Miami East on Jan. 15 and Tri-Village on Feb. 5.
Covington finished the first part of the season 4-4 and 3-2 in the CCC, defeating Troy Christian in the consolation final of Piqua’s BIG Tournament. Newton (5-3, 2-1 CCC) and Bradford (2-5, 1-4 CCC) both boast new coaches and have shown improvement, but all three teams have work to do moving forward.
Troy Christian (4-4, 3-1 Metro Buckeye Conference) and Milton-Union (0-6, 0-3 Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division), meanwhile, both struggled following the losses of key components. Since the departure of K.C.Kamentz, the Eagles’ leader in every statistical category, they’ve gone 2-4, including three straight losses. The Eagles face three more road games to open the new year, too, beginning with games at county rivals Bethel and Miami East, as well as MBC foe Middletown Christian Friday.
And Milton-Union, without point guard Joey Swafford, who went down with an injury, lost its first six games to start the season and has only seen its home floor in the season opener. The Bulldogs finally return home on Tuesday to host Covington before a division showdown against Carlisle Friday.
* Girls Basketball
The Troy girls basketball team welcomed back former GWOC North Player of the Year Kennedi Kyzer this season, but she only played in the first two games of the year as Troy went 0-4 to start the season. The Trojans have since gone 4-2, though, including a blowout victory over Piqua to begin division play in which Bailey Hess broke out with 24 points.
The new year begins with the most critical stretch yet for the Trojans, though, with four straight division games — three this week. After hosting Greenville Monday, Troy travels to Trotwood Wednesday and Butler Saturday before a showdown next week against division leader Sidney at home.
Tippecanoe, under new coach Andy Holderman, began the season strong — only to see scoring leader Carly Clodfelter lost for the season to injury in its CBC Kenton Trail Division opener against bitter rival Kenton Ridge. The Devils won that game still, though, and their first two complete games without her, as well. The Devils fell to 10-1 division leader Tecumseh, though, and go into the new year 8-3, 3-1 after a narrow loss to West Liberty-Salem. They face county rival Miami East today — and travel to Kenton Ridge for a crucial rematch Saturday.
Milton-Union (9-3, 4-1 SWBL Buckeye) has already won one more game than it did all of last season, only falling in division play to co-leader Madison. The Bulldogs will get their second shot at the Mohawks on Jan. 14, but they’ll open the new year hosting a talented Covington team Monday before a three-game road trip that includes a matchup against the division’s other co-leader, Waynesville.
Covington, Newton and Miami East have all been battling for CCC supremacy throughout the early part of the season, but two of those teams, the Buccaneers and Indians, fell to conference leader Tri-Village (10-1, 5-0). Covington (9-3, 6-1) owns a head-to-head victory over Newton (7-3, 4-2), but the Buccs fell to the Vikings (7-4, 4-1) in non-league play. They’ll face the Vikings in a key CCC matchup on Jan. 21.
The Vikings, meanwhile, are the only one of the county’s CCC teams that still have a head-to-head shot at the Patriots — they will face off on Jan. 9 at Tri-Village. Newton — which defeated Miami East early in the season, the Vikings’ lone CCC loss — will play four of its next five games at home before setting out on a six-game road trip, needing help from other teams to get back into the CCC race.
Bethel (5-5, 3-2 CCC) has made tremendous strides since last season but still finds itself in the middle of the CCC pack, along with Bradford (4-7, 3-4). The Bees — who defeated Bradford on a last-second shot — play at Covington Thursday and at home against the Vikings on Jan. 14 with a chance to move up in the ranks. The Railroaders face Newton twice — on Jan. 9 and 23 — and Tri-Village on Jan. 28, their biggest remaining games.
Troy Christian (5-3, 1-3 MBC) saw the return of injured point guard Meredith Haddad halfway through the 2015 portion of the season, but they’ve had to recover again since the departure of Arden and Ali Kamentz. After dropping their first three MBC games of the season, they routed Yellow Springs in the final game of the year — and will kick off the new year at home against Xenia Christian Monday with a chance to pay back a 55-37 loss on Dec. 19.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.