Early look at the EBC boys’ basketball landscape

Sports

West Branch begins year #1 with coach Michael Brown on the bench

Eastern Buckeye Conference

Alliance edged Marlington for the conference crown last year

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Alliance came away with the inaugural Eastern Buckeye Conference title after posting a 9-3 mark. The Aviators’ Larry Kukura was named the Coach of the Year. However, Marlington featured the Player of the Year Blane Himmelheber – who finished the year with 4 double-doubles and scored in single-digits just three times.

West Branch welcomes Michael Brown – who is taking over at the helm of Warrior basketball from Randy Montgomery. Coach Montgomery secured his 600th win on February 22. The Warriors seek another successful season after registering a 16-7 mark in each of the past two campaigns. Salem will look to improve upon last year’s win total of 7. The Quakers’ last winning season came in 2015-16 (17-8). Coach Jeff Andres hopes to see his team gain valuable experience and begin to come into their own as the season wears on.

2018-19 Eastern Buckeye Conference Standings
Alliance – 9-3 (15-9)
Marlington – 8-4 (14-10)
West Branch – 7-5 (16-7)
Carrollton – 6-6 (8-15)
Canton South – 5-7 (7-15)
Minerva – 4-8 (7-16)
Salem – 3-9 (7-16)

Around the League
Alliance Aviators
Coach: Larry Kukura, 15th season
…Last year’s conference champ returns three starters in Brandon Alexander, Jeff Talbert and Trevor Strata – who was selected as Second-Team All-EBC. The Aviators lost a pair of key seniors to graduation – Cameron Cox and First-Team All-Conference performer Demarko Brooks.

Coach Kukura points to “playing great team defense and staying healthy” as keys to the season. “We have high expectations for this team,” Kukura states. “We play a very tough non-league schedule which will prepare us for our league and post-season tournament.”

Canton South Wildcats
Coach: Luke Conley, 2nd season
…”In order to be successful, we first need to buy-in to playing for each other,” coach Conley says. “With the way we want to play on both ends of the floor, we need to adopt an unselfish attitude. We have the talent to make some noise, but we need to get our culture to a point where we can have consistent success night-to-night.”

The Wildcats will welcome back junior starter Luke Hattery as well as two seniors letter winners (Tyler Karovic and Justin Ickes). Canton South graduated both of their Second-Team All-EBC recipients (Sean Blackmon & Chris Fontes). “We’re inexperienced but we have some exciting young talent that will see varsity minutes this year,” states Conley. “My hope is that – as the season goes along – our young kids adapt to varsity basketball and we play better our last eleven games compared to our first eleven.”

Carrollton Warriors
Coach: Mike Aukerman, 2nd season
…”We have expectations to be a team that is difficult to play against on a nightly basis,” Aukerman indicates. “We want to play a relentless style of basketball. If we can play our style, we’ll be able to accumulate some wins along the way. We want to be contenders this year, and evolve from our spoiler role of last year when we were a .500 team.”

Carrollton’s Adam Chaney (First-Team All-EBC) and Brady Benner (Honorable Mention) were both recognized by the Eastern Buckeye Conference for their accomplishments last year. Chaney, a 6’5 senior, averaged 19.7 points per game while hauling down 7.2 boards, dishing out 2.7 assists and connecting on 40% of his three-point attempts and 73.6% of his free throws (81-110). Benner put together an impressive stat line of 7.8 points, 4 rebounds and 2.4 steals. Also returning is seniors Jimmy Birong (3.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and Andrew Gotschall (3.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg) along with junior Gage Poole (2.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg).

“We’re opening our new school and new gym this season,” exclaims Aukerman. “Our season will be a success if we continue to develop and improve throughout the year. We have to close out games better this year, and our experience should help in doing so.”

Marlington Dukes
Coach: Nick Evanich, 15th season
…Marlington returns their First-Team All-League guard Andrew Pucci after he averaged 18.4 points, 4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Pucci also shot 45% from long distance as well. Also returning is senior forward Cameron Bennett – who scored 9.3 points, hauled down 4.7 boards and shot 76% from the line. Other letter winners returning this year is sophomore Connor Evanich (8.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg) as well as seniors Ryan Cooley and Nik Tortola. However, the team will be without last year’s conference Player of the Year (Blane Himmelheber, 16.2 ppg) and Reece Kackley and Markavien Mason.

“We must develop as rebounders and defenders,” states coach Evanich. “We return a lot of scoring but we must rebound and defense as a team in order to win games. Taking care of the basketball will also be a key for us and allow us the opportunity to not only score more but also get out defense set and make it hard for our opponents to score. Ultimately, we must apply great ball pressure and play solid gap defense forcing teams to take contested perimeter shots.”

Minerva Lions
Coach: Shawn Green, 6th season
…Coach Shawn Green will return less than 10-points per game off of last year’s group. “We’ll be a work in progress, especially early in the season. We start with four of our first five on the road, so our toughness and character will be tested early.”

The Lions return one starter in Noah Sallade. “In the past two seasons, we’ve had two players (Connor Wright and Brice Williams) who were recognized as All-Ohio and average over 20 points per game. This season, we won’t have that kind of guy to lean on so a key for us is ball movement, scoring distribution, and more of a focus on balance in our offense.”

Salem Quakers
Coach: Jeff Andres, 2nd season
…”We’re very young and inexperienced with only one returning starter (Hunter Griffith, 4.1 ppg) and another returning letter winner (Jaren Snyder),” coach Andres points out entering year #2 as the boys basketball coach. “This makes it tough, especially in the league that has many teams with a lot of returning pieces. Our level of competition so far in practice has been very good and I really like our team. Look for us to improve as the year goes on and our young guys gain valuable experience.”

Incoming varsity players include seniors Kaleb Caldwell (6’0/G), Dylan Ulrich (6’0/G), Kaden Russell (5’6/G); juniors Landon Cooper (6’0/F) and seven sophomores (Sam Walter, Caden Rohm, Drew Weir, Jon Null, Caleb Stockman, Davin Koskinen, Brock Young) and a freshman Dillon Monroy (6’0/G).

“We have some guys that can really score,” says Andres. “Our youth and inexperience is also promoting great competition on a daily basis in practice.”

West Branch Warriors
Coach: Michael Brown, 1st season
…The Warriors graduated three letter winners including their 6’6 forward Brandon Zuchowski (12.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg). This year, they’ll return three senior starters in point guard Reese Leone (16.6 ppg), Nick Pidgeon (6.7 ppg) and their center Nick Everett (11.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg). The team will be without senior Nick Scarpitti – who was injured during the soccer season.

With that said, the Warriors have high expectations. Coach Brown says, “I’m very proud of the time and effort our upperclassmen have put in this off-season. Our team has done a great job in the weight room, on the court and in our community. We plan to follow the positive attitude and leadership of our senior class to help us compete at a high level for all 22 games.”

2019-20 Schedules
Alliance
Nov. 29 – at Garaway, 7:30
Dec. 6 – West Branch, 7
Dec. 10 – at Canton CC, 7:30
Dec. 13 – at Salem, 7
Dec. 17 – at Northwest, 7:30
Dec. 20 – Canton South, 7
Dec. 21 – vs. Rootstown (at Mt Union), 1:30
Dec. 27 – Field, 7
Jan. 7 – at Minerva, 7
Jan. 10 – Marlington, 7
Jan. 14 – at Carrollton, 7
Jan. 21 – St. Thomas Aquinas, 7
Jan. 24 – Salem, 7
Jan. 28 – at Canton South, 7
Jan. 31 – at Hoover, 7:30
Feb. 4 – Minerva, 7
Feb. 7 – at Marlington, 7
Feb. 11 – Canfield, 7
Feb. 14 – Carrollton, 7
Feb. 18 – at Barberton, 7:30

Canton South
Nov. 30 – at New Philadelphia, 7:30
Dec. 3 – Northwest, 7:30
Dec. 10 – at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7
Dec. 13 – Minerva, 7
Dec. 20 – at Alliance, 7
Jan. 3 – Carrollton, 7
Jan. 7 – West Branch, 7
Jan. 10 – at Salem, 7
Jan. 14 – Canton Central Catholic, 7:30
Jan. 17 – at Marlington, 7
Jan. 18 – Mercy Medical Classic (Fairless), 4:30
Jan. 24 – at Minerva, 7
Jan. 28 – Alliance, 7
Jan. 31 – at Carrollton, 7
Feb. 4 – at West Branch, 7
Feb. 7 – Salem, 7
Feb. 11 – East, 7
Feb. 18 – at CVCA, 7:30
Feb. 21 – at Tuslaw, 7:30

Carrollton
Nov. 30 – Claymont
Dec. 3 – Malvern
Dec. 7 – at West Holmes
Dec. 13 – Marlington
Dec. 14 – at Ridgewood
Dec. 20 – at Minerva
Dec. 28 – TCC Tournament (Bishop Ready)
Jan. 3 – at Canton South
Jan. 7 – Salem
Jan. 10 – at West Branch
Jan. 11 – East Liverpool
Jan. 14 – Alliance
Jan. 18 – Cambridge
Jan. 21 – at Fitch
Jan. 24 – at Marlington
Jan. 28 – Minerva
Jan. 31 – Canton South
Feb. 4 – at Salem
Feb. 7 – West Branch
Feb. 8 – at Sandy Valley
Feb. 14 – at Alliance
Feb. 18 – Indian Valley

Marlington
Nov. 30 – at Canfield, 7
Dec. 3 – at Kenmore-Garfield, 7:30
Dec. 6 – at Canton South, 7
Dec. 10 – Northwest, 7
Dec. 13 – at Carrollton, 7
Dec. 20 – West Branch, 7
Dec. 21 – vs. Waterloo at Mt Union, 6:30
Dec. 27 – First Federal Holiday Classic
Dec. 28 – First Federal Holiday Classic
Jan. 3 – at Salem, 7
Jan. 10 – at Alliance, 7
Jan. 14 – Minerva, 7
Jan. 17 – Canton South, 7
Jan. 21 – Louisville, 7
Jan. 24 – Carrollton, 7
Jan. 28 – at West Branch, 7
Jan. 31 – Salem, 7
Feb. 7 – Alliance, 7
Feb. 11 – at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7
Feb. 14 – at Minerva, 7
Feb. 18 – at Coventry, 7
Feb. 21 – Akron East, 7

Minerva
Nov. 30 – at Crestview, 7
Dec. 3 – at Dover, 7:45
Dec. 6 – Salem, 7
Dec. 13 – at Canton South, 7
Dec. 17 – at Steubenville, 7
Dec. 20 – Carrollton, 7
Dec. 23 – Malvern, 7:30
Dec. 28 – Tusky Valley, 7
Jan. 3 – at West Branch, 7
Jan. 4 – Harrison Central, 6:30
Jan. 7 – Alliance, 7
Jan. 11 – at Sandy Valley, 7:30
Jan. 14 – at Marlington, 7
Jan. 17 – at Salem, 7
Jan. 21 – at Claymont, 7:30
Jan.24 – Canton South, 7
Jan. 28 – at Carrollton, 7
Jan. 31 – West Branch, 7
Feb. 4 – at Alliance, 7
Feb. 7 – East Liverpool, 7
Feb. 14 – Marlington, 7
Feb. 18 – at East Canton, 7:30

Salem
Dec. 3 – Springfield, 7
Dec. 6 – at Minerva, 7
Dec. 10 – Girard, 7
Dec. 13 – Alliance, 7
Dec. 17 – Columbiana, 7

Jan. 3 – Marlington, 7
Jan. 4 – at Hubbard, 7
Jan. 7 – at Carrollton, 7
Jan. 10 – Canton South, 7
Jan. 11 – at South Range, 7
Jan. 14 – West Branch, 7
Jan. 17 – Minerva, 7
Jan. 21 – at Niles, 7
Jan. 24 – at Alliance, 7
Jan. 28 – East Liverpool, 7
Jan. 31 – at Marlington, 7
Feb. 4 – Carrollton, 7
Feb. 7 – at Canton South, 7
Feb. 11 – at Western Reserve, 7
Feb. 14 – at West Branch, 7
Feb. 18 – at East Palestine, 7
Feb. 21 – United, 7

West Branch
Nov. 29 – Fitch, 7
Dec. 3 – East Palestine, 7
Dec. 6 – at Alliance, 7
Dec. 10 – at Campbell Memorial, 7
Dec. 13 – Canfield, 7
Dec. 20 – at Marlington, 7
Dec. 21 – vs. Mogadore (at Mt Union)
Dec. 23 – at Ravenna, 7
Dec. 27 – at Waterloo, 7
Jan. 3 – Minerva, 7
Jan. 7 – at Canton South, 7
Jan. 10 – Carrollton, 7
Jan. 14 – at Salem, 7
Jan. 17 – Alliance, 7
Jan. 25 – Hubbard, 7
Jan. 28 – Marlington, 7
Jan. 31 – at Minerva, 7
Feb. 4 – Canton South, 7
Feb. 7 – at Carrollton, 7
Feb. 14 – Salem, 7
Feb. 18 – at Columbiana, 7
Feb. 21 – at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7

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