by Jeremy Benson, GrandRiverConference.com
Gallatin Bulldogs are the coaches’ pick to win the GRC East in Boys Basketball in 2022-23. Maysville received one 1st place vote to place 2nd in the poll. Defending Champion Putnam County is picked #3.
Gallatin Bulldogs were defending conference champions, and many expected them to repeat last season. A late loss to Putnam County early in the season derailed their chance to repeat, but they did finish the season 22-7 and 6-1 in conference. They won their own tournament for the 3rd consecutive season and captured their first district championship since 2006.
The Bulldogs return 98.7% of the scoring from last year’s team including 1st team all-conference honorees Isaac Bird and Payton Feiden. Bird led the GRC East with 21.1 ppg last season and led the conference with 8.0 FG per game. Feiden had 14.6 ppg, which was 5th most in the East. Other top returners include Honorable Mention All-Conference Brett Hemry (7.6 ppg), Peyton Johnson (6.0 ppg), Durk Stout (5.8 ppg), Boston Bell (3.8 ppg) and Layton Shubert (3.5 ppg). Payton Baker and Gavyn Wilmes are newcomers this year. Colt Baker and Jaden Wilson are players that could see more time than last season. The Bulldogs are favorites to win the GRC East this season and are looking to make another deep run in the playoffs.
Coach Chad Sullenger said “We're looking at returning everyone from last year with the exception of Carson. We're hoping to be competitive with the top tier teams in the area.”
Maysville Wolverines had a breakout season last year going 19-7 and 5-2 in conference. The 19 wins is the most the Wolverines have had in more than a decade. They brought home trophies in all three tournaments they played in winning 3rd place at Gallatin and King City and 2nd place at South Harrison. Despite losing leading scorer and 1st-team all-conference Logan Kimbrell (13.6 ppg), Alexavier Clark (8.1 ppg) and Zach Heintz (6.4 ppg), Maysville returns a deep team that is looking to build on the success of last season.
2nd team all-conference Kobyn Metzger (10.3 ppg) and Honorable Mention all-conference Dillon Willis (9.8 ppg) are the leading returning scorers for the Wolverines. They are joined by Tanner Evans (5.1 ppg) and Kayden Gabbard (3.7 ppg) as the top returning players for Maysville. Newcomers expected to contribute are Eli Gaiser and Carson Bray.
Coach Chris McMillen said “Our goals this year are to continue developing our program and to be competitive in a very tough GRC conference. Last year we finished in the top half of the GRC East with 19 wins and 7 losses. We would like to improve on those marks. We return several players who got significant playing time last year and have some young players coming up that give us some strength from the bench. Gallatin is at the top of the GRC Conference, and we are striving to be able to compete with them.”
Putnam County Midgets hit a late 3-pointer against Gallatin to knock off the defending champions 68-65. The win propelled them into the GRC Championship Game against Stanberry. They ultimately fell in overtime. However, they used that experience to propel them to a state run and ultimately finish 3rd in Class 2 knocking off Bishop LeBlond in the 3rd Place Game. Putnam County would finish the season 25-3, 7-0 in conference games and ranked #3 in Class 2.
The trip to Springfield marked the Midgets first ever final four trip in Boys’ Basketball. If they are going to repeat the success from last season, they will have to rely on contributions from some new players. Putnam County loses 75% of its scoring including 1st team all-conference players Landon Wood and Zach Heidenwith, 2nd team all-conference Lance Fowler along with Jaden Wyant, Gage Pearson and Jaydon Pribyl.
The top returning players for the Midgets are Owen Ream (11.8 ppg), who earned 2nd team all-conference, and Trace Riediger. Coach Kyle Fleshman said that the expectations are “to become better men and better basketball players. This year we have 35 kids signed up to play, which is probably the most we have had in my lifetime.” Coach Fleshman said that the football players have just joined, so he is still evaluating many of the newcomers.
Milan Wildcats captured their 4th district championship in the last 5 seasons last season when they defeated Marceline. The Wildcats finished the season 20-9 and 4-3 in conference. In addition, they won the Milan Tournament for the 6th consecutive year (also defeating Marceline in the Championship). Milan did lose 1st team all-conference and all-district Chekh Niasse, who averaged 13.3 ppg, and Michael Pipes (4.8 ppg).
Milan does return a lot of talent this season. Ahmet Niasse (9.5 ppg) and Jeremy Bennett (11.8 ppg) are the leading returning scorers for the Wildcats. They are joined by Jared Gonzalez and Nathan Keck. Newcomers that are expected to contribute are Ethan Bennett, Don Divin Ngombo and Alex Marquina.
Coach Andrea Dabney said, “We have a core of our group back from last year. We will miss Chekh’s ability to get to the paint and his tenacious defense. Ahmet, Jared, and Nathan have had really good off seasons. Jeremy is a great athlete that has the ability to get to the rim and will finish better than last year. Some younger guys stepped in this summer and did a really good job. We are still lacking a “big guy” presence. We will be similar to years past and will try to push tempo.”
Princeton Tigers had talent last season, but it was inexperienced. They had 67% of their scoring coming from Sophomores and Freshman. While they showed some bright spots at times, it ended up being a rebuilding season that ended up at 10-17 and 1-6 in conference. This year, they look to build upon last season. They will have to replace Luke Kelly, who averaged 7.4 ppg, and Logan Smith (2.5 ppg), but the core of last year’s team remains.
Junior Talan Holt led the team in scoring last season at 17.3 ppg and earned 1st team all-conference honors. Senior Jaden Finney (6.3 ppg) will be a key player inside. Sophomores Clay Evans and Kelby Thomas will also be returning and expected to play bigger roles. They both will share point guard duties.
Players that saw limited varsity time last year that are expected to play more significant roles this year are Sophomores Cooper Boxley, Noel Schreffler and Tyler Coffman.
Coach Damon Collins said, “I expect that we will be a competitive team that will have a lot of close games. We still have a lot of youth and I expect that we will learn and improve a lot as the season progresses. We will be looking for many players to fit into new, bigger roles. I think we will improve on our record from last season. I think we can finish in the top part of the conference which would be a good improvement from last year.” He added that “We would like to thank our fans for their continuous support.”
Polo Panthers made vast improvements last season finishing 13-14 including 3-4 in conference. They captured consolation in the Gallatin Tournament and 2nd Place in the Osborn Tournament. The 13 wins were a 9-game improvement over the previous season and their most wins since 2017-18. If the Panthers are to continue to build, the will have to replace leady scorer and 2nd team all-conference honoree Trent Raby. Raby lead the team in points with 16.4 ppg and also was the team’s leader in assists, steals and charges taken. Jace Bolling, the team’s leader in blocks, also graduated.
Polo will be led by Maverick Gentry, who was Honorable Mention all-conference and scored 11.5 ppg and Zadin Owens who scored 8.9 ppg. Zadin missed part of the season last year due to injury, so the Panthers are counting on him to pick up some of the scoring vacancy left by Raby. Others that contributed last year were Gage Gilbert and Logan Raby. Hunter McGee is a big strong kid that should also contribute to post defense and rebounding.
Coach Morgan Dickson said “We will be a more balanced team this year. We will have many different scoring options and more depth than in the past. We should be improved defensively and should have an advantage over most teams with our overall team size. I expect us to be competitive in every game we play, and I expect us to improve each game and get to the point where we reach our peak at district time. We have a great bunch of guys that like each other, want to play at a high level and are willing to put in the work to be a great team. We will be fun to watch.”
Last season is a season that the South Harrison Bulldogs probably would like to forget. They started off the season with a 2-point loss to a very good Winston team. But through a combination of a very tough schedule and having to replace four players that earned all-conference honors, the Bulldogs struggled to close out games. They finished 3-23 and 2-5 in conference play. This season, South Harrison will have to replace 2nd-team all-conference honoree Cale Weller (10.5 ppg) along with Braden Spurling and Chance Corbett. But they do return leading scorer, Jad Cornett, who averaged 11.7 ppg and also earned 2nd-team all-conference. Other top players returning are Grant Williams (6.0 ppg), Hunter Ackley (4.0 ppg) and Isaac Williams (2.2 ppg).
Braxton Booth, Jett Cornett and Levi McDaniel are expected to be players that contribute to the Bulldogs success as well. Coach Aaron Fitzpatrick said “Our expectations for the 2022-23 season are to be much improved from the 2021-22 season. We return a good core of upperclassmen and players that played their first real varsity minutes last season. With that returning experience, mixed with a good combination of skill sets from underclassmen, we expect to improve on our win total from last year and the overall product that our fans see on the floor every night.”
Last season was a difficult season for the Trenton Bulldogs. They went 1-23 overall and 0-7 in conference play. Their were able to avenge an earlier loss against North Harrison when they defeated them 45-35 in the GRC Showcase. Trenton lost three seniors from last year’s team, including post-player Trevor Murphy, who was a leader on the team. But the Bulldogs return 93% of the scoring from last season.
Sophomore Keifer Tolson led all GRC Boys in scoring last season and earned honorable mention all-conference. Tolson averaged 11.7 ppg last season and will be starting at point guard this season. Also returning for Trenton will be Junior post player Seth Doolittle (3.0 ppg, Junior Maverick Sole (5.1 ppg), Gabe Novak (9.1 ppg), and Bradyn Sagar (3.9 ppg). Doolittle average 3 blocks per game last season. Sole and Novak are expected to be key players on the defense. Sagar is a catalyst in fighting for loose balls and rebounds. Tucker Otto will also be returning after missing last season with a broken leg from football.
Newcomers include Senior Levi Johnson, who last played his freshman season, and Freshmen Elijah Miller and Isaac Dixon. Johnson is a strong defender in the post. Miller is expected to also play in the post and is good at creating scoring opportunities. Dixon is expected to get playing time at point guard.
New Trenton coach Jon Guthrie said, “The GRC is a very tough, competitive conference in basketball. Over the past three or four years, we have had multiple teams in our conference make it to the final four at the state level, which is a testament to how great our athletes and coaches are in the GRC. THS Basketball is still a young team, with a lot of room to grow and compete. My expectation for our squad is to fight hard in every game and compete to the best of their ability. We’ve focused a lot this summer on defense. Last year’s opponents almost averaged 70 points a game against us. We’ve talked a lot about fighting hard to contest every shot, block out hard for defensive rebounds to limit scoring opportunities, and getting on the floor for loose balls. If we can get tougher in these areas, we should be able to compete in a lot more games.”
Coach Guthrie also mentioned that the team has been working very hard during the summer. The parents and fans have been doing a great job supporting the team. He is very excited about the upcoming season.
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