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“These teams are similar in the fact they both have six, seven players who just love to play basketball,” Smith said. “The 2010 team set the bar high, but this team has the potential to be special. I hope this team can accomplish what that 2010 team did. Last season was the third-best record in school history, and we want to build off that success.”
While the starting lineup might change game to game, Madison returns eight guys who started games a year ago, anchored by 6-foot-7 junior Grant Whisman.
A first-team All-SWBL performer, Whisman led the Mohawks with 16.3 points a game while pulling down 7.1 boards.
Senior Levi McMonigle, a 6-6 forward, added eight points and 7.3 rebounds per contest, while guards Cameron Morgan (5-9 senior) and Matt Gomia (6-0 junior) each chipped in eight points a game. Senior Mason Whiteman (5-9 guard) led the team with 3.4 assists a game.
“We have 10 out of 12 coming back and eight kids who started games,” Smith said. “With all these guys back, we will base our starting lineup on who we are playing. We can be more versatile and, honestly, you might see one starting lineup on Friday and see a different one on Saturday.”
Madison coach Jeff Smith talks to his team in a timeout Dec. 28, 2017, during the Brian Cook Classic in Madison Township. The host Mohawks advanced with a 60-56 win over Cincinnati Christian. RICK CASSANO/STAFF
Smith said he expects good things from 5-9 junior guard Tristan Sipple, who will play both the point and shooting guard positons, and he said 6-1 senior Evan Crim — a standout on the football team — brings toughness.
“When you go 19-4 and have a lot of guys back, you don’t want to mess too much with the offense,” Smith said. “But we are tweaking some of the stuff we do. We want to free up space, give our playmakers more freedom to make plays.”
One thing the Mohawks won’t do is slow down the pace, but Smith said although the press is a constant for Madison, half-court defense will determine the final result.
“We always want to play fast, and this year I think we can play even faster,” Smith said. “We have to stay good in the half court. Our meat and potatoes will continue to be our half-court defense.”
Smith said Turner Campbell, Jake Edwards and Jake Phelps will contribute this season, and he said a big surprise play will be 6-5 junior Jake Munafo.
“When you return 10-12 guys, you don’t have a lot of newcomers, but guys will take on bigger roles,” Smith said. “Munafo has really worked hard to transform his game. He has been a gym rat, and you will see the results this year.”
Madison is an obvious favorite to repeat in the SWBL Buckeye, and Smith said that is always a goal. Additionally, the Mohawks would like to win their first tournament game since 2011.
Smith said the nonleague schedule has been upgraded. Madison will play in the King of the Smokies Christmas Classic in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., against all Division I teams, in addition to picking up a game against Dayton power Meadowdale.
Smith is excited about an invitatioa to the prestigious Flyin’ to the Hoop event at Fairmont, where where the Mohawks will play powerhouse Canal Winchester Harvest Prep on Jan. 21. Harvest Prep was a state semifinalist last season
“We have really beefed up the schedule,” Smith said. “With this schedule, we are gearing up for the tournament. Our team could be better this year and have an inferior record due to the schedule. We want to win the league and be a factor in the Division III sectional.’
The Mohawks open the season Dec. 1 at Tri-County North.
Coach: Jeff Smith (22nd season)
2017-18 Record: 19-4 overall, 11-1 SWBL Buckeye (first place)
OHSAA Classification: Division III
Schedule: Dec. 1 — at Tri-County North, 7 p.m.; Dec. 7 — Waynesville, 7:15 p.m.; Dec. 8 — Edgewood, 7 p.m.; Dec. 11 — at Dixie, 7:15 p.m.; Dec. 14 — Carlisle, 7:15 p.m.; Dec. 21 — at Milton-Union, 7:15 p.m.; Dec. 27-29 — at King of the Smokies Christmas Classic at Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; Jan. 5 — at Northridge, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 8 — at Monroe, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 11 — at Preble Shawnee, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 15 — Dixie, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 18 — at Carlisle, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 21 — vs. Canal Winchester Harvest Prep in Flyin' to the Hoop at Fairmont, 6:30 p.m.; Jan. 25 — Milton-Union, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 29 — Middletown Christian, 7 p.m.; Jan. 31 — Meadowdale, 7 p.m.; Feb. 5 — Preble Shawnee, 7:15 p.m.; Feb. 8 — Northridge, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 12 — National Trail, 7:15 p.m.; Feb. 15 — at Waynesville, 7:15 p.m.