Monroe’s Nick Osterman puts up a shot during a game at Franklin on Jan. 26, 2018. The host Wildcats won 55-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Prep basketball: Monroe focusing on intangibles in quest for more wins

MONROE — Kenny Molz believes he finally has his Monroe High School boys basketball players understanding how important all the intangibles are in putting together a successful season.

The Hornets are preparing for their fourth season under Molz, fully confident in what they are doing for the first time since he arrived on campus in 2015. Much of that has to do with some hard lessons learned last year.

Monroe won four of its first five games to open the 2017-18 season and managed just one more victory the rest of the way while stumbling to a 5-18 finish. Only one player graduated from that team, and Molz said his Hornets are working hard to ensure they don’t repeat the same mistakes that led to the downward slide.

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“We said this early on, as far as stat marks and goals, we just get better one day at a time and not worry about wins and losses and let that take care of itself,” Molz said. “Last year, we started 4-1 and guys lost focus of how we got there early and started to relax and not work on a lot of things that make a difference. We lost 11 games by 5 points or less, so we are conscious of that and know how important the little intangibles are that people tend to overlook. We absolutely want to win, but the big thing is we want the guys to learn life-long lessons, and if we’re doing the right things, the wins will take care of themselves.”

Monroe hasn’t had a winning record since going 12-11 in his first season, but now everyone in the program has only known him as the Hornets’ coach, and Molz sees a greater comfort level in how the players prepare and play.

That will be important as Monroe tries to overcome the loss of leading scorer and rebounder Tristan Backas, who averaged 14.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on a team that had no one else contributing more than 7 points per game.

“The biggest thing taking over a program is getting guys to learn how dedicated they have to be and how hard they have to play, but their confidence level, being this is my fourth year, they aren’t unsure what we’re doing,” Molz said. “They understand what we’re doing to be success, and I think going into the season, we’ve played some good opponents in our scrimmages and won more than we lost as far as quarters go. Now we just have to transfer that to with the lights on, so we’ll see Friday.”

Molz said the Hornets are shifting to a more balanced unit as they learn to rely on each other and not just one individual.

The top returning starters include 5-foot-11 senior point guard Shawn Poindexter, 6-2 senior wing Nick Osterman and 5-11 sophomore wing Will DeBord, but Monroe should be at least eight deep with the lineup rotation. Other contributors include juniors Caimanne Turner (6-4), Nick Alfrey (5-11) and Bobby Borneman (6-5), sophomore Collin Deaton (6-1) and senior Tanner Perkins (6-3).

“From summer to scrimmages, we’ve shared the ball a lot better,” Molz said. “Everyone is getting a touch early, and in some ways that makes us harder to guard because there’s not one guy they are looking at as the focal point — both for us and for the teams we’re playing. If we can rely on eight guys doing their part, we’ll be better.

“We’ve really worked on team culture and accountability more than the past. We’re doing a lot of things with discussions, being together and learning to be unselfish, not worrying about who gets the credit. Successful teams that play that way are the ones that find success off the floor as much as on the floor.”

Molz expects more consistency on both ends of the floor. Monroe averaged just 44.3 points per game last year and was the lowest rebounding team in the league.

The Hornets will continue to focus on halfcourt defense and patience on offense, but with a little more pace.

“Guys are comfortable with what we do offensively and defensively,” Molz said. “We like to guard halfcourt in our defense. We’ve done a good job holding opponents to low scores, so this year we should be even better. Offensively, we want to push the tempo more but work for a good shot. We want to wear down our opponents to make it easier later in the game to get easier shots, make teams guard and we sit down and get after it, make guys shoot contested shots the other end, make teams play to our tempo.

“Guys coming to things in spring and summer and fall were consistent showing up and putting in time while there and being efficient. We’ve got guys that work hard and play hard. Hopefully, we’re able to put some wins on the board this year.”

Monroe Hornets

Coach: Kenny Molz (fourth season)

2017-18 Record: 5-18 overall, 3-9 SWBL Southwestern (sixth place)

OHSAA Classification: Division II

Schedule: Nov. 30 — Edgewood, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 4 — at Northridge, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 7 — Bellbrook, 7:15 p.m.; Dec. 11 — at Franklin, 7:15 p.m.; Dec. 14 — at Valley View, 7:15 p.m.; Dec. 21 — at Eaton, 7:15 p.m.; Dec. 22 — Talawanda, 7:15 p.m.; Dec. 29 — at Carlisle, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 4 — Brookville, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 8 — Madison, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 11 — at Oakwood, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 12 — at Fenwick, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 15 — Franklin, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 18 — Valley View, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 22 — at Clinton-Massie, 7 p.m.; Jan. 25 — Eaton, 7:15 p.m.; Jan. 29 — at Waynesville, 7:15 p.m.; Feb. 1 — at Brookville, 7:15 p.m.; Feb. 5 — Oakwood, 7:15 p.m.; Feb. 8 — Preble Shawnee, 7:15 p.m.; Feb. 12 — Ross, 7:15 p.m.; Feb. 15 — at Bellbrook, 7:15 p.m.

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