New Miami High School sophomore guard Deanza Duncan

Prep basketball: Win over NCH proof of New Miami’s program elevation

NEW MIAMI — The desire for something different … something better … has led to a rise in stature for New Miami High School’s boys basketball team this year.

It’s a program that hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2002-03, but that drought seems ready to end. These Vikings are 10-4 and coming off a statement win Tuesday over North College Hill, a team that’s routinely drubbed New Miami through the years.

“It was the biggest win of my career so far,” sophomore guard Deanza Duncan said of the 62-57 home triumph. “I think it was the biggest win of the seniors’ career so far. I was glad to win for them. It meant a lot to the whole team and everybody in the community.”

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Second-year coach Jared Lee said his Vikings are learning how to win and how to deal with adversity.

“They seem to be maturing a little bit,” Lee said. “There were several points in that game where we had some things starting to not go our way. It’s a game that earlier in the year or last year with our group of guys being so young, we would’ve folded a little bit. But we dug in and held our ground.

“One of the things we’ve been saying over and over again is, ‘Make your own break.’ Things aren’t easy around here and that’s just fine. We need to quit looking for a break and start making our own, and they did that against North College Hill.”

New Miami is 6-4 and in third place in the Miami Valley Conference Gray Division, and Lee admitted the odds of catching Cincinnati Christian (12-3, 9-1) and Seven Hills (9-5, 8-2) aren’t great.

Cincinnati Christian’s Miguel Ringer defends New Miami’s Jordan Robinette as he dribbles during their game Dec. 14, 2018, at New Miami. CCS won 70-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

But the Vikings believe they’re capable of making some Division IV tournament noise, which would be another step forward. New Miami hasn’t won a postseason game since beating Hillcrest in 2008-09.

“We’re riding high right now, but this game will humble you in a hurry,” Lee said. “We’re not conceding to anybody anymore. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got and see where we are at the end.”

Another tall order looms for New Miami on Friday night as MVC Scarlet Division leader Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (11-2, 8-2) comes to the village. The Vikings will travel to Taylor on Saturday.

New Miami has found ways to win close games, defeating Oyler, St. Bernard, Cincinnati Country Day and NCH by five points or less. There was also a 69-67 loss to Summit Country Day in triple overtime.

“I’d like to have that Summit game back, but I can’t really complain,” Lee said. “We beat St. Bernard on a buzzer beater. We beat Oyler in overtime when their best player’s got to make 1-of-2 free throws with no time left to beat us and misses both of them. We beat CCD when they missed a shot at the buzzer. So we’ve had some games go our way. We were due to have one go the other way, and that’s what happened.”

Cincinnati Christian’s Cole Martin puts up a shot defended by New Miami’s Ronnie Bowman during their game Dec. 14, 2018, at New Miami. CCS won 70-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Sophomore guards Jordan Robinette (16.9), Duncan (15.2) and Trey Robinette (14.1) are the Vikings’ top scorers. They’re joined in the starting lineup by senior forwards Ronnie Bowman and Nate Hobbs, with Bowman averaging almost a double-double (8.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg).

New Miami isn’t deep, generally using only six players. Senior David Cunningham is the sixth man.

“Some of the guys fill the stat sheet and some don’t, but they’re all contributing,” Lee said. “They seem to be starting to enjoy their roles, which is what you want to see.”

Jordan Robinette is shooting 78.3 percent from the foul line, and he was 12-of-13 against NCH. He’s had four games this year where he’s made 10 or more free throws.

The Vikings are quick and like to get up and down the floor. They score (64.1) and give up (59.1) a lot of points.

“I don’t think anybody can really stop us from running and gunning,” Duncan said. “You feed the hot hand. It’s a good system because nobody’s too selfish. We all want to score, but we’re mature enough to pass the ball when we know somebody else has the hot hand.”

New Miami’s Trey Robinette dribbles into the Cincinnati Christian defense during a game Dec. 14, 2018, at New Miami. CCS won 70-52. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Lee said New Miami is learning to recognize and handle situations.

“Basketball is a game of emotion, and you have your highs and lows,” he said. “We’re starting to get better at grounding ourselves and moving on. Earlier in the year and last year, we tended to hold onto things too long. If something bad happened on the offensive side of the floor, we carried it to the defensive side and it would just snowball on us.

“In the last week or two, we’re seeing progress. Now we’re far from out of the woods on it yet, but it’s nice to see.”

This sophomore class is used to winning, having posted an 18-0 record as eighth-graders.

“Coming into high school basketball was a big shock because everything changed,” said Duncan, with the Vikings going 7-16 in 2017-18. “It was a totally different type of environment. But we’re more mature this year. I want to win for the seniors mostly. They’ve never really seen a winning environment around here.

“Our conference is very hard, so we want to make a tournament run. I think that’s a more realistic goal. And we’re still a young team. I think we can bring New Miami a lot of hype the next few years. I think we can make state news. We can make some big noise around here.”

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