SWBL BUCKEYE BOYS BASKETBALL: Injuries aside, Madison voted favorite to repeat

The goals remain high for Madison High School’s boys basketball team, even with multiple injuries early in the season.

The Mohawks are favored to repeat as Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division champions, garnering six of the seven first-place votes in the Buckeye preseason coaches poll.

Madison, though, has already lost senior guard Cameron Morgan until at least February with a broken hand. Junior Grant Whisman and senior Levi McMonigle, arguably the team’s best players, are on the mend after suffering sprained ankles in the same game.


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“The pressure’s still on us and we welcome that pressure … our journey just got a little harder,” Mohawks coach Jeff Smith said. “The league will be a dogfight to the end.”

The Northridge Polar Bears picked up one No. 1 vote and placed second in the poll, followed (in order) by Waynesville, Carlisle, Preble Shawnee, Milton-Union and Dixie.

Northridge returns eight of its top nine players from last year, yet started the 2018-19 SWBL campaign with a 59-52 loss to Shawnee.

For Madison, Whisman and McMonigle both got hurt last weekend and are expected to return for Friday’s home game against Carlisle. Morgan was injured in the season opener against Tri-County North and has already undergone surgery.

Whisman tallied 16.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season, while McMonigle averaged eight points and 7.3 boards. Morgan’s absence is significant because of his quickness and 3-point shooting ability.

“I think we have a chance to be real good,” Smith said. “The starting lineup could change almost nightly. Depending on the opponent, we can go big or we can go small and quick. The best team I’ve had since I’ve been here was the 2010 team that went 24-1, but this is the deepest team I’ve had since I’ve been at Madison.”

Smith has strengthened his nonleague schedule this season in the hope of making a Division III tournament run. The Mohawks were one-and-done last year, losing 55-37 to a Stivers squad that was below .500.

Madison is headed to the King of the Smokies Christmas Classic in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., this month and has added nonleague games against Meadowdale and Canal Winchester Harvest Prep (in Flyin’ to the Hoop).

“I can’t speak to the 1960s and ’70s, but I’d say this is the toughest nonleague schedule a Madison basketball team has played in a long, long time,” Smith said.

Waynesville has a deep, veteran team as well. All but two of the players on the Spartans’ roster did some starting last season.

Carlisle returns a number of players with varsity experience, though 6-foot-5 sophomore Nolan Burney is the only full-time starter back, and he averaged five points and 4.3 rebounds per game last year.

“We’ve got some quick guards, so we want to get up and down a little bit,” Indians coach Don Ridinger said. “We’re not big and strong. We’ve got some length, but it’s not brute-force length.”

Shawnee brings back no starters, though Dale Spitler Jr.’s cupboard isn’t exactly bare. Sophomore Bryce Singleton and junior Samuel Agee, the only two returning lettermen, are averaging nearly 30 points per game between them through three games this year.

Rusty Berner is starting his fifth season at the Milton-Union helm, though he’s in his second stint as head coach. He did not head the program the last two years.

Aaran Stone, a 6-4 senior, has double-double potential for the Bulldogs, who defeated Dixie 52-40 in this year’s Buckeye opener after going winless in league play last season.

Dixie returns one starter in senior wing Seth Grubb, but senior guard Clark Miller is the top scorer right now. He was the No. 1 scorer on the Greyhounds’ junior varsity team in 2017-18 and played some varsity at the end of the year as well.


Here’s how the coaches voted in the preseason Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division boys basketball poll, with point totals and first-place votes (in parentheses):

1. Madison (6) 48

2. Northridge (1) 42

3. Waynesville 32

4. Carlisle 25

5. Preble Shawnee 20

6. Milton-Union 18

7. Dixie 11


Here’s a team-by-team preseason look at the SWBL Buckeye teams, with information provided by the coaches:


Coach: Jeff Smith (22nd season)

2017-18 Record: 19-4 overall, 11-1 SWBL Buckeye (first place)

Returning Starters (all started at various points): Ryan Duritsch (6-5 senior forward), Matt Gomia (6-0 junior guard), Levi McMonigle (6-6 senior forward), Cameron Morgan (5-8 senior guard), Jake Munafo (6-5 junior forward), Tristan Sipple (5-9 junior guard), Grant Whisman (6-7 junior guard), Mason Whiteman (5-9 senior guard)

Top Newcomers: Turner Campbell (6-0 junior guard), Jake Phelps (6-1 junior guard)

Team Strengths: Balanced scoring, 3-point shooting, balanced scoring, depth, experience

Area Of Concern: Lack of overall team quickness


Coach: Jeff Lisath (sixth season)

2017-18 Record: 11-13 overall, 7-5 SWBL Buckeye (third place, tied)

Returning Starters: Charles Drewery (6-3 senior forward), Twon Hines (6-1 senior guard), Denny Moses (6-0 junior guard), Darryl Story (5-10 junior guard), Robbie Turner (5-11 senior guard)

Top Newcomers: Cameron Currington (6-6 sophomore forward), Chad Florence (6-2 junior forward), Jared Lewis (5-9 senior guard), Shawn Shehee (5-11 junior guard)

Team Strengths: Quickness, depth, experience

Area Of Concern: Inexperience in the post


Coach: Mike Arlinghaus (fifth season)

2017-18 Record: 11-13 overall, 5-7 SWBL Buckeye (fifth place)

Returning Starters(all started at various points): Anthony Carmichael (6-3 senior forward), John Cole (6-3 senior forward), Alex Hurley (6-0 senior guard), Grant Johnson (5-9 senior guard), Luke Kindred (5-9 senior guard), Ryan Papanek (6-0 junior forward), Ethan Speers (6-3 senior forward), Drake Stiles (5-10 senior guard)

Top Newcomers: Mac Greeley (5-11 junior guard), Bryce Nolbertowicz (6-0 junior guard)

Team Strengths: Depth, experience

Area Of Concern: Offensive consistency


Coach: Don Ridinger (fourth season)

2017-18 Record: 11-12 overall, 7-5 SWBL Buckeye (third place, tied))

Returning Starters(all started at various points): Nolan Burney (6-5 sophomore forward), Dane Flatter (6-0 senior guard), Joe Gay (6-1 senior guard), Zach Jewell (6-2 senior forward), Cash Ridinger (5-10 junior guard)

Top Newcomers: Isaiah Dean (6-0 sophomore guard), Austin Redavide (6-0 senior guard)

Team Strengths: Athleticism, size

Area Of Concern: Inexperience


Coach: Dale Spitler Jr. (third season)

2017-18 Record: 17-6 overall, 9-3 SWBL Buckeye (second place)

Returning Starters: None

Top Newcomers: Jedd Geisen (6-7 senior forward), Cole Haney (6-3 senior forward), J.J. Hatmaker (6-4 senior forward), Calvin Leeth (6-0 senior guard)

Team Strengths: Depth, versatility to play different lineups, more size than previous years

Area Of Concern: Inexperience


Coach: Rusty Berner (fifth season)

2017-18 Record: 2-21 overall, 0-12 SWBL Buckeye (seventh place)

Returning Starters: Nathan Brumbaugh (5-11 junior guard), A.J. Lovin (5-7 junior guard), Will Morris (5-10 senior guard), Aaran Stone (6-4 senior center), Caleb Wintrow (6-4 senior forward)

Top Newcomers: Sam Case (5-10 sophomore guard), Josh Wooddell (5-10 senior forward)

Team Strengths: Quickness, shooting ability, experience

Areas Of Concern: Size, turnovers, continuity


Coach: Chris Tipton (third season)

2017-18 Record: 6-17 overall, 3-9 SWBL Buckeye (sixth place)

Returning Starter: Seth Grubb (6-4 senior wing)

Top Newcomer: Codie Thompson (5-10 sophomore center)

Team Strengths: Great kids, hard workers, 3-point shooting

Areas Of Concern: Lack of size, experience

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