Blue Aces boys’, girls’ hoops expect to build on last year’s successes

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The Granville Blue Aces boys basketball team poses after clinching their fourth consecutive Licking County League Buckeye title in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Cottrell)

Andrew Hoben

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

SENIOR-LED SQUAD FOCUSED ON FIRST DISTRICT TITLE SINCE 1985

2018-19 Results: 18-5 overall record (13-0 league), Licking County League champions, district semifinalists

The Blue Aces proved during the 2018-19 season that they have become the standard of the Licking County League, going undefeated in league play and winning their first Division II sectional title since 2011 by shutting down London’s star-studded attack and holding Trey Woodyard and company to only 24 points. However, Granville fell to a familiar foe in St. Francis Desales in a low-scoring district semi-final, a team who they had narrowly lost to on the road during the regular season, which proved that the Aces must make an offensive leap if they want to compete at the district level. 

Senior Jake Stone ultimately believes that playing hard on both ends of the floor will be the key to Blue Aces success in 2019. 

“I think the biggest thing is how well we execute not only offensively but defensively,” Stone said. “We need to make sure that we are focused and have good communication so that we can really use our team chemistry and experience to our advantage.”

With the third-team all-district returner Stone and sharp-shooting wing Brody Ley back in the fold, each of whom averaged over 10 ppg as juniors, as well as a handful of other experienced players returning from last years rotation, Granville has the tools to heighten their offensive play and continue their defensive dominance against LCL competition and beyond. The Aces also return senior Dominic Varrasso from the starting five, a quick combo guard who will be looked to for a greater offensive role as well. 

“Our goal this year is to win the league for the fifth straight year, but also to bring home a district title,” Varrasso said. “We had a shot at it last year, and to win it for the first time since 1985 would be awesome for our senior class.”

The three big losses for the Aces are graduating seniors Ben Blanchard and Cameron Crouch, as well as senior Brody Bitters who may be out for the season with a significant knee injury. The three provided a majority of Granville’s inside presence a year ago and will leave an experience void in the paint for the Aces. However, Stone thinks that a slight uptick in the Aces’ pace of play will help them make up for a possible lack of size. 

“Coach Teeters is really letting us run the floor more and is giving us a little more freedom when it comes to pushing the ball down the court,” Stone said. “I really think our speed and athleticism can help with the size that we lost.”

Coach Teeters will also attempt to remedy the lack of post experience by plugging in sturdy 6-4 junior Will Skerbetz, who was the Aces first big off the bench as a sophomore, into the five spot and giving him big minutes. Rounding out the starting five will likely be junior wing-guard Jaden Rudder, a well-built slasher who will also take on a bigger role offensively, meaning that Granville will mostly rely on playing four pure perimeter players at any given time. 

The rest of the rotation will be a group of young, inexperienced players, namely sophomore wing Carsyn Crouch who looks to be as talented than his recently graduated brother Cameron and will play a big role off the bench for this Aces team. Junior Matt Stachler and seniors Casey Boch and Tyler Johnston are bigs who could see time off the bench. Junior guards Noah Cottrell, Caden Smith, Hayden Welles and Tyler Niedermeyer could find their way on the court as well. With much of their rotation returning from a phenomenal 2018-19 season, Granville hopes to extend their league title streak to five seasons and make a run at their first district title in over 30 years. 

The boys play their first game next Friday at 2:00 PM at Quicken Loans Arena against East Knox. Their first home game is December 10th against Bishop Hartley at 7:30 PM. 

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

YOUNG YET EXPERIENCED LADY ACES WORKING TO TAKE NEXT STEP

The Granville girls team returns four starters from their 2019 Licking County League Buckeye champion and district-finalist team. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Hilaman)

BY ANDY HOBEN (’20)

2018-19 Results: 20-5 overall record (11-2 in league), Licking County League champions, DII district finalists. 

The Lady Aces had their best season overall in over a decade in 2018-19, winning 20 games and appearing in the district championship game for the first time since 2003, where they narrowly lost to Eastmoor 48-40. However, with four young starters from last year’s team returning and Eastmoor being moved up into Division I, Granville has a great path back to the district final and will attempt to win their first since before many of the players on the roster were born. 

The Aces were led in large part by a group of underclassman a year ago, including Cate Schieber, who averaged 14.1 points per game as a freshman and garnered second team all-district and honorable mention all-Ohio honors. Schieber is optimistic about the teams’ chances of making it back to a district final for the second consecutive year. 

“It’s hard to tell exactly where we are at so early in the season, but we have a lot of challenging games in our regular season schedule that will help us prepare for the tournament,” Schieber said. “We will have to keep the intensity up in games from start to finish and focus on doing all of the little things so we can make it back to where we want to be.”

Despite losing seniors Chloe Mulford, the Aces only true post presence last year, and forward Paris Arthur to graduation, they are returning nearly all of their scoring in Schieber and three-year starters Ella Rogers and Lanie Hilaman. Both juniors have played an integral role in the Aces’ success and have also received all-league and all-district honors throughout their career, and will step up as the on-court leaders for the team as upperclassman. Rogers believes that it is the job of her and her fellow experienced players to set the tone for the team. 

“This season I will try to lead by example, because are still a young team and underclassmen will look to us upperclassmen if we are doing the right things,” Rogers said. “I need to constantly be setting a standard that I hope the young players will catch onto.”

The growth of last years underclassmen, as well as an infusion of new talent from the middle school ranks and from transfer, should help make up for the lack of height in the paint. Freshmen Ella Hoover and Ava Gossman are two players who come into the season already as some of the tallest players on the roster, and senior transfer Avery Adkins from Granville Christian will also be used at the forward spot. Though still young in the Granville system, Schieber thinks that the fresh faces in the post will be huge to the teams success in 2019-20.

“Losing Chloe will definitely impact us, but the two freshmen posts (Hoover and Gossman) and Avery will help us a lot,” Schieber said. “All three are versatile players who will contribute this year, and the rest of us will focus on rebounding and using our athleticism.”

Sophomore guard Kylee Lescas battled a bout of mononucleosis during her freshman season but was able to work her way into the starting lineup midway through the year and should see an increased offensive role in 2019-20. Senior Abby Mortellaro, a sharpshooting guard who was a big part of the rotation during her sophomore and junior seasons, tore her ACL during soccer season and will be out indefinitely. Her twin sister, Sarah, spent last basketball season coming off of her own ACL injury but could step in and fill her sister’s role in the rotation at guard. Senior guard Molly Wilson also saw time as a junior and will be a part of the rotation as well, and freshman guard Ella Schneider is another player who could carve out a role off the bench. 

With the depth and experience that the Aces bring back for 2019-20, the sky’s the limit both within the Licking County League and at the district level. Rogers believes that the path to reaching their goals is clear. 

“The key to success will come from the leaders on the team doing their jobs and simply trusting each other to get the job done,” Rogers said. 

“We will have each others backs, so we can have a chance of coming out of every game with a win.”

The girls played their first game last Saturday at home, beating Columbus South by a score of 81-27. They will play Bishop Hartley at home tomorrow, Tuesday November 26th, at 7:00 PM.