Paint it all Green


FRANKLIN FURNACE — In J.D. King’s first season as Green boys basketball head coach, it’s been a turnaround of epic proportions.

You can pick and choose just about anything and everything about these much better Bobcats —but by far, Green’s defense definitely did its job en route to capturing an outright Southern Ohio Conference Division I championship.

On Friday night, and with already a share of the coveted SOC I crown in hand, Green saved its best SOC defensive performance for last —simply stymieing the visiting New Boston Tigers to a season-low league allowed.

The Bobcats broke free from an 8-6 first-stop slim lead, erupting for a 22-8 output on the Tigers in the second stanza —and simply running away from New Boston by a pair of ultimately 30-point cushions, as “S-O-C” chants finally broke out in the final two immaterial minutes.

A dozen years of waiting are officially over in Franklin Furnace, and the Green Bobcats —capped off by a convincing 64-34 victory over New Boston —are outright SOC I title-winners.

It was also the final regular-season contest to be played in the longstanding Green High School gymnasium, as the Bobcats — with a brand-spanking new school being built right next door —move into those new digs beginning in the next academic year.

But on Friday night, for the here and now, the Bobcats put on a show in front of a full house —doubling up the Tigers 56-28 over the final three cantos, and caging the Tigers to single-digit scoring in three of the four periods.

With the victory, Green —after a 10-day layoff in fact from its last contest and which was its only league loss against division runner-up Notre Dame (40-36 on Jan. 31) —ended its regular season at 13-1 in the SOC, part of 17-5.

As for that last league title for the Bobcats you ask?

It was in the 2010-11 season.

“I’m not sure this has fully sunk in yet. My heart is full of gratitude,” said King. “Just super proud of our guys, grateful for our fans and the support we’ve had from our administration.”

For the past two years, Green —spearheaded by six-foot and four-inch senior scoring machine Levi Sampson —scored at will in a lot of games, but guarding opponents was often times sure suspect.

Not this season for the majority of matchups, as King commented about the change in approach —and attitude — toward defending.

“We try to emphasize that defense travels,” said the coach. “We play in some tough venues, and you have to play good defense to survive those atmospheres and those environments. We knew we would have a chance this year (to win the SOC I) if we played defense. We always emphasize the defensive end, and we knew if we could get good stops, those would lead to fast breaks. Guard hard, and they’ll give us chances to push and run off some of their quick shots.”

New Boston did lead 2-0, and there were three first-quarter ties at 2-2, 4-4 and finally 6-6.

Green gained the lead for good with two minutes and five seconds remaining in the rockfight first frame, and after New Boston bucketed four points to get within 11-10 with six-and-a-half first-half minutes left, it was all Bobcats all the time after that.

The Bobcats began the quarter with a Gabe McBee made three-pointer from the corner, then ran roughshod on the Tigers for the final 5:53 of the half —blitzkrieging them 19-4.

Over the final five-and-a-half first-half minutes, the only Tiger tally was a Dalton Jackson driving bucket to make it 20-14.

From there, it was 10 more unanswered for the Bobcats, as Abe McBee —Gabe’s younger brother —scored 11 of his 16 points in the second, including an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 19-12.

That basket really got Green going —and never looking back.

The Bobcat senior foursome was relentless over the final three quarters — whether it was defending, scoring, rebounding, or even adding extra energy and uplifting moments.

Sampson split a pair of first-quarter free throws, then poured in 27 points over the final three frames —towards a game-high 28-point night on Senior Night no less.

He finished with seven total field goals, including a winged-three from over 25-feet for a 48-27 advantage with 40 seconds left in the third.

He meshed 13-of-17 free throws, part of 16-of-25 for the game — as the Bobcats consistently attacked the rim.

Sampson, a two-time Division IV all-Ohioan including as a second-team all-stater last year, concluded his regular-season senior season averaging 23 points per game — and 11-and-a-half rebounds per bout.

Gabe McBee bagged 10 points including a split of fourth-quarter free throws, and fellow senior Levi Waddell went back-to-back with a pair of long-range three-pointers for leads of 33-14 and 36-16.

A fourth senior — Levi Blevins — for the game’s first basket, and freshman Jon Knapp late in the third, also accounted for Bobcat field goals.

Sampson, McBee, Blevins and Waddell do make up half of the Bobcat varsity regular roster.

King said these seniors wanted to “build a culture if we are going to compete”.

He continued by saying Sampson, simply put, was not a one-man Bobcat show.

“Really their first goal was we’re going to play hard and play together. I thought the talent was here to win the league this year, but our first goal was just to establish an expectation of playing hard.” he said. “We knew that if we did that we would have a good chance. It’s fun when you find someone as good as Levi Sampson. It’s also fun when everybody thrives to have a role. We’ve got a good bunch of guys that have bought into that for our team.”

In fact, Green has indeed overcome its adverse moments throughout this turnaround —and triumphant —season.

“You don’t get through a season without facing some adversity, or needing some lucky breaks. It’s a grind, and that’s something that we constantly emphasize. We’re going to be tested,” said King. “I am super proud of our guys. For all but one time in the league, we found a way to overcome it and win.”

Mark Rivers scored 10 points on five field goals to pace the Tigers, which fell to 9-12 and 6-7 in the SOC I.

New Boston wraps up its regular season on Thursday night —in a makeup matchup against Ironton St. Joseph.

Speaking of whom, St. Joseph or Clay could be the fifth-seeded Bobcats’ next opponent —in a Division IV sectional championship game on Friday, Feb. 24.

Those two play on Monday night (Feb. 20) in a sectional semifinal —with the winner playing the Bobcats in THE final home game in the Green High School gym.

Friday’s affair, officially, went down as the last regular-season home tilt.

For the Bobcats, by cutting down the nets to an SOC I title 12 years in the making, what a way to go out —completing a turnaround of epic proportions.

“We’ve grown a lot this year, and there’s a lot of touches to this night,” said King. “Senior Night, a lot of historical significance to this gym, just glad to be part of a storybook ending. Definitely celebrating this one.”

* * *

New Boston 6 8 15 5—34

Green 8 22 18 16—64

NEW BOSTON 34 (9-12, 6-7 SOC I)

Devin Allard 2 0-0 4, Devin Maynard 0 0-2 0, Myles Beasley 1 0-1 3, Colton Maynard 1 0-0 2, Josiah Bower 0 0-0 0, Luke Henson 1 1-4 3, Jake Cahill 2 0-4 4, Mark Rivers 5 0-1 10, Hunter Easter 0 0-0 0, Jayce Tabor 0 0-0 0, Dalton Jackson 4 0-2 8, Ector Brady 0 0-0 0, Levigh Cooper 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 16 1-14 34; Three-point field goals: 1 (Myles Beasley 1)

GREEN 64 (17-5, 13-1 SOC I)

Levi Blevins 1 0-0 2, Levi Sampson 7 13-17 28, Jon Knapp 1 0-0 2, Abe McBee 7 2-6 16, Levi Waddell 2 0-0 6, Gabe McBee 4 1-2 10; TOTALS 22 16-25 64; Three-point field goals: 4 (Levi Waddell 2, Levi Sampson and Gabe McBee 1 apiece)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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