Jeeps jam Green


South Webster junior Eli Roberts (1) goes up for a slam dunk as Owen Mault (4) looks on during the Jeeps’ non-league season-opening boys basketball game against Green on Tuesday night at the new Green High School gymnasium.

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

FRANKLIN FURNACE — On a rainy night of welcomes, or rather welcome backs, it was the best of worlds for South Webster’s Eli Roberts —and first-year SWHS head coach Norm Persin.

That’s because the 73-year-old and legendary Persin made his return to coaching boys basketball after a two-year hiatus, the six-foot and seven-inch junior standout Roberts returned to the Jeeps in top form, and the visiting Jeeps had their way with the young and new-look Green Bobcats on Tuesday night.

Highly-touted South Webster broke an 8-8 tie, scored 15 unanswered points over a span of five minutes and 27 seconds, held the Bobcats scoreless for 5:43, and went on to roll host Green 77-42 in the first boys game inside the new “Furnace” at Green High School.

The non-league contest marked the season opener for both clubs, but it was a two-fold triumphant return for both Persin and the Jeeps’ top returnee Roberts.

For Persin, probably coaching his final stint at any school, he recorded his 779th career coaching victory —in this his first game of his 45th season as a head coach.

South Webster first-year head coach Norm Persin (right) looks at assistant coach Ryan Fenton (left) during the Jeeps’ non-league season-opening boys basketball game against Green on Tuesday night at the new Green High School gymnasium.

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

Persin —following 44 seasons including two stints at Oak Hill with one apiece at Wilmington (three years), Chesapeake (21 years) and Valley (one year) —returned to the bench after taking two years off and citing health concerns.

Remembered most likely for the 2009 Division IV state championship at Oak Hill, Persin last coached during the 2020-21 season at Valley —and guiding the Indians to the Division IV district runner-up.

But, during his two seasons off the bench, he could be seen sitting in the corner of the SWHS gymnasium —sometimes in the company of Ohio State University legend Jerry Lucas.

He has watched Jeep games for the majority of the past two years, given his granddaughter Marley Kreischer is a Jeep cheerleader.

In years past, Persin — who over the years earned the nickname “Stormin’ Norman” — portrayed an often-times demonstrative and even fiery personality.

But on Tuesday night, he was much more calm —and even quiet —compared to what Southeastern Ohio basketball players, fans and even officials are accustomed to.

He has maintained that he will continue to coach — as long as his health allows him to do so.

He interviewed of course with The Portsmouth Daily Times following Tuesday night’s win.

“It was good. I’m enjoying it right now. It’s exhausting and it wears me out at this age, but I’m enjoying it,” said Persin.

Persin probably enjoyed watching his Jeeps’ defense spearheaded South Webster’s winning effort —as their full-court pressure blitzkrieged the Bobcats, both late in the first quarter and all throughout the decisive second.

South Webster doubled up Green 16-8 after one canto, then outscored the Bobcats 24-10 in the second period —en route to a 40-18 halftime advantage.

The Jeeps got a rebound putback basket by six-foot and three-inch senior Jack Timothy to make it a double-digit lead (18-8) 30 seconds into the second, and the Bobcats never got closer than a 21-10 deficit over the final 21 minutes and 37 seconds.

In fact, the second-half margin dipped below 20 points only once (43-25) —as the Jeeps finally reached the 30-point threshold at 68-38 with five minutes remaining.

A reverse layup by Owen Mault, in which he unfortunately injured himself by appearing to hit his head on the hardwood floor, gave the Jeeps their largest lead (72-38) with 3:35 to play.

The Bobcats had 13 turnovers, but the Jeeps shot a sizzling 57-percent from the field on 33-of-58 — including a red-hot on Green 66-percent (30-of-45) from inside the three-point arc.

Of those 33 field goals, half of them —or 17 with six players collecting at least two apiece —were assisted upon.

Persin said his South Webster charges played to their strengths against Green.

And, all of this was without senior Brock Campbell, whom Persin praised as the Jeeps’ best defensive player.

Campbell was out injured, but expects to return this coming week.

“I thought we got out in transition and did a good job of getting the ball up and down the floor and getting some layups,” said the coach. “Had a lot of people contribute. Kids are very disciplined in our offense, they don’t get out of control and they try don’t force things. That’s something I really enjoy about the way they play. Just gotta continue and keep it up.”

For the Bobcats, it was the first game of J.D. King’s second season as head coach —but his first without five key players from last season’s Southern Ohio Conference Division I and Division IV Southeast District championships squad.

The Bobcats went 20-6, but graduated six-foot and four-inch Levi Sampson —an 1,800-plus point scorer for his career, and the Southeast District Division IV Player of the Year.

Green graduated also Gabe McBee, Levi Blevins and Levi Waddell.

McBee’s brother, Abe McBee, was the Bobcats’ starting point guard — but he unfortunately injured his knee in the football preseason.

Abe McBee missed all of his senior football campaign, and is unlikely to return — if at all —before the start of the postseason tournament.

“South Webster is an experienced team. As a coach, you can create drills and do drills that help you improve in a lot of fundamental areas, but you can’t fabricate experience,” said King. “We got a lot of experience tonight. Hopefully, we’ll benefit from that and sometimes lessons just have to be learned the hard way. They took advantage of our mistakes and inexperience. I felt when we were able to get set up and guard them, especially early, I thought we were pretty solid. But you have to take care of the ball and you have to box them out because of their length. I have to take a look at the stats, but I am sure they hurt us in both of those areas tonight.”

For the Jeeps, nobody is longer than the 6-7 and wingspanned Roberts —already a two-time all-Southeast District Division IV performer.

Roberts was suspended at the very end of last regular season, and missed the Jeeps’ two tournament tilts —including the district semifinals loss against Notre Dame.

But Roberts returned with vigor and vengeance, pouring in a team-high 21 points on 10-of-21 shooting —and 2-of-2 second-stanza free throws.

He had more than one dunk or high-percentage shot for field goals, and dropped in a three-pointer in the fourth quarter.

In fact, he made the first basket of the game only a minute and nine seconds in —then was immediately tagged with a technical foul.

Persin sat Roberts for almost eight minutes thereafter, but once he returned, Roberts got rolling against the undersized Bobcats.

“Eli was Eli,” said Persin, simply put.

Tyler Sommer scored 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and Mault and Timothy tallied 13 points apiece —with Mault making a third-quarter three.

South Webster senior Jack Timothy (1) goes up for a basket over Green sophomore Jon Knapp (3) during Tuesday night’s non-league boys basketball game at the new Green High School gymnasium.

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

Timothy, a foreign exchange student from Scotland, secured six of the Jeeps’ 20 total rebounds.

The Bobcats were paced by sophomore Jon Knapp —who poured in a game-high 25 points on 11 total field goals, including three triples.

Knapp was Green’s solid sixth man as a freshman, but given Green’s new faces for varsity, he is clearly this year’s go-to guy.

Green’s Jon Knapp (3) goes up for a basket during the Bobcats’ season-opening boys basketball game against South Webster on Tuesday night in the new Green High School gym.

Ed Litteral | Daily Times

“Jon is our most experienced player coming back,” said King. “To even say that, for tonight, and you realize what kind of a task it was to face off opening the season with a team that returns four starters and you return your sixth man. Jon has a lot of ability, can do a lot of things and has good length himself, but I’d like for us to have more balance. I think we have some guys who can score a little bit, but their pressure sped us up and took us out of being patient.”

And, on paper, it appears the experienced Jeeps just may do that to several Southeastern Ohio teams —especially given both Persin and Roberts back in the fold.

“First game of the year, we’ll take it,” said Persin.

* * *

South Webster 16 24 19 18 —77

Green 8 10 14 10 —42


Eli Roberts 9 2-2 21, Christian White 0 0-0 0, Dylan Shupert 2 0-0 5, Owen Mault 5 2-4 13, Hunter Barnard 2 1-2 5, Caden Johnson 0 0-0 0, Jack Timothy 5 3-4 13, Tyler Sommer 8 0-0 16, Brycin McClintic 1 0-0 2, Beau Stephens 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 33 8-12 77; Three-point goals: 3 (Eli Roberts, Dylan Shupert and Owen Mault 1 apiece)

GREEN 42 (0-1)

Kamren Russell 1 1-2 3, Quincy Merrill 0 0-0 0, Jon Knapp 11 0-2 25, Brody Stapleton 1 0-0 3, Brett Chaney 0 0-0 0, Blake Smith 1 0-0 2, Nathaniel Brannigan 0 0-0 0, Landon Kimbler 0 0-0 0, Uriah Satterfield 1 0-0 2, Derek Salyers 0 0-0 0, Cole Maynard 1 0-0 2, Devlin Maynard 2 0-0 5; TOTALS 18 1-3 42; Three-point goals: 5 (Jon Knapp 3, Brody Stapleton and Devlin Maynard 1 apiece)

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

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