A key to a team’s progress is how it shows resolve and fights despite the circumstances.
After coming over to Green following a successful stint as Minford’s junior varsity basketball coach in 2014, Dirk Hollar is beginning to see the fruits of all of the labor that the Bobcats have put in over the past two-and-a-half years.
Yes, Green’s 2016-17 record of 6-16 doesn’t look tremendously impressive on paper.
However, that mark doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Bobcats won four consecutive contests — including a 51-49 Senior Night victory over Western and a Division IV Sectional Semifinal contest against Reedsville Eastern by a 59-50 tally — before falling to the No. 1 seed in the Athens II Bracket, Waterford, to close out the year.
And in 13 additional contests, Green was ahead of or trailing by just a single possession to its opponents entering the fourth and final quarter of play, a sign that indicates the strides that the Bobcats are making in game situations.
“We were in nearly every game this year,” Hollar said. “The biggest obstacle for us, as young as we were, was finishing games. However, at the end of the season, I think that the way that we finished the year shows how much our team grew from the beginning of the season to the end. For us to pull out four straight wins near the end of the year, especially the victory over Eastern Meigs, which was basically a road game for us, was very good.”
Throughout the season, Green was led by a pair of talented sophomores in Tanner Kimbler and Tayte Carver. The pair averaged 18 and 16 points per contest, respectively, to help head the improvement across all fronts.
Kimbler, a sharpshooting guard who is known around the SOC I for his ability to pull and hit shots from anywhere past halfcourt, put together a masterful 41-point display against East on Feb. 3, while Carver offers an athletic presence that compliments the former well.
“Tanner takes care of the ball and plays like he’s a senior,” Hollar said. “Plus, he shoots the lights out of the ball. There’s games where he’d pass halfcourt and pull. For most coaches, it’d be ‘No! What are you doing?’ However, Tanner has the green light to shoot the ball from anywhere because he’ll make it. It’s really amazing how he maintains his poise, doesn’t turn the ball over, and shoots so well for being just 5-8. Tayte is so athletic. He put on a show during some contests, and defensively, he knows his assignments, he knows how to defend, and he’s really quick. Tanner and Tayte are a great one-two punch.”
During the second half of the year, Aaron Johnson also came up large for the Bobcats in multiple affairs by using his 6-4 length to cause major issues for multiple opponents. Look no further than Green’s 51-49 win over the Indians on Feb. 17, where Johnson put together 11 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks in his final home bout with the Bobcats.
“Aaron really stepped his game up there toward the end of the year,” Hollar said. “He was phenomenal, especially against Western when he posted his triple-double. I don’t think that he wanted his season to end. Defensively, he was so helpful inside with his ability to block shots, and that really affected our opponents’ ability to score in the low post. As a leader, he did a great job of firing his teammates up and providing energy to our entire team.”
While Green does lose Johnson, along with the key presences of Alex Hughes and Justin Deerfield, off of this year’s roster, the return of Kimbler and Carver, as well as fellow underclassmen Caden Blizzard and Gage Sampson, has Hollar believing that a big jump in the SOC I standings are in the cards for the Bobcats next year.
“We’ll be a lot more athletic and have more hands that can score,” Hollar said. “Caden can score and Gage can score, so it’ll take a little bit of pressure off of Tanner and Tayte. I believe that Caden and Gage will step in nicely into our starting five. I don’t think we’ll miss a beat next year.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7