Over the course of the past 20 years, the South Webster Jeeps’ boys basketball program has been no stranger to postseason success.
And in each of those runs, South Webster has used gritty play on the defensive end of the floor to set the tone against the opponents that it has faced over the years. Just ask Brenton Cole.
“The guys knew going into it that our defense was going to have to be there,” Cole said. “I told them, ‘Our defense has to be there going forward into the tournament. We need people, when they’re leaving, going, ‘Wow, coach, your guys really stepped up and played well on the defensive end.’ I know from being on tournament runs that defense gets you where you want to go.”
Cole, who was an assistant under current South Webster superintendent Marc Kreischer when the pair got the ball rolling with a Division IV Final Four appearance in 2004 and a Division IV State Championship in 2006, obtained his first postseason victory as the Jeeps’ head man as a dominant 25-point outing from Shiloah Blevins, strong balance behind the 6-5 standout, and excellent team defense allowed South Webster to take a 51-27 victory over the Federal Hocking Lancers’ boys basketball program on Wednesday evening at Meigs High School in Meigs.
For Cole, having everybody back from a intense flu bug that seemingly had the vast majority of the 5,364 residents living in the townships that make up the high school, Bloom and Vernon, feeling sour, was great in and of inside. The play was just an added bonus.
“I believe we actually got to have one practice with everybody there,” Cole said, chuckling. “I had all hands on deck. We had the full roster available tonight, as well. The gym (at Meigs) was blazing hot, so the guys did wear down fairly quick, but I had three or four guys that we could sub in, which was great.”
While the flu and injury bugs proved to affect South Webster for much of the last three weeks of the season, the Jeeps showed little effects of those issues on Wednesday as South Webster used his energetic defense to stymie Federal Hocking and its offensive attack.
Overall, the scrappiness and quickness of Samuel Holstein, Jacob Ruth, and Andrew Smith, along with the length that Blevins provides with his 6-5 frame, allowed the Jeeps to take quick control as the quartet limited Federal Hocking and its leading scorer, Nathaniel Massie, to just 6.75 points per quarter — with the first-year head man remarking that his guys took his aforementioned pregame speech “to heart.”
“We preached to the guys to get out on their shooters,” Cole said. “(Federal Hocking) had two or three guys that were really good shooters, and one of their best players is a freshman (Nathaniel Massie). We knew that he had been scoring quite a few points for them. We made sure that we got a hand up and got out on him. Our guards really played good defense tonight, and we had Shiloah guarding him at times, also. He was able to pick him up out on the perimeter and use his length to really take away the open looks that he was used to getting.”
Blevins, however, wasn’t just satisfied with his work on the defensive end. In his third contest back from a severely sprained ankle suffered on Jan. 23 against Jackson — and his first contest receiving the minutes that he had been playing prior to the injury — Blevins went off yet again as the junior connected on nine two-point field goal attempts and notched a proficient 7-of-9 mark from the free throw line en route to 25 points.
“I had a person ask me, ‘Has he been getting full games (since he returned from the ankle injury)?’” Cole said. “I said, ‘I started him out slow. I gave him eight to 10 minutes (against Portsmouth) and 20 to 22 minutes (against Minford). This is his first full-go game.’ He said, ‘Did this performance surprise you?’ I said, ‘Definitely.’ He’s definitely where he needs to be and hasn’t — even after sitting out three weeks — missed a beat.”
Behind Blevins, the Jeeps obtained excellent balance across the board as Bockway’s six points, along with four points each from Holstein, Ruth, and emerging freshman talent Tanner Voiers, were also critical during the affair. Bockway, along with Blevins and Jacob Witter, added a solid rebounding presence into the mix.
“It was leveled out because we got what we needed from everyone tonight, which was great,” Cole said. “Getting to have everybody back at tournament time, hopefully, will allow us to keep this thing rolling.”
With the victory, South Webster will move on to the Division IV Sectional Finals, where the Jeeps will face Racine Southern in a bout that will also be held in Meigs.
“We’re looking forward to playing (Racine Southern),” Cole said. “They’re a great team and a No. 2 seed for a reason. We’ll go into this one knowing the same things — that we’ll have to play committed basketball on both ends of the floor in order to take away some of the things that they like to do.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT