Is the Convo becoming a second home for the South Webster Jeeps’ boys basketball program?
The obvious answer to that question would be, ‘Where have you been for the last 15 seasons?’
In an astonishing figure, South Webster has arguably called the Convo home more than any other team in Scioto County over the previously mentioned timespan — because in the last 15 seasons, South Webster — beside a couple of clear rebuilding years in 2008 and 2009, then again in 2015 and 2016 — has appeared at the Convo in 11 of the previous 15. In six of those years (2004 to 2007, 2011, and 2013), the Jeeps have represented Scioto County at the regional stage, with the four consecutive trips to regional competition from ‘04 to ‘07 — including an OHSAA Division IV State Championship Game appearance in 2004 and the title-winning club that came along two years later in 2006 — being the gold standard for what has become the norm in South Webster.
As an assistant under current Bloom-Vernon Superintendent Marc Kreischer on those four consecutive trips to regional competition, Brenton Cole knows exactly what it takes to not only get to the regional state, but succeed at it, because he’s lived it.
And make no mistake about it — he believes that this year’s South Webster club has the ingredients to get to where the six previously mentioned regional units have been, even with the No. 1 seed in Coal Grove looming on Saturday at 12 p.m. inside the Jeeps’ second home.
“Coal Grove is a strong and physical team,” Cole said. “They have done a majority of their scoring in the second half/fourth quarter. However, over the past two games, we have managed to hold two really good teams to 15 total points in the fourth. It should be really interesting to see how it all plays out.”
As mentioned, the defensive play in the second half of contests has been arguably the most critical component to South Webster’s success so far this postseason.
With the Jeeps having lost 1,000-point-plus scorer Shane Zimmerman, along with fellow three-sport athletes Alek Blevins and Matthew Shonkwiler from the year before, plus a late coaching change that put Cole in the driver’s seat in mid-October, most people would’ve been thrilled for South Webster to simply make it to the Convo, especially after a regular season where sickness, along with injuries — including one to Shiloah Blevins in late January against Jackson that sidelined the standout junior for over two weeks — took hold.
But with everyone back together and freed from the sickness and injury that took hold of the unit during the second half of its 7-15 regular season campaign, South Webster simply treated the postseason as if it were a new calendar year — and it’s paid off in a major way.
After obtaining a monster 25-point effort from Blevins in South Webster’s 51-27 victory over Federal Hocking in a Division IV Sectional Semifinal, defense has taken the forefront ever since. Down 40-28 after three quarters of play against Racine Southern, the Jeeps held the Tornadoes without a field goal over the final eight minutes, and an alley-oop that was punched in by Blevins ultimately led to threes from Braden Bockway, Andrew Smith, and finally, the game-winning three-pointer off of a pass from Blevins to Devyn Coriell with less than four seconds left in the game.
Then, after coming back to Home Sweet Home — the place where Basketball :30 is alive and well — the Jeeps rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit and a six-point fourth-quarter margin en route to outscoring New Boston by a 25-8 count over the last 11 minutes of the second half en route to the win behind Blevins’ 17 points, a huge effort from Jacob Ruth — who scored 12 points — and two big-time mid-range jumpshots from Bockway that gave South Webster the lead for good.
“Our guys really have stepped up the last two games on the defensive end,” Cole said. “I have told them that is where our games have been won and lost. We have really picked a good time to get rolling.”
Still, Coal Grove is no slouch — as their 18-5 record would suggest. The play of guys like Aaron Music and Sam Angelo, who average 11.5 and 11 points per game, respectively, along with Cory Borders and Jeb Jones, have been huge as the quartet are all versatile players who can score inside or outside. Music’s slashing ability, Angelo’s athleticism, Jones’ blue-collar work inside, and Borders’ three-point marksmanship make the Hornets a well-balanced unit in all areas, while Jordan Case, Alijah Roman, Nate Harmon, and Jaylen McKenzie provide quite a bit of depth off of the bench.
That balance, Cole says, only makes the importance of performing on the defensive end more paramount.
“We have to have a great defensive effort from everyone on the floor,” Cole said. “We have to match their intensity and physicality and not turn the ball over.”
However, with Blevins, a guy who, at 22 points and 14 rebounds per contest, will never allow South Webster to exit a contest quietly, the Jeeps have something quite special. Add in Ruth, Bockway, Coriell, Smith, Sam Holstein, Levi Murphy, Tanner Voiers, Jacob Witter, and Josiah Edwards and one sees a nice blend of gritty guards, long-range bombers, and forwards with length that can protect the rim and the glass in addition to Blevins’ all-around talents.
“The boys know what I am asking of them on the defensive end, and it takes all of them working together in order to accomplish our goals,” Cole said. “Coal Grove is a solid, all-around team, so we will need a full game from everyone. Shiloah has been huge for us, and he is a special player, but we also have guys who can step up who they need to or when their number is called upon.”
So while many folks may believe that South Webster is still a year away from truly putting together a regional run, Cole isn’t buying that talk — because as he knows from his days as an alum and as a coach under Kreischer — the moment that is here and now can’t be rushed 365 days ahead.
“We are in a position to do something special this year, right now,” Cole said. “We are not satisfied with just being in the game; we are here to compete for a victory. You never know how things are going to turn out in years to come. We have to concentrate on Coal Grove and the task at hand.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT