NEW BOSTON — Sitting inside a shelter-house in New Boston’s Millbrook Park, on a storm-surged Thursday evening, Anthony Maynard’s memoir of Glenwood Tiger boys basketball was as sharp as ever.
And speaking of memories, Maynard — a 1993 New Boston Glenwood graduate —can now look back on some previous Tigers teams a bit more fondly, and with a mind at ease.
That’s because Maynard, and on behalf of those Tigers players over a six-decade span that never reached the coveted state tournament between 1960 and this past March, has personal “closure” — as the 2020-21 Tigers advanced to the Division IV Final Four, and put to rest perhaps some lingering bitterness for those clubs which came up just short of such lofty status.
“Most of the old Tigers will tell you that it helped us and gave us closure. Whether you played on the 1985 team or were part of the 1993 team that played in the sectional championship and was up seven points with three minutes to go and didn’t score again, or any other Tigers teams from the 1960 team on,” Maynard said, in a full-scale reflection interview. “(1960 New Boston graduate) Steve Jenkins was my old Health and Physical Education teacher. He told us about what they experienced. As a player going to Glenwood High School, we wanted to be the next 1960 team. But we didn’t get to do it, because it wasn’t meant to be. This team this year, it had all the makings and everything was there.”
Maynard played at New Boston in the early 1990s, and was a senior on the 1992-93 Tigers which swept Southern Ohio Conference Division I rival Green in the regular season —only to fall short against the Bobcats for the sectional championship, and to fall short of a school record fourth consecutive sectional title.
The 1984-85 Tigers won the sectional but lost in the district championship game, and three straight Tigers teams —the 1989-90, 1990-91 and 1991-92 groups — captured sectional crowns but lost in the district semifinals.
Even the highly-touted Tigers from 2017 thru 2020, including the 2019 squad which was the regional runner-up, didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of the state tournament.
That was until this past March, when New Boston — playing outside the friendly confines of the new Tigers’ den known as Homer Pellegrinon Gymnasium — ratcheted up its defense, and defeated Valley (71-51) for the district championship followed by back-to-back regional tournament triumphs (50-48 over Grandview Heights in semifinal and 44-39 over Hiland in final).
In addition, in that regional championship win which avenged a 40-point (72-32) Elite Eight loss against Hiland just two years earlier, Kyle Sexton —the two-time Southeast District Division IV Player of the Year and 2021 Ohio Division IV Player of the Year — became New Boston’s all-time leading scorer by a single point.
Sexton, who scored 1,721 points for his decorated Tiger career, ended that night with 1,707 —a mere one marker ahead of Todd Loper, the star of two sectional title teams in 1990 and 1991.
In more ways than one — as Maynard recalled — it was emotional for Tigers past, present and future.
However, more than anything, he said it was “okay”.
“On that night, it seemed like everything came full circle. There were guys from those 1990s teams that night in the stands. Some of us, we talked afterwards and hugged each other, we all had tears in our eyes, and I told them this was for them. I can finally say with that win, I’m at peace. Those 1990s teams, it didn’t matter if you were a player or a manager or a coach. You were part of that and this community, and you’re lying if you say it doesn’t hurt when you see other teams cut down nets,” said Maynard. “When we won, all the emotion that came over me was like ‘I’m happy now’. As I sit here and talk to you, I still smile about it.”
Starting with the 1984-85 Tiger team, which was coached by Steve Jenkins who was a member of the famed 1960 squad, the Tigers entered the postseason with a sub.-500 regular-season mark —but prevailed 50-44 over Piketon and defeated Trimble in the district semifinal for the program’s first district tournament win in that full quarter-century.
“Going into that tournament, they (1985 team) were under .500, but then as they say they caught lightning in a bottle,” said Maynard. “People still talk about that 1985 team. They definitely did in 1990”.
The 1980s quickly became the early 1990s, and the Loper-led Tigers were part of three straight sectional championships, which also included Maynard’s junior season of 1991-92.
Besides at the time Loper leaving the program as the all-time leading scorer, he also did so in assists with 640.
Playing against a stacked SOC I at that time — which also included good programs such as Eastern, Clay, Green, East and even South Webster before its move to the SOC II —Loper landed the SOC I Player of the Year as a senior, and amassed third-team all-Ohio accolades.
But those Tigers, under coach Mark Spears, unfortunately never got beyond the district semifinal —including the 1992 SOC I championship team in which Trimble topped at the Ohio University Convocation Center on a last-second half-court heave.
Maynard said the 1991 Tigers “were good enough to go to (Ohio State University’s) St. John Arena (then host to the state tournament)”, and that the following season’s squad “should have” been playing for the district championship.
“I remember after that game how we sat there and you could just see sadness from all the players on the floor. We just fell to the floor,” he said. “That should have been us moving on to the district final.”
But it wasn’t, and graduation gutted —or so it seemed —the Tigers prior to Maynard’s senior season, his only campaign as a full-time varsity player.
Those Tigers went 12-10 and in third-place in the SOC I behind East and Clay, and in the sectional tournament tangled with Ironton St. Joseph and Green — which they had swept both clubs in the regular season.
In fact, it was the first time since the 1985 season that the Tigers had swept Green.
Although New Boston bounced St. Joseph, the Bobcats tamed them in their third meeting —thus denying them their school record and goal of a fourth consecutive sectional championship.
For Maynard, even almost 30 years after his final game, losing that seven-point fourth-quarter cushion still serves as a bitter pill.
“It was over. We were the fourth New Boston team in a row playing for a sectional championship, but that loss left a bad taste in our mouths to this very day,” he said. “When you talk to the guys from that team, we’re like ‘Man, if we just had one more moment to get that one (sectional championship).”
The next sectional crown came in 2000, but by and large, New Boston boys basketball wasn’t what it was until fellow Tiger alumnus Adam Cox contacted Maynard —and took over the head coaching duties four years ago.
“We had the teams that could do it, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I believe in higher powers, but maybe it was supposed to be 20-some years later, Coach (Adam) Cox was to come back, take the teams over, and do what we have done with them,” he said.
And, what the Tigers have done in the last four years….speaks for themselves.
In Cox’s first two years, New Boston won sectional championships —and in 2019 captured its first district championship since that magical 1960 season, advancing to the regional title tilt before falling to state powerhouse Hiland.
For the Tigers, it was another new frontier for sure.
“It seemed like the pattern was coming back. Two years in we’ve been back, we got over the hump of beating Trimble and winning the district final. Then in the regional semis, we beat Berne Union,” said Maynard. “Now we’re in new territory and doing something that the 1960 team had done. We asked ourselves what were we going to do next?”
Finally, this past season — and although the Tigers’ tournament travels didn’t take them through the Convocation Center for four games thanks to the coronavirus threat, it did take them back to the desired state tournament.
Not to mention, a second straight outright and undefeated SOC I title —and that school record of four straight sectional crowns.
The sixthsome seeing by far the most playing time included the five starters — Sexton, Tanner Voiers, De’Von Jones, Chase Clark and Grady Jackson —and sixth man Brady Voiers.
Sexton, Jones, Clark and Tanner Voiers all graduated — with Sexton (Ohio Valley University) and Voiers (Kentucky Christian University) committed to playing college basketball.
“There was more in these kids that we had this year. Some of these teams we’ve coached the last four years, those kids had the exact same hunger. But we just never got over that hump,” said Maynard.
Until this past March.
That’s when New Boston brought basically its entire village to Southeastern High School’s Larry Jordan Gymnasium — as Maynard called it a community that “exhaled” once the final buzzer sounded for the regional title bout.
And that, of course, can be fondly looked back upon.
“That’s how our community felt that night when we won the regional championship. The tears of joy from old Tigers and new Tigers and even the memories of the Tigers who have passed on, that (regional championship) was in my opinion for them. These kids deserved every bit of it, but when you put a closure on this for all of us, most of us old Tigers will tell you it’s okay now,” he said. “We were in the Final Four. And nobody can ever take that away.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved