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Published: 2/14/2006

Toledo Christian has talent and teamwork

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
From left, Jacob Weemes (13.1 points per game), Blake Powell (10.3), Kyle Bensch (13.3) and Tyler Boris (10.1) all contribute to Toledo Christian's success. From left, Jacob Weemes (13.1 points per game), Blake Powell (10.3), Kyle Bensch (13.3) and Tyler Boris (10.1) all contribute to Toledo Christian's success.
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It seems comical now, but before the season began there were some questions about how the boys basketball team at Toledo Christian would come together.

"That was probably our biggest problem coming into the season - we had too many stars," senior guard Ryan Mathewson said. "We were a little bit worried about putting it together as a team. We've done a great job of that, with different high scorers every game."

The Eagles have used a balanced offense, with four players averaging in double figures, and terrific depth to fashion a 14-3 overall record. What's more, Toledo Christian's 10-0 mark in Toledo Area Athletic Conference play already has clinched the school at least a share of its first league title since 1992.

"I've been really proud of guys being willing to take second seat to the team," coach Dave McWhinnie said. "We've got four guys averaging in double figures, and I really believe that any of those guys, on a previous team at Toledo Christian, could have averaged 20 points or more a game.

"It's neat to see them give up their own glory for the good of the team."

The Eagles lost their opener at Holgate but quickly overcame early questions - as well as a spate of injuries - to build a successful season.

"I think we've really jelled, especially with several players getting healthy," McWhinnie said. "Ryan Mathewson missed all of preseason, while Jacob Weemes missed almost the whole preseason and wasn't really healthy until three or four weeks into the season. And both Nate Ensey and Wes Michael were hurt early in the season, and Michael has been playing outstanding off the bench lately.

"We're playing a different level now than we were early in the season, there's no doubt about that."

Senior Kyle Bensch leads the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game, with Weemes close behind at 13.1. Junior guards Blake Powell (10.3) and Tyler Boris (10.1) make TC the only TAAC team with four double-digit scorers.

"This group is as talented a group as I've had at Toledo Christian, and maybe the most talented ever," McWhinnie said. "But what's neat about them is that they're also incredibly determined. They're determined to hit their goals, and they just refuse to give in.

"When the games get tight, they step up. When they lose, they're not happy and they beg me to work them harder or give them early practice."

The Eagles' balance makes it tough on opposing defenses. TC has had six players lead the squad in scoring at least once, and no one has topped the team in points more than seven times.

"I think every guy understood that it's not going to be their night every night," Mathewson said. "Somebody else has the potential to take that over in every game. It's the extra pass that each of these guys makes."

With so many options, McWhinnie said Mathewson, the team's point guard, is as important to the team's success as anyone else.

"[Mathewson] is as good a leader as I've seen at the high school level," McWhinnie said. "He's just a special kid. He's that calming influence from a guy who knows how to run a team from the point guard position."

The Eagles need just three more wins to better last year's victory total, which would mark the fifth straight season the program has turned that trick.

"We've jelled very nicely," Bensch said. "We've played together for so long, and we played 50 games together over the summer. We always know what the other guy is going to do - what his weaknesses and strengths are - and we just go with it."

That method also puts Toledo Christian in a position to win its fourth straight sectional crown and tie the school record 19 wins set in 1992 - McWhinnie's senior year.

"Our expectations have risen a little in each of the last five years, and by far this is the year with the highest expectations," McWhinnie said. "We thought that, if things really came together, we could win the TAAC. We still have some high goals for the tournament, so there's still a lot to accomplish."

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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