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Published: Friday, 12/1/2006

NLL: Bobcats, Jackets at top of heap Northview has veterans back

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Blaise Markey, left, and Jordan Fortney, both seniors, return for Bowling Green. The Bobcats finished 17-7 last season. Blaise Markey, left, and Jordan Fortney, both seniors, return for Bowling Green. The Bobcats finished 17-7 last season.
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It's business as usual this season for the league's basketball titans Perrysburg and Bowling Green who are expected to battle for the title.

Perrysburg, winner of at least a share of four of the last five NLL championships, captured the title a year ago by posting a 14-0 league record. Bowling Green, which has claimed one league title during the last five seasons, finished behind Perrysburg last season with a 12-2 league mark.

BG, which returns six letter winners, including starters Jordan Fortney and Blaise Markey, are the favorites this time.

Fortney and Markey played key roles in the Bobcats' defeat of Perrysburg in a Division I district semifinal last season to avenge the two league defeats.

"I like my chances," BG coach Von Graffin said.

Yet, the Yellow Jackets are expected to have something to say about it.

Perrysburg has three letter winners back, including Andrew Wood and Glen Empie.

"We have some holes to fill," coach Dave Boyce said. "In Wood and Empie, we have a pretty good nucleus to build upon."

Graffin says another team will also be in the mix.

"I think Northview is the team to beat, and I think the league is as good as it's been in a while," Graffin said.

Northview coach Dennis Shoemaker returns a team loaded with experience and could be ready to make a move upward after a losing record last season.

Southview and Anthony Wayne have enough talent to make the race interesting. Experience could play a role in where the Cougars and Generals finish.

Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:

BOWLING GREEN

Coach: Von Graffin, fifth year

Last season: 17-7, 12-2 in NLL

Top players: Seniors Jordan Fortney, 6-5, G; Blaise Markey, 6-1, G. Juniors Matt Vannett, 6-3, F; Kevin Radabaugh, 6-2, G.

Outlook: Fortney (7.0 ppg, 6.0 apg) and Markey (10.9 ppg) make up one of the league's most stable starting backcourts. They should provide Bowling Green enough stability early on while lesser experienced front-court players such as Vannett and Radabaugh gain valuable experience as regulars early in the season.

Markey, who shot 41 percent from 3-point range as a junior, has the potential to raise his scoring average from a year ago when he was one of the league's top shooters from behind the arc.

PERRYSBURG

Coach: Dave Boyce, sixth year

Last season: 18-4, 14-0

Top players: Seniors Andrew Wood, 6-3, G; Glen Empie, 6-3, C. Juniors David Boyce, 6-0, G; Thomas Salmon, 6-0, G; Neal Linthicum, 5-10, G.

Outlook: The defending league champion remains a team to be reckoned with despite some significant losses from graduation.

Nonetheless, the Yellow Jackets have plenty of returnees from last season to make another serious run for the top spot in the league. Wood (16.2 ppg) returns as the Yellow Jackets' top scoring threat. His inside/outside versatility makes him arguably the top playmaker in the league. He shot 41 percent from 3-point range last season.

The Yellow Jackets coach will also look to his son, David, and Empie to contribute.

NORTHVIEW

Coach: Dennis Shoemaker, 13th year

Last season: 8-13, 6-8

Top players: Seniors Matt Wade, 6-2, F/C; Derek Andrzejczak, 6-5, F; Brian Koehl, 6-1, C; Chad Weaver, 5-10, G; Danny Jaques, 5-11, F. Junior Mike Schaffer, 6-0, F.

Outlook: The Wildcats are as experienced as they come in the NLL. Four starters are back and a total of seven players on the roster saw substantial playing time a year ago. Wade (12.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Andrzejczak (15.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg) head a Wildcats bunch looking to make a run at the league championship.

"We have a lot of experience," Shoemaker said. "We go eight deep, so I've got some bench.

"We'll compete. We have great team chemistry. It's a senior dominated group and we'll push the ball up the floor."

Koehl and Weaver, who were also starters last season, should figure heavily in Shoemaker's game plan to lean on the seniors for leadership.

SOUTHVIEW

Coach: Marc Jump, 14th year

Last season: 5-16, 3-11

Top players: Seniors Leo Dehabey, 6-4, F; Andrew Shilling, 6-2, F. Junior Josh Craig, 6-1, F. Sophomores Tim Hausfeld, 5-6, G; Shaun Joplin, 6-1, G; Devin Simon, 5-11, G.

Outlook: The Cougars, who lacked experience a year ago, could become one of the league's best stories by season's end. With six players coming back, including super sophomores Hausfeld (9.0 ppg) and Joplin (8 ppg), the Cougars are definitely a team to keep an eye on as the season unfolds.

"Right now our depth could be our strength," Jump said. "We have 11 players playing at the same level. This team has been very enthusiastic in our practices. They have high expectations to improve over a year ago."

Dehabey and Shilling, who averaged five points and five rebounds each a year ago, are expected to make their presence felt even more this season.

ANTHONY WAYNE

Coach: Scott Riley, fifth year

Last season: 10-12, 6-8

Top players: Seniors Andrew Riley, 6-0, G; Alex Keyer, 6-0, F; Colin Walton, 6-0, G; Todd Mikes, 6-0, G; Matt Ramlow, 6-8, F/C. Junior Kyle Jazwiecki, 6-7, F/C.

Outlook: The Generals are looking to show signs of improvement from last year when they finished with a disappointing under-.500 record a year ago.

Two returning starters and five total returning letter men make up the core of a team looking to end a middle-of-the-pack existence. Riley (10.7 ppg), Keyer (6.0 ppg) and Ramlow (5.0 ppg) return as AW's top scoring threats.

"Our goal is to win the league, we feel that we have the experience and size to make a run at it," Riley said.

Nevertheless, AW's depth must come through with consistent all-around play in order for the Generals to be seriously considered as contenders.

ROSSFORD

Coach: Brian Vorst, second year

Last season: 3-18, 0-14

Top players: Seniors Jimmy Bell, 5-9, G; Justin Wagner, 6-5, F/C; Kevin Duly, 6-1, F; Logan Nichols, 6-5, C. Junior Jordan Nichols, 6-3, F. Sophomore Tommy Kralovic, 5-10, G.

Outlook: The Bulldogs are optimistic about improving upon last year's record when they came up winless against NLL opponents.

Vorst has six letter winners back in uniform, including Kralovic, a sharpshooting perimeter threat who is the team's top returning scorer after averaging seven points as a freshman. Logan Nichols (6.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg) is also expected to make a difference this season.

"Our goal is steady improvement from all of the players, as well as the coaching staff," Vorst said. "I think we will be as good as our defense will allow us to be this season."

Jordan Nichols and Wagner are also expected to provide leadership early on.

SPRINGFIELD

Coach: Tim Reiser, 20th year

Last season: 14-6, 8-6 in NLL 11-10, 7-7

Top players: Seniors Josh Latimer, 5-8, G; Rick Isby, 6-1, F; Montral Hayes, 6-0, G. Juniors Jason Stender, 6-2, F; Austin Koback, 6-3, F; Ricardo Chea, 6-1, F.

Outlook: Gone are Brad Zarembski, a 6-6 post, and Fletcher Noble, a 5-9 playmaker. Both graduated in the spring after leading the Blue Devils to a winning record last season.

Reiser must find new leaders for this team for Springfield to have any chance at competing as well as it did a year ago. Latimer, Isby, and Hayes will be asked to lead while the Blue Devils work on an identity.

Koback, Chea, and Stender will be counted on to utilize their size in the frontcourt.

MAUMEE

Coach: Gary Raber, first year

Last season: 13-8, 8-6

Top players: Seniors Zach Matyi, 6-0, G. Juniors Coty DiSalle, 5-10, G; Tig Dybala, 6-1, G/F. Sophomore Ryan Williams, 6-4, C.

Outlook: The Panthers lost more than their key players from last season's team. Raber, a former Bowsher assistant coach, replaces longtime coach Jim Robinson, who resigned as the Panthers' coach during the summer.

"We're going to compete," Raber said. "Our goal is to try and go out and win the NLL championship. That should be everyone's goal in the league."

However, winning the league will require more than Raber's optimism in his first season in charge of the Panthers' program. Matyi represents their lone returner with ample varsity playing time. Dybala and Williams will be asked to step right in and make their presence felt.



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