The Toledo Christian boys basketball team knew a successful season was more than just a possibility.
But an undefeated season? And a ranking among the top small-school teams in the state?
We came into the season knowing if we kept playing hard and working hard, it was possible for us to be up there in the rankings, senior forward Jacob Weemes said. I guess you could say it was a goal because we knew the potential was there.
I believe it s a good philosophy that we re shooting for the top. If you shoot for something lower, you might only get so far. If you shoot for the top, you might get higher than what you think [you can].
Currently the Eagles are flying pretty high. They already have clinched a share of the Toledo Area Athletic Conference title with a 10-0 mark and can claim the title outright with a win tomorrow at Northwood.
It would be the second straight title for the Eagles, who were 12-0 in the TAAC last year.
Toledo Christian is 16-0 this season, which has vaulted it to a No. 3 state ranking in Division IV.
TC caught voters attention early in the season by beating Holgate, a D-IV regional semifinalist last season, then Evergreen and Cardinal Stritch, two teams which have combined to go 23-10.
We thought we would do pretty well, but those first three games were one of the toughest parts of our schedule, senior guard Blake Powell said. Having Holgate in our first game was tough, especially when we didn t know what to expect for the season.
When we got through those three games, I thought, This could be something really special this year.
And it has been special for the Eagles, who have won their first 16 games by an average of 25 points. Toledo Christian coach DaveMcWhinnie gives much of the credit to five seniors Tyler Boris, Ian O Neil, Powell, Jack Sims and Weemes who he said have provided excellent leadership.
Those kids are as competitive a group as I ve ever had, McWhinnie said. All five compete every day in practice, and all five encourage the sophomores and juniors to work hard.
McWhinnie said his starting lineup which includes Boris, Powell, Sims and Weemes along with sophomore Ethan Michael gives the Eagles different talents that blend well.
Weemes, who averages 9.8 points per game, combines athletic ability and work ethic. He also brings attitude, perhaps even a little bit of swagger, as does Boris, who combines that swagger with toughness.
Boris, a senior guard, averages 8.5 points.
[Boris] always believes he s going to win, McWhinnie said. He doesn t want to lose any games, even in practice. He doesn t want to lose any game he plays.
Powell, who averages 9.6 points, also is a steady defender and good student of the game.
He s seen situations so many times, many times he reads the play before it happens, McWhinnie said. We work on tendencies of other teams, and oftentimes he knows where they re going before they go there.
Sims, in his first season as a starter, is averaging 10.5 points from the point-guard position.
He s a tremendous leader, McWhinnie said of Sims. He s a steadying influence for our team. He controls the floor, and he s learned when to push and when to slow things down.
The other newcomer to the lineup is Michael, who leads the team in scoring (12.5 points) and rebounding (6.1).
Ethan has worked hard on his game since elementary school, McWhinnie said. He has developed faster than many people thought possible, but I m not surprised by the success he s having.
He has a lot of gifts, but he has tremendous heart, too.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Eagles program is the team s deep, talented pool of reserves. O Neil, Joe Claytor, Carson Oostra, Grant Sims and Kyle Whitlow have combined to give Toledo Christian 16.2 points per game off the bench.
Our bench is deeper than it s ever been, McWhinnie said. We ve had games where we ve had to play our eighth, ninth and 10th guys, and they ve done a great job for us.
I think that makes it tougher for teams to beat us. When our starters get into foul trouble, these guys step in and we don t miss a beat.
Having so many weapons allows Toledo Christian to give opposing teams nightmares.
We all have our off-games, Powell said. But when everybody can score, it doesn t matter if one guy is off. Someone else is going to pick up the slack.
As a result Toledo Christian is ranked among the state s best teams for the first time in school history.
We hear that we re state ranked, but we don t pay any attention to it, Weemes said. It s nice that we re ranked, but that s not going to help us win our next game. You have to go out and do it.
The state ranking has caused opponents to focus on Toledo Christian, but that only has sharpened the Eagles talons for a tournament run.
I read in the paper that we were ranked third, but I don t think our opponents look at that ranking and think we re automatically going to beat them, Powell said. The last few games have been close, and that helps us prepare for situations we re going to see in the future.
We still have to come to practice every day and get better every day.
The result has been more than a successful season: it has been an unbeaten season, and the potential remains for an unforgettable season.
[The state ranking] is something we re obviously excited about, but it s not something that makes or breaks our season, McWhinnie said. It s not one of our goals to be state-ranked. It s an off-shoot of what we re doing.
As we hit our goals, [rankings] may happen. But our goals are tournament goals, to win the TAAC and do well during the regular season. So far we re off to a good start.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.