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Published: Thursday, 3/4/2010

Sidelines: 20-0 Port Clinton has high hopes entering tourney

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

PORT CLINTON - The time is now.

With a sense of urgency, Port Clinton's boys basketball team recognizes it has one last chance to reach its potential and is making the most of it.

Last Saturday, the Redskins capped a 20-0 regular season in style with a convincing 62-37 road victory over Edison to become the first Sandusky Bay Conference team to finish 14-0 in conference play since Huron in 1998.

PC, under fifth-year coach Troy Diels, also is the first SBC team to post a 20-0 regular season since 1979-80, when coach Wally Amburn's Sandusky St. Mary team won the Class A state championship with a 28-0 mark.

Port Clinton's Ryan HIcks tries to block a shot by of Edison's Ryan Reber. Hicks, a 6-foot-6 senior,
averages 16.4 points and 10.3 rebounds and was named Sandusky Bay Conference's outstanding performer. Port Clinton's Ryan HIcks tries to block a shot by of Edison's Ryan Reber. Hicks, a 6-foot-6 senior, averages 16.4 points and 10.3 rebounds and was named Sandusky Bay Conference's outstanding performer.
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It is the first undefeated regular season for the Port Clinton boys since they began play in 1922-23. The best previous overall record was 20-3 in 1980-81 under coach Tom Bodager, who guided the Redskins to eight SBC titles between 1981 and 1996.

Leading this season's march has been an experienced starting five that includes seniors Ryan Hicks, Josh Francis, Allen Tigner and Cory Brown, and junior Derek Colston. All five are three-year letter winners, with Hicks in his fourth varsity season.

"We knew we had the talent to do this," Hicks said. "We did a lot of things over the summer to get better, and we have really good chemistry on the court."

What has been the key to Port Clinton's best season ever?


Josh Francis (35), a 6-foot-4 senior averages 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Redskins. Josh Francis (35), a 6-foot-4 senior averages 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Redskins.
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"I think it's the unselfishness that this group possesses," said Diels, who is 76-33 in five seasons. "No one really cares about who's scoring. It's more about getting the wins.

"This group has had to learn some hard lessons along the way, and had to mature a lot. They had a lot of expectations put upon them since they've come into high school, and the first couple years we didn't quite live up to those expectations. Through maturity and learning those lessons, we've been able to put together this kind of a season."

The Redskins were favored last year to win the SBC, but stumbled to 13-9 and a second-place 10-4 in the conference, one game behind Edison.

Thus, the urgency this season.

"I think we took our sophomore and junior years for granted and just thought we'd win games on our talent," Hicks said. "We didn't work as hard as we could've.

"This year, we're not taking anything for granted, especially after finishing second two years in a row when we thought we had the best team in the league. That gave us some extra motivation."

Being together didn't actually mean playing together the past two seasons, according to Francis.

"This year we're playing like a team," he said, "unlike the past few years when we were playing individually. We just have a feel for each other now, and we have more experience."

The first item on the to-do list for this year's team was to win the SBC for the first time since coach Gregg Hedden's teams took back-to-back conference titles in 2002 and 2003. The next item was nailing down the 20-0 regular season.

With those checked off, now comes Port Clinton's quest for another milestone - winning its first district championship.

That mission begins Saturday at Sandusky, when the Redskins, ranked fourth in Ohio, open Division II play with a sectional final against either Edison (12-8) or Sandusky Perkins (11-9).

"The chemistry is just unbelievable," Diels said of his team. "They have a knack for knowing where each other are on the floor, just because they've played together so much. They also have good chemistry off the floor. They spend a lot of time

together away from the gym, and that only helps you."

Port Clinton proved to a be a true balanced squad, statistically.

Hicks, a 6-foot-6 forward-center, tops the Redskins in scoring (16.4) and rebounding (10.3) averages, and was named the SBC outstanding performer.

Francis, a 6-4 forward is next in both categories at 16.3 and 8.3, respectively. Hicks is also the team's top free-throw shooter at 81 percent.

Tigner, a highly efficient 6-1 point guard, has contributed 9.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and a team-best 5.9 assists while producing a team-high 2.6 steals per game and only 2.4 turnovers a contest.

"The biggest key for us is that all five of us play really well together," Tigner said. "We know where everybody's at on the court, we know what everybody can do and we really trust each other."

The sharp-shooting Colston, a 6-2 wing, adds 9.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists while hitting 52 percent (31-of-60) of his 3-point attempts.

Brown, a 5-11 wing, who averages 8.9 points, adds another perimeter threat, having made a team-leading 46 3-pointers in 106 attempts (43 percent).

The Redskins' top three subs are juniors Robert Fravel, Josh Graves and Eric Reynolds.

Port Clinton has outscored its opposition by an average of 66.5 to 47.5 points per game.

"We've pretty much grown up and matured as a team," Brown said. "We realized that we really weren't that good as we thought we were. Before, we thought that we could just turn it on and off whenever. This year we realize, at least for us seniors, this is our last chance. Anything we did in the past didn't mean anything. We've got to do something now."

Port Clinton's closest calls were narrow road wins at Bellevue (60-58) and at Fostoria (42-40).

But it was come-from-behind wins in their first two games of the season - 70-60 over Tiffin Columbian and 57-52 at Clyde - that Diels feels set the tone.

"The first two games we were down double digits, and we had to fight back from those," Diels said. "Those were the toughest tests we had to overcome. Little did we know back then where we'd be right now. But, looking back, those were both good tests for us. Those wins gave us some confidence."

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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