Allen Tigner is lifted by teammates after hitting the game-winning shot inPort Clinton's 51-50 victory over Zanesville in the Division II state semifinals.
It was a season for the unexpected in area boys basketball, highlighted by two teams who made their longest tournament runs in history.
Port Clinton (26-1) was a strong preseason bet to win the Sandusky Bay Conference, but fifth-year coach Troy Diels' senior-dominated Redskins exceeded most other projections by posting a No. 4 state ranking in Division II and the SBC's first perfect 20-0 regular season in 30 years. Port Clinton, led by All-Ohio first teamer Ryan Hicks, collected the school's first district title since 1943, won its first regional, and advanced to the D-II state final before falling to powerhouse Dayton Dunbar.
Ottawa Hills (24-2) was not even picked to win the Toledo Area Athletic Conference title in a preseason coaches poll, but coach John Lindsay's Green Bears went 12-0 in TAAC play, then won the school's first district title since 1986. Led by senior guard Eliot Browarsky, a four-year starter and second-team All-Ohioan, the Bears, whose only regular-season loss came at New Riegel in overtime, topped Putnam County League powers Miller City and Kalida to win a D-IV regional crown and advance to the school's first state semifinal before falling to top-ranked Newark Catholic.
Jon Shollenberger, left, and Andrew Jamieson of Ottawa Hills try to stop Newark Catholic's Nate Adams in theDivision IV state semifinals in Columbus.
There were also some surprises elsewhere.
Central Catholic (20-3) was picked to finish sixth in the City League. Instead, coach Jim Welling's Irish, led by junior guard Drew Lehman, won their first CL championship since 1968, beating St. Francis in the title game. St. John's Jesuit (19-5), which won the CL's regular-season title at 10-1, was upset by St. Francis in the CL playoff semifinals. But the Titans, led by senior guard Jay Springs, bounced back in Division I tournament play to win their 12th district championship under 31st-year coach Ed Heintschel. The Titans suffered a 52-50 regional-final loss to eventual state champion Massillon Jackson.
Perrysburg (19-2) was picked to place second in the Northern Lakes League but, led by senior Charlie Hughes, ran the table (14-0) in NLL play. It was the Yellow Jackets' seventh NLL crown won or shared in the last nine seasons under coach Dave Boyce.
The same scenario held true in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League, where Archbold was picked for second place but won the title. Coach Doug Krauss and his Blue Streaks (19-5)advanced to the D-III regional semifinal before falling to Plymouth.
In the Suburban Lakes League, things went as expected, with preseason favorite Eastwood (15-7) repeating its league title under coach Todd Henline.
In the Blanchard Valley Conference, the superb four-year Liberty-Benton career of Ohio State-bound guard Aaron Craft closed with the Eagles posting their third 20-0 regular season in four years and Craft being named D-III state player of the year. L-B was ranked No. 1 in the final state poll, but was derailed in a district semifinal by eventual state champion Lima Central Catholic. The Eagles were 79-1 in regular-season play (88-5 overall) during Craft's career.
— Steve Junga