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Published: Thursday, 3/29/2012

So close for Whitmer falls in state final

Maumee Valley sends coach Robinson out with district crown

Whitmer’s LeRoy Alexander (24) and Chris Wormley (44) lead a
celebration after winning a Division I regional championship. Whitmer’s LeRoy Alexander (24) and Chris Wormley (44) lead a celebration after winning a Division I regional championship.

They rode a stingy defense all the way to the Division I state boys basketball championship game, but 21st-year coach Bruce Smith's Whitmer Panthers (24-3) fell just short of capturing the school's first state team title in any sport.

The fifth-ranked Panthers led fourth-ranked Pickerington Central 37-36 with 3:34 remaining, before the Tigers used a 9-3 surge down the stretch to defeat Whitmer 45-40 in the championship game at Value City Arena in Columbus.

Whitmer, which used a grind-it-out style to outscore its seven tourney foes by an average of 47-38 per game, was paced by 6-foot-7 junior Nigel Hayes and senior point guard LeRoy Alexander. The iron-man starting five also included 6-7 senior Chris Wormley and junior guards Ricardo Smith and Luke Hickey.

The Panthers captured the first Three Rivers Athletic Conference title, and Hayes was named to the All-Ohio second team for the second straight season.

Marc Loving of TRAC runner-up St. John's Jesuit received All-Ohio first-team honors and was Ohio D-I co-player of the year.

Perhaps the story of the year, however, was the 39th and final high school coaching season for Jim Robinson (531-311 career), who guided Maumee Valley to a 22-2 record, a first-place finish in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, and a trip to the Division IV regional.

For Robinson, who spent 45 seasons as a coach including his years as a high school and college assistant, it was the first district championship of his otherwise highly successful career, and he did it after surviving a stroke last May.

With a loss to Arlington in the D-IV regional semifinals, Maumee Valley, which was led by seniors Jared Sturt, Julius Turner and Rick Deichert, along with junior point guard Davey Brown, sent their retiring coach out in style after four seasons with the Hawks. Maumee Valley was the ninth high school at which Robinson served as head coach.

In the City League, the Rogers Rams, under coach Earl Morris came off a 2010-11 season in which they advanced to the D-II state semifinals to win their first City League championship.

The Rams were paced by junior guards Clemmye Owens and Tony Kynard.

In the Northern Lakes League, newcomer Napoleon (18-4) won the league title by posting a 13-1 NLL mark. The Wildcats were led by 6-5 junior forward Jordan Lauf, a D-II All-Ohio second-team pick and senior guard Jordan Myles.

The first Northern Buckeye Conference championship was shared by Eastwood (14-7 overall) and Lake (17-6), which each went 11-3 in NBC play. The Flyers, who reached the Division III district final, were led by NBC player of the year Ra'Shad Smith.

In the Nothwest Ohio Athletic League, Archbold (17-6) went 8-0 to repeat as champion, thanks to a late-season 39-34 league win over runner-up Wauseon (20-3, 7-1).

In Michigan, Bedford (18-6) set a school record for victories while advancing to the Class A regional semifinals for the first time in 19 years.

In his first year with the Mules, coach Nick Lowe guided the Mules to the brink of a first league title before losing to Ann Arbor Huron in the Southeastern Conference's Red Division finale.

Led by 6-6 junior Jackson Lamb, an all-state selection, and seniors Ryan Rightnowar and Kenny McFadden, the Mules reached the regional, falling to second-ranked Romulus.

-- Steve Junga

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