The Blade sports staff has considered the leading stories of area teams and individuals at the high school level in 2013, and come up with what we believe were the 10 best.
Here is the way we saw it:
1. LOVING MR. BASKETBALL: Marc Loving was something of a basketball prodigy, with an already solid reputation as a player, before he even began his career as a freshman at St. John’s Jesuit in December of 2009.
Not long after that 2009-10 season concluded, the versatile 6-foot-8 guard-forward had already committed to Ohio State, and Loving did little to disappoint for the remainder of his time under longtime Titans coach Ed Heintschel.
Avergaing 21.2 points and 8.4 rebounds as a senior for the 20-4 Titans, who were ranked No. 5 among Ohio’s Division I teams, Loving repeated his honor as a first-team All-Ohioan and was named D-I player of the year.
To cap his career, Loving then became only the third Toledo player to be named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball, joining Macomber’s Jim Jackson (1988 and 1989), and Libbey’s William Buford (2008).
Loving also followed Jackson and Buford in becoming an Ohio State Buckeye, presently seeing significant time off the bench as an OSU freshman.
Loving’s story/achievement received first-place votes from 10 of the 13 members on The Blade panel, and 125 of a possible 130 voting points.
2. ROGERS RAMS’ RUN: If Marc Loving was the top individual story in 2013, the boys basketball state-tournament run of coach Earl Morris’ Rogers Rams was the top team story.
Heavily favored to repeat their City League title, the fast-and-furious Rams completed the CL regular season at 10-0. But in a stunner, Rogers was upset in the City playoff semifinals by eventual champion Start and closed the regular season a relatively modest 14-7 overall.
Instead of unraveling after this bitter defeat, the Rams — led by the terrific senior guard trio of Tony Kynard, Clemmye Owens, and Devonte Pratt — refocused and responded with their second run to Columbus in three years.
Rogers rolled past Waite (91-44), Southview (74-44), fifth-ranked St. John’s (66-55), and Central Catholic (60-39) to win a northwest Ohio Division I district title.
The Rams then beat Northern Lakes League champion Anthony Wayne (68-62) in a regional semifinal and Brecksville-Broadview Heights (63-61 in OT) in the regional final.
Continuing the run, Rogers knocked off third-ranked Cincinnati Walnut Hills (58-51) in the D-I semifinals before eventually falling to Mentor (76-67) in the state championship game.
Morris also guided the Rams to the D-II state semifinals in 2011.
3. NORTHVIEW HOCKEY MISSES REPEAT: In their bid to repeat as Ohio hockey champions, the Northview Wildcats (27-8-1) fell one win short.
The Wildcats, led by senior forwards Zander Pryor (21 goals, 45 assists) and Drew Crandall (37 goals, 22 assists) advanced to state with district tournament wins over Perrysburg (10-0), Findlay (8-3), and fellow Northwest Hockey Conference power St. John’s Jesuit (3-2).
Northview then topped Powell Olentangy Liberty (4-2) in the state semifinals at Nationwide Arena in Columbus before falling to Shaker Heights (3-1) in the state championship game.
Coach Mike Jones’ Wildcats had won a state title in 2012 and were also runners-up in 2010, losing in overtime in the state final that year.
4. BEDFORD FOOTBALL BATTLES ADVERSITY: It was the best and worst of times at Bedford in the fall.
As the Kicking Mules’ football team was rolling through a perfect 9-0 regular season and Southeastern Conference Red Division championship led by senior running back Alec Hullibarger and senior quarterback Brad Boss, tragedy struck the school not once but twice.
First, on Sept. 21, Bedford freshman Kelsey Koepfler was killed when she was struck by a minivan. Later, on Oct. 23, Mules senior defensive back Colton Durbin was critically injured in an auto accident. He was taken off life support the next day.
Honoring Koepfler and Durbin, the Mules closed the regular season Oct. 25 with heavy hearts in a 49-0 win over Monroe Jefferson. Bedford then beat Westland Glenn (28-6) and Red Division rival Saline (36-29) in the Michigan Division 1 playoffs before meeting perennial Michigan power Detroit Catholic Central at Bedford in the regional final.
Coach Jeff Wood’s Mules rallied for late touchdown to take a 33-28 lead, only to see Detroit CC answer with a TD in the closing seconds for a 34-33 win. Bedford finished 11-1.
5. STAYING IRISH: In three seasons as the starting quarterback at Central Catholic, DeShone Kizer developed himself into one of the nation’s best at the high school level at his position.
That talent helped the Irish to a 34-6 record from 2011-13, including a 14-1 finish and a Division II state championship in 2012.
Prior to his senior season, Kizer, who also had scholarship offers from college powers like Alabama, LSU, and Michigan State, committed to Notre Dame in June.
He took part in the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp in Beaverton, Ore., which was featured on ESPN.
Led by Kizer, Central closed the regular season 10-0 and ranked No. 2 in Ohio in Division III. The Irish moved to 12-0 with two playoff wins before being upset 42-41 by Clyde in a D-III regional final.
The 6-foot-5, 218-pound Kizer, who pssed for 2,847 yards and 30 TDs as a senior, was named Ohio’s Division III co-offensive player of the year.
6. ARROWS NARROWLY MISS TARGET: In his 18 seasons as volleyball coach at St. Ursula, John Buck has guided the Arrows into an elite class among Ohio’s best programs. The 2013 season simply added to that legacy.
Led by first-team All-Ohioan Lauran Graves, the talented Arrows were ranked No. 1 among the state’s Division I teams all season long and moved to 29-0 before losing to Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame (3-1) in a competitive state championship match at Wright State University near Dayton.
It was the 10th state final-four appearance in the last 14 seasons for St. Ursula, which has posted a remarkable 111-5 overall record the last four years. The Arrows won state titles in 2004 and 2010, and were also state runners-up in 2000, 2005, and 2011.
7. LIBERTY CENTER RUNNERS RULE: With junior Brittany Atkinson winning her second Division III individual state title in three years, the Liberty Center Tigers won their third straight D-III state team title.
Atkinson, who was first at state as a freshman in 2011 and runner-up in 2012, ran the 5,000-meter course at National Raceway Trail in Hebron (near Columbus) in 18 minutes, 31.45 seconds to collect her second individual crown.
She was joined in the top 10 at state by senior teammate Paige Chamberlain, who ran a 19:06.53 to place ninth, helping the Tigers top runner-up Gates Mills Gilmour 98-110 in the team standings.
8. GREEN BEARS GREAT ON GREENS: Led by senior No. 1 player Ben Silverman, the Ottawa Hills boys golf team attained its season-long goal of winning a Division III state team championship Oct. 12.
Trailing leader Gahanna Columbus Academy by six strokes after one round of the 36-hole tournament, the Green Bears rallied on the second day at Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course to finish with a team score of 647, 12 strokes lower than eventual runner-up Columbus Academy.
For his part, Silverman shot 75-72—147, to finish in second place individually, three shots from tourney medal honors. Green Bears sophomore Michael Denner was next at 163, junior Matt Abendroth shot 165, and seniors Ben Dayton and R.J. Coil were at 172 and 181, respectively.
The low four individual scores for each team in each round counted toward the team score.
9. LAMB COMPLETES STERLING CAREER: To earn all-state honors as a high school athlete in one sport is a significant achievement. To do it in two sports is rare. And there is Jackson Lamb, the Bedford basketball and baseball standout who was an all-state first-teamer in Michigan twice in both sports.
In March, the explosive 6-foot-6 Lamb capped his superb four-year varsity basketball career with the Kicking Mules by averaging 26.0 points and 10.9 rebounds, leading Bedford to an 18-4 overall record and a first-place 11-1 mark in the Southeastern Conference’s Red Division.
It was the first boys basketball league championship in school history, and Lamb finished with school career records for points (1,901) and rebounds (889).
In June, Lamb closed his four-year career with the Bedford baseball team as a center fielder and pitcher, with the Mules advancing to the state quarterfinals. He batted .498 in his career with 19 home runs and was selected in the 20th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers as a pitcher.
Lamb opted instead to play baseball on scholarship at the University of Michigan.
10. NOTRE DAME RETURNS TO FINAL FOUR: Continuing a strong recent run of superb girls basketball teams from Toledo, the Notre Dame Eagles of coach Travis Galloway repeated their success of the 2011-12 season with another unbeaten Three Rivers Athletic Conference title and a second straight trip to the Ohio Division I state semifinals.
Led by the talented trio of then junior Jayda Worthy and sophomores Tierra Floyd and Kaayla McIntyre, the 25-4 Eagles once again swept through the TRAC schedule at 14-0, then beat Bowsher, Clay, Southview, and Northview to win the district championship.
Just as it had the previous March, Notre Dame then topped Perrysburg and Wadsworth in regional play to advance. In the state semifinals for the second straight year, the Eagles lost to Kettering Fairmont (37-31), the eventual state champion.