When the six area teams remaining in the Division I district boys basketball tournaments tip off today in three games, an impressive collection of players will be guided by an even more impressive group of veteran coaches.
In a district semifinal doubleheader at Savage Arena, the 6:15 p.m. game pits eighth-ranked City League champion Bowsher (22-2) against 10th-ranked Three Rivers Athletic Conference champion Central Catholic (20-3), while the 8 p.m. contest has TRAC runner-up St. John’s Jesuit (17-6) facing Northern Lakes League co-champion Springfield (16-5).
A 7 p.m. district semifinal at Otsego matches the other NLL co-champion, Perrysburg (20-3), with third-place TRAC member Findlay (17-5).
Those six teams carry a combined record of 112-24 into these contests, and only three of them will advance to Saturday’s finals.
The semifinal winners from Savage Arena will return there Saturday at 7 p.m. to play for a district championship.
The Perrysburg-Findlay winner will play in a final Saturday at 7 p.m. at Bowling Green’s Stroh Center against the winner of today’s semifinal at Galion between Mansfield Senior and Ashland.
These two champions will then battle in a regional semifinal Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Savage Arena.
Bowsher easily brings the most experienced group to the district mix, featuring the all-senior top six of Nate Allen (22.2 points per game), Dajuan King (20.5 points), Cameron White (16.0 points), Jason Sandridge (9.0 points), Mark Washington (12.7 rebounds), and Aundre Kizer (16.2 points, 10 games).
How deep is this group?
In a City League championship game win over Rogers, Kizer started in place of the suspended Allen, and led Bowsher with 33 points.
Kizer will face his cousin in today’s semifinal, Central’s DeShone Kizer, who was named the TRAC’s player of the year for leading the Irish to the conference title.
A couple decades back, the brother combo of Aundre’s father, Aundre, and DeShone’s father, Derek, starred together at Bowsher before playing their college basketball at Central Michigan and Bowling Green, respectively.
DeShone Kizer (12.4 points) is ably complemented in the Irish lineup by fellow senior Nate Harris (6.1 rebounds) and juniors Marcus Winters (12.9 points) and Jermiah Braswell (10.7 points).
St. John’s is led by the senior duo of point guard Anthony Glover, Jr. (18.1 points) and 6-foot-9 forward Parker Ernsthausen (12.3 points, 8.0 rebounds). Springfield is paced by the senior tandem of Manny Durden (15.3 points) and Markese Hicks (11.5 points).
Perrysburg’s top players are seniors Nick Moschetti (22.6 points), Nate Patterson (12.6 points), and Matt Kaczinski (5.6 rebounds), and Findlay counters with its senior trio of Adam Twining (15.6 points), Austin Gutting (12.7 points), and Michael Clark (9.4 points).
The six area coaches in Division I districts boast a combined 163 seasons as head coaches, either at the high school or collegiate level. Mix in their additional years as assistant coaches, and this group has just under 200 combined years in the profession.
The dean of the group is Ed Heintschel of St. John’s, who is in his 35th season (626-196 record) as the Titans’ head coach after five years as an assistant at the school.
Perrysburg’s Dave Boyce (443-239) is in his 31st season as a high school head coach, including 14 with the Yellow Jackets. He also guided Galloway Westland in suburban Columbus for 14 years and began his head coaching resume with three seasons at Northwood following two years as a Rangers assistant.
Central’s Jim Welling is in just his seventh year as a high school head coach, including six with the Irish and one at Lake. But that run followed his 22-year stretch as head coach at Owens Community College, where he posted a 550-127 record and won two junior college national championships. Welling started his coaching career as Boyce’s assistant for two years at Northwood.
Bowsher’s Guerrero, who recently won his 300th career game, has 27 head coaching seasons under his belt — seven at Waite, 15 at Clay, and five at Bowsher. He also spent five years as an assistant coach prior to guiding the Waite program.
Findlay’s Jim Rucki is in his 15th season as the Trojans’ head coach, following a run of four years as an assistant and 10 years as the head coach at Rocky River near Cleveland.
Oddly enough, Springfield’s Stan Joplin has the fewest total years (28) as a basketball coach following his career as a player at the University of Toledo, where his memorable last-second shot beat Iowa in an NCAA tournament upset by the Rockets in 1979.
Joplin is in his third season as Springfield’s head coach. He was previously head coach for 12 seasons at UT, where he ranks No. 2 in career wins behind Bob Nichols, who was his coach. Joplin also spent 12 years as a college assistant (Kent State, UT, and Michigan State), and one year as a high school head coach at Start.