Wednesday, March 18, 2015

These Russia seniors had class...

Russia played at Trent Arena twice this season. A rare opportunity 
that came about because of exceptional talent and hard work

Ten Russia seniors wrapped up their basketball careers on the floor of Trent Arena Tuesday night, falling in the regional semifinals to Tri-Village 59-50. As the clock ticked down the final seconds, fans dressed in mostly gold stood up to applaud. Applaud the efforts of a hard fought battle and recognize a group of boys who put Russia hoops back in the regional spotlight again.

It was most of these same classmates that carried Russia to the regional tournament last year. Before 2014 it had been eight years since the Raiders last played in the regionals. That was back in 2006 when the venue was at Miami University and the Russia program was still riding the wave of annual success from the 2002 state runner-up team. What seems like yesterday for many faithful Raider fans was too long ago for most of the current seniors to remember.

Starting in junior high this special group of boys began to establish a reputation for winning. Capturing league titles in 7th and 8th-grade only fueled expectations for what was to come. As they entered high school the classmates that played together so well were split between the freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams. Then, as juniors, most of them reunited. It only took a short while to find that same chemistry they once enjoyed and the boys put together a 22-5 season, including a tournament run that brought home a district title over talented Cincinnati Aiken. The 2014 season eventually ended against Marion Local in the regional semifinals, but the taste of success only increased their appetite for their final year together.

Nolan Francis was a floor leader for the Raiders in junior high.
In high school he led Russia in scoring with over 1000 points

To say this last season of basketball for ten friends has been enjoyable would be a huge understatement. Another 22-5 season, titles in the SCAL, sectional tournament and one more district championship over Cincinnati Aiken this year was just part of the fun. Winning the Piqua holiday tournament and playing at Flyin' To The Hoop were moments that Raider fans may never experience again. Those ten seniors and Russia followers got to enjoy the fruit of six years in the making. Most of all though, this group did everything the right way. Great sportsmanship, hard work and starting the next wave of success for Raider basketball will be what they are remembered for. The boys may not have achieved everything they hoped for, but they were a class with class. And that's something to be proud of.

The 2015 seniors joined the class of 1995 as the only two teams 
in school history to win district titles in both boys and girls
basketball in the same season. Quite an accomplishment

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jared Hoying doing all he can do...

Jared Hoying's production through one week of Spring Training

Jared Hoying is doing all he can do to prove he deserves on the Texas Rangers major league roster when the regular season starts the beginning of April. Last year the Ft. Loramie product spent his entire season at Triple-A Round Rock and this year he is making the most of his first-ever invitation to big league camp. In the first six games of Rangers spring training the center fielder has played in five of those games and hammered out the line above. In doing so, #71 has garnered the attention of several baseball columnists and sports bloggers.

The media guys have noticed Jared's arrival at camp

Most fans back in west central Ohio are wondering though, how much attention he's getting from the Rangers organization. Last season at Round Rock, Jared batted .271 with 26 homeruns and 78 RBI. That kind of production is what landed him in the Triple-A all-star game and obviously what merited his invitation this spring with the big boys. Texas Rangers minor league guru for the Newberg Report, Scott Lucas, speculated on Twitter that the reason Jared isn't already ensconced as the 4th or 5th outfielder for the Rangers is due to his .318 on-base percentage (OBP) at the minor league level. No doubt fans back home will point to Jared's .500 OBP so far this spring training. Lucas further tweeted that if Rangers outfield prospect Delino DeShields (who was the lone player Texas selected in the Rule 5 draft back in December) doesn't pan out, Jared is an option for backup outfielder due to his defense, power and speed. So far this spring DeShields is 1-for-9 in five games with a triple and a .200 OBP.

If Jared continues to produce as he has this past week, heads of the organization will have to take notice. Texas finished 2014 with the American League's worst record at 67-95 and used a major league record of 64 players during the season. In order for the Rangers to enjoy any type of success similar to their 2010 and 2011 World Series teams, they need stability. And a 25-year old power-hitter that swings from the left side of the plate just like Texas star Prince Fielder would be a good start.

Doing little things like this should lead to big things for Jared

Friday, March 6, 2015

Kudos to these sports people...

I blogged about a similar thing last Friday and it was so much fun, I figured I'd do it again. This Friday I thought I'd give kudos to a few people that impressed me in local sports this past week (kudos means praise for exceptional achievement, by the way)...

Stats Man
If you follow @Fish_Report on Twitter, you probably noticed I tweeted out some complete box scores on several girls and boys tournament games this past week. When I say complete, I mean play-by-play with every statistic imaginable. Don't give me the credit, it's all the hard work of Russia alum Matt Zircher, seated on press row with his laptop and printer. Matt has been a stats man his whole life. His full-time job is the Associate Director of Athletic Communications at Wright State University, but in his spare time he does things like write for the Sidney Daily News, he works part-time as official scorer for the Dayton Dragons, and he also donates his time every year at his hometown Russia Alumni Softball Tournament to take care of everything from the official book to running the scoreboard. Matt is a very generous person and was doing a service at the sectional tournaments last week that media people typically don't see until the state tournament. Kudos to Matt.

Matt produced seven pages of stats (yes, seven) after
each of five games he covered last Saturday in Sidney

Best in the MAC
Last week I gave my opinion on the All-MAC girls honorees. This week the All-MAC boys came out and what a decision Player of the Year had to be. I can just see the coaches of the Midwest Athletic Conference shaking their heads thinking, "do we give it to the kid that's heading to Michigan State to play for Tom Izzo or the other kid that's going to Dayton to play for Archie Miller?" In the end the coaches chose future Flyer Ryan Mikesell of St. Henry over future Spartan Kyle Ahrens of Versailles. I'm pretty positive it had nothing to do with one being more talented than the other since both are extremely gifted. Rather, St. Henry simply won the conference championship and the head-to-head matchup this year. I was also glad to see the coaches didn't take the easy way out and just announce Ryan and Kyle were co-winners. Kudos to Ryan Mikesell on probably the toughest vote in MAC history.

Ryan Mikesell ramming one home against Russia earlier this year

Luke in the Limelight
Ohio's Mr. Basketball, Luke Kennard, started down the tournament trail on the right foot so far (or maybe that should be left foot since the sharpshooter is lefthanded?). Franklin, a D-II #1-seed, easily beat a couple opponents in the early rounds of the sectional tournament. The Wildcats now face Ponitz from the Dayton City League in the sectional championship at UD Arena on Saturday night at 7:30 pm. Franklin has been beat at this exact point in tournament the last three consecutive years. The Wildcats lost to Thurgood Marshall last year, Dunbar in 2013 and Thurgood again in 2012. The only thing that's for sure is fans will be lined up outside UD Arena for perhaps one last chance to see Luke in a high school uniform. I really hope Franklin wins this game. For no other reason than I enjoy reading about the hysteria of Luke Kennard. Kudos to Luke for everything he's accomplished so far.

Some fans claim Ohio high school hoops hasn't seen 
demand for tickets like this since LeBron James played

Future Hall of Famers
Indoor collegiate track doesn't typically dominate the headlines of the sport pages, but a couple local track stars are dominating at the Division-I universities they represent. Former Tri-Village running star Clayton Murphy is just a sophomore for the University of Akron, but this past weekend he was awarded as the Outstanding Track Athlete of the Meet at the Mid-American Conference Championships. Clayton led Akron to a MAC title winning both the 800 and 1600. Afterward, he was just one of just 16 selected to compete in the 800 at the NCAA National Championships coming up next weekend in Arkansas. On the girls side, Russia alum Katie Borchers continues to carve out history as a senior at The Ohio State University. Katie's Buckeyes also won an indoor title last weekend in the Big Ten and Katie was a significant part of that, winning the 800 and breaking her own school record in the process. Katie, like Clayton, was also just one of 16 selected to compete in the 800 next weekend at Nationals. I'll say it now... both will be future Hall of Famers at their respective universities some day. Kudos to Clayton and Katie.

Clayton and Katie are two of the premier runners in all of the nation right now

Friday, February 27, 2015

The best of the week in sports...

What a fun time of year if you're a high school basketball fan in this area. Tournament madness is here for most schools, post season awards are coming out, and milestone achievements seem to be taking place in bunches. Here's the best of what happened this week in my eyes...

Redskins do it again
The post season All-SCAL awards were released on Wednesday and once again the Ft. Loramie Redskins were honored with the girls Player of the Year. Junior Jessica Boerger was the top vote-getter among county coaches, following in the footsteps of her cousin Darian Rose who was the co-player of the year in 2014 and outright player of the year in 2013. While past performance doesn't guarantee future results, it would appear Jessica is the logical front-runner for next year's top award. Just don't tell that to Fairlawn super sophomore Audrey Francis, the only other underclassman on the 1st-team roster. I thought every girl on the all-county list was deserving of recognition, but the one omission that stuck out for me was Russia senior Claudia Monnin. Claudia missed most of her junior year due to ACL surgery and bounced back this season in a big way. Her best game may have been the 18 points she scored at Fairlawn to lead the Lady Raiders in a key league win back in early January. The good news for Russia fans is Claudia is still playing tournament ball...and maybe her best is yet to come!

Claudia draining a 3-pointer against Ft. Loramie early this season

All-MAC is almost right
The All-MAC girls awards were announced the same day as the All-SCAL and Marion Local super senior Allie Thobe was honored with Player of the Year. The MAC got it right it my opinion. Allie was the best player in that tough conference and very deserving of the award from everything I heard. I'm not sure who came in second, but I thought if anyone might challenge Allie it could be another senior, Meg Reineke of New Knoxville. When the Lady Rangers hosted Russia earlier this season I listened to the game on radio as Meg carried the Lady Rangers to an overtime victory over my Raiders almost single-handedly. Speaking of seniors stars, the only injustice I saw in the voting was Coldwater senior Sarah Kanney slipping to 2nd-team. How can a 1000 point scorer not be one of the top 12 girls in the conference? Sarah responded on Wednesday night like she always does...she lead her team to a tournament victory with 20 points!

Sarah is just one of two MAC girls to reach 1000 points so 
far this year. The other is Player of the Year, Allie Thobe. 
Meg Reineke is currently at 970 heading into tournament.

Newton girls easy to root for
Do you know who this year's Newton girls basketball team reminds me of? It's their Cross County Conference foe from last year, the Bradford Lady Railroaders. Newton extended their school record win total to 22 on Wednesday night with a tournament victory over Dayton Christian. The Lady Indians will now play for their first sectional title in school history this Saturday against Southeastern.  Last year Bradford also set a school record for total victories with 20 and went on to win their first sectional title in school history before losing to Ft. Loramie in the district tournament. Both seasons seem kind of magical considering their programs overall history and it makes them easy to root for. I jumped on the Bradford bandwagon last year and I'm on the Newton bandwagon this year...for now at least!

300 wins for Coach Lee
Minster boys basketball coach Mike Lee racked up his 300th career victory on Thursday night with a 71-39 win over Bradford. He's coached the Wildcats for 22 seasons now and always ran a first-class program in my opinion. Before this week I had never met Coach Lee, but always respected him from afar. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike on Fish Report LIVE! this week and my opinion of him was confirmed. While the interview only lasted five minutes, I could have easily talked to him for 30 minutes. When asked to name a couple memorable games over the last 22 years, Coach Lee eluded to his first game against former Marion Local coach Jack Albers, a big regional tournament victory over Jackson Center, and his 2005 state team. Minster, like many MAC schools, has a lot of things to be proud of...and a boys basketball coach with 300 victories is one of them!

Another 1000 point club inductee
It was just a couple weeks ago when Russia added a new 1000 point scorer to their record books with senior Kylie Wilson. Kylie became the 7th girl in school history and the first since Anita Bulcher in 2005 to join the 1000 point club for the Raiders. This Friday Russia should have another inductee. Kylie's classmate Nolan Francis is 14 points from the milestone and should no doubt hit the mark as his #1-seed Raiders open tournament play. When Nolan scores his 1000th he will become the 6th boy at Russia to do it and the first since Brent Pleiman in 2006. Quite an accomplishment considering all the factors that go into scoring 1000 points. Raider fans will want to savor this rare moment in boys basketball history...with the log jam of talent they currently have, it may be a while before it happens again!

Nolan driving in for two of his 20 points against St. Henry

Friday, February 20, 2015

Memories of The Community Post...

The Community Post was the Facebook of the 1980's for me

I don't have a Facebook account. Never have. My wife does. And about once a week I'll get on the family iPad (whenever I can find it) and tap the Facebook app to see what I've been missing. Mostly what I see are pictures. Pictures from birthday parties, anniversaries, sports pictures, etc. Not real news per se, rather limited details about small town stuff. Before I know it I've spent a half hour scrolling through Facebook. It reminds me of what I depended on for this type of "news" 30 years ago. Before Facebook. It was called The Community Post.

The Community Post is still being published today. Right there in downtown Minster. I haven't picked up the actual paper since I was a kid. But, as teenager in the 80's, I always looked forward to stopping at my grandparents house between Ft. Loramie and Minster to read their subscription. I didn't have much interest in world events or national news at that time. Heck, I didn't even care what was happening in Sidney. The Community Post was perfect for me because it had all local stuff and something that was hard to find in those days... lots and lots of pictures.

You could always find pictures of birthday parties in The Community 
Post. Here's one from the 100th birthday of Russia's Anna Francis

Think about it. These days folks use their smart phone in a second to snap pictures from a high school reunion or a family Christmas party. In a few more seconds they'll have the pictures posted on Facebook. 30 years ago? The only time I saw pictures like that is when I read The Community Post. The late great photographer and editor, Dick Bensman, buzzed all over the area to capture these events. And always in short sleeves I might add! What we do today in seconds took Dick hours of work, no doubt.

When Dick Bensman wasn't snapping photos he occasionally 
got his own picture in the paper

As the 80's passed I grew up and moved away. My grandparents passed away. I became more interested in world events and national news. The internet was born and a little later Facebook came along. I thought my days of reading The Community Post were over. That is, until I discovered the Minster Historical Society website. They have archived copies of The Community Post all the way back to the 1800's. I've been taking trips down memory lane recently, reading papers from the late 70's and early 80's. Every paper takes me about a half hour to scroll through... just like Facebook.

To see the archive of newspapers from The Community Post click on the following link:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tri-Village pair reminiscent of Bethel duo...

In 2014 Tri-Village made it to state on the shoulders of Tyler Cook, Colton Linkous 
and Damion Cook. This year Tyler is gone and the Patriots are playing even better

The Tri-Village boys are having another remarkable season and are currently sitting at 18-0. However, anytime I seem to mention the Patriots to basketball fans from the area it's not uncommon to get the response, "yea, but they don't play anybody." My reply to that has always been, "they're playing the same teams they did last year before beating Ft. Loramie, Troy Christian and Marion Local on their way to the state tournament." This year's team even beat my Russia Raiders back in mid-January, so you won't hear me saying anything about their strength of schedule.

Last year though, Tri-Village won a little differently. The Patriots utilized a 6'-6" 245 pound senior that scored over 1,000 points in his career by the name of Tyler Cook. This year the bulk of scoring is done by Tyler's cousin, Damion Cook, and teammate Colton Linkous. And when I say the bulk of scoring, I'm not exaggerating. In the Patriots latest win over Bethel this past Tuesday, Damion scored 27 points and Colton scored 25. The team finished with 59 on the scoreboard, meaning the dynamic duo accounted for 88% of the total.

You know what that victory over Bethel reminded me of? Another dynamic duo that starred at Bethel back in 2000-2001. The Bees were led that season by a couple guards named Matt Witt and Matt Plunkett. I recall how both boys could shoot like crazy and Matt Witt went on to eventually star at Eastern Kentucky and later play professionally overseas for about ten years. From what I remember, those two carried Bethel all year long. The Bees finished that season with a record of 23-4 and I was in the Schottenstein Center to watch them win a state semi game against Reedsville Eastern. The following day the Bees won it all with a 79-53 shellacking of Delphos St. John's.

Matt Witt was too much for Covington at 
the 2001 Regional Semi-final in Oxford

Consider this... Matt Witt averaged 25 points per game that season, Matt Plunkett 20. This year both Damion Cook and Colton Linkous average just over 20 points per game. Back in 2001 Bethel knocked off #1 state-ranked Marion Local in the regional finals. This year Tri-Village is the #1 team in Ohio and would it surprise you if they had to get by Marion Local on their way to Columbus again? Ironically though, the key to Bethel winning the state title game that year wasn't Matt Witt and Matt Plunkett. It was a little-known player that averaged 7 points per game named Shawn Zink. Shawn played the game of his life in the most important moment of the season and led all scorers with 24 points. Could Tri-Village win an eventual championship on just the shoulders of Damion Cook and Colton Linkous? Perhaps. But, having a player like Shawn Zink on your team never hurts either!

Matt Plunkett had some serious "hops" as seen in this picture from 
the 2001 sectional finals against Springfield Catholic Central

Friday, January 30, 2015

A tale of basketball in Shelby County

The subject of this years Russia Raiders basketball team
started a tale this week that went back 44 years ago

It's funny how one interesting sports story can lead to the next sometimes... I ran into Russia High School basketball fan and former player Henry Cordonnier at the Russia Library this past Saturday. Henry played for the Raiders over 40 years ago and asked my opinion on the current boys basketball team. He wondered if I thought the 2014-2015 team would be remembered with some of the great Russia teams from the past. With this season just a little more than half over, I told Henry time will tell, but I was only familiar with a few of the great Raider teams in recent history.

Henry then proceeded to tell me about an average, but spirited, Russia team he played for in the 1970-1971 season. He said the big rivalry game was Ft. Loramie, just as it is now. Only back then, Henry stated, the fans were even more passionate than today. When the two schools played it wasn't unusual to see Russia fans chewing on heads of cabbage and Ft. Loramie fans carrying into the game all sorts of toy frogs. Both shenanigans in reference to the heritage of their rival opponent. Henry recalled how Ft. Loramie's biggest star was a multi-talented athlete named Randy Schafer (who would later become my high school baseball coach) and Russia countered with a balanced attack in their starting five. In the first of two match-ups that season, the Redskins beat the Raiders on a buzzer beater and afterwards Russia was anxious for revenge at their final meeting played on Russia's home court in Versailles at the time. The second game lived up to the hype as the Raiders sealed a victory with a couple Don Cordonnier free throws in the closing seconds and Ft. Loramie missed a shot at the horn. Russia finished the season just 7-12 overall and 4-8 in the league, but that Ft. Loramie win will always be remembered because it was the Redskins only league loss that year. Henry's tale was an interesting one and I enjoyed hearing a little sports history about a rivalry that still runs strong today.

Statistics from the 1970-1971 season courtesy of 
Shelby County League Basketball 1921-1995 by Bob Wise

Stay with me now as I fast forward a couple days later to Monday... I received an email from my mother in Florida in response to Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks passing away just last Friday. The email included a picture from a newspaper clipping back in 1975 and showed Ernie with some free throw contest winners in Piqua. One of the kids in the picture is a guy named Tony Bornhorst. Tony is a Piqua native and a friend of my parents who graduated high school from Sidney Lehman Catholic and has since enjoyed a lengthy high school basketball coaching career. Tony is also very involved as a basketball camp director for NBA players and Olympians all over the country. Mom couldn't remember, but wondered if Tony was part of the great Lehman team that beat a great Ft. Loramie team back when the Cavaliers and Redskins played at Troy's Hobart Arena. Wait, what? She wasn't positive on the time period, but it was obviously prior to any recollection I had since I was born in 1971. I emailed my mom back and asked her to verify the year and what level of tournament game this was, since it was played in Troy as she stated.

Hall of Famer Ernie Banks on the left and Tony Bornhorst 
is the tall guy in the back row standing next to a basketball 
coach named Al McGuire... yes, that Al McGuire

The next day, Tuesday, mom replied to my email. She contacted Tony and he told her he remembered that game at Hobart Arena, but he was still in school in 1975 and the game took place several years beforehand during the 1970-1971 season. Tony recalled how Lehman and Ft. Loramie were both state-ranked either #1 or #2 in the AP and UPI polls. John Kremer was the Redskins coach and his two biggest stars were Randy Schafer and teammate Tony Winner. The game between the two schools was not a tournament game, rather a regular season match-up that was suppose to be played in Ft. Loramie. Lehman asked if the game could be moved to Hobart since it was expected to be quite a battle. The Redskins did not provide the competition that was expected despite having a tall and talented team and Lehman won easily. The loss frustrated Ft. Loramie fans for many years afterward. My story doesn't end there folks...

One Fish Report reader that I frequently email back and forth is Ft. Loramie alum Dave Boerger. Dave is a retired executive with Ford Motor Company that lives in Michigan, but stays in touch with life back home through the Fish Report website. Dave enjoys local history, as I do, and from time-to-time he will share stories with me. Dave is also a high school classmate of my mother. Here was my opportunity to share a story with Dave, so I forwarded him the email correspondence between mom, Tony and myself. Dave replied almost immediately on Tuesday and said my mom has a good memory! The year was indeed 1971 and he attended that game between Ft. Loramie and Lehman at Hobart Arena. Dave said the attendance was a sell-out and unfortunately the poor performance by the Redskins was really disappointing. Ft. Loramie finished the 1970-1971 season with an impressive overall record of 19-3, but it was unsatisfying to many fans. They lost the Lehman game and later an early tournament game. Oh, and one more game, that one against Russia that started this whole tale. It's funny how one interesting sports story can lead to the next sometimes!

*Follow up note - Shortly after writing this story I ran into Russia's Don Cordonnier and Don verified a lot of the facts above. However, he did add one more fact that may sting some Ft. Loramie fans 44 years later. Remember those game winning free throws Don made to beat the Redskins? Don said when he got fouled by the Ft. Loramie player he was barely touched!

Don and Henry Cordonnier were senior classmates in 1971