Tim Cogan experienced up close and personal the mental edge Alter had on Carroll. Alter had long ago established itself as the go-to grooming grounds for the sons of many former University of Dayton men’s basketball standouts who chose to anchor here.
And for Carroll? The football program was outstanding.
“I know going to Carroll in the past, different things people fear in Alter,” reflected Cogan, a Carroll grad who left an unprecedented and state-title run with the Fairmont girls high school basketball program to return to the Linden Avenue landmark as the Patriots boys coach. “We do not fear Alter.”
GIRLS SCHEDULE: District, regional
Carroll doesn’t have championship banners this season, but the Patriots have the next best thing: a stunning 53-42 defeat of Alter. The unlikely Division II season-defining win played out at Fairmont’s Trent Arena Wednesday night before an enthusiastic Patriots following. Carroll (11-12) will play Ponitz (16-7) in one of three D-II sectional finals at UD Arena on Saturday.
BOYS SCHEDULE: Sectional, district, regional
In the regular season Carroll (3-7) was buried in last place in the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North Division but had proved to be a tough out, losing five games by a combined nine points, including a one-pointer to Alter.
But Carroll played at a championship level against Alter (19-4), which had swept the divisional series and won its second straight North title. That earned Alter a No. 3 seed behind Trotwood-Madison and Dunbar, traditionally three of the area’s best D-II boys programs.
The Patriots wanted another shot at the Knights, a testament to Cogan’s turnabout influence.
“We’ve been through some adversity, losing some games by one or two points,” he said. “Our goal as far as a winning season was winning about life. We had to teach these kids we had to play together and deal with adversity. They’re young men. I get it, but you’ve got to learn it. We stuck together and good things are happening. Great things are happening.”
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• Springboro girls coach Tom Benjamin has had four consecutive seasons of 20-plus wins, which puts the Panthers atop the area D-I’s best along with Wayne. Benjamin took his team to task following a 54-31 rout of rival Lebanon in a sectional final at Troy.
“I nitpick,” he admitted. “A great man once told me you’re only as good as the weakest segment of your game allows you to be. I know our players are thinking, gez, another week with Benj. That’s like on Christmas eve being told there ain’t going to be no Christmas.”
Greater Western Ohio Conference reps Springboro (20-5), Wayne (20-4) and Beavercreek (17-8) will be hard pressed to make it out of Saturday’s D-I district finals at Princeton. The GWOC has been overtaken by the Greater Miami Conference since Cogan guided Fairmont to successive state final fours from 2010-13.
The girls D-II district finals are Friday at Mason. The other girls district finals are Saturday at Springfield (D-III) and Troy (D-IV).
• Versailles (D-III) has taken its boys game to the next level. Fueled by junior and Ohio State commit Justin Ahrens, the Midwest Athletic Conference champs (23-1) are in a loaded Southwest District. Other top contenders are Cincinnati Summit Country Day (23-0) and Cincinnati Roger Bacon (20-4) of the GCL Co-Ed Central. Bacon has been in the state final four twice in the last three seasons.
All three programs should collide in the regional along with a Columbus rep.
Ahrens (23.5 points) is the younger brother of former Versailles standout Kyle Ahrens, a sophomore sub at Michigan State who led the Tigers to a D-III state runner-up in 2013. Yet another Ahrens, twin brother A.J., is the Tigers’ second-leading scorer (9.8).
“Kyle, he’s one of the main reasons I’m where I’m at today,” gushed Justin after scoring 38 points in a romp of Greenon on Tuesday. “Him going through it and all the special defenses, him telling me what to do and leading the path for me. And my dad (assistant coach Kevin Ahrens) and A.J. on the team, it’s really fun to be a part of and have the last name that I have.”
• All of the boys sectional finals are Friday and Saturday. Winners in all divisions advance to next week’s district finals, all of which will be at UD Arena.