Its returning lineup loaded with high-end experience, Northridge boys basketball coach Jeff Lisath anticipated the Polar Bears making a high school spotlight return this season.
That hadn’t happened since 2015 when Northridge zoomed through the Southwestern Buckeye League on a 24-3 ride that was derailed by Chaminade Julienne in a Division III regional semifinal.
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However, preseason injuries and a suspension resulted in a 3-3 season start, but only delayed that optimism. Since then it’s been all good, including a season-defining 58-56 upset win at Middletown Madison last week that prevented the Mohawks from securing an outright SWBL Buckeye Division title.
“We needed a big road win and that was the game,” reflected Lisath, a former Portsmouth High School All-Ohioan who played for Darrell Hedric at Miami University and is in his sixth season at Northridge. “We felt we had to find a way to win and the kids bought into it.”
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Senior guard Twon Hines is Northridge’s designated leader. He’s second (21.2) to Darren Rubin of Oakwood (22.0) among SWBL scoring leaders. Also a standout in football who’s generating NCAA D-II interest, Hines was first-team All-SWBL in basketball the last two seasons.
His late 3-pointer was the winning basket at Madison (18-3). That’s the kind of take-charge leadership Lisath has enjoyed watching develop over the years. A 6-foot-1 speedster, Hines has scored double-digits in all but 10 of 67 career games and put a career-high 35 on Monroe in the season opener for the Polar Bears’ depleted lineup.
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Charles Drewery, a 6-3 senior, adds 14.1 points and 8.9 rebounds.
“When the other guys were out he basically carried us,” Lisath said of Hines. “From that point on, he faced a box-and-1 or some kind of gimmick defense until we got Charles back. We have a dual threat now.”
Other key Bears are junior Darryl Story (9.8 points), senior Robbie Turner (6.6) and senior Jared Lewis (5.8).
Northridge (13-6, 8-3) brings an eight-game win streak against visiting Preble Shawnee (9-12, 6-5) in its final SWBL Buckeye contest on Friday. The Polar Bears complete the regular season with a bang, hosting Stivers (15-4), a No. 2 seed in the upcoming D-III sectional, on Saturday.
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Northridge is a No. 4 seed in the D-II sectional at Springfield. Like many other teams, the Bears were affected by the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance initiative, but only because other teams were bumped up to D-III, which pushed Northridge up to D-II.
Still, Lisath likes the Polar Bears’ shot at a deep playoff run.
“We’re hoping for that,” he said. “You just never know what is going to happen in the tournament. We have a veteran team and some of the kids have been through the (postseason) wars, so they know what it takes to get ourselves ready going into the tournament.”
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The girls postseason started this week and the boys will begin next week.
• Madison (18-3, 10-1) has clinched a share of the SWBL Buckeye title. Waynesville (14-7, 9-2) can join in that championship fun by defeating visiting Madison on Friday.
It’s the same for SWBL Southwestern leader Brookville (17-3, 8-3), which must win at Valley View (7-13) on Friday to clinch an outright divisional title. Bunched in second are Franklin, Monroe and Oakwood, all at 7-4.
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• Trotwood-Madison (19-2, 14-0) of the Greater Western Ohio Conference American South is the only team to have clinched an outright GWOC title. Butler (American North) and Springfield (National East) have clinched shares.
Butler (19-2, 12-2) must win at Tippecanoe (7-14) on Friday for an outright title. Springfield (13-8, 10-2), which hosts Trotwood on Friday in what should be a sellout, will share a title with Friday’s Wayne (12-8, 9-2) at Centerville (15-5, 9-2) winner.
Miamisburg (15-6, 5-5) and Lebanon (10-11, 5-5) share with National West lead with one game remaining on Friday.
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• Bradford girls 65, Yellow Springs 29: Angie Smith concluded a spectacular freshman season by scoring 16 points for the losing Bulldogs (11-12) in the D-IV sectional at Brookville on Thursday. Smith led the Metro Buckeye Conference in scoring (24.5) and steals (5.4), and tallied 31 or more points seven times, twice hitting a high of 38 points.
It was the first tourney win for Bradford (16-6) since 2014.
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FRIDAY’S TOP 5 BOYS GAMES
All at 7:30 p.m.
Middletown Madison (18-3) at Waynesville (14-7)
St. Henry (17-3) at Minster (13-6)
Trotwood-Madison (19-2) at Springfield (13-8)
Twin Valley South (18-3) at Arcanum (13-7)
Wayne (12-8) at Centerville (15-5)
SATURDAY’S TOP 5 GIRLS GAMES
All first-round sectional
Beavercreek (13-9) vs. Butler (13-9), D-I at Troy, 4 p.m.
Bellbrook (12-10) vs. Dunbar (14-7), D-II at Lebanon, 11 a.m.
Greenon (14-8) vs. Milton-Union (14-7), D-III at Covington, 11 a.m.
Springboro (13-9) vs. Fairborn (11-11), D-I at Troy, 7 p.m.
Troy (14-8) vs. Northmont (10-12), D-I at Butler, 7:30 p.m.