Hardwood Heroes Sports

Nelsonville-York’s Joscelyn Heller breaks through the Alexander Lady Spartans defense in Albany, Ohio, on Thursday, February 7, 2019. (Haldan Kirsch/WOUB)

Hardwood Team Previews: Alexander, Athens, Nelsonville-York, Meigs

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Alexander Spartans

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Last season, the Alexander Spartans were successful in both the girls and the boy’s programs. The girls finished their season 23-3 overall, and 10-2 in the TVC-Ohio. Not only did they have a winning season, they made a strong playoff run and were TVC runners-up behind Vinton County.

The Lady Spartans did have two players graduate, Racheal Richardson and Mckenna Rice, who were some of the best players in program history. But, Jadyn Mace and Marlee Grinstead return to lead their team to another successful year on the hardwood.

The boys were TVC runner ups as well, falling behind the Athens Bulldogs. The team ended their season 14-7 overall, and 11-1 in the TVC-Ohio. 

As for this season, the Spartans only had three seniors graduate including; Dylan Mecum, Stone Markins-Irwin and Kameron Riley. The remainder of their roster returns, including Caleb Terry.

-Alexander Lead Reporter, Claire Geary


Athens Bulldogs

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There’s a youth movement going on in the Plains this season for the Lady Bulldogs, and a lot of players will have to grow up faster than anticipated.

Coming off an 8-15 season last year, head coach of the Lady Bulldogs Seth Matheny finds himself with a roster for the 2019-2020 season that is loaded with underclassmen.

Athens’ roster includes three freshman and five sophomores this season, while only having two returning starters, Laura Manderick and Mindi Gregory, who are both seniors and the only upper classmen on the roster for this season.

Laura Manderick will be the number one scoring option for the Lady Bulldogs this season as she has been since she stepped into Athens High School. It only took Manderick her first three years to achieve the 1,000-point plateau in her career. 

Any success that the Lady Bulldogs offensive attack haves this season will run through Manderick, whether that is scoring or dishing the rock at the point guard position.

With the departures of Lilly Mills, Kaylee Stewart, and Emma Harter, senior guard Mindi Gregory, who is the other returning starter, will have to be a viable second scoring option for Athens this season.

Her ability to drive to the basket causes issues for defenses and if she can be effective with that this season it can help take some of the pressure off Manderick.

Harper Bennett and Kesi Federspiel are two returning sophomores who saw a significant number of minutes as freshman. That experience should serve them well and hopefully help them mentor the other young players on the squad this season.

The Lady Bulldogs are not the only Athens team that will look a lot different than last year.

The boys team had a season to remember last year, bringing home the TVC-Ohio Championship, while posting an impressive 11-1 record in conference, as well as a sectional championship when they defeated Logan Elm 43-40.

The Bulldogs had a loaded senior class last year that included Eli Chubb, Justin Hynes, Elijah Williams, and All-Hero team selection Logan Maxfield. Head coach Mickey Cozart will no longer have any of these players to lean on.

The sole returning starter for the Bulldogs is Isaiah Butcher. The 6’4 center was the anchor to the Athens defense a season ago and is a force in the paint on offense as well. Butcher can also hit the occasional outside jumper if you leave him open.

Look for Butcher to be the emotional leader for Athens this season, as he plays the game with a fire and passion that is matched by few.

Brayden Markins and Brayden Whiting saw some minutes off the bench last season and will have increased roles for their senior season.

The Bulldogs also added Nate Trainer to the roster for the 2019-2020 season. Trainer is a superb athlete and will be looked to as a viable scoring option throughout the season. 

It will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs can emulate what they did a season ago and return to the Convo once again in the postseason.

-Athens Lead Reporter, Joey Madore


Nelsonville-York Buckeyes

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The Buckeyes will have a lot of new faces on the team this year. First-year head coach Blaine Gabriel comes over from Alexander, and he only has one returning starter on the roster this season in senior Mikey Seel, but there is optimism for a young Nelsonville-York squad.

In a scrimmage Saturday against the Waterford Wildcats, Seel and fellow senior Austin Thrapp led the team offensively, but it was some of younger players that stood out on the defensive end. Freshman Maleek Williams and junior JaJuan Williams both played stout defense at the rim, and sophomore Drew Carter did his part pressuring ball handlers into missed shots and turnovers on the perimeter.

Gabriel said he felt the team was about two weeks behind implementing his schemes following the scrimmage, but the potential is there for Nelsonville-York. If some of the younger varsity players step up, the Buckeyes can make an impact in the TVC-Ohio in Gabriel’s inaugural season.

The Nelsonville-York Lady Buckeyes have a big void to fill following the graduation of Mary-Kate McCulloch, a member of Hardwood Heroes’ All-Hero team last season. Fortunately for the Lady Buckeyes, they have the personnel to do it.

Led by head coach Bobby Cassady, the Lady Buckeyes have an experienced roster. Senior Joscelyn Heller will look to lead for Nelsonville-York, but the player to keep an eye on is sophomore Mackenzie Hurd. A member of Hardwood Heroe’s All-Future team last year as a freshman, Hurd is one of the most all-around players in our coverage. If she can build off of her first year on the team, the other teams in the TVC-Ohio should be on notice.

It’s never easy to replace someone of McCulloch’s stature, but the Lady Buckeyes have the experience, talent and coaching to push towards the top of the conference.

-Nelsonville-York Lead Reporter, Will Price


Meigs Marauders

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The Meigs Marauders boys team finished last season 13-11 in an up-and-down season that saw the squad experience both losing streaks and winning streaks throughout the year.

Saying goodbye to several key players, including Nick Lilly and brothers Ty and Zach Bartrum, Meigs will have to replace a lot of ball handling and rebounding.

Something the Marauders will not have to worry about this year is scoring. Senior (and recent member of the 1,000 point club) Weston Baer and sophomore Coulter Cleland can fill it up, and Meigs will rely on the two when they need a basket. The pair made the All-Heroes and All-Futures teams last year, respectively. Senior big man Bobby Musser is another player to watch, as he has taken strides every year coming into his final campaign this season.

The TVC-Ohio is always a dog fight, and if the teams that were at the top of the conference last year waver at all, this Marauders team has the talent and tenacity to capitalize.

The Meigs Lady Marauders ended their previous year 15-9, scorching opponents with three-point barrages before bowing out to the Washington Court House Lady Blue Lions in the district semifinals.

That season saw seven seniors leave the program, and with them left a chasm of production that this iteration of the Lady Marauders will try to fill.

Much of the rotation for Meigs this season will be a mystery until we actually see them in action, but a known quantity for Jarrod Kasun’s squad will be sophomore Mallory Hawley, who will look to be the number one option after a promising freshman year that saw her make the All-Futures team.

This should be an exciting year for the Lady Marauders, as they will look to find their style of play after seeing so many departures, while trying to maintain and build off of the culture change the previous senior class established.

-Meigs Lead Reporter, Nick Henthorn