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Area coaches pleased with Battle of Fort Stephenson

Kevin Shields • Jul 30, 2014 at 10:44 AM


Nothing is given in Richard Koonce's girls basketball program at Sandusky High School.

Especially, a chance to be seen by college coaches.

Despite the fact that Koonce's Blue Streaks were invited to participate in this past Sunday and Monday's Battle of Fort Stephenson NCAA certified exposure event at the Fremont Recreation Center, he only took the eight players he felt earned the opportunity to be seen.

“This was a monumental event for our basketball program to be invited to,” Koonce said, whose Sandusky squad went 11-11 last season. “My philosophy as a coach is if you work hard, particularly in the summer time, to get better, then I'll do all the things I think that a coach should do to get you seen by coaches at the next level. But they had to earn it. I wasn't just going to take anyone.

“This event had the possibility to be a life-changing event for some of our players,” he added. “I was proud to see our program involved in this type of event.”

Koonce's sentiments were shared by a majority of those who attended the event organized by Clyde varsity girls coach John Cahill. Cahill, the founder of the Fremont-based, North Coast Showtime, LTD AAU program, brought in 16 total teams to compete in the two-day event, which was attended heavily by Ohio-area college coaches.

Included on the schedule were powerhouse high school programs, such as Lima Bath, Hathaway Brown, Reynoldsburg and tournament winner Wadsworth. The Grizzlies beat Bath, 35-30, in the title game.

“Probably over two-thirds of the college coaches that showed up were Division I coaches, which was a pleasant surprise,” Cahill said. “The games were good. The coaches seemed real happy — both the high school and college coaches.

“Overall, for it being in its first year, we were happy with how everything went,” he added. “We're already starting to plan for the 2015 event.”

All the home cooking and hospitality, didn't hurt.

“The college coaches loved my wife's fajitas,” Cahill joked.

One school hoping to receive a return invitation is Oak Harbor.

“This was a first class event all the way,” Rockets coach Tom Kontak said. “It was a big thrill for us at Oak Harbor to be invited to it. Getting the opportunity to play those big schools was only a positive for us. Even though the scoreboard came up a little bit short for us, we had to get better as a team, and we did.”

Oak Harbor, district finalists at 20-5 a year ago, will be one of the favorites to try to replace Clyde at the top of the Sandusky Bay Conference this upcoming winter.

Kontak returns one of the region's premier players in 5-foot-10 post Andrea Cecil, a third-team All-Ohio selection in Division III. Cecil, who averaged 19.5 points and 7.6 rebounds a game as a sophomore, has already been linked to interest from schools such as Indiana University and the University of Cincinnati, among many others.

“We've been fortunate to have a player like Andrea (Cecil) who draws attention from college coaches,” Kontak said. “But even with most of the coaches coming to see her, it's given a lot of our other players a chance to be seen as well. This only builds on that.”

The Rockets had four juniors, six sophomores and one freshman in uniform, as they went 2-2 and finished seventh overall at the Battle of Fort Stephenson.

Day 1 saw Oak Harbor top the North Coast Showtime squad, 49-42, before falling, 54-39, to Reynoldsburg. The Rockets lost to Olentangy (46-23) to open Day 2 but battled back for a 40-27 win over Fostoria St. Wendelin.

“We had three specific goals we wanted to accomplish,” Kontak said. “We wanted to be closer as a team, we wanted the girls to embrace all positive and negative plays. Then lastly, we wanted to improve as a team.”

Sandusky topped Old Fort, 32-20, in its opener for its lone tournament win. It lost games to Lima Bath (63-30), NC Showtime (40-39) and Berlin-Hiland (47-39).

“That first day was rough.” Koonce said. “We didn't play well, despite beating Old Fort, and then Lima Bath ran us off the floor. We pulled to within nine points to close the first half but they ended up beating us by over 30.

“But I think my girls needed that,” he added. “There are times when they need to take that kind of pounding from an opponent just to wake them up. I believe they woke up and they said, 'You know what? We're better than this.' They played hard that next day, and both games were close games.”

Koonce liked the play he saw from seniors Nauytica Grant, Ta'Sharra Jeffries and Gustania Walls. He was also pleased with the efforts he received from juniors Taia Parker and Tenisha Hopkins.

Jordan Johnson, Tia Harper and Andra Grant were three freshmen that saw time for the Blue Streaks.

“The main thing I wanted to see was our girls playing up to their potential,” Koonce said. “As long as they were focused and playing with intensity, that's what I want to see.”

A depleted Clyde squad, playing without top player Kelsey Michaels, went 1-3, losing to St. Wendelin (40-19), Toledo Whitmer (59-30) and Fremont Ross (38-35). The Fliers topped Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic in their tournament finale, 49-19.

“We got a lot of growing to do,” Cahill said. “I think when it's all said and done, this summer is going to be a great benefit to us.

“These kids have really kind of had to find their own way,” he continued. “Hopefully, people will be patient with this group. Things won't be like they've been in the past right off the bat. But I like these kids. They did some good things this past weekend, and they did some goofy things, too.”

One thing is clear, though, Cahill's Battle of Fort Stephenson should have plenty of reenactments.

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