CVC Boys Basketball Preview

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The 2017-2018 boys’ basketball season is underway and if things go the way the Chagrin Valley Conference coaches project them to, a pair of familiar teams will defend their Chagrin and Valley division titles they won last year.

OhioVarsity.com surveyed the CVC coaches to determine which teams are projected to win their respective conferences and those players likely to earn first team All-CVC honors.

Below are the results:

CHAGRIN DIVISION

1. BEACHWOOD

Beachwood returns three starters from the squad that finished 17-8 with a share of the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division title. The Bison have several other key pieces back and they’re hoping to win the league title outright followed by a long postseason run this winter. Junior combo guard Jayson Woodrich returns after averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds per game on his way to earning first team All-CVC honors. Adding to the Beachwood attack is senior guard Josh Sizemore, who averaged 10 points, 6.5 assists and 2 steals per contest last year. He was named second team All-CVC. Seniors Cam Thomas and Michael Gordon and junior Allon Hardin round out the Bison projected starting lineup. Thomas, a guard, averaged 7 points and 4 assists per game while Gordon, a combo guard, dropped 7 points and pulled down 10 rebounds per contest. Both were named honorable mention All-CVC. Seniors Lance Cohen, Ben Connor, Errick Sanders and E.J. Atkins, junior Jimmie Mitchell, sophomore Noah Patrick and freshmen Collin Albert and Sirr Hughes also will contribute for the Bison.

2. CHAGRIN FALLS

With two returning starters and four seniors in the projected starting lineup, the Chagrin Falls Tigers have a blend of experience and talent. The Tigers also have plenty of depth as they tip off the 2017-2018 season. The projected starters include seniors Mason Bartlett, Adam Bencko, Will DiFiore and Nick DiFiore. Bencko, a 6-foot-2 forward, and Will DiFiore, a 6-foot-1 forward, are returning starters. Bencko averaged 7.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest in being named honorable mention All-Chagrin Valley Conference. DiFiore finished the year with 3.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest. Junior Jack Amendola, a 5-foot-9 guard, is the lone underclassman projected to start for the Tigers. Junior Jenson Yonker also should play a critical role for the Tigers. The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 8.8 points and 5.2 rebounds last season in being named honorable mention All-CVC. Seniors Jack Deignan, Thomas DiGiampietro, Jake Fritz, David Mayer and Michael Vinci and juniors Josh Janus, Mike Vandertill, Cole Weiss, Matthew Suzelis, Jonathan Edwards and Peyton Lewis will provide depth for Chagrin Falls.

3. ORANGE

The Lions have some rebuilding to do after graduating all five starters from last year’s 13-8 squad. First-year head coach Ashen Ward is projected to start three seniors in center Yusef Paige, forward Revelation Sanders and guard Caleb Zwick. Sophomore forward Marvin Davies and sophomore guard Nicholas Walters round out the projected starting lineup. Ward also expects junior center Max Lieken and sophomores Harrison Pyner, a guard, and Donald Hughes, a forward, to contribute.

4. HARVEY

Harvey’s boys’ basketball team opens the 2017-2018 season with four returning starters and several others with varsity experience. Sixth-year head coach Dave Wojciechowski is encouraged by what he’s seen in the preseason and confident the Red Raiders are building a solid foundation for years to come. Harvey’s strength lies in its team speed and the Red Raiders will use that quickness to keep opposing teams on their heels. It all starts with sophomore guard Bishop Thomas, who averaged 15.4 points, 4.5 rebound and 3.3 assists per game last year on his way to earning second team All-Chagrin Valley Conference honors. Other projected starters include sophomore forward Devon “Woo” Holbert, sophomore guard Tyrelle Early, junior guard Daylin “Day Day” Davis and junior combo guard David Dobbins. Wojciechowski is counting on senior combo guard Desmond “DJ” Taylor, junior guard Jordan Walter and sophomore guard Jalen Cunningham to provide quality depth for the Red Raiders.

5. WEST GEAUGA

With four returning starters and a host of experienced seniors, West Geauga has the experience needed to win in the competitive Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division. The Wolverines also added a talented freshman in Josh Irwin, who already has made an immediate impact. Leading the way for the Wolverines are senior guards Jax Shenkel and Caleb Ramey. Shenkel was named first team All-CVC after averaging 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals per game. Ramey was an honorable mention all-league honoree. He averaged 13 points, five rebounds and three assists per game. He also knocked down 43-percent of his 3-point tries. Senior guards Nico Morgano and Mark Sexton also are expected to start after combining for 17 points and seven rebounds per game last year. Senior guard Carmen Calo, senior forward Matt Podojil and junior guard Marco Formichelli will be called on to provide key minutes off the bench for the Wolverines.

6. GENEVA

With all five starters returning from last season and a strong offseason, Geneva’s boys’ basketball team is poised to shake things up in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division this winter. The Eagles finished 7-17 last year but have the experience, talent and desire to make a major improvement this season. Geneva’s projected starters include a senior, two juniors and two sophomores. Junior forward Nick Stoltz returns average posting 14.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.2 steals per game on his way to earning second team all-CVC and honorable mention All-Northeast Lakes District honors. Sophomore point guard Brandon Smith also averaged in double figures last season with 13.4 points per contest. He also contributed with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Junior shooting guard Grant Mihalick also returns to the starting lineup after scoring 7 points per game last winter. He was named honorable mention all-Northeast Lakes District. Senior forward Oscar Varckette and sophomore forward Blake Peet round out the Geneva projected starting lineup. Clugh also expects major contributions from senior center Jared Rice (1.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg) and junior guards Seth Goodrick and Dawson Schafer.

7. PERRY

Did not respond.

8. WICKLIFFE

Did not respond.

PRESEASON ALL-CVC CHAGRIN DIVISION

  • Jayson Woodrich, Beachwood
  • Bishop Thomas, Harvey
  • Jax Shenkel, West Geauga
  • Adam Bencko, Chagrin Falls
  • Josh Sizemore, Beachwood

VALLEY DIVISION

1. HAWKEN

Hawken graduated four starters from the team that won the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title last winter, but the cupboard isn’t exactly bare. The Hawks return five players who gained valuable experience last year and four of five projected starters are seniors. Senior point guard Hugh Brown returns as one of the league’s top players. He averaged 14.8 points, 4.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game last season on the way to earning the league’s MVP award. He is a three-time all-conference performer and recently committed to play at Lake Erie College. Senior shooting guard Charlie Ross, senior small forward Jimmy Clark and senior center T.J. Perusek also are slated to start for the Hawks in 2017-2018. Junior power forward Michael Snyder rounds out the starting lineup. Seniors Eli Ehrbar, Audith Abraham, and Nick Canitia also are expected to make an impact this winter.

2. KIRTLAND

Kirtland coach Nick Gallo is excited about his team’s potential during the 2017-2018 season, even with a late start due to the football team advancing to the state football championship game for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Hornets finished a disappointing 11-12 last winter but with several returning starters and other key varsity players, Kirtland has the versatility and potential to compete for the conference title and more. Seniors Brandon Samsa and Dylan Fulco and juniors Dominic Capretta and Jack Bailey are projected to fill four of the five starting spots in the lineup. The other has yet to be determined. Samsa, a guard/forward, averaged 13.1 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists last season. Fulco, a forward, scored 5 points with 4 rebounds per contest. Capretta, the team’s point guard, averaged 5.6 points, 2.5 assists and 3 rebounds per contest. Bailey, a forward, averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds per game last year.

3. RICHMOND HEIGHTS

Did not respond.

4. CARDINAL

In seven years as head coach at Cardinal, Jon Cummins always looked forward to the 2017-2018 season. He watched his four seniors grow up and develop from grade school players to multi-year starters at the high school level and with all five starters returning, the Huskies have a boatload of potential and extremely high expectations. Seven of Cardinal’s players have at least a year or two of varsity experience, which should help the team avoid the wide-eyed scenario it encountered in key games during past seasons. Seniors Luke Timas, the point guard, Robbie Mulh, a forward, Hayden Cummins, a center/forward, and Parker Kosh, a guard, provide the foundation of the team their coach dreamed of for so long. Timas is a four-year varsity player and three-year starter. He averaged 11.3 points, 4.9 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game last year on the way to earning second team all-conference and honorable mention all-district honors. Junior guard/forward Matt Carney, Cardinal’s lone underclassmen projected to start this season, should handle the pressure of big games as well as his senior teammates, considering he spent the fall quarterbacking the Huskies’ football team. Juniors Robbie Bruncak and Brice Hogue and senior David Braun also are expected to play big roles for the Huskies this season. Bruncak tied the school record for 3-pointers made in a single game three times last winter.

5. CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS

The Cuyahoga Heights football team made a second straight trip to the state football championship game earlier this month and now many of those same players traded in their cleats for a pair of high tops in the hopes of leading the Redskins to a deep postseason run on the basketball court. The Redskins return just one starter but they have the size, talent and athleticism to make that run. With a size advantage in the small school divisions, Tartara will challenge his players to be effective in pulling down rebounds on both ends of the court. The Redskins always hang their hat on playing sound defense and that could lead to success on the offensive side. Four seniors are expected to fill out the core of the starting lineup. That group includes guard Ryan Polk, who quarterbacked the football team to the state finals. He averaged six points, 1.5 rebounds and one assist per game last season and also led the Redskins in 3-pointers made. Senior post Lucas D’Orazio was another member of that football team and he’ll be expected to shine the same way this winter. He averaged four points and three rebounds per game last year. Jon Teter and Michael Adamo also are expected to start. Senior wing Tyler Hughes, junior guard Nassiem Salem and sophomore guard Ryan Selig also are expected to compete for starting roles.

6. INDEPENDENCE

In his first five years at Independence, Hugh McMahon has been patient as the Blue Devils experienced a bit of a youth movement. This year’s team is McMahon’s most experienced squad and the offseason work has the Blue Devils ready to compete in 2017-2018. Independence’s potential starts with senior guard Kyle Stefanski, a two-time second team All-Chagrin Valley Conference and two-time honorable mention All-Northeast Lakes District honoree. Stefanski, a four-year starter and three-year captain, led the Blue Devils in nearly every statistical category last season and is closing in the 1,000-point mark for his career. Joining Stefanski in the starting lineup are senior forward Jack Ksiazka, senior guard Andrew Teribery, sophomore forward Jamie McMahon and sophomore center Wyatt Flynn. Senior guards Akhil Patel and Justin Pace and sophomore guard Thomas Ceculski are expected to play key roles this winter.

7. BERKSHIRE

Berkshire opened the 2017-2018 season without a returning starter and just one player who saw regular varsity action last winter. That leaves the Badgers young and inexperienced but eager to learn and compete for another Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title. The Badgers also lack size, so their focus will be on protecting the ball and causing havoc on defense to create turnovers and more scoring chances. Pillot, a guard, is one of three seniors in the projected starting lineup. Jake Trushel will fill one of the other guard positions and Cole Crea will play forward. Junior guard Sam Roach and sophomore forward Jake Sinkenbring round out the starting lineup. Junior guard Jacob Young and junior forwards Ky Bowman and Bobby Czekaj also are expected to contribute for the Badgers.

8. FAIRPORT HARDING

Winning just two games last winter wasn’t easy on anyone in the Fairport basketball program. That rough year provided the motivation for the Skippers during the offseason and they enter the 2017-2018 season with more experience and plenty of hope. Offensively, the Skippers will again play to their strengths, which includes feeding sharpshooter Corey Paugh as much as possible. Paugh is one of two returning starters. He averaged 13.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game last season in being named second team All-Chagrin Valley Conference. He also connected on 62 3-pointers and shot 72-percent from the free throw line. Senior guard/forward Mitch Yommer also returns to the starting lineup after averaging eight points, two assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. He hit on 26 of his 3-point tries and was named honorable mention All-CVC. Senior small forward Kasey Carrabine, junior power forward/center Tobin Schafer and junior forward Jacob Severino round out the starting lineup. Junior Ray Alston and sophomores Sam Schuster and Cody Paugh also are expected to contribute for the Skippers this season.

PRESEASON ALL-CVC VALLEY DIVISION

  • Hugh Brown, Hawken
  • Curtis Houston, Richmond Heights
  • Brandon Samsa, Kirtland
  • Kyle Stefanski, Independence
  • Luke Timas, Cardinal
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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.