Ridgewood boys must be competitive this year

| November 27, 2012

WEST LAFAYETTE – When Ridgewood High School boys basketball coach Alan Keesee speaks of competing in the Inter-Valley Conference, he doesn’t back down from declaring just how competitive his players must be.

“We’re like the Big East Conference of Ohio,” Keesee said. “You can’t just show up and expect to mail it in. You have to play hard and physical and compete every night of the week whether you’re 8-and-0 or 0-and-8. It’s a dogfight no matter who you play.”

The Generals face a challenging season in terms of the competition with a number of players whose availability early in the season will be limited.

Five seniors return to provide leadership, including starters Dillon McPherson, Zak Keesee and Christian Grove. Grove posted 14 points and 9 rebounds per game last year; Keesee was at 10 points and 6 boards, while McPherson’s value was in how he operated the point guard position.

“Dillon did a real nice job taking over that position last year and is coming into his final year with experience and leadership,” Keesee said.

He is a 6-footer while Grove, a post, and Zak Keesee, a wing, are both 6-3. Keesee will also see time backing up at point guard.

Two other seniors are now in the mix as well. A 6-0 guard Tyler Davis returns to the sport after dedicating himself to a successful high school career in varsity golf and 5-10 guard Joey Raach moved into the district from Newcomerstown nearly a year ago and will become eligible on his anniversary date.

Depth will come from Ryan Lowe, a versatile 6-3 junior who provided a big lift off the bench last year, 5-9 junior Seth Bergeron, 5-10 junior Tyler Milligan, and 6-2 sophomore Matt Saylor.

Also in the mix will be 5-10 sophomore Matt Leitz, 5-10 freshman Austin Lowery, 5-9 freshman Cole Lillibridge, and 6-1 freshman Chase Merryman.

“We’ve got a good nucleus,” Coach Keesee said. “This is the first group that’s ran the cycle with this program, this being my fourth year. We’re coming off back-to-back 16-win seasons and of our top seven players from last year, four returned. From that standpoint, we feel pretty good.”

Gone from the halls of Ridgewood is Tanner Stoffer, now playing basketball and golf at West Liberty State College and Chris Saylor, now at Otterbein and a member of their track and field team.

Stoffer led the Generals with 19 points per game.

Keesee believes Garaway and Malvern will be the teams to beat, but will never count out Hiland, which has won back-to-back state championships but lost a tremendous amount of talent through graduation.

“I’m not too sure there are many programs who can match up with Malvern with its size and strength. It has the advantage, but Garaway’s players one through 10 are probably the best-balanced team and Hiland is a misnomer.

“Everyone thinks they will be down this year. They lost some quality players coming off two state championships but those guys who are back practiced against back-to-back state champs, so they’ve had to improve.

“They’re not going to have 6-8, 6-7 and 6-6 across the backcourt that they’ve been accustomed to, but the reps those kids had have to be more valuable than actual game time. I don’t think you can count them out.”

Keesee also said that second-year coach Tyrone Miller has Tuscarawas Catholic’s program looking up and Newcomerstown didn’t lose a whole lot from last year’s squad.

“We’ve always played the season one game at a time,” Coach Keesee said. “The first game of the season is the first one and is the one we’re going to focus on and then we’ll get geared up for the second one and then the third one.”

The Generals open the season on Friday, Nov. 30, hosting Peoples Baptist.

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