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Battle for PCL title should be competitive

Boys Basketball


December 12. 2013 6:18AM
ROSS BISHOFF sports@limanews.com

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The 2012-13 season was the year of “The Viking” in the Putnam County League.


Leipsic was magic on the court a year ago. The Vikings finished the league unbeaten at 7-0 to claim the PCL banner and finished the season 25-5 in the Division IV state championship game, losing to a loaded Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s team 87-63.


Gone from that team is a talented crew that included Devin Mangas (16.9 points per game), Austin Brown (12.6 ppg, 6.5 boards per game), Aric Schroeder (5.0 assists per game) and Mitch Kuhlman (5.0 rpg). Overall, Leipsic lost 10 seniors from that state runner-up crew.


Leipsic’s ability to defend its PCL title this season will hinge on how quickly it can grow up. The Vikings’ top returnee is Zach Kuhlman (6-foot-2), one of three seniors back for Leipsic. Kuhlman scored 14.2 points per game last year and sunk 50 3-pointers. His fellow seniors include Neil Haselman (6-1, Guard) and Oscar Lopez (6-3, Post). From there, Vikings’ coach Scott Maag will be looking at a large crew of underclassmen to step up and compete at a high varsity level.


BEWARE THE BULLDOGS: While Leipsic stole most the headlines last year, Columbus Grove turned in a strong campaign. The Bulldogs were 17-8 overall and 6-1 in the PCL. Coach Ryan Stechschulte will guide a solid group of players primed for the 2013-14 campaign, including 6-7 senior forward/post Will Vorhees, who scored 16 ppg and was a First Team All-District selection.


Four letterwinners, good size and talented newcomers give Columbus Grove plenty of reason for optimism.


NEW FACES: Two new coaches will be manning the sidelines for PCL clubs this season. Logan Smith takes over at Pandora-Gilboa while Kurtis Brown is in charge at Continental.


Both coaches will be trying to turn things around at their respective programs. P-G was 4-19 overall a year ago (0-7 PCL) while Continental was 7-15 (1-6 PCL).


However, neither coach is pessimistic. Smith inherits a Rockets’ team with decent size and six seniors. Meanwhile, Brown’s Pirates only have two returning letterwinners, but he has a solid group of seniors and juniors who he states are playing with a ton of heart.


DANGEROUS WILDCATS: Kalida (10-13 overall, 5-2 PCL) and Miller City (16-7, 4-3) were both very competitive in the league standings a year ago and look to improve this season.


Kalida returns three starters in Joe Gerdeman (6-2, senior, center), Adam Langhals (5-9, senior, guard) and junior Devin Kortokrax (6-0, forward) and five total letterwinners. Coach Dick Kortokrax’s team will use the early part of the season to develop its style of play and team chemistry and as the season develops, the Wildcats should be a tough foe.


Meanwhile, Miller City enters the season with a trio of letterwinners in Cory Heuerman (6-0, senior, forward), Adam Drummelsmith (6-1, junior, point guard) and Adam Niese (6-0, junior, guard).


Though Miller City had a respectable regular season last year, coach Bryan Kuhlman believes the Wildcats are hungry following a disappointing early knockout in last year’s sectionals.


BIG GREEN MOVING UP?: Since coach Todd Turnwald took over Ottoville’s boys basketball program in 2011-12, the Big Green have been turning in the right direction.


This season, Ottoville could continue that upward climb with four returning letterwinners, led by senior 6-4 wing Luke Schimmoeller.


According to Turnwald, last year’s senior class helped the program take a big step toward changing the culture and this year’s club is focused on continuing that trend.


TEAM CAPSULES


COLUMBUS GROVE


Coach: Ryan Stechschulte


Years, Record at School: Third year


Last year’s record: 17-8 overall, 6-1 PCL


Division: IV


Returning Letterwinners: Will Vorhees (6-7, Sr., F/P), Riley Brubaker (6-2, Sr., F), Jace Darbyshire (5-10, Jr., G), Joey Warnecke (5-10, Jr., G).


Top Newcomers: David Bogard (5-9, Jr.), Gabe Stechschulte (6-0, Soph., G), Elisha Jones (6-1, Jr.), Nate Kohls (6-0, Jr., F), Logan Diller (6-3, Soph., F).


Season Outlook: Vorhees returns after scoring 16 ppg a year ago and earning First Team All-District honors a year ago. Brubaker is also a returning starter at forward. The Bulldogs have a good mix of size, experience, leadership and will welcome in a solid crew of young contributors who look to get better with each week.


CONTINENTAL


Coach: Kurtis Brown


Years, Record at School: First


Last year’s record: 7-15 overall, 1-6 PCL


Division: IV


Returning Letterwinners: 2


Varsity Roster: Joey Swager (6-3, Jr.), Gabe Williams (6-2, Jr.), Tyler Rue (6-0, Sr.), Zach Schwarzman (5-6, Jr.), Caleb Baker (6-0, Jr.), Derek Troyer (5-8, Jr.), Adam Lawhorn (5-11, Sr.), Austin Mansfield (5-11, Sr.), Wade Stauffer (5-11, Fr.), Vernon Prowant (5-8, Sr.), Matt Bracken (6-3, Sr.), Page Thomas (6-1, Jr.).


Season Overview: Rue and Schwarzman give the Pirates two solid players. According to Brown, the team has tons of heart and gives plenty of effort. But lack of experience is cause for concern. Brown is looking forward to seeing his team grow and is hopeful Continental will peak at the right time and make a solid tournament run.


FORT JENNINGS


Coach: Keith Utendorf


Years, Record at School: First


Last year’s record: 6-17 overall, 2-5 PCL


Division: IV


Returning Letterwinners: Nick Von Sossan (6-1, Jr., G), Connor Wallenhorst (6-2, Jr., F), Josh Wittler (6-1, Sr., P), Logan Sickles (6-3, Sr., P), Austin Kehres (6-0, Jr., G), Nate German (5-11, Sr., F).


Top Newcomers: Mark Metzger (5-11, G, Jr.), Tyler Ricker (5-11, Jr., F), Drew Grone (6-2, Soph., G).


Season Outlook: According to Utendorf, his players worked hard this offseason, are responding well to his coaches and are working hard to improve their skills. The Musketeers shoot well at times but need to improve their shooting skills while defended. Utendorf also wants his team to improve its intensity at guarding the basketball and playing with pace at both ends of the court.


KALIDA


Coach: Dick Kortokrax


Years, Record at School: 39, 625-242 (54 overall, 850-342)


Last year’s record: 10-13 overall, 5-2 PCL


Division: IV


Returning Letterwinners: Joe Gerdeman (6-2, Sr., C), Adam Langhals (5-9, Sr., G), Randy Zeller (6-4, Sr., C), Devin Kortokrax (6-0, Jr., F), Cole Miller (6-3, Jr., C).


Top Newcomers: Luke Langhals (6-0, Jr., F), Logan Roebke (6-1, Jr., F), Trent Gerding (6-2, Soph., C), Trevor Maag, Austin Swift (5-9, Soph., F), Grant Unverferth (5-10, Soph., G), Brandon Verhoff (6-2, Soph., C).


Season Outlook: The Wildcats return three starters from last year’s squad in Gerdeman, Langhals and Devin Kortokrax. Coach Kortokrax states that because of the highly competitive schedule his team faces, the Wildcats will use the first part of the season to develop its style of play and team chemistry.


LEIPSIC


Coach: Scott Maag


Years, Record at School: Six, 84-56


Last year’s record: 25-5 overall (Division IV state runners-up), 7-0 PCL, 7-2 BVC


Division: IV


Returning Letterwinners: Zach Kuhlman (6-2, Sr., G), Neil Haselman (6-1, Sr., G), Oscar Lopez (6-3, Sr., P).


Top Newcomers: Jordan Brown (6-3, Soph., W), Matt Schroeder (5-10, Soph., G), Gavin Cupp (6-5, Soph., P).


Season Overview: The Vikings had an incredible run a year ago, making it to the state finals before losing to a phenomenal Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph squad. This year’s team must turn the page quickly and find a way to replace 10 seniors who were talented and aggressive on the court. Coach Maag wants this team to grow into their new roles over the course of the season and finish the year a much improved team.


MILLER CITY


Coach: Bryan Kuhlman


Years, Record at School: Three, 29-16


Last year’s record: 16-7 overall, 4-3 PCL


Division: IV


Returning Letterwinners: Cory Heuerman (6-0, Sr., F), Adam Drummelsmith (6-1, JR., PG), Adam Niese (6-0, Jr., G).


Top Newcomers: Mick Lammers (5-10, Sr., F), Jacob Gerten (5-10, Sr., G), Jared Snyder (5-10, Jr., G), Jackson Lammers (5-10, Soph., F).


Season Overview: Look for the trio of Heuerman, Drummelsmith and Niese to be a solid nucleus for the Wildcats to build on. Kuhlman believes his team is highly motivated entering the season following a disappointing sectional loss a year ago.


OTTOVILLE


Coach: Todd Turnwald


Years, Record at School: N/A


Last year’s record: N/A


Division: IV


Returning Letterwinners: Luke Schimmoeller (6-4, Sr., W), Brandt Landin (6-4, Jr., G), Austin Honigford (6-1, Jr., W), Tyler Roby (6-1, Jr., W).


Top Newcomers: Cory Honigford (6-1, Sr., W), Matt Turnwald (6-0, Sr., W), Kyle Bendele (6-5, Jr., P), Colin Bendele (6-0, Jr., G).


Season Overview: Schimmoeller leads a crew of returning letterwinners and starters after claiming All-PCL honors a year ago. According to Turnwald, last year’s seniors helped to start changing the culture within the Big Green program and that this year’s seniors are eager to keep that going. Overall, Turnwald is confident in the group he has for the 2013-14 campaign.


PANDORA-GILBOA


Coach: Logan Smith


Years, Record at School: First


Last year’s record: 4-19 overall, 0-7 PCL, 2-7 BVC


Division: IV


Returning Letterwinners: Seth Schmenk (6-2, Sr., G), Brian Schneck (6-0, Jr., G), Dustin Rieman (6-0, Sr., G), Jacob Wauters (5-10, Sr., G), Jared Tousley (6-5, Sr., C).


Top Newcomers: Alex Osborn (6-3, Sr., F), Colin Fenstermaker (6-5, Jr., F), Cole Alexander (6-4, Soph., C).


Season Outlook: Logan Smith takes over a team that struggled a year ago but returns with some size and experience, with six seniors. Schmenk scored 10 points per game a year ago while Schneck knocked in 20 3-pointers from his guard spot last year. Tousley averaged 4.1 boards per game last year.




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