1. What’s ahead this season for Lima Central Catholic after two state titles in three years?
The Thunderbirds won Division III state championships in 2016 and 2014 and were state runner-up in between in 2015. All of those state finals were against Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph.
But LCC will put an entirely new starting five on the floor this season. Last year’s starters, Dantez Walton, Tre Cobbs, Josh Dixon, Ethan O’Connor and Nick Taflinger, all graduated.
Last year’s sixth man, Thomas Williams, is the top returning player. The inexperienced Thunderbirds will take on a schedule that includes Lima Senior, Ottawa-Glandorf, Toledo St. John’s, Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, Crestview, Spencerville and others.
2. Will Lima Senior reload for another deep run in the tournament?
The Spartans were Division I state runner-up last season when they were beaten 57-55 by Westerville South in the state championship. In that game, the winning basket was scored with 1.8 seconds to play.
Like LCC, the Spartans will have several new players in the lineup after the graduation of Mr. Basketball Xavier Simpson and players such as Ruben Flowers, Rico Stafford, Jaylin Thomas, Marquevious Wilson and others. Jarius Ward is the only returning player to get significant playing time during the tournament run.
3. How will the changing of the guard play out at Kalida?
All-time career wins leader Dick Kortokrax announced his resignation after last season at Kalida and was replaced by former Columbus Grove coach Ryan Stechschulte.
Kortokrax retired with a career record of 890-317 and had been head coach at Kalida for 41 seasons. Overall, he coached 56 seasons at Kalida, Ottoville and Fort Jennings.
4. Could Perry take the next step and reach its first state tournament?
The Commodores played in their first boys basketball regional tournament last season, losing in the semifinals of the Dayton Division IV regional to Yellow Springs.
With returning players such as Jakoby Lane-Harvey and Kobe Glover, Perry could make another deep tournament run. It has won 22, 18 and 18 games the last three seasons.
5. What are some of the more intriguing league games this season?
Dec. 9 – Versailles at Delphos St. John’s. Blue Jays fans will get an early-season look at Versailles’ Justin Ahrens, who verbally committed to Ohio State this summer before his junior year of high school.
Dec. 13 – Toledo St. John’s at Lima Senior. Like last year, Three Rivers Athletic Conference powers Lima Senior and Toledo St. John’s get right to it early in the season. It’s a Tuesday night game at Lima Senior.
Jan. 21 – Kalida at Columbus Grove. Kalida coach Ryan Stechschulte goes back to the school where his teams won more than twice as many games as they lost, only he’s on the visitors’ bench this time.
Feb. 10 – Crestview at Spencerville. Crestview and Spencerville have each won or shared two Northwest Conference championships in the last four seasons. Neither has finished below third in the NWC in that time span. Spencerville has a strong senior class, and Crestview’s sophomores were impressive as freshmen a year ago.
6. What are some of the more intriguing non-league games?
Dec. 10 – Archbold at Kalida. It will be the first home game for Kalida in the post-Kortokrax era.
Dec. 20 – Perry at Shawnee. This will be the first of three consecutive games against Western Buckeye League teams in nine days for the defending Northwest Central Conference champion Commodores. They follow up the Shawnee game with games against Van Wert and Wapakoneta.
Dec. 30 – Middletown at Lima Senior. Two traditional rivals match up again. An interesting sidelight is that Middletown coach Darnell Hoskins’ son, D.J., played for Lima Senior coach Quincey Simpson’s AAU team.
Jan. 17 – Lima Central Catholic at Lima Senior. Even if they might not be ranked as highly as a year ago, it’s still as good as rivalries get.
7. Can Lincolnview keep the momentum going?
In 2015, the Lancers won 14 games for their first winning season in 10 years. They followed that up with 27 wins and a Division IV state runner-up finish last season. Several key players from that team graduated, but Lincolnview hopes to build a winning tradition.
8. Can the Midwest Athletic Conference end what for it is a drought of state titles?
MAC football teams seem to win state championships every year, but the MAC has won only one boys basketball title in the last 12 seasons. The only MAC boys basketball state champion since 2004 was New Knoxville in 2008, which perhaps not coincidentally does not have a football team.
9. Who will be the best two-sports football/basketball players in the area?
It’s not an all-inclusive list, but a few who come to mind who could have big seasons on the football field and in the gym, assuming they come out of football healthy:
• Ottawa-Glandorf’s Jay Kaufman
• Delphos Jefferson’s Jace Stockwell
• Lima Central Catholic’s Thomas Williams
• Crestview’s Drew Kline
• Spencerville’s Dakota Prichard
• Coldwater’s Dylan Thobe
10. It could be a very wide-open tournament trail.
There are some very good teams in the area, but there is no team like Lima Senior or Lima Central Catholic last season, whose season would be regarded as a disappointment if they didn’t win or at least play for a state championship.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter @Lima_Naveau.