Three juniors provide promise for Clay basketball

J. Patrick Eaken

In a league like the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, dominated by St. John’s, Whitmer, St. Francis and Lima Senior in recent years, you still have to believe you can win championships.
        Third-year Clay boys basketball coach David Rodriguez believed his team could finish at the “top of the league because if you don’t believe that then why do we play?”
        However, it appears that is not going to happen. The Eagles (2-8) are not mathematically eliminated from finishing in the upper half, but have a long way to get there.
        Already Clay is winless in five league games, losing to St. Francis (43-39), Fremont Ross (54-53), Lima Senior (103-62), Whitmer (48-42), Findlay (68-45), and St. John’s (62-52) on Tuesday. In three of those games, the Eagles were in position to win, but could not finish. Injuries have been a factor.
        “This season hasn't gone as planned so far. Injuries and illness have hampered our team,” Rodriguez said.
        Overall, Clay opened with seven straight losses and then win two straight non-league games, downing Perkins, 40-27, and Bowsher, 49-42, to win the Clay’s holiday tournament.
        Key to those two wins was 6-foot-7 center Frank Waganfeald, who is averaging a double-double in 15 points and 10 rebounds. Also key were 5-9 guard Keeghan Calkins and 6-4 forward Noah Hagdohl. The good thing for Clay is all three of them are juniors.
        “Finally when we played Perkins we had everyone back healthy,” Rodriguez said. “Frank is always the focal point of our team.
        “But one of the two guys who played well in the tournament was Keeghan Calkins. He basically won us the game against Perkins with his relentless defense. We held them to five points total in the second and third (quarters) combined,” Rodriguez continued.
        “The kid who should get most the credit and has been the one that we need to play well and finally is healthy was Noah Hagdohl. He scored nine against Perkins and 16 against Bowsher. Then against St. John’s he had 21 in a close loss.”
        There was another reason why the championship game against Bowsher was stressful for Rodriguez, and that is his strong relationship with Bowsher coach Joe Guerrero, a Waite graduate who also coached at Waite and Clay.
        “The championship game we played well but is bitter sweet,” Rodriguez said. “Joe Guerrero is my father-in-law so playing him isn’t that fun. Frank had a solid game in the championship with 14 points, 10 boards and was named MVP of the tournament.”
        In other non-league action, Clay lost to Sylvania Northview (70-51) and Perrysburg (66-52). Rodriguez was hoping his team’s summer workout could payoff this season, but adds that ultimately experience this season will tell. Three seniors also play roles as starters or coming off the bench — 5-10 senior point guard Dorian Myers, 6-5 forward Sam Measel and 6-2 senior shooting guard Derek Bolander.
        In addition, Rodriguez believes he has the deepest team he has ever had with three more juniors, guard Scott Woollard, forward Ethan Spears and guard/forward Jayden Wellman as well as two sophomores — Max Alm and Owens Gibbs.
        Since most of Rodriguez’ players were underclassmen last year playing their first year of varsity basketball, he was hoping that would pay off this year. However, many are still underclassmen and will be playing their third year of varsity ball next year.
        “The TRAC is always one of the best conferences in Northwest Ohio and also I try to schedule the toughest non-conference schedule I can. We had a good summer and they look like a different team but that’s the summer so we will see,” Rodriguez said.
        “We’ll be seeing if we can overcome adversity when the lights come on.  We talk about mental toughness every day, now we just have to do it. We had to take a big step back last year and play a lot of first-time players. Six out of our top eight last year never played varsity basketball and now they know what it takes to win in our conference.”


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