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Lake expecting challenge from ‘Cats, Eagles, Comets

After leading Lake to a second place finish in Northern Buckeye Conference play in 2012-13, and improving his career record at Lake to 49-16, coach Ryan Bowen looks to once again keep his team near the top of the NBC heap and battling for league supremacy with perennial powerhouses Rossford and Eastwood and scrappy Otsego and Genoa.

“We will be young, but we will also be experienced,” Coach Bowen said. “(Junior guards) Connor Bowen (14.2 pts., 8.1 asst.) and Jared Rettig (14.7 pts., 3.0 asst.) have started every game since their freshman years, and we have a lot of young kids who play with a lot of heart. So, the effort is always there. Our success will come as everyone settles into their roles.”

Eastwood coach Matt Routson said Rossford and Lake could be the top two teams in the NBC, but the Eagles “could be in the mix.”

“To be successful we will have to play together,” he said. “We need to see a balanced scoring attack. We also need our players to utilize the experience they gained last year and to be prepared every game night and play together as a team.”

Eastwood 6-foot-1 senior guard Jake Schmeltz (18 pts.) was the top scorer, was second on the team off the glass (4.5 reb.), and led the team in averaging three assists.

“He is a captain and we will look to him to be the leader on the offensive end of the floor,” Routson said. “Jake is a great weapon on offense.”

Genoa, in “Year Two” under coach Keith Diebler, return all five starters and eight lettermen from a team that should benefit of having a full season of the coach’s system under their belts.

“The biggest thing is, we worked hard over the past year with strength and skills, so we can execute within the framework of the system,” Diebler said. “We shot in the mid-30s (percent) last year. We’re going to be in good shape. We want to shoot 80 times (a game), so if we shoot 40 percent or above, we’ll be in good shape. We’re going to shoot 20-30 threes a game.”

Diebler isn’t ready to proclaim Genoa on the verge of winning a conference title this year, but he liked what he saw in the team’s scrimmages.

“We fared fairly well,” he said. “I wanted to see where our bench is depth-wise. This is the second year of the program, and a lot of my former players say it takes until about the third year (to win a title). I think we’re way ahead of that pace. We only won three games last year and I expect to triple that or do even better. We’re a year older, but we are still fairly young. I expect to be better, and so do the kids. We’re not going to be the doormat of the league.”

Returning point guard Luke Rightnowar averaged 17.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and four assists.

“He’s in the tradition of some of the great players I’ve had,” Diebler said. “He is a year wiser, a year stronger and a year faster. I expect his numbers to go up. He can score inside and out and get fouled. The thing I like about him the most is, his defensive ability has improved. He’s going to be a good one in the back of our matchup (zone) and our press.”

After losing a quality group of seniors, Woodmore coach Brad Sander will rely on inexperienced players. The Wildcats lost five seniors, most notably, Donny Bowen (16 pts., 9 reb.), one of the best players in school history.

Woodmore, which finished 9-14 with a 6-8 mark in the NBC , managed to salvage their season after Bowen returned from an injury, finishing strong and putting up a fight before losing in overtime to Western Reserve in the Division III tournament.

Sander is confident with the players he has coming back and what he’s seen from them.

“There are 9 to 10 guys who are fighting for playing time,” Sander said. “Everything has been very competitive because the competition for playing time is so wide open; guys are still fighting for playing time.”

Thus far, Sander is pleased with the effort of his players and thinks it might help to build some depth for the club.

“It’s going to be one of those things where we have the ability to play 9 to 10 guys,” Sander said, “and that’s a good thing. It’s starting to bring out the best in those guys, and they understand that they have to elevate their game to earn playing time. We have guys that know they’re going to have to compete day in and day out.”

(Press sports editor J. Patrick Eaken and writers Mark Griffin, Yaneek Smith, and Jeffrey D. Norwalk contributed.)

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