After struggling to a 3-19 record last season and beginning this season 2-5, it would’ve been easy for the Genoa Comets to roll over and lose hope.
That all changed when Genoa defeated Woodmore, 93-89, in overtime on Dec. 27 to help spark a 5-2 run that has the Comets sitting at 7-7 overall and 5-3 in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
The victory over the Wildcats saw 6-foot-2 junior center Luke Rightnowar score a career-high 43 points, including eight of his team’s 16 in overtime. Genoa rallied from eight points down with under a minute to play to send the game into overtime on a shot by Rightnowar. He also had the go-ahead basket on a three-point play with 15.6 seconds to play in overtime to break an 89-89 tie. And Amos Kauder and Jimmy Henninger scored 11 points apiece to help pace the attack.
Genoa junior wing Luke Rightnowar, who leads
Rightnowar, who leads the NBC in scoring (21.6 ppg) and is third in rebounding (6.8 rpg), spoke about things are operating much more smoothly for he and his teammates in Year Two under head coach Keith Diebler’s style of play. Genoa is averaging 70.7 points per game, including 79.6 in its seven wins.
“It’s helped a ton (having a year of experience),” he said. “We know what the expectations are from coach. I think everybody is a lot more comfortable this year.”
Diebler had high praise for his star player.
“The thing with Luke is that he truly can play every position,” Diebler said. “In our scheme of things, the more we can move him around, the better we are. He can play guard, wing and the post. Basically, that’s the way we treated Jon (Diebler) when he played for me. He played all five positions. We need it to where the kids understand the system and play multiple positions.”
Gose, a 5-10 shooting guard, talked about how the team is able to open things up more now because of their familiarity with Diebler’s up-tempo offense. “It has helped a lot because we are more comfortable with (the system),” Gose said, “and we can run more things now that we understand everything.”
Diebler says his style of play, one that is predicated on playing at a fast pace and using a full-court press, is to create turnovers and slow the other team down.
“Our basic philosophy is to put pressure on both ends of the court and get it to where we can make teams go up and down the floor,” he said. “We try to make teams uncomfortable on the defensive end (and) try to get them to hurry and do things that they’re not used to doing.”
Diebler also credits his kids with gaining a better understanding of the system.
“We just weren’t physically strong enough to do (those things) last year. We played a very young team last year. We’re a little stronger (and)…as we get better shooting the ball, things will fall into place. I think the big thing is developing a bench and we’ve got 9-10 players that can play and we feel very confident in every one of our players. I think we’re really starting to believe in what we’re doing.”
Forward Noah Goodrich, who stands 6-5, has provided scoring and rebounding off the bench, averaging 12.0 points, ninth in the league, and 6.5 rebounds, good for fourth in the NBC. Gose is third on the team in scoring with 11.6 points.
Following its first win over Woodmore, Genoa lost a heartbreaker to Bellevue (70-68) and then proceeded to win four out of five to get to 7-7. That streak included wins over Elmwood, Northwood, Otsego and Woodmore again, the latter two coming in dramatic fashion.
Rightnowar and Gose are joined in the starting lineup by the 5-9 Henninger, point guard; Kauder, a 6-1 small forward; and the 6-4 Grant Adams at power forward. And Goodrich leads a capable group of reserves that includes 5-9 guard/forward Jared Brossia, 5-10 guard Jordan Brennan and 6-3 center Cody Johnson.
Diebler is best known to those in the area for winning a Division II State Title in ‘05 at Upper Sandusky with his son, Jon, who went on to have a fine career at Ohio State. (Jon nearly led the Rams to another state title in ’07 before they lost in the championship game to powerhouse Dayton Dunbar, 87-85.) Diebler’s two other sons, Jake and Jeremiah, played college basketball, too.
Diebler knows that his kids are coming closer and closer to turning the corner.
“We want to be playing our best basketball here in the next three weeks. I think we believe right now that we can compete for four quarters — that’s the key. Now, we go into ballgames and we have more a swagger and we believe we can win. If we continue to do that, I think we can be a team that somebody doesn’t want to play (in the tournament) and that’s our goal.”