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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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Former Eastwood, Owens guard honored by Three Rivers

Central Catholic boys basketball coach Jim Welling, a 1977 Eastwood graduate who now resides in Northwood, has been named Three Rivers Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.

Welling was rewarded for leading the Irish to a 20-4 season and TRAC championship with a 13-1 league record.

One of his former assistants, Clay girls coach Corey Slovak, was glad to see it.

“I think it's great that Coach Welling and I earned Coach of the Year in the same year,” Slovak said. “He was and still is my mentor, and the four years I was on his staff (three at Central, one at Lake) gave me experiences I will never forget.

JimWelling
Central Catholic Coach Jim Welling, a Luckey
native, cuts down the nets after the Fighting
Irish win a championship this seaon. (Press
file photo by Scott Grau)

Learning how to coach a team at a high level was only part of it, he showed me how to run a program, which is something I will always be thankful for.”

Wellling’s Irish were bounced from the Division I district tournament by regional semifinalist and Toledo City League champion Bowsher, 63-60, at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena.

This year’s Irish were led by TRAC Player of the Year DeShone Kizer, a senior heading to the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Ind.) on a football scholarship, and his classmate, Marcus Winters, both first team All-TRAC picks. Central junior Jeremiah Braswell is second team and seniors Nate Harris and Tom Vetter are honorable mention.

After losing in overtime to league runner-up St. John’s Jesuit, 62-59, at the Sullivan Center, Welling’s Irish came back to rout the Irish on the road, 55-37, to lay the path for the league trophy. One of the highlights of the season was a 103-57 nonleague victory over Bowling Green.

Welling won two junior college national championships during a 20-year stint coaching at Owens Community College, compiling a 550-127 record. As a player, he once held the all-time assists record at Owens.

He is now in his sixth season at Central. In 2011, he took the Irish to the state final four for the first time since 1952. He once told The Press that his playing days and previous coaching background keeps him grounded.

“Here at Central, they get all giddy about the St. John’s and the St. Francis’ and the rivalries among the powers of the Catholic schools here in the city, but I didn’t come from that background,” Welling said.

“I came from a background where you strap it up and it doesn’t matter who you are playing. You want to give your best effort whether you are playing in front of 500 people or 3,000 people. You know, if you have passion for the game, it doesn’t matter who you play. You will do it with respect but you won’t do it in fear.”

Clay seniors Patricc Booth, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, and Anthony Ramirez, a 6-2 senior forward, are All-TRAC honorable mention selections.

Booth, a second team All-Press selection, averaged 14.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, was second team all-district and scored 1,025 career points, making him the fifth Clay ever to better the 1,000 mark. He also had 115 career treys, the most in school history.

Booth joined Jim Routson (1,226), Randy Felhaber (1,115), Ben Tobias (1,103) and Tom Clay (1,035) on Clay’s 1,000-point list.

Ramirez was also all-district HM and third team All-Press, averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.

Clay coach Rob Belegrin notes that the level of competition the Eagles play against in the TRAC has an impact on keeping those stats in check compared to other area schools. The Eagles finished 3-20 overall and 1-13 in the TRAC.

The lone league win was 78-70 over Lima Senior on the road in the next to last regular season game, after losing to the Spartans 56-51 at home. Clay also defeated east side rival Waite, 66-61, at Grant Murray Field House and visiting Sylvania Northview, 66-59.

Among close, but disappointing games was a 53-52 conference loss to a much improved St. Francis DeSales team.

Clay lost seven games – to St. Francis twice, Fremont Ross, Lima Senior, Whitmer twice and Rossford – by five points or less

“We’re in every game, but you have to close,” Belegrin told The Press. “It’s tough. Our defense has been a lot better this year, but our free throw shooting has not been good. The guys on our team, they’re good players, but they’ve never won. We play good basketball, but we don’t sustain it for 32 minutes.”

“Over the last couple years, we haven’t had that many wins and we don’t know how to handle those situations,” he continued. “A lot of games we’d compete and lead near the end and we’d either turn it over or misread on defense and that can cause one big play. We’re competing against teams we should beat, and record-wise it doesn’t show it.” (— writer Mark Griffin contributed.)

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