Joe Stewart was the starting point guard on McClain’s 1975 Southeast District championship team. On Friday night, Stewart will make his debut as head coach at his alma-mater when his Tigers take on East Clinton in the 9 p.m. nightcap of the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic at Hillsboro High School.
Tthe veteran coach has been encouraged by what he has seen of his team during the summer and early season practices. “Hard work does not intimidate these guys and their unity has been excellent. With a focus on daily improvement and a sacrifice for the good of the unit, we think we may be able to be a surprise,” said Stewart.
Dalton Mischal returns for the Tigers after missing most of last season with an injury. The 6-3 junior was averaging 13.4 points per game before going down last season, including a 24-point performance in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic against Hillsboro. Devin Carter is a 6-3 senior who averaged 10.8 points a game last season. Seniors Kobe Penwell and Ethan Cockerell, along with junior Garrison Banks will also be counted on to provide quality minutes.
Over in Lees Creek, coach Tony Berlin faces the unenviable task of replacing the school’s all-time leading scorer. Wyatt Floyd put up 1,451 points in his career. And, if that weren’t enough, the Astros also lost a 900 point career scorer in J.T. McCarren.
But, Berlin has a young, hungry squad.
“This group is eager to learn. We are trying to impress on them that playing hard can cure a lot of ills, and they seem to be embracing that,” said the Astro mentor.
Sophomore Branson Smith saw a great deal of varsity time last season. His challenge will be stepping into a bigger role. The Astro roster has only one senior, Austin Rolfe, so Berlin will be looking to a host of younger players to step up from the junior varsity team.
East Clinton is 3-1 all-time in Ohio Valley Hoops Classic games, having defeated Blanchester, Paint Valley, and Fayetteville, before suffering its only loss last season against Leesburg Fairfield.
McClain will be searching for its first victory after losing to Division I power Upper Arlington and Notre Dame signee Dane Goodwin in 2016, and falling to Hillsboro last season.
The earlier games Friday evening include Dayton Dunbar versus Lakota East at 6 p.m. followed by Wilmington against Hillsboro at 7:30 p.m.