Daily Telegram 2008 All-Area Boys BasketballFor Superior and Solon Springs, the end of this year’s high school boys basketball season signals a changing of the guard, with many key players moving on after graduation. Five seniors and one junior from the two schools made the 2008 Daily Telegram All-Area Boys Basketball team. Northwestern High School and Northwood High School, meanwhile, will retain most of their players. Each team will miss its seniors but will depend upon promising juniors and sophomores to carry on next season. Two sophomores and two juniors represent the Tigers and Evergreens on All-Area team.
By: Emily Kram, The Daily Telegram
For Superior and Solon Springs, the end of this year’s high school boys basketball season signals a changing of the guard, with many key players moving on after graduation. Five seniors and one junior from the two schools made the 2008 Daily Telegram All-Area Boys Basketball team.
Northwestern High School and Northwood High School, meanwhile, will retain most of their players. Each team will miss its seniors but will depend upon promising juniors and sophomores to carry on next season. Two sophomores and two juniors represent the Tigers and Evergreens on All-Area team.
Joining 2008 Player of the Year Dustin Ritchie on this year’s All-Area team are nine other players who led their teams in various ways. Following are the team members listed in alphabetical order.
Also nominated were Northwestern senior P.J. Freeman, Northwood senior Zach Haynes, Solon Springs senior Billy Hynes and Solon Springs junior Alex Rowe.
At 6-foot-5, many people would expect junior Aaron Corry to dominate inside, but for NHS this year, he was lethal beyond the arc.
“Aaron is a very versatile player. He is an inside-outside threat,” said Dan Cowley, NHS head coach. “He is an excellent shooter and led our team in 3-pointers made at 33, as well as in free throw percentage.”
Corry shot 75.8 from the line and 33.7 from 3-point range. He also averaged 12.4 points per game, 4.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
“He is also a versatile defender who is quick enough to guard perimeter players as well as post players,” Cowley said.
He was named honorable mention on the Heart O’ North All-Conference team this season.
Jake Coughlin spent three years on the Eagles’ varsity squad, but this was his year to shine.
“Jake exploded on the basketball scene this year after spending many hours in the weight room and on the playground,” said Matt Berger, Solon Springs head coach.
The senior guard averaged 15.2 points per game with a 50 percent field goal percentage. He also contributed five rebounds per game, three steals and three assists.
“An extremely intense competitor, Jake could help his team with his defense, open court play, explosive finishing and play-making,” Berger said. “Without a doubt, Jake is one of the most physically strong guards to ever play for Solon Springs.”
Coughlin was named honorable mention in this year’s Indianhead All-Conference selections.
“What an exciting player for our fans to watch over the past two seasons,” said Dave Kontny, SHS head coach. “High flying Jesse Covill — a rebounding machine afraid of no one. He could play the post, defend the biggest of guys; he played like he was 6-foot-7 in a 6-foot-2 body.”
Covill, a senior, led the Spartans in rebounding and blocked shots with 106 and 38 respectively. He averaged eight points per game and finished the season with 39 steals.
“And what about his personality? The most polite young man you ever want to meet, soft spoken and a hard worker,” Kontny said. “One thing about Jesse, he was a true team player. Where ever and whatever I asked him to do, he would do without question. I will miss him dearly.”
“How do you replace someone like him?” Kontny continued “You don’t, you just thank the good lord you had the opportunity to coach him.”
“Donnie had a great season for us this year,” Cowley said. “He is an outstanding rebounder, a physical post player and an excellent defender and shot blocker.”
The 6-foot-6 sophomore averaged 8.4 rebounds and 12.2 points per game while shooting 60.1 percent from the field. Hissa also shot 71.8 percent from the free-throw line and had 1.7 blocks per game.
“Donnie brought a lot of toughness and intensity to our team and really made things in the lane difficult for our opponents,” Cowley said.
Hissa was named to the HON All-Conference second team this season.
The Spartan senior was an important presence for Superior this year, in more ways than one.
His 74 steals this season were the most on the team, and he also led SHS in assists with five per game. Keegan O’Neill was second on the team in rebounding with 86 boards.
“He played the most important spot on our press,” Kontny said. “He was like a roaming cheetah on the floor. He is one of the best pressers I have ever had in all my years of coaching.”
But O’Neill also gave teams trouble on the other side of the floor.
“He was hard to defend because of his size, lengthiness and speed,” Kontny said. “He was great at penetrating off the dribble and could find the open man. His mid-range jump shot was unstoppable.”
O’Neill finished the season averaging 12 points per game with a 47 percent shooting percentage from 3-point range.
“He progressed as I thought he would and could play college basketball if he so chooses,” Kontny said. “There isn’t a bone in his body that is not competitive, but at the same time he is a very well-rounded, compassionate person. All those things add up to being a winner.”
At the beginning of the season, Solon Springs senior Kyle Polzin was expected to be a leader for the Eagles, and he played his role well.
“A rare four-year varsity letterman and three-year starter, Kyle did everything imaginable to help his team over the course of his career,” Berger said. “Versatility was Kyle’s forte.”
Polzin, a 6-foot-2 forward, averaged nine points per game while pulling down six rebounds per contest. He also was a force on the defensive end, averaging two blocks per game.
“With his size, he could play inside and intelligently defend much taller opponents. With his shooting and ball handling, he played on the perimeter and also helped bring the ball up against pressure,” Berger said. “His leadership and enthusiasm, however, is what will be greatly and mostly missed.”
“In his third varsity season, Ryne started to show he could be the type of impact player we all thought he could be,” Berger said. “He was absolutely dominant in most games in the second half of the season. He consistently scored while rebounding and blocking shots like an animal. He ran the floor with great effort for easy secondary break buckets and to protect the lane on defense.”
The 6-foot-4 junior averaged 13 points per game for the Eagles while shooting 56.2 percent from the field. Slivensky also averaged seven rebounds per game and was named to the Indianhead All-Conference team this season.
Looking ahead to next year, Berger is pleased to have Slivensky returning.
“Returning with fellow junior point guard Alex Rowe, the Eagles will have size, strength and experience at the 1 and 5 positions,” he said.
Junior Reese Stariha stepped up to help the Evergreens improve this season, and a similar performance will be expected of him next year.
“Reese has the ability to drive to the basket and step out and shoot the three,” said Paul Vaara, Northwood head coach. “He was very clutch for us this year, hitting some late shots that helped us beat Solon and Drummond.”
Stariha ended the season scoring about 11 points per game and also averaged five assists per contest. He played an important role in the Evergreens’ defense too, averaging three steals per game.
“Reese is our spark plug,” Vaara said. “Most of what we do runs through him.”
Stariha was named honorable mention for the Central Lakeland All-Conference team this season.
A 6-foot-4 sophomore, Steve Tecker led the Tigers in four categories, including scoring and rebounding for the second straight year.
He nearly averaged a double-double with 15.2 points per game and 9.5 rebounds. He also was the team leader in assists per game, with 3.7, and steals with 2.5 and shot 54.5 percent from the field.
“Steve is an extremely hard-working, versatile and talented player who can play every position on the floor, from point guard to post,” Cowley said. “Steve is a very unselfish player who could easily score 20 points per game if he wanted to, but instead he plays the game to win and doesn’t worry about stats.”
Tecker was an HON All-Conference first team selection and was also named the Tigers’ most valuable player. He was also the only returning starter from last year’s team.
“Steve was a unanimous first team All-Conference player and was clearly one of the most talented players in the area,” Cowley said. “Steve did a great job leading our young team this year.”
Emily Kram covers sports. Call her at (715) 395-5018 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.