Buchtel boys basketball team ready for postseason run
WEST AKRON — The Buchtel High School boys basketball team finished one point shy of a City Series title, but head coach Steve White said his program is on the right track.
With one game left in the regular season, the Griffins have a 13-6 record and an 11-3 mark in the City Series.
“We have done well,” White said. “We’ve turned the program around. Last year, we had nine wins, and this year we already have 13 wins with the possibility of adding more. Last year, we were fifth or sixth in the district. This year, we were second and very possibly could have won the championship because that [title] game was anybody’s game. We just happened to not win, but I’m proud of the program and proud of the kids.”
Buchtel lost to Firestone in the title game on Feb. 15 by a 65-64 score.
“Next year, I think we will have a lot of kids back, and we should be able to make another run towards some things,” he said. “Right now, our biggest thing is size — we just don’t have enough size. We have some size with our younger kids, and we just have to hope those kids come along.”
One strength for this year’s team, White said, is the quality of the senior class. There are six seniors on the team, including three starters: Elijah Bell, Tyler Jones and Demonte Hicks.
“They’re four-year players,” the coach said. “We really lean on them a lot, for a lot of things. If those three are playing well, I think we can go far in the districts. I think we can win it.”
Rounding out the senior class are Jharshon Graise, Sable Cooper and Cody Hicks.
“Jharshon is a great defensive basketball player. He gets a lot of steals for us. He does a lot of the little things,” the coach said. “Sable can really shoot the ball. He’s ambidextrous as a shooter. He’s really worked to make himself a basketball player, and he’s doing really well this season. And Cody provides leadership and does a good job for our program.”
The team’s two remaining starters are 5-foot-9 junior point guard Lamontre Smith and 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Deric Rucker.
“They’re doing very well. Both are averaging about nine points a game,” White said. “They have a lot of potential, and next year I think they’ll be our two leaders. If Tre gets a little stronger, he should be a fine college prospect.”
Buchtel’s regular season will conclude tomorrow, Feb. 22, when the Griffins host Perry High School at 7:30 p.m. Following that game, White said, the team will get ready for the postseason to get under way.
“We got the No. 2 seed, so we play the winner of Field and Tallmadge,” he said. “We’ll play Friday, March 1, at 6 p.m. at Stow.”
According to White, Buchtel’s postseason goal is to get to the district championship.
“Once you get to the district championship, anything can happen,” he said. “And I think we have a strong possibility of getting there.”
White, who is in his 10th season as Buchtel’s coach, said the school’s basketball program is in a good place right now.
“We’re a good, hard-working team,” he said. “We’re never going to give up. If we get some size next year, I think we can contend for a state championship.”
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