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Hoban and Green boys basketball set for matchup

AKRON — Hoban and Green have both made their mark on Akron-area boys basketball and on the postseason in recent seasons and while both have dealt with challenges this winter, their Feb. 6 showdown figures to be must-see hoops action.
Both teams, with plenty of recent titles and big wins on their respective resumes, will do battle on the Bulldogs’ home court in a non-league tilt. It is part of a stretch that will see Green look to feast on home cooking heading down the homestretch of the regular season.
“We started the year slow with having our football guys come back late and needing to get into basketball shape, but we’ve been able to get some good cohesion going,” Green assistant coach Dan Harlan said. “Having the end of the season where most of our games end up being at home is nice and being in the Federal League, it makes it interesting every day and every game.”
Having the rugged league’s top four teams — Green, Canton McKinley, Jackson and GlenOak — all tightly bunched atop the standings magnifies the importance of each game. Unlike some seasons, no one team has set itself clearly apart from the rest, leaving the Federal League title up for grabs as February begins.
Seniors Brady Rollyson, Jarett Taylor and Luke Jansen have led the Bulldogs as part of a tone-setting six-man senior class. Add in a talented scorer in junior guard Antonio Martin and Green, with a 11-3 record through 14 games, is excited about taking on the Knights.
“For us it’s refreshing and nice to step outside the league for a game,” Harlan said. “We know them well and they had a great season last year, so it’s fun to go and play somebody that’s really good and see how you stack up. It’s tough every time. With us, it’s always defense first because if you can defend and make the other team work on offense, then turn that into quick offense or get the ball down the floor without turning it over, you have a great chance to win.”
Hoban, with a 10-6 record following a win against a Lutheran West side that entered the game ranked first in the state in Division II, likewise saw some of its rotation arrive on the hardwood late due to the football program’s extended playoff run.
Couple that with the different injuries that come along in a season and veteran head coach T.K. Griffith’s squad has done work to set itself up for the latter stages of the season.
“It’s been kind of a fun challenge because we haven’t had everyone healthy or had them be here to be consistent enough to be where we want to be,” Griffith said, adding that coming off last season’s state championship has brought on a new challenge. “It’s a new experience for all of us because we haven’t had that target on our back like this and we had to up our schedule, so you’re in a spot where everyone wants to beat us so badly. There’s nowhere to hide.”
Facing the likes of Centerville, Hilliard Bradley, Lutheran West and Georgia-based Wilson Academy has been a regular part of life for this season’s edition of the Knights. The record is not quite on par with last season’s mark, but Griffith noted that many members of the team were on the roster two years ago, when Hoban started 10-7 before winning 10 straight and finishing 20-8.
Players like senior guard Jonas Nichols and Joey Hardman, junior center Andrew Karhoff and sophomore forward Sam Greer have emerged as key figures for the Knights. Nichols became the program’s all-time leading scorer in a recent win over Spire Academy, but his efforts off the court are what Griffith points to first.
“He’s been a great leader for this team. When we started 1-3, he gathered everyone in the locker room, players-only, to bring everyone together and after that, we were able to win five of seven and beat Wilson Academy,” Griffith said.
As the Green game and other big contests loom, Griffith sees clarity in the team’s rotation as the biggest factor in how it fares the rest of the way. He also wants his players who’ve experienced past success at Hoban to remember the importance of chemistry and cohesion.
“The reason we had those runs is how everyone worked together and had their moments,” Griffith said. “We want them to have those moments and to do that — the message is, don’t be afraid of greatness.”
The potential for those moments will be up for grabs Feb. 6 and with them, a chance to make a big statement ahead of the upcoming postseason.