Clay, Stritch say they have what it takes

J. Patrick Eaken

After coaching at the collegiate level for 16 years, Cardinal Stritch boys basketball coach Jamie Kachmarik has brought two Toledo Area Athletic Conference titles, three district titles, one regional title and one state final four appearance to Stritch in his first six years.

He was also 2018 TAAC Coach of the Year and a three-time Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Coach of the Year.

Kachmarik says the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, which has become one of Northwest Ohio’s best basketball leagues, will be talented across the board again.

“Toledo Christian is very talented and experienced.  This league is tough every year and this league is full of great coaches. It will be very competitive throughout the league,” Kachmarik said.

“We have depth and we have team speed. We don’t have Joey Holifield for the first time in four years.  Now who is going to step up in the leadership role?” Kachmarik asked.

The now-graduated Holifield, a 6-foot-3 guard was last year’s All-Press Player of the Year. In voting by 10 coaches and 10 media members, Holifield was a near-unanimous choice for POY after averaging 22.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and two steals per game. He was a first team All-Ohio Division III selection by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association.

“Joey has been an instrumental part of the success in our basketball program at Cardinal Stritch,” said Kachmarik. “During his four-year career here at Stritch, our record was 86-18. As a senior he really stood out as our leader both on and off the court. All the accolades that Joey has received have been well earned through all his hard work that he has put into the game of basketball. I am excited to see Joey grow as player at Oakland University.  It has been a true blessing to coach Joey and watch him mature into a wonderful young man.” 

Holifield was joined on the All-Press first team by teammate Jhaiden Wilson, a 5-7 junior guard who averaged 20.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.3 steals and does return for his senior year. Wilson was special mention All-Ohio.

But there is another team in Oregon who feels they can contend, and it’s Clay. Can they contend for a title in the tough Three Rivers Athletic Conference? The problem for Stritch and Clay right now is, they won’t get to play until January because the Lucas County Health Department suspended sports until then. But when they do, Clay coach David Rodriguez says his team will be ready. It would be a shame if Clay did not get that get that opportunity this year because of a global pandemic.

Of course competing in the TRAC against the likes of powerhouses St. John’s, St. Francis, Whitmer, Central Catholic, Lima Senior and Findlay can be a daunting task, but Rodriguez says his team is up to the challenge.

“It may seem weird for you to hear this but I expect to compete for a championship this year,” Rodriguez said. “We have all the pieces to compete. We just have to believe and execute our game plans offensively and defensively. It’s not going to be easy. This is the toughest league in Northwest Ohio. Since it is the best league in Northwest Ohio, we would like to see where we are stacked up with all the other leagues in Ohio, but I bet you nobody plays the schedule like we do in the TRAC.

“For a lot of these kids, it is their third year playing varsity in the TRAC. We have everything you need to compete for a championship in this league. When you have an inside punch like Frank and Noah, there are not too many teams around here that have what we have.

“We’re going to be undersized because of our guards and we just have to realize that every possession in this league counts offensively and defensively you can’t make too many mistakes. 

“We lost games by the average margin of seven points last year. We have seen and know how important every possession is offensively and defensively and that we need to knock down open shots. These kids are hungry and understand that we have an opportunity to make something special happen this year with everything that everyone is dealing with, but we just have to believe and execute.”


NBC chasing Rossford?

In the Northern Buckeye Conference, longtime Eastwood coach Todd Henline, who has done two head coaching stints at his alma mater, believes everyone will be chasing preseason favorite Rossford, but adds that anything can happen.

“I think the league from top to bottom will be a step up a little bit. Last year, we had sophomores in our league get league honors — a kid from Otsego, a kid from Lake, a kid from Elmwood and a kid from Eastwood,” Henline said. “So, I think the junior class in our league is pretty solid. Obviously, I think Rossford is really stout, but I think it’s going to be pretty competitive this year. Fostoria has got a couple guys back that were missing last year and I think that will help them. They are always pretty athletic.”

Before the opener at Maumee, the Eastwood coach expressed his approval of getting to play with a global pandemic going on.

“I’m looking forward to it. Tonight’s a big one just because we finally get to play,” Henline said. “These kids have been through a tough time. It’s a whirlwind right now and to be honest, I’m just thankful that we’re playing. That’s a win right there in my mind.”

Genoa coach Tim Hausfeld agrees that the challenge will be going up against NBC opponents like preseason favorite Rossford.

“Rossford is always tough. Eastwood looks tough and has a really good Jacob Meyer kid. He can go and ascend very well,” Hausfeld said. “I guess Otsego got a transfer kid from Perrysburg, so I think Otsego is going to be better than what a lot of people have been giving them credit for, and they’ve got a really good junior player in Cam Hoffman. He’s tough. But the league is going to be pretty solid. It’s not as top-heavy as it was last year, I’ll tell you that. I think there is going to be some teams that surprise people.”

In the Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division, Oak Harbor coach Eric Sweet says that with just one returning lettermen, it’s up to his team where they finish in the Bay Division.

“We have a chance to finish at the top, middle or bottom,” Sweet said. “We are a young team with varsity experience but when we play hard and the right way we can be good. If we shoot the ball well we will be a tough team to beat.  I think the Bay division of the SBC is a great competition, with great coaches. The league will always be tough to get through but i love playing the teams in our division.” 

The Press basketball previews are included as a special insert in this week’s paper, covering 20 teams — boys and girls, and on page 19 of this section.
















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