Stokes hoping to lead Oak Harbor on a tournament run

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Ethan Stokes is the kind of basketball player that doesn’t come around very often.
He stands 6-5, has plenty of talent and athleticism, is very versatile and his basketball skills are very impressive.
The junior guard, who is averaging 18.1 points and 4.7 rebounds, can score in a variety of ways, whether it’s off the dribble or shooting the ball from the perimeter. The Rocket offense is a unique blend of 5-8 point guard Michael LaLonde running the show, with plenty of capable shooters to spread the floor and 6-2 forward Dan Allen, the lone senior on the team, manning the post and rebounding the ball and scoring inside.
Those guards and wings are Jaxson Overmyer, Carson Slates, Zach Hallett, Carson Ridener and Carson Steinbrick, with Jacob Ridener backing up Allen.
Following a 59-46 loss to Fostoria on Jan. 6, Oak Harbor found itself with a 4-5 record and a 3-3 mark in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
Since then, the Rockets have gone 5-2, which leaves them 9-7 and 6-4 in the league, giving them an outside shot at still winning the NBC.
Oak Harbor won five games in a row before losing its last two to Bellevue and Eastwood.
“We are focusing on what we need to get better and tougher. We want to shoot open shots and shoot the three ball, but this weekend we died by solo relying on it,” said Oak Harbor coach Eric Sweet. “We were not in good position defensively and we are working on that this week. We have to get tougher after this past weekend.”
Sweet talked about the offense.
“It starts with a high-level player in Ethan Stokes, who can do multiple things on the offensive end. There are times where he’s flat-out un-guardable and allows other players to get opportunities that they might not get without Ethan. He’s 6-5, can dribble, shoot the 3. Off Ethan, we have learned to play our roles and as a team. We have a couple of kids who shoot the basketball and have shot it well. Good pass and you’re open, shoot the ball. Everyone is accepting their role,” Sweet said. “Dan Allen, against Otsego, had 20-plus rebounds and 14 points, and he’s scored four points and grabbed eight rebounds (in a game) and been a factor for us. That’s based off Ethan’s ability and his flow in the offense. Michael LaLonde and Carson Slates handle the ball. We have a balance and a very good understanding of who we are on the offensive end.”
Allen is the unsung hero of the team.
“The way Danny Allen has stepped up and played — we needed everything from him. He’s not the tallest post player out there, but he’s one of the hardest-working ones, he’s got energy, he’s always encouraging kids,” said Sweet. “With only one senior, sometimes you become the senior out there, and Dan’s really worked at it. He’s had a good year, and I’m proud of him. He’s tackled every challenge we’ve thrown at him.”
It’s not just Stokes. The rest of the team can shoot and score rather well, too.
“That’s part of the reason we don’t see a lot of box-and-1s, teams do respect that we can shoot the 3. A triangle-and-2 will leave open some 3-point shooters. If we do see a zone, we try to put more shooters on the court,” Sweet said. “We preach shooting the basketball when we’re open. We want guys to be confident in their shots and step into it. You can’t always rely on your best player to do it all. We have to get shots up and make shots when they matter.”
In addition to Stokes’ 15 points in the last win, a 54-46 win over Otsego — which saw Allen score 14 points and Slates chip in with 10 — saw Oak Harbor play very good defense on a night when it shot rather poorly from beyond the arc.
Perhaps Stokes’ best game was in a 52-48 win over the Comets on the road a few weeks ago, a game that saw the junior score 30 points, 18 of which came from 3-pointers, as the Rockets held on for the win.
Stokes is also a good football player and is a member of the track team.
Since taking over at Oak Harbor, Sweet has preached about the importance of playing well on the defensive end.
“We’re not a huge team. We have adapted our flow of the defense and allowed us to work together and just be scrappy. Turnovers in the half-court setting are sometimes the hardest things to do; you have to be locked in,” he said. “We’re causing some teams to throw the ball away, which is outstanding. It’s a group effort.
“Defensively, we learned that we have to be more scrappy, tougher as a unit. Some losses came down to rotating and not helping the player next to you. We work on in practice what we just didn’t do well in the game – be accountable as a group, not so much as an individual.”
The Rockets have had a number of close losses and are one game back in the loss column of Fostoria (8-3), Genoa (8-3) and Eastwood (7-3) in the conference.
“We felt we let a couple drop early in the NBC (schedule). Rattle off five in a row. Madison had a really nice player that’s going to Division II (college). That’s one you’d like to have back. We have five losses to high-quality teams that have their own, unique identity that caused us fits,” said Sweet. “The losses, you can always go back to a couple of shots that could’ve gone down that could’ve changed the outcome of the game.
“Lake, that’s a night where defensively, we weren’t there. In the loss to Otsego, a defensive and offensive, we had some bad defensive possessions, missed open looks that could have propelled us. You’ve got to be focused, and we’re doing that; we’ve been winning more. We’ve learned a little bit from our losses, and from the games we’ve won. It’s just as important,” Sweet said.


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