By Chris Chaney
Rewriting the New Richmond boys’ basketball record books isn’t going to be enough for the 2013-14 Lions.
Already guaranteed a winning season — their first since 2005-06 — and in control of the Southern Buckeye Conference American Division — it would be their first league title since 1995 and second in 38 years — head coach Brian McMonigle said his team isn’t ready to sit on what they’ve already accomplished.
“The season’s gone well and we’re very pleased with our record, but we’re still not satisfied,” McMonigle said. “We feel like we’ve lost a few games that we felt we shouldn’t have. That’s part of it, but we’re staying positive. We have four regular season games left and we feel like those are games we can win to get on a roll before our sectional tournament starts.”
At 13-5 overall and 7-1 in the conference, the Lions are a half game ahead of Amelia with both teams in control of their own destinies. New Richmond was scheduled to play Norwood on Tuesday, Feb. 4 and will go on the road to face Western Brown in their divisional finale on Friday, Feb. 7 in hopes of putting a bow on at least a share of their first league title in 19 years.
“We have an opportunity to get to 9-1 in the league and clinch a share of the title,” McMonigle said. “That’s our goal this week, to become conference champions.”
The coach said that the team is still treating their short-term goals the way they have all season: go undefeated every night; what has happened in the past and what is on the horizon has no bearing on the game at hand.
Part of the team’s maturity comes from its senior leadership. John Ernst and Josh Heiden, two fourth year players for the Lions, are the top two offensive threats for McMonigle’s squad. Ernst, a 6-foot-3 forward, leads the way with 14.7 points and 9.4 rebounds a night while Heiden is just behind him in the scoring column, good for 13.9 a night to go along with 2.8 assists and 2.4 steals, both team bests.
“Both are outstanding students and provide great leadership value,” McMonigle said. “They take the game very seriously and try to learn everything they can and they pass it on to the younger guys. They’re two of the best leaders I’ve had since I’ve been here not only because of their play on the court, but how they carry themselves as leaders.”
While the two seniors carry the lion’s share of the offensive load, they’re not on an island on the offensive end. New Richmond goes 10 players deep, seven of whom average more than five points per game.
“We have kids that are very unselfish and know how to move the ball around and get good shots,” McMonigle said. “We have to get on the kids sometimes for being too unselfish. They’ll pass up good shot opportunities to pass to a teammate, but that’s a good problem to have.”
Unselfish and well balanced, the Lions go into their last two weeks of the regular season looking to play their best basketball in three weeks when the sectional tournament gets under way.
“Our sectional is very tough. We’re going to have to play very good teams to get out of the sectional,” McMonigle said, referencing a Division II section that will play at Mason High School from Feb. 21 through March 1. “We know we can win those games, but we also know we’re going to have to play our best to do it.”
After wrapping up their conference season this week, New Richmond will find out what their road to a sectional championship will entail at the draw meeting on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m. at Lakota West High School. The full bracket will be posted by Sunday evening on swdab.org.