Woodridge boys basketball fixed on run at MAC title

Roger Gordon
Woodridge senior Josh Decker takes a shot against Coventry during a game last season. Decker is one of three returning starters for the Bulldogs.

Longtime head coach Ric Blevins has the same goals he always has at the beginning of the season for his Woodridge boys basketball team.

“We want to win the Metro Athletic Conference and we want to play in the district tournament,” he said.

Winning the MAC will be challenging for Woodridge, considering defending champion Streetsboro returns most of its players from last year.

“Streetsboro is at the top of the heap right now,” said Blevins. “Norton and Coventry are going to be really good again, too. The Metro as a whole should be very competitive this year.”

The Bulldogs will try to improve on last season’s 13-10 overall record and 10-4 mark in the Portaget Trail Conference Metro Division. They lost to Aurora in a Division II sectional semifinal.

Woodridge returns three starters from a year ago – senior shooting guard Josh Decker, senior small forward James Werts and junior point guard Ben Kiser.

“Josh was first-team All-Conference last year,” Blevins said. “He can score the basketball. He’s a very, very skilled basketball player. He’s working hard at both ends of the floor. The sky is the limit for him. He can be as good as he wants to be. Josh is also becoming a leader.

“James shoots the ball really well. He’s just a good all-around player. He’s very athletic, very long. He’s a guy who we expect big things from this year. His best basketball is still in front of him. He keeps working hard and getting better every day. We like him a lot.

“Ben is also a very good all-around player. He understands what we need to do to be successful. He continues to get better every day. He has a bright future in our program.”

Four players who are battling for the two remaining starting spots are seniors Owen Thompson and Paul Laczo and juniors Will Duve and Esseck Bryant.

Other players on the team are seniors Isaiah Mitchell, Davon Ward and Deion Green; sophomores Owen Snyder and James Lehrer; and freshman Evan Duve, Will’s brother.

“Offensively, we have some very skilled basketball players,” said Blevins. “Defensively, nothing has changed in our program. We’re still predominantly a man-to-man defensive basketball team who pressures at times.

“We’re just trying to see how we gel together. We’re mixing in a lot of new pieces. We’re trying to speed the learning curve for the less experienced players, which has been tough without having the summer, so we’re kind of up against it right now. We’ve got a lot to do with very little time to do it.”

Blevins’ assistant coaches are Brian McGalliard, Drew Kussin and Andrew Brunn.

Woodridge is scheduled to open its season at home against Alliance Dec. 1 at 7 p.m