- By Rick Cassano Staff Writer
The rise of New Miami High School’s boys basketball team is noticeable. But Miami Valley Conference championships are still going through Cincinnati Christian.
CCS earned at least a share of its fourth straight MVC Gray Division title Tuesday night with a hard-fought 51-38 road win, getting double-digit scoring from Miguel Ringer (13), Wayne Lavender (12) and Cole Martin (10).
“We got in foul trouble early, and we knew they’d come out and really get after it,” Cougars coach Carl Woods said. “We live so close to each other that we know each other very well. They’re not the New Miami of old.”
Cincinnati Christian battered the Vikings three times last year by an average score of 88-36. The Cougars swept their two regular-season games this year, but the average margin dropped to 56-47.
New Miami was within 33-28 early in the fourth quarter Tuesday before CCS ran off 11 straight points to seal the win.
Now 13-6 overall and 10-4 in the MVC Gray, Cincinnati Christian has a two-game lead over Cincinnati Country Day with league games remaining against St. Bernard (at home Friday) and Seven Hills (on the road next Friday).
“Awesome,” Woods said of four-peating atop the Gray Division. “The best I can sum it up is just the favor of God. I’m very humbled with the success we’ve had. I just asked to be allowed to be a blessing to this school, this program and this community, and it’s happening.”
The Cougars nearly made it to the Division IV state tournament last year, losing to Lima Perry in the regional finals. CCS has moved up to D-III this season.
“It’s going to be a hard road, but I feel like if we work hard, we can go pretty far,” said Lavender, a 6-foot-2 senior. “We can make some noise. A lot of noise.”
“Even in D-III, I feel like we can sneak up on a few teams,” Woods said. “If they’re not careful, we could pop a couple here and there and make a pretty good run in the tournament.”
Freshmen Trey and Jordan Robinette tallied 13 and 11 points, respectively for New Miami, which slipped to 7-13, 2-12. Those records may seem pedestrian at best, but the senior-less Vikings have made huge strides under first-year coach Jared Lee.
The last time New Miami won seven games was 2007-08 when it went 7-15. The program hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2002-03. Coming into this year, the Vikings’ MVC record over the past nine seasons was 1-113 … and the win was a forfeit.
“We’re trending in the right direction,” Lee said. “We acknowledge that. We talk about that. But we’re not accepting of the ‘It’s great for here’ talk. We want to have a great team, and we’re going to return everybody next year. We’re building this for the future.
“We’re starting one 14-year-old and two 15-year-olds. We’ve just played grown men, and it kind of shows. But I wouldn’t trade any of my guys for the world. They play hard. It’s frustrating because of what we’ve got, and it’s really exciting because of what we’ve got. I think we’re meeting the challenge, and we’re going to keep meeting it.”
The Cougars trailed only once (2-0) in a contest that included 40 turnovers. They were evenly split between the two teams.
Martin had both CCS 3-pointers, and both came in the second half. The visitors were 9 of 17 at the foul line, 7 of 13 in the fourth period.
“We definitely calmed down and started to execute later in the game,” Woods said. “I think the guys came out a little jittery and excited about what was at stake, and they tried to force some things that weren’t there. New Miami did a good job of capitalizing on that.”
“They’re really fast,” Lavender said. “It was kind of bad and ugly at times. We just played a lot smarter as a team toward the end and worked a little bit harder.”
Lee described his team’s performance as “our best defensive effort of the year. We’ve come a remarkably long way defensively in the last two weeks.
“I think we have a little more in the tank offensively, but that’s a great defensive team we just played. They’re where we want to be in the near future, so I tip my hat to them. They’re a little older, a little more poised and deeper. We’re playing six, seven guys, and it tends to wear on you. You could see legs going in the second half a little bit.”
Riley Reutener had 8 points and seven rebounds for Cincinnati Christian. Cameron Rogers totaled eight boards, Ringer made five steals and Johnny Nimmo added 4 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Ronnie Bowman collected 7 points and five boards for the Vikings, who will host Seven Hills on Friday. Jordan Robinette chipped in seven rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Cincinnati Christian 14-6-13-18—51
New Miami 9-8-10-11—38
CINCINNATI CHRISTIAN (13-6, 10-4 MVC Gray): Riley Reutener 2 4 8, Johnny Nimmo 1 2 4, Miguel Ringer 5 3 13, Cameron Rogers 1 0 2, Cole Martin 4 0 10, Wayne Lavender 6 0 12, Jalon Percy 1 0 2. Totals: 20-9-51
NEW MIAMI (7-13, 2-12 MVC Gray): Deanza Duncan 1 2 5, Trey Robinette 5 1 13, Ronnie Bowman 3 1 7, Jordan Robinette 2 7 11, Danny Spivey 1 0 2. Totals: 12-11-38
3-pointers: C 2 (Martin 2), N 3 (T. Robinette 2, Duncan)