Tag Archive for: Basketball

WE ARE IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS

By DJ Yokley

COLUMBIANA, OH- There’s a scene in the series finale of NBC’s The Office where the happy-go-lucky, musically-inclined character, Andy Bernard mentions “I wish there was a way to know you’re” in the Good Old Days before you’ve actually left them.”

For sports in Northeast Ohio: They’re here, folks.

You see, the good old days are not just felt with wins and losses, they’re parlayed with competitive balance (not the OHSAA kind,) with a dash of generational talents, incredible coaches, knowledgable fan-bases, and an opportunity to be seen by more than just those in their community.

The last decade in this region has put our area back on the map.  While we’ve patiently awaited manufacturers to come back, and jobs have come and gone- our sports have shined through.  Our area of the state has a hunger for sports like no other- and not just when the trees lose their leaves.  We all know and bow down to football, but it’s fact that there are more of our student-athletes playing on a diamond at the next level than any other sport.  You look at this time of year, and our tiny place on the map we call home has representatives at all four different levels competing to win championships, our boys aren’t far behind.

I’m not taking anything away from players of yesteryear- they’re all being enshrined in halls all over for the work they did, but they were at a disadvantage with who could see them, and who heard their name called throughout the year.  Simply put, nobody told the fans, the coaches, the media, or the players that those moments were the best we’d have until their kid’s names were on the backs of jerseys.

It’d be a tragedy to see that happen again in this region.

In 2022, we witnessed what we felt was impossible when Canfield and South Range struck gold in back-to-back games in the OHSAA State Championship.  We’ve seen the return of high expectations for Ursuline football and basketball, and the championship story continues for Warren JFK in nearly every sport they compete in.  Fitch, Canfield, and South Range return to the states where we saw Austintown Fitch battle their way to a 2023 title, and look to repeat again.  Champion continues to be a household name in most circles thanks to Hall of Fame Coach, Cheryl Weaver.  We’ve seen other sports like soccer,  bowling, and lacrosse really truly excel including Howland’s soccer run was one we may never witness again.  Boardman’s State Bowling Title this year.  Archbishop Hoban Boys Basketball ending the draught in hoops with a gold trophy, and another great run the following year.  West Branch and Salem girls basketball of the last few years have been remarkable with the superior talent on the court and on the sidelines.

We’re sending over 100 athletes to Dayton this weekend to compete for championship(s) for their respective schools in track and field.  Absolutely unheard of.

I know I’m missing teams, and the list does certainly go on.

While most people play schools from the MAC, and need new shorts- its OUR teams that never waiver, and bring the best games to those teams.  Sometimes we win, sometimes we learn, but my point is that it takes two to tango in today’s day and age, and while that particular conference to the West has a fair share of titles, it’s understanding in the back of their mind that they’ll see our school’s on the other side of the bracket that keeps the dynasty talk muffled.

Our talent is significantly better than it’s ever been- and before all you Summer Joe Torre’s start barking about travel ball- my estimation is the work that is done in the offseason is the biggest difference-maker for these teams.  Studies show a direct correlation between understanding the game better, knowing their bodies better, and simply training and playing multiple sports boost student-athletes in several categories.  The days of specialization are done, or are at least reserved for the elite (no, sadly that’s probably not you.) With the construction of indoor facilities like Athletix in Columbiana popping up, athletes have scientific data to get better and aren’t just working hard, they understand strengths and weaknesses, and attack them with their own data- and the last decade has shown technology if used in the proper context, instead of a carnival game- excels those who participate regularly.

Surely, some doubters will tell us about “how soft” this generation of athletes are with wanting to look good, to feel good, to play good.  However, just remember those bicycle shorts you used to think made you look officially like a coach on the sidelines.

We are sending more student-athletes to college than ever before.  More skilled tradesmen and women than ever before.  This is the era this area has been salivating for a generous helping and a big thank you is owed to sports.

This particular generation over the last decade has proved our area’s work ethic.  In the open sea of college recruiting in today’s era, coaches would rather fish in the murky waters of a portal than the clean springs of high schools.  Loyalty is rare in college sports, the athletes will put something on tape and will jump to the next best opportunity for them and their families.  I don’t blame them, and I would never judge- but it just seals the deal for me that high school and amateur sports are one of the last things that we can hold sacred in sports.

This area, while fiercely competitive, gets it.

We pull for the teams that continue even though our team didn’t.  We either show up or tune in to watch this area succeed with that glimmer of hope and maybe a misty eye when the final score is posted.

We understand that when COVID killed our sports seasons, it was more important than ever to become creative at home and perhaps get a golf club into the student-athletes’ hands for the first time.  Not to mention the first major events back to a somewhat normal level?  Sports.

This area continues to excel in all levels of sports, not just because we’re good.  It’s because in some cases, these memories we create now are the only ways to restore the flames of what once was.

A story.

A picture.

A memento.

Paying homage.

As I prepare and reflect on the potential these next 2 weeks of competition could bring to the area, I wish ALL the teams well- bring home the gold, enjoy every moment, and cherish every memory.

These are the good old days, folks.  I’m here to tell you.

SALEM’S HUTTON TO CONTINUE AS A RAIDER

SALEM, OH- Rylee Hutton, a standout triple-threat athlete from Salem, has officially signed with the University of Mount Union where she will continue to impress on the basketball court, track, and soccer field, while advancing her academic pursuits.

Throughout her high school career, Rylee has not only dominated in athletics but has also excelled in the classroom, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and ranking in the top 20 of her class. On the basketball court, she scored over 1,000 career points, becoming the seventh player in Salem history to reach this milestone. Her scoring prowess, highlighted by an 18 points-per-game average in one season—the second highest in school history—earned her multiple accolades, including All-Ohio Special Mention her senior year.

Rylee’s athletic versatility shines in track and field as well, where she holds school records in the 400m dash, long jump, and the 4x400m relay. A four-time state qualifier in four different events, she has consistently proven her elite status on the track, complementing her basketball achievements with equal fervor.

On the soccer field, Rylee’s record of 127 career goals, along with six hat tricks in a single season and a total of 17 in her career, set new school records. Her outstanding performance led to her being named the Player of the Year in the Eastern Buckeye Conference (EBC) during her junior year, alongside four consecutive first-team selections in both the EBC and district levels.

Rylee’s proud parents, Deri and Rob Hutton, and her sister Kelly, joined her during her signing day, a testament to her hard work and dedication. The University of Mount Union awaits a true powerhouse of an athlete and scholar in Rylee, poised to bring her relentless drive and sportsmanship to the collegiate level.

SIEFKE DOUBLES DOWN ON ALL-STATE SELECTIONS

LISBON, OH- It wasn’t long ago that Lisbon senior Trevor Siefke earned 1st Team All-State in football and Academic All-Ohio by  The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association (OHSFCA), and now he has done it again with state honors in basketball. Siefke has earned All-State basketball honors for three consecutive years. He has also been named Academic All-Ohio by the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association (OHSBCA). Siefke is only the second student in Lisbon’s history to receive state basketball honors for three consecutive years.  

Coach Chris Huckshold has been Siefke’s longtime coach and remarks, “Trevor’s level of play on the court and dedication to his academics make him a great leader on our team on and off the court. There is no better deserving nominee for this award,” He continues, “I’ve seen Trevor grow as a kid and as a player. I’ve coached him since he was in 4th grade and so he is more than just a basketball player, he is a good person and a well-rounded individual going out into the world. I am proud of him.” 

The All-State recognition and Academic All-Ohio awards are based on Siefke’s accomplishments on the court and in the classroom. The qualifications for Academic All-Ohio nominees are arduous requiring a 3.6 GPA or higher and  All-State recognition to be considered. DAHS High School Principal, Keith Edenfield, explains, “To receive one of these awards is commendable, but to receive All-State honors and Academic All-Ohio honors in multiple sports is truly incredible. DAHS is proud to have Trevor represent Lisbon at a state level in both football and basketball.  Trevor is the epitome of a student-athlete.”  

For his part, Siefke says, “It’s an honor to be part of Lisbon’s history. There is no other school that I would rather be a part of and make history for.” He credits his dad (Lisbon Schools Superintendent Joe Siefke) and his teammates for his success saying, “My Dad has always played a big part in motivating me to take the next step. My teammates  have helped me throughout all four years and I couldn’t have done it without them.” 

Siefke’s historic basketball career includes All-State honors for three consecutive years including Honorable  Mention All-State for his sophomore and junior years and Special Mention All-State for this year.  

 

THE MASTER OF HIS CRAFT

CANFIELD, OH- Preston Tolnar, a nine-year-old golf prodigy from Canfield, is hitting headlines as he prepares to compete at Augusta National for the prestigious Drive, Chip and Putt contest. This remarkable talent, already the talk of the town, is set to represent Mill Creek Golf Course at this distinguished event.

Preston, a fourth grader at Canfield, has already accumulated seven years of golfing experience, beginning at the tender age of two. His journey has led him to the opportunity to showcase his skills at Augusta National, a dream for many in the golfing world. The competition, organized by the PGA of America, the United States Golf Association, and the Augusta National Golf Club, invites young golfers to display their prowess in driving, chipping, and putting.

Brian Tolnar, Preston’s father, commends the contest as a vital initiative to foster youth interest in golf. Preston devotes his time to practice after school, honing his skills both on the green and in the classroom, where he excels in science, social studies, and math. Besides his dedication to golf, Preston is a multi-sport athlete with a passion for basketball and football.

This exceptional young golfer, a Phil Mickelson enthusiast, is humbly looking forward to the upcoming contest at Augusta National. Preston’s family, along with his local community, eagerly anticipates his upcoming participation in the event, as they rally behind him, cheering for success and a memorable experience.

As Preston sets his sights on the 18th green at Augusta, he embodies the embodiment of youthful ambition and sportsmanship that has made the Youngstown community proud. We wish Preston Tolnar the best of luck as he prepares to tee off at Augusta National in this exciting chapter of his golfing journey.

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NOTHING BY A G THING

MINERAL RIDGE, OH- Sophomore sensation Gianna Gilbert of the Mineral Ridge Lady Ram basketball team recently sat down with YSN for an exclusive interview at the Post Office Pub. The talented young athlete opened up about her proudest moments, dedication to the sport, and her pre-game routines that have contributed to her success on the court.

When asked about her proudest achievement, Gilbert emphasized the dedication and hard work that she and her teammates put into the game. Reflecting on their victories in the MVAC and the strong team connection, she acknowledged the challenges they overcame, including injuries, and the unwavering commitment from the entire team.

Gilbert also provided insight into the rigorous behind-the-scenes work required for success, emphasizing the long hours of practice, drills, film sessions, and summer leagues that lay the foundation for their on-court performances.

One surprising reveal during the interview was Gilbert’s pre-game rituals and superstitions. From selecting a specific song for each season to wearing the same spandex for different games, tying her shoes a certain way, and even holding on to specific pregame routines, Gilbert highlighted the importance of maintaining a consistent mindset and preparation for each game.

Amidst these revelations, it was evident that basketball holds a special place in Gilbert’s heart, with the sport providing her with a constant source of joy, motivation, and a means to connect with others.

As a rising star in Mineral Ridge’s basketball scene, Gianna Gilbert’s future looks bright, and her dedication to the sport is sure to inspire many aspiring athletes.

The YSN interview shed light on both the hard work and passion that drive Gianna Gilbert’s success, offering an inspiring glimpse into the life and mindset of this young basketball phenom.

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MINERAL RIDGE BASKETBALL COACH’S CORNER (EP 1) WITH AMY HARRISON

MINERAL RIDGE, OH- In a recent episode of the YSN podcast, Mineral Ridge Lady Rams’ coach, Amy Harrison, sat down with host DJ Yokley to discuss the team’s remarkable 22-season, which culminated in an 11-1 record and a share of the MVAC championship.

During the interview, Coach Harrison reflected on the program’s success and the transition from being a player to coaching a new generation of players. She expressed gratitude for the coaching she received as a player and highlighted the continuity of the program as former players, now coaches themselves, are involved in shaping the next generation of players.

Moreover, Coach Harrison shared her pride in the team’s accomplishments and discussed how she instills the value of pride, respect, and multi-sport participation in her players. She also acknowledged the challenges faced by female athletes and emphasized the importance of encouraging versatile athletic participation.

Looking towards the future, Coach Harrison discussed the transition from a winning season to preparing for new challenges, noting the significance of maintaining the players’ confidence and drive for success. She credited the strong personalities of the team and stressed the importance of maintaining a winning mindset from one season to the next.

The conversation shed light on the close-knit community of Mineral Ridge, where Coach Harrison has deep personal connections and where she has dedicated herself to shaping future generations of athletes. She expressed her pride in raising the championship banner and how the experience is something her players will carry with them throughout their lives.

In the spirit of reflection, Coach Harrison revealed that if she could change one thing from the season, it would be to start one of the games differently, believing that an altered approach could have made a significant difference.

The episode provided valuable insight into the dedication and passion Coach Amy Harrison brings to the Mineral Ridge Lady Rams’ basketball program, as well as the impactful experience of leading a successful team in a tight-knit community.

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DIPAOLO KEEPS THINGS SUNNY FOR YOUNGSTOWN

YOUNGSTOWN, OH-  In a recent interview on the YSN podcast, local meteorologist Andrew DiPaolo provided a behind-the-scenes look at his career, his dedication to the local community, and his love for sports

DiPaolo, known for his work at Channel 21, and StormTracker 21, shared insights into the competitive nature of the meteorology industry. He emphasized the importance of hard work and continuous learning, stressing that people respect those who put in the effort.

The conversation delved into his journey, from participating in speech and debate at Cardinal Mooney to honing his skills in meteorology at Ohio University. DiPaolo also reflected on the influence of his role models, crediting his chief at Channel 21 and a former speech and debate coach for their impact on his career.

The discussion also highlighted DiPaolo’s commitment to the local community, including his support for small businesses and non-profit organizations. The meteorologist, known for his involvement across various community initiatives, spoke about his efforts to use his platform to assist others. Furthermore, as an Eagle Scout, he emphasized the significance of giving back to the community as a core value.

Aside from his meteorological endeavors, DiPaolo’s love for sports shone through during the interview. As a self-proclaimed “huge Browns fan,” he expressed his enthusiasm for the world of sports and his upcoming role as a slam dunk judge at the YSN All-Star Game.

The interview concluded with DiPaolo providing a glimpse into his personal life, touching on the joys and challenges of fatherhood and his wife’s unwavering support. He candidly addressed the privilege and honor he feels in sharing his life with the Mahoning Valley community.

As the conversation wrapped up, it became evident that Andrew DiPaolo’s dedication to his craft and his community has made him a cherished figure in the local spotlight, exemplifying hard work, commitment, and humility.

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DON’T DOUBT DOTA

MINERAL RIDGE, OH- 8th grade standout Delaney Dota recently sat down with DJ Yokley for an exclusive interview at the Post Office Pub in Mineral Ridge. Delaney, a multi-sport athlete, shared her thoughts on her impressive basketball season, future aspirations, and the support she receives from her family.

Delaney expressed her excitement and nervousness about transitioning to high school, emphasizing the need for hard work and team growth to match the level of high school competition. She also highlighted the importance of running and cross country in preparing her for basketball and her dedication to improving her game, particularly in becoming more aggressive on the court.

During the interview, Delaney revealed her highest-scoring game as 19 points and her desire to expand her shooting range beyond the banned three-point line. She also credited her uncle and family, especially her father, for instilling the discipline and work ethic that have contributed to her success.

As she looks ahead to her future in high school, Delaney’s leadership and commitment to improvement are sure to make her a key player to watch in the coming years.

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MAIN EVENT MADISON

YOUNGSTOWN, OH-  Madison Tromler, an esteemed journalist and news anchor from Channel 21, WFMJ, is no stranger to making waves in Mahoning Valley with her exceptional reporting skills. In a candid and engaging interview with YSN’s DJ Yokley, Madison shared insights into her career, personal life, and her excitement about participating as a guest judge at the upcoming March 24 all-star game.

Since joining the news industry, Madison has continuously set the bar for journalistic excellence, bringing her extensive experience and dedicated work ethic to cover a wide range of pivotal local and national stories. Known for her compassionate and thorough approach, she has earned accolades for her extensive reporting on both tragic and triumphant events, bringing impactful stories to viewers with empathy and professionalism.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the interview was Madison’s candid discussion about her life outside of the newsroom. Despite her high-profile role, Madison described herself as a down-to-earth individual who enjoys simple pleasures such as spending time with family, savoring delicious seafood, and incorporating wellness activities into her routine. Her commitment to maintaining a balanced life while excelling in her career is a testament to her resilience and determination.

Madison’s unique perspective as a journalist was evident as she shared anecdotes about her experiences covering major events, from interviewing iconic figures like Erin Brockovich to confronting important issues with political figures. Her dedication to keeping the public informed and holding public figures accountable underscores her deep commitment to serving the community through her work.

It is clear that Madison’s contributions to the field of journalism extend far beyond her on-screen presence. Her impressive journey in the industry is a testament to her passion for storytelling and her unwavering dedication to delivering impactful news to the Mahoning Valley. As she takes on her new role as a guest judge, it is evident that Madison Tromler’s multifaceted expertise and genuine demeanor will continue to inspire and captivate audiences for years to come.

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BOARDMAN’S SEASON ENDS AT DISTRICTS

PERRY, OH- In a hard-fought battle at Perry High School, the Boardman Spartans girls basketball team concluded their season in the District Semi-Final, falling short against Rocky River with a final score of 51-42. Despite facing an uphill battle throughout the game, the Spartans showcased resilience and determination, leaving everything on the court until the final buzzer.

The first half proved to be a tough challenge for the Spartans, as they struggled to find their rhythm and trailed by 23 points heading into halftime. However, halftime served as a rallying point for the team, igniting a fiery determination to fight back and give it their all in the second half.

With unwavering heart and tenacity, the Spartans mounted an impressive comeback, cutting Rocky River’s lead to just 7 points with under four minutes remaining in the game. Despite their valiant efforts, they couldn’t close the gap further, ultimately falling short by a 9-point margin.

Leading the charge for the Spartans was Mackenzie Riccitelli, who delivered a stellar performance with 20 points and 4 steals. M.C. Werth showcased her sharpshooting skills, contributing 9 points, including three crucial 3-pointers. Sarah Bero made her presence felt on both ends of the court, tallying 6 points and grabbing 8 rebounds.

Sam Duble, Ava Freeborough, and Tori Strines also made important contributions to the team’s effort, while Mikayla Rivera provided valuable minutes off the bench. As the final buzzer sounded, seniors Sam Duble, Mackenzie Riccitelli, and M.C. Werth bid farewell to the court, leaving behind a legacy of dedication and leadership.

Despite the outcome, the Spartans achieved remarkable success throughout the season, boasting a 19-win record, securing an outright AAC Championship, and making a memorable run in the District Tournament. Their contributions to the program will be cherished and remembered for years to come, serving as an inspiration to future generations of Spartans.