It would be bad enough for conference opponents if Kyle, a senior, was all the Tigers were bringing to the party, but fellow senior starters Haleigh Osborne and Ashlie Holsinger are experienced and effective players, as well. Osborne, a center who rebounds as well as any player in the area, will patrol the paint for Bluffton, while Holsinger rides shotgun with Kyle in the backcourt.
The Tigers finished behind Garrett, Heritage and Leo last season and were tied with Southern Wells and Adams Central in the conference at 3-4.
This year, graduation losses have hammered every one of those teams. While Heritage’s Lindsay Enterline is a devastating player as well, the Patriots don’t return any other starters.
The Railroaders, Lions and Raiders are in roughly the same position – Adams Central, for instance, graduated an eye-popping seven seniors.
This year is the Tigers’ time.
This is the year of Marah Mania.The race for the boys title in the ACAC is a little tougher to call, but defending champion Woodlan isn’t a bad place to start.
All-conference player Josh Gay has departed, but fellow first-teamer Josh Gorrell and his 14 points and four rebounds per game are back, as is second-team all-conference pick Jason Spindler.
There’s not much experienced depth behind Braden Hines in the Warriors’ rotation, but they still might be strong enough to fend off an expected challenge from Leo and Bluffton.
The Lions have to adjust to the departure of last season’s leading scorer, Jason Souder. That doesn’t mean Leo still doesn’t have effective players, though.
Seth Gullett was also an all-ACAC pick, and if he can increase his scoring average from last season’s 11.3 points per game and players like Jordan Bowerman and Justin Branscomb raise their games, the Lions could easily challenge for the title.
Bluffton loses all-ACAC player Adam Tuttle and second-team selection Kevin Ballinger from a team that went 15-8 – and the Tigers still have two talented players the rest of the conference is going to have to handle.
Jared Johnson, a junior, averaged 12.7 points for the Tigers last season to lead the team in scoring, while Cody Cochran was a force inside, averaging 9.8 points and 4.8 rebounds an outing.
If the Tigers’ depth comes through, there could be two champions in Bluffton.