Another hoop season is officially in the books.
And what a season it was.
Competitive, intense games dotted the card seemingly night in and night out with talented players shining each night.
PICTURED IS the 2014 all Times Leader boys basketball team. Front row, from left, are Bryan Duffy (Monroe Central), Brennan Czuchran (Buckeye Local), Robert Vargo (Martins Ferry)?and Austin Kowalski (Harrison?Central). Middle row, from left, are Eric Dierkes (River), John Michael Schuetz (Shadyside), Jared Derosa (St. Clairsville), Jake Barritt (Martins Ferry) and Trenton Tipton (Union Local). Top row, from left, are Dalton Secrest (Beallsville), Michael Neil (Bellaire), Gavin Porter (Union Local), Q.J. Williams (Bridgeport), Isaac McGee (Barnesville) and Colton McKivitz (Union Local).
The Times Leader Sports Staff puts the season to an end with the announcing of the annual All Times Leader Boys Basketball Team. The team is chosen by the T-L Sports Staff with the help of area coaches.
Martins Ferry's Robert Vargo and Buckeye Local's Brennan Czuchran have been named co-captains of the squad.
Here's a capsule look at the players:
BRENNAN CZUCHRAN, Buckeye Local - This Panthers' senior re-wrote the recordbooks in Connorville this past winter for first-year head coach Greg Haberfield.
Czuchran became the first player in Buckeye Local's boys basketball history to surpass the 1,000 point barrier. He scored 485 points (21.1 ppg) this season, while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. He was also the team's top rebounder, grabbing nearly nine boards a game. He was charted for 2.4 assists an outing as well.
Czuchran was just recognized as a third-team all-Ohio selection in Division II. He was also a first-team Eastern District pick. He's been chosen for the OVAC and BACF All-Star Games.
"I've truly been blessed to coach a player like Brennan," Haberfield said. "He's one of those players who doesn't come around too often. He's a true definition of a student-athlete and he's a great leader. He's a self-motivated kid and he has a great work ethic, who strives to be the best player he can possibly be."
ROBERT VARGO, Martins Ferry - This Purple Riders senior was a force on both ends of the floor for Coach Jeff Sabatino's squad this past season.
The 6-6 pivot averaged better than 20 points and 12 rebounds a game as he helped lead the Riders to their second straight Division III District Championship and trip to the regional.
Vargo was also named Eastern District Player of the Year, first-team all-Ohio and will take part in both the North-South and OVAC All-Star Games.
"Robert had a heck of a three-year run for us," Sabatino said. "He's been a rebound machine at both ends. And he's one of the best players I've had with his back to the basket. He's a high character kid and a very subtle leader."
GAVIN PORTER, Union Local - This Jets' junior wore several hats at points during the season for Ben Porter's club and responded well each time.
The 6-0 guard averaged better than 14 points a game and was able to make his teammates better. He's an adept rebounder.
Along with this honor, Porter was named second-team all-Ohio and first-team all-Eastern District and District 12.
"Gavin is an all-around solid player," Coach Porter said. "He's a gym rat, who has put a tremendous amount of time into the game of basketball. He's worked for everything he's achieved. We're looking for him to have a big senior season."
Q.J. WILLIAMS, Bridgeport - This junior had a strong campaign and head coach Donnie Cash expects even more in 2014-15.
The talented 6-1 guard led the Bulldogs in scoring at 14.9 points a game and ranked second on the team with eight rebounds. Along with his scoring and rebounding, Williams also drew the assignment of guarding the best player on the opposing team.
Williams was a first-team all-District 12 and second-team all-Eastern District selection.
"Q.J. had another solid year for us," Cash said. "We're looking for him to step it up a little bit more next year and we definitely think he's capable of having a very nice senior season."
JARED DEROSA, St. Clairsville - Patience paid off for this Red Devils' senior as he put forth a strong campaign for Coach Kim Clifford's team.
Derosa averaged 10.2 points, three rebounds and 2.4 assists for St. C. and was its top three-point shooting threat.
The senior guard earned all-District 12 and honorable mention all-Eastern District. He'll also take part in the District 12 All-Star Game next month.
"Jared waited his turn and worked extremely hard," Clifford said. "I don't know if I ever had a kid play harder than Jared did. He was also an excellent leader."
JAKE BARRITT, Martins Ferry - This Purple Riders' junior was the floor general for Sabatino's squad this past winter.
Barritt averaged some eight points a game, but he also boasted a 4-to-1 assist turnover ratio. All told, Barritt passed out eight assists a game and was a tireless defender.
"Jake is pep personified," Sabatino said. "He goes 100 miles per hour every practice and every game. He can be a rocket at times. He may have broken our school record for career assists, and he still has another year to go. We like what he brings to the table, and we're certainly glad he's back for another season."
TRENTON TIPTON, Union Local - This Jets' sophomore overcame a myriad of serious injuries to enjoy a highly productive campaign for Porter's team.
The 6-3 guard poured in some 12 points a game and was one of the Jets' top three-point shooters. He had big games throughout the Jets' tournament trail, which advanced to the district tournament.
"Trenton was diagnosed with a torn ACL in July and had a broken hand prior to the start of the season," Porter said. "So, for him to perform the way he did says a lot about the type of person he is ... and that's determined. He placed a high standard upon himself."
COLTON McKIVITZ, Union Local - This 6-ft-7 pivot was a "game changer" at times for the Jets this past season.
McKivitz, who has four Division I football offers already, was a nightly double-double for the Jets with better than 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Along with this honor, he was recognized as first-team all-Eastern District, special mention all-Ohio and all District 12.
"Colton has the ability, on the inside, to change a game and that starts with his defense," Porter said. "He alters so many shots around the basket and he's a great rebounder. He's turned himself into a scoring threat and he has nice touch from the perimeter."
BRYAN DUFFY, Monroe Central - This Seminoles' senior proved that hardwork pays off.
The 6-0 guard was a catalyst on both ends of the floor for Coach Scooter Tolzda's club this past season. He averaged 18 points and seven rebounds a contest.
He was named all-District 12 and recognized on the all Eastern District team.
"Bryan just quietly did the job this season," Tolzda said. "People might not even notice him until you looked at the boxscore. He earned all of the recognition he gets by having worked hard from the end of last season to better himself."
ISAAC MCGEE, Barnesville - This Shamrocks' junior had an impressive campaign for Coach Chris Pack's squad, but even more could be in store down the road.
McGee averaged 14 points, three assists and three rebounds a game for the Shamrocks from his wing spot. He's also a talented perimeter shooter as evidenced by the fact that he connected on at least one trey in all but one game.
Along with this honor, McGee has been recognized on the District 12 squad.
"Isaac is capable of lighting teams up and taking over a game," Pack said. "If he gets a little stronger and more determined, hopefully, the valley will get to see what I get to see in practice every day."
MICHAEL NEIL, Bellaire - This talented sophomore had an impressive first season of varsity basketball for head coach J.R. Battista.
Neil was the Big Reds' leading scorer at 16 points a game. He was also a solid rebounder at six per outing. For good measure, he passed out four assists a contest.
Neil has previously been honored on the all-Eastern District and all-District 12 squad.
"Mike exceeded all expectations we had for him this season," Battista said. "If he continues to work on his game, he has a chance to be a special player in this area."
AUSTIN KOWALSKI, Harrison Central - This talented junior was a standout in all aspects of the game for head coach Justin Clifford's team.
Kowalski was Harrison's leading scorer at 15 points a game. He also passed out three assists and grabbed a like number of rebounds per contest. On top of stats, he was a tireless defender on the perimeter.
Along with this honor, Kowalski has also been recognized on the all-Eastern District and District V squads.
"Austin is the guy who made us go," Clifford said. "He made sure everyone was in the right spot offensively and did a great job of getting other guys involved in the offense. Plus, his defensive work sometimes got overlooked."
JOHN MICHAEL SCHUETZ, Shadyside - This Tigers' sophomore is a basketball junkie and his season of production reflected it.
Schuetz was the Tigers' point guard and averaged 14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest. He had a season high of 41 points in a game against Bellaire last month.
His fine play also landed him a spot on the all-Eastern District first team and also the District 12 squad.
"John Michael, like so many of our guys, loves the game," said Shadyside head coach Ed Andes. "He had a good offseason and it paid off for him. We're excited to see what the future holds for him because with another good off-season, we think he'll have an even better season next year."
ERIC DIERKES, River - This senior returned as basically the only Pilot who saw significant varsity experience in 2012-13.
He served as a leader on and off the court for Coach Mark Romick's squad.
Dierkes averaged 12 points, 4.3 rebounds and two assists a game en route to being recognized on the all-Eastern District and District 12 teams.
"Eric was an excellent leader," Romick said. "A lot of kids wouldn't have been able to handle the situation he was given. He was continually upbeat and worked hard every night. He was definitely a player that got the most out of himself game after game."
DALTON SECREST, Beallsville - This rugged Blue Devils' forward was the unquestioned leader for a young squad.
Secrest was the Blue Devils' go-to-guy on the offensive end of the floor. He scored at a 14.3 points per game clip. He also averaged 10 rebounds to complete the double-double and he passed out 2.7 assists a game.
Secrest has been recognized on the all Eastern District and all District 12 squads prior to this honor.
"Dalton was a great leader for us," said first-year Beallsville head coach Jordan Stephens. "He came up big for us at key points throughout the season. I enjoyed coaching him, but he'll definitely be tough to replace."
GUY PAGANO, St. John - This 5-7 point guard enjoyed a fine frosh campaign for The Fighting Irish of Kevin Lahna.
Pagano averaged 14.4 points and 5.1 assists in helping SJC record six wins this winter, despite nursing shoulder injuries for much of the campaign.
"Guy did a tremendous job as our floor leader. He is a superb ballhandler and a deadly shooting," Lahna said. "Guy is a total gym rat. He invests countless hours working on his game. He has a great future in basketball."
BEN PORTER, Union Local - This Jets' boss returned to the bench this season and did so with flying colors.
Porter guided the Jets to a 22-2 mark. The Jets won their first 20 games of the season, which was a school record, and advanced to the OVAC Class 4A title game where they fell to Steubenville. They won the sectional crown and spent more than a month as the Associated Press' top-ranked Division III squad.
"This was an exciting season for our basketball program," Ben said. "We had a lot of firsts and we look at those as a stepping stone for next year and the future. We had a group of players who played as a team."
Porter was named Division III state co-coach of the year last week and had previously been honored as Eastern District and District 12.
Porter gave plenty of credit to his coaching staff of Vaughn Butler, Nick Nardo, Zach Delman, Bob Nixon and Jeff McKenzie.
"Our entire coaching staff played a large part in the success of this year's team," Porter said.