Alexander nets second state title

WHEELING — Coaching state championship teams is often, at most, a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

No so for Nathan Alexander.

The Martins Ferry High grad recently pocketed his second state title ring as coach of the Osceola High boys’ basketball team. The Kowboys defeated Wellington last weekend in the Florida Class 9A (largest classification) championship game.

Alexander also guided Osceola to the state championship in 2017 to cap a sparkling 30-2 campaign. Just two years prior to his initial state title, he led the Kowboys to a Class 7A state runnnerup finish.

That is a coaching resume of a lifetime.

The former Purple Rider standout, however, has amassed such amazing success in only 12 years of coaching, the last eight years as a head coach. He is still just 35 years of age.

The school is located in suburban Orlando.

“I give all the credit to the kids,” Alexander said in regards to his latest state title. “They did all the work. I didn’t make a basket all year.

“It was a fun bunch to coach. It is a great accomplishment. There is a lot of basketball talent in Florida,” he added. “I also have to thank my staff. We work well together. I thought we could make a good run this year.”

Osceola, which ended at 26-6, put together a five-game post-season run en route to the crown.

“The title game was a defensive battle. We were down seven at halftime,” Alexander said. “We regained the lead midway through the

third quarter and never let it go. It was a four-point game with three minutes to go.

“University of Florida football commit Diwun Black went playoff-Lebron mode and had 35 points for us,” he added. “He put on an unreal performance. We ending up winning 50-43.”

The championship season encountered some speed bumps early on.

One of his returning stars, Omar Payne, opted to transfer to national power Montverde Academy. Payne was being counted on to help tackle “the most difficult schedule” Alexander ever put in place.

“Some of our players thought we should back off our schedule after Omar left. We lost all three of our games in the City of Palms Classic (regarded as one of the top tournaments in the nation),” Alexander said. “We had a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting and proceeded to win our next tournament. I knew that a gauntlet like our schedule would make us better, and it did.”

Alexander, who teaches physical education, pocketed the M. Dean Cherry Award winner as Osceola County’s Coach of the Year in 2016-17.

That same year he also was named the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 9A Coach of the Year.

While winning state championships are never guaranteed, Alexander is confident his program will continue to operate at a high level.

“Our pipeline is still good. We had some good javyee players who we moved up during the season. We also had a nice freshmen bunch this year,” Alexander offered. “We usually have 200 players try out each year in grades 9-12. We have spring break next week then we will resume open gyms.”

Alexander is married to Wheeling Park High Basketball Hall of Famer Julie Gompers. They have a daughter, Ivy, 5-months-old.

Alexander’s brother, Ryan, is the highly successful head baseball coach at Grove City High in suburban Columbus.

BUBBA’S BITS

KUDOS GO to former St. John Central softball standout Hannah Absalom for being named the Mountain East Conference Pitcher of the Week. The Fairmont State fireballer recorded three wins while allowing just three runs. The senior from Martins Ferry struck out 13 and walked five.

MARIETTA COLLEGE men’s basketball team had a tremendous season, going 23-7 and advancing to the NCAA D-III Elite Eight. Anthony Wallace was a major reason why. The former Linsly School star received D3hoops.com second-team Great Lakes All-Region honors. He led the Pioneers with his 12 ppg. average. He also surpassed the 1,000-point mark this season. Teammate Lukas Isaly also enjoyed a solid frosh season as starting point guard. The former River High all-stater averaged nine points and four assists a game.

LE’VEON BELL finally inked a contract with the New York Jets. In actuality, he will make less with the Jets than he would have if he had accepted the Steelers’ offer.

CONGRATULATIONS GO out to Indian Creek head boys’ basketball Joe Dunlevy for being chosen for induction into the District 5 Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Joe is a tremendous coach and even better individual.

MICHELLE BIELANSKI Filander had another successful campaign as head coach of the Austin College women’s basketball team. She led the Kangaroos to a 20-6 mark. Filander, a two-time all-Ohioan at St. John Central with 1,436 career points, has been head coach at the Sherman, Texas-based NCAA D-III institution for nine years.

THE CLEVELAND Browns are becoming a team to be reckoned with since John Dorsey took over last year. Adding Odell Beckam Jr. is a major coup for the Brownies. They have as much offensive firepower as any team in the NFL.

THE MOUNTAIN East Conference basketball tournament played out in grand fashion last weekend. The city of Wheeling rolled out the red carpet, the competition was tremendous and the crowds were record-setting. I can’t see the tournament leaving Wheeling anytime in the foreseeable future. It might be wise for WVSSAC officials to ponder moving the state hoops tournaments to WesBanco Arena as well. The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register sports scribe Kyle Lutz deserves major kudos for his superb coverage of the five-day extravaganza.

CONGRATULATIONS TO Shadyside coach Serge Gentile and his Lady Tigers for an amazing basketball season. Making the state basketball tournament is a rare and special achievement for Ohio teams.

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