The 2020-21 high school basketball regular season is winding down.
Girls tournament action is under way and the boys will follow in the near future.
Despite battling COVID-19 shutdowns, local teams have had their fair share of success.
The most successful squad to date has been sort of a surprise to me.
The Jonathan Alder boys hoopsters posted a 23-2 record and earned a Division II district runner-up spot last season.
The reason for the surprise is that JA lost Jackie Santa-Emma and Henry Walker to graduation last spring.
Both were key performers during last season’s success and I was wondering what the Pioneers would do without them.
Turns out, no one needed to worry.
Alder has posted a 17-0 record so far this season and finished ranked third in D-II in this week’s final Associated Press poll for the campaign.
The Pioneers are built around Jackson Izzard.
The senior ranks second in the Central Buckeye Conference in scoring with a per-game average of 18.6.
He’s also averaging 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest.
Izzard, however, is not the only weapon on the roster.
Joey Walker, Henry’s younger brother, has rapidly developed into a solid varsity player. He’s scoring at an 8.1 per-game clip as a junior.
What I like the most about the Pioneers, however, is the number of players who have risen to the occasion to help Izzard and Walker.
Unsung heroes such as Taber Headings, Grant Welsch, Tyler Begin and Peyton Heiss have each had double-digit scoring games when an opposing defense pays too much attention to Izzard.
And as his assist numbers indicate, Izzard is an unselfish ballplayer, willing to find a teammate who is open or has a hot hand on any given night.
Welsch is also fourth in the Central Buckeye Conference in assists with 4.4 per game.
Other Pioneers among the CBC leaders are Walker and Headings in field goal percent with respective numbers of 67.5 and 58.8; and Gavin Heimlich and Walker in blocked shots per game with respective averages of 1.5 and 1.1.
Fans of the up-tempo, run-and-gun style of offense may find the Pioneers’ half-court, screen-and-pass offense not to their liking.
JA’s offense is averaging only 53.1 points per game.
It may not be the most exciting offense on the planet to some folks, but that’s OK.
I’ll take 17-0 at this stage of the season any time.
I have a feeling the Pioneers, who recently won the CBC Kenton Trail title, are headed for a long post-season run.
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