Geographically, the East Clinton Astros and the Fayetteville Rockets are closer in proximity than any pair of opponents in this year’s Ohio Valley Hoops Classic, as the two schools are less than 30 miles apart. And, on paper, it appears the matchup could be equally as close on the court.
Over in Fayetteville, Jason Iles will be taking the reins to the program. For the past three years the former Rocket standout (class of 2003) has been the assistant for his uncle, long-time Fayetteville coach Daryl Iles. Last year’s team was 13-9 and runners-up in the Southern Hills Athletic League. It marked the fourth consecutive year the Rockets have finished as either league champions or runners-up.
While five seniors graduated from last year’s squad, Iles will welcome back leading scorer Max Lanham who poured in nearly 16 points per game a year ago. Big man Zach Smith also returns after scoring four points and pulling down five rebounds per game last year. Point guard Nic Ball gives Iles a third returnee with significant experience as he scored five points a game last season while dishing out over two assists.
Coach Tony Berlin hopes for smoother sailing as the former Wilmington assistant begins his second season at the helm for the Astros. Last year was an up and down year on the court as EC finished with a 7-16 record, and Coach Berlin himself missed a large portion of the season while battling some health issues. The good news is that All-League SCOL performer, Wyatt Floyd, and his team leading 16 point per game average, returns. J.T. McCarren began to blossom late last season and Berlin thinks the 6’3” junior may be in line for a breakout season.
“J.T. has worked hard on his game this summer, and we expect a big year from him,” said the Astro’s mentor.
East Clinton will be looking for their third straight victory in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic as they knocked off the Fairfield Lions in the inaugural event, and defeated Paint Valley last season. Berlin knows it won’t be easy to beat the Rockets.
“Fayetteville always has a good combination of athletic, tough, smart kids who will be well coached. It will be a good test for us,” said Berlin.
As for Fayetteville, the Rockets are excited to be playing in their first Ohio Valley Hoops Classic.
“As a school, community, and basketball program, we are excited to be playing in this event with some very well respected teams,” said Iles. “We know Floyd is a load, and East Clinton will bring a lot of full-court pressure, so we must be ready to handle that,” he said.
This is another game that could very well come down to the wire. Both teams return a proven scorer (Wyatt Floyd for East Clinton and Max Lanham for Fayetteville). Fayetteville has two other experienced players in Smith and Ball, and the Rockets are used to winning over the past few years. East Clinton has a potential star in McCarren. As Coach Iles mentioned, Fayetteville will have to handle the full-court pressure that the Astros are sure to unleash. Both teams will be willing to get the ball up and down the floor; so, regardless of the outcome, it should be an entertaining game for the fans.
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