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Green must get defense back in gear

Franklin Furnace – Offense sells tickets.

Thursday, December 09, 1999

Franklin Furnace – Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships. The Green Bobcats know that very well. Defense has been a hallmark of Bobcat teams, helping them win three straight Southern Ohio Conference Division I championships.

But in order to win a fourth in a row, the Bobcats will be faced with trying to replace four-year starters Tim Brumfield and Jason Bennett, both known for their defense more so than their offense.

Coach Kevin Lewis, who guided Green to a 21-2 record last season and has virtually an untested team, said defense holds the key.

"Both Brumfield and Bennett were four-year starters, and you take away players with their experience, and that’s a lot to replace. They were the key to our defensive scheme," said Lewis.

"Our experience on offense will be hard to replace, but we have the people who are capable. The big key is how well our defense plays. The defense needs a lot of work. I’m not pleased at where we’re at. But the kids understand we need to get better and they’re working at it."

Brumfield and Bennett weren’t the only losses Lewis must find replacements for. Also gone are Jeb Barnett, Jeff Mullins, and Eric Bennett.

"They filled their roles well. The gave us some great effort and did whatever we wanted," said Lewis.

The offense shouldn’t take too big of a hit since two of its leading scorers – Chris Williams and Michael Riffe – return along with the solid scoring and rebounding of 6-foot-3 junior Alex Poe.

"I’m somewhat confident in our offensive weapons who are back," said Lewis. "Chris and Michael averaged 14 points a game and Alex 13. We’ll expect a lot from them, but they’re returning starters and they know things are expected of them and they accept their roles."

Poe won’t have to do all the rebounding himself. The Bobcats will look for help form 6-3 senior Kyle Darnell and 6-1 junior Kyle Dyer.

"Dyer, Darnell, and Poe give us some nice board work whether we use a combination of two or three of them. One of our strengths is our offensive rebounding. This could be one of the best rebound teams at Green, but we’ll have to wait and see," said Lewis.

"Dyer and Darnell definitely will play a role and be among our top five or six. They both saw some action last year and got some good work, especially inside.

"We used Dyer some off the bench last year on defense and he might step up and be our defensive stopper this year. That would help solve one of the pieces to our puzzle."

The trio won’t have to do all the rebounding all the time. Lewis has several other players who are untested but have the potential to develop into good rebounders.

Alex Hart, a senior in his first year of play, will add depth along with juniors Jon Cherry and Jesse Ferrell and sophomore Jacob Yarnell.

"Those three should give us some added depth with our inside game. Josh Gustin and freshman Ben Dyer could end up contributing as well," said Lewis.

While Williams and Riffe carry most of the workload out front, Lewis will have some depth even though it lacks a valuable commodity: experience.

Helping on the perimeter will be 5-10 junior Jeff Dixon or 6-1 sophomore Joe Salyers.

"Both of them could get some playing time. They’re inexperienced, but we’ve got a lot of first-year varsity players," said Lewis.

Green’s dominance of the SOC the past three seasons may be in jeopardy this year. While Green was losing some key players, several teams return the bulk of their teams.

"The biggest question with the league is how strong it is. We think it will be very competitive," said Lewis. "New Boston has four starters back and they are extremely good, Symmes Valley has size, experience, and shooters, Eastern looks extremely good, and I think Portsmouth Notre Dame is dangerous."

The Bobcats open the season Friday at Notre Dame.