WEST LAFAYETTE -- The Ridgewood High boys' basketball program has put together back-to-back 16-win seasons, and with returning four of the top six players from last season the Generals are hoping to extend that streak this year.
Last winter, the Generals posted a 16-6 mark, following up on a 16-7 record the previous campaign to set the bar pretty high in terms of expectations.
Leading the way for the Generals' returning lettermen will be seniors C. J. Grove (6-4/post) and Zak Keesee (6-3/wing) ,who played vital roles for the Orange and Black last season. Grove averaged 14 points per game last year, along with around nine rebounds, while Keesee checked in at 10 points and six rebounds for the Generals.
"We will need to get C.J. and Zak around the 14-to-16 point range consistently for us," RHS head coach Alan Keesee, who enters his fourth season at the helm stated. "C.J. should again be our leader on the boards, while Zak will be counted on to improve his numbers. Both will be key parts to our having a successful season."
Key losses for the Generals were Tanner Stoffer, who was Generals' leading scorer at 19 points per game with around five rebounds a night, along with Chris Saylor, who added around six points and four rebounds per outing.
"Tanner was our go-to guy last season," Keesee said. "He was just a great shooter, but could also take people off the dribble and slash. We will miss him this year, we need to find a new go-to guy in tough spots.
"Chris was the guy who did all the little things that don't always show up in the box score," Keesee added. "He was one of those kids you need out there on the floor, I was very comfortable with him out there kind of running the show on the court."
Also back for the Generals will be point senior guard Dillon McPherson (6-0/guard), junior Ryan Lowe (6-3/wing) and junior Seth Bergeron (5-9/guard).
"Dillon did a nice job last year taking over the point from Kevin Davis," Keesee said. "We expect him to be even better this time around. Then we have Ryan who earned a varsity letter as a sophomore. I expect him to be the glue that holds it all together. He's one of those kids who seems to be in the right place most of the time."
"Seth will play some point guard as well as two-guard for us," Keesee said. "He's nursing a slight injury right now, but should be ready to go by the season opener."
A pair of newcomers in seniors Joey Raach (5-10/guard) and Tyler Davis (6-0/wing) will be counted on to contribute for the Generals this hardwood campaign. Raach is a transfer from rival Newcomerstown and will not be eligible to play early on.
"Joey will settle in at the two or three spot for us," Keesee said. "We won't get him until after the first eight or nine games due to the transfer, but I feel he will be a contributor once he gets out on the floor."
"Tyler is a tremendous athlete who didn't play the last few years," Keesee said. "He's a real strong golfer and focused on that, but now with being a senior wanted to come back out this year and we are glad to have him."
Also expected to see some minutes off the bench for RHS as well as some time on junior varsity will be junior Tyler Milligan (5-10/wing), sophomores Matt Saylor (6-2/post), Matt Leitz (5-10/guard) and freshman Austin Lowery (5-10/guard).
"Tyler sat out last year and also opted to come back out," Keesee added. "He and Saylor and Leitz will come off the bench and hopefully give us some productive minutes.
"As for Austin, we are grooming him to be a point guard," the RHS coach said. "He will also swing between varsity and JV for us."
Serving as the junior varsity coach for the Generals will be Tyler Hains, whose JV team will be comprised of freshmen Christian Lippincott (5-4/guard), Chase Merryman (6-1/wing), Tad Landis (5-3/guard), Cole Lillibridge (5-9/wing), Nick Matchett (6-2/post) along with Lowery, Saylor and Leitz.
"We are going to focus on getting ready for our first game," Keesee said. "I like to take it one game at a time and build up as the season moves along. Hopefully, you are playing your best basketball at the end in time for tournament play.
"I'm looking at a eight, maybe nine-man rotation," Keesee said. "Any more the game moves so fast, it's just really hard to more than eight or nine deep."
In looking at the race for the Inter-Valley Conference title, Keesee feels the league will once again be a real grind.
"I kind of see the IVC like the Big East of small school basketball," Keesee said. "You have to be ready to go each night out. It's just always a dogfight.
"I'd pick Garaway and Malvern as my preseason picks," Keesee said. "Malvern has Max Kapron back who is probable the toughest match-up in the league, while Garaway is the most balanced team in the league one through 10."