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High School Basketball

Solon-Brunswick matchup shows all that's good about high school sports

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It was a classic example of all that is still great about high school sports.

The Solon at Brunswick boys basketball game Monday night not only featured two outstanding teams, it included two phenomenal head coaches, two fantastic athletic programs and two upstanding school districts that emphasize homegrown athletes and doing things the right way.

That undefeated Solon won 75-61 in Greater Cleveland Conference action to improve to 16-0, 10-0 was noteworthy enough. That the Comets did so with dignity against always classy Brunswick (15-3, 8-2) made it better still for the casual fan, though the outcome wasn’t what the truly team-oriented Blue Devils wanted.

“It was two really good programs featuring kids that actually live in the district,” 22nd-year Brunswick coach Joe Mackey said. “It was two programs that do things the right way.

“We coach our kids from the first grade on up. Once they come out and watch us and see ball movement and us playing defense the right way, they want to be a part of it.”

That’s the same atmosphere fourth-year Solon coach Tony DeCesare is building in his first head coaching stint, though the Comets’ style is markedly different.

Where Brunswick runs when the opportunity presents itself and shoots 3-pointers in rhythm, Solon plays full-court defense and frequently transitions into a 100-mph offense.

We are talking about a team that entered Monday averaging 88.3 points and attempting 35 threes a game. The Comets made 11-of-26 against the Blue Devils, raising their season total to 215, an average of 13.4 makes a game.

“We don’t tend to get many big guys at Solon,” said DeCesare, whose tallest player is 6-foot-4. “When we looked at the program, we knew we’d have to be guard-oriented and develop a style that would give us a chance against teams like St. Edward and St. Ignatius.

“It’s given our guys a style they enjoy playing. It’s given our community a style they can embrace. And it’s given our young kids a style where they say, ‘Maybe I should stay at Solon.’”

It’s hard to imagine any young kids wanting to play elsewhere after watching the likes of guards Sincere Carry (21.7 ppg), Trent Williams (20.0) and Mike Bekelja (16.5), especially since the Comets are ranked second in the Division I state poll.

The same holds true at Brunswick, where Mackey has rung up more wins than any coach in Medina County history while annually designing a style that gets the maximum out of his players.

Not only that, his players grow up watching those that came before them, of which there is no better example than junior shooting guard Kyle Goessler, who was the varsity team manager from fifth through eighth grade.

“I looked up to all of them,” Goessler said of the players he grew up watching. “That was an amazing experience. The guys really accepted me.”

Now one of the players being looked up to, along with guys like Nick Felician, Zak Zografos, Alex Wyatt, Xavier Diaz and Danny Dakdouk, Goessler never forgets to include Brunswick’s current team managers or lend an encouraging word to grade school and middle school players.

“I know what it feels like to be them,” he said. “I always loved when (varsity) guys talked to me and spent time with me, so I try to spend time with them and make them feel a part of things.”

Those types of things make Brunswick an easy program to support, and the Blue Devils got plenty of that for their rescheduled game against Solon, which was postponed due to inclement weather on Jan. 12.

Several hundred people were already on hand for the 4:30 p.m. freshman game, and the stands were more than half full when the junior varsity game started at 6.

Brunswick’s student body was out in full force, as were county basketball fans in general. Among those in attendance were Buckeye head coach Tom Harrington, a former assistant under Mackey, and Bucks assistant Keith Sooy and son Ryan, the 1992 Gazette MVP at Medina.

Also on hand were Wadsworth players Jake Justice, Tony Hewitt, Reid Black and Jack Simmons and Highland’s Collin Rittman and Pete Gmitric.

“It was a great experience for all of us,” Goessler said. “Going out and playing for our city is always fun. We had a great crowd tonight.”

Other than perhaps a bit more support from the Brunswick community, the only thing that prevented the cozy 1,250-seat, one-sided gymnasium from selling out was a subpar weeknight crowd from Solon, which accounted for less than one-fifth of the fans in attendance.

Seeing all the Brunswick fans, however, made the night extra special for the Comets, who relished the opportunity to play in front of what was about 200 people short of a capacity crowd.

“We get good support (at home), but not like this,” DeCesare said. “The Brunswick fans were great. This is what the high school game is all about: Good programs, good kids and good fans. Our guys were excited about this one.”

As they should have been — and as Brunswick players also were — because it represented all that is still great about high school sports.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.



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