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The official beginning of this year's basketball season was Nov. 2, 2012.
That is the first day coaches are permitted to begin instruction for the season.
The first official game on the OHSAA calendar was Nov. 30, 2012.
Most coaches have summer leagues and open gyms in anticipation of jumping the start and getting ready for the approaching season. For one coach in the Portage Trail Conference, preparation for the season usually takes place on the gridiron.
Undoubtedly the hardest basketball coaching job in the Portage Trail Conference belongs to Russ Swartz, the head coach of the Mogadore Wildcats.
There is no such thing as a preseason at Mogadore.
The long-storied success of the Mogadore football program has delayed the basketball start every year for the past 14 seasons.
"We know that every year we are going to start late," said Swartz. "It's just a matter of how much later."
This season, the football team was eliminated in the state semifinals on Nov. 23 -- only seven days before the official start of the basketball season.
A total of 19 players on the 22-man basketball roster at Mogadore were suited up in football pads for those state playoffs. "We are used to it," Swartz said. "I have the mindset, and the kids do also, that we are going to start late and when we do get started, we are going to hit the floor running in an effort to get up to speed."
UP TO SPEED NOW
The Wildcats have recovered from the late start and now sport a 4-1 overall record and are currently tied with Windham with a 4-0 County Division mark.
"We are happy with where we are right now," said Swartz.
The Wildcats and Bombers are the only Division IV teams in the PTC.
They could once again be on a collision course this season when tournament time rolls around. Last season, both teams reached the Canton regional and were eliminated on the same night to a pair of powerful teams. Windham lost to Richmond Heights, while the Wildcats lost to eventual state champion Berlin Hiland.
It could be that the County Division title will be settled between these two teams that both sport veteran senior players that are performing at the top of the league. They will square off for the first time this season on Jan. 4 on Marty Hill Court in Windham.
"I think everybody predicted Windham as the best in the division coming back this year," said Swartz. "They are going out and really performing every night and playing at a great level right now in the season."
The Bombers are currently unbeaten in seven games and have not been contested by any team yet, winning by more than 20 points on average.
Mogadore has eight seniors on its roster and Swartz reports they were really dedicated in the off-season.
"I think that is huge for us and our kids understand how important our spring and summer work is, because we always get off to our late start," said Swartz. "Matt Adorni (Mogadore head football coach) and I are each other's biggest fans. We work our schedules around each other."
Swartz has turned the Mogadore basketball program around in a short time.
"I think the kids bought into our system because we won more games than we lost, and I think they realize we could have as much success in basketball as football," Swartz said.
NORTON ON ROAD
The top Metro Division team is on the road again.
The unbeaten Norton Panthers (5-0), who have a one-game lead over Coventry and Kent Roosevelt in the standings, are returning to Florida again this year to participate in the Disney Holiday Tournament.
BERLIN HILAND SHOWCASE
If you enjoy good high school basketball, a 90-minute drive south tonight would provide you with a pair of great matchups. The First Federal Holiday Showcase at Berlin Hiland High School will pit Dayton Dunbar against St. Vincent-St. Mary at 6 p.m. followed by a showdown between Windham and Berlin Hiland.
Hiland is the two-time defending Division IV state champs and will probably provide the Bombers with their stiffest competition so far this year. Hiland, 6-1 on the season, graduated a pair of All-Ohio players (Dylan Kaufman, who is now playing at Findlay, along with Seger Bonifant, who is now playing at West Liberty) and lists only one senior on this year's roster.
The two-day event will showcase Toledo Woodward vs. Massillon Perry to open Friday's schedule, then Hiland will play against Dayton Dunbar.