Kyle Pipenger was a problem solver.
That’s one way Tri-Village coach Josh Sagester described his standout senior.
Versatile is another. Great teammate is one more.
Above all, Sagester called Pipenger a winner, and it’s hard to dispute that fact.
He led Tri-Village to an undefeated regular season, to go with conference, sectional and district championships.
He was a two-time CCC Player of the Year.
He’s also the 2012-13 Palladium-Item Player of the Year in boys basketball after averaging 21 points per game for the Patriots.
Mark Detweiler repeats as Coach of the Year as he guided his Union County squad to a repeat of its own. Detweiler’s Patriots earned back-to-back Class 2A sectional championships, and did so with an entirely different starting lineup.
“I had never gone into a season with so many unknowns,” Detweiler said. “We were searching for our identity, and we had kids step up their games and fall into their roles quickly.”
Sagester was under strong consideration for the honor after his Patriots finished the regular season 22-0 and advanced to Ohio’s regional semifinal round in Division IV. Strong competition came from across the border, too, as Bobby Jones’
Hagerstown squad captured the Tri-Eastern Conference championship outright, while Josh Jurgens’ Seton Catholic Cardinals won a program-best 15 games and advanced to the sectional final in Class A for the first time.
Senior Adam Schroeder netted nearly 20 points per game as he made school history to become Seton Catholic’s all-time leading scorer, while Hagerstown’s Bryan Mathews and Centerville’s Braden Suttle shared the top honor in the TEC.
Detweiler’s Patriots made a habit of winning close games.
The veteran coach got a glimpse of what was in store right before the holiday break. Union County earned back-to-back victories over Winchester and Blackford Dec. 14-15, part of a run that saw the Patriots win nine of 10 games.
“We thought we could either limp into Christmas, or be on a roll,” Detweiler said. ” … That weekend was the weekend for us.”
Union County went on to finish 18-7, knocking off host Hagerstown in the sectional final before bowing out to Speedway in a regional semifinal at Connersville.
Detweiler returned about 14 points a game from the 2011-12 UC team that won sectional and conference crowns.
For next season, the Patriots have about 40 points per game returning.
“Certainly we’re excited about that,” Detweiler said. “We’re excited about where we’re at. We’re excited about where our program is. I think this year was a nice statement for our program.”
Detweiler had heavy praise for his coaching staff, including assistants Scott Gray and Roger Bowling, who have been with Detweiler for his 12 years at Union County, and JV coach Jesse Moses.
“For me, that was what was really satisfying,” Detweiler said. “We have so many pieces in place with quality assistants coaches and the kids understand our system.”
The Tri-Village system worked well for Pipenger in his four years as a varsity player.
He scored more than 1,000 points in his career, and the last two seasons saw the New Madison program go 46-5.
“Since the offense has been going through him, we’ve been 46-5,” Sagester said. “To me, that’s the ultimate compliment.
“He was a coach’s dream. For four years, he did everything right, on and off the floor.”
Pipenger also averaged 4.6 rebounds and 4 assists per game, and shot better than 50 percent from the floor.
Pipenger’s season high was 32 points, and he poured in another 20 points as the Patriots romped to the their first district championship in more than 20 years by halting Cincinnati Seven Hills 71-33.
“It was a really, really special season,” Pipenger said. “It means a lot, just coming back from last year, losing to Jackson Center (in last year’s district final in overtime). We just wanted to come back and win it so bad.”
Pipenger’s college plans are undecided, but he is determined to play at the next level. Sagester said it’s a matter of finding the right fit for the T-V star.
“He’s going to work hard, every single day,” Sagester said. “He’s blue collar. He’s going to do what he needs to do in the classroom. Those kids are worth their weight in gold.
“The best thing was, he was a great teammate. He made his teammates better.”
Added Pipenger: “I just went out there and really just played the game, tried to play hard. I was around a lot of great players who I really looked up to in my teammates — great teammates.”