WARSAW – 1989.
That was the last time a River View boys basketball team won any type of championship. The 1989 team won the sectional and district championship, but since then no championship of any kind has been won by the Black Bears.
In fact, they haven’t won an East Central Ohio League Championship since entering the league.
Head coach Jason Trout, who was born in 1982, the last time River View won a league title, has made sure the players understand the history.
He took a picture of the boys basketball banner that hangs in the gymnasium and posted it on all their lockers in the locker room. As a reminder of what they are playing for.
“This is what we are working for and it’s a reminder to keep them motivated throughout the year,” he said.
But the 2015-16 boys basketball team is the group many believe give the Black Bears a chance of winning a title of some sort.
“This is the best chance for sure since I’ve been here and probably in the last 10 years to do something significant,” Trout said. “We tell them every day that they have a chance to do something really special here that nobody has done in a very long time.”
Why the confidence?
In Trout’s 5-year tenure as head coach this year’s seven returning lettermen is the most he has had, five of those seven are seniors and also they return all five starters from a team that won six games a year ago, which was the most wins in nine years for the Black Bears.
Three of those seniors have been playing varsity for three years now, Matt Brillhart, Jonathan Dart and Tanner Belangia. Mix those three with an athletic and versatile bunch featuring Jorn Hocter, Jake Gossman, Sean Orillion, Trevor Wine and Sam Vickers and this group is giving a lot of people hope.
“This is the best group, we’ve got the guys, we have the talent and I think we can get up on that banner,” Belangia said. “Your senior year is your last year and you always think it’s supposed to be your best year, but this is our best year and I’m really excited about it.”
But, it’s going to take more than being excited about the potential, it’s going to take coming together on the floor, as well. Trout has installed a new fast-paced offense, which he believes will help his team maximize offensive possessions and lead to more wins.
“For us because we don’t have somebody who is 6-foot-5 that we can slow down and throw it in to, we have to get as many possessions as we can,” Trout said. “We do have some guys that can shoot, but I don’t think we have anybody who is capable of putting up 30 every night, so for us to get as many possessions as we can gives us more opportunities to score and takes advantage of our strengths which is speed and depth.”
Belangia said he believes the team is learning the offense well.
“We are taking it slow and breaking it down,” Belangia said. “We don’t have a guy that can’t dribble the ball or can’t run.”
On defense, similar to their offense, they are going to press to force more turnovers, in turn getting more offensive possessions.
Along with the play on the court, to make history a team needs to stay away from all of the distractions off the court as well, and that is something Trout has spoken to his team about.
“We tell them every day they have to eliminate all the stuff that is going to take away from our goals,” Trout said. “Stupid decisions outside of basketball, stupid decisions in the classroom, not doing homework, those are all decisions that could take away from us not doing one of our goals.”
The Black Bears will begin the season Saturday at Morgan High School, with their first step to ending a 26-year title drought.
“I haven’t really thought much about numbers, I just thought about us having a pretty good winning season,” Belangia said of his expectations.