Young Tiger roster putting winning pieces together

By Dick Maloney (Special to Loveland Beacon) 

LOVELAND, OH (January 16, 2024) –  A young Loveland Tiger roster claimed another win during the LaRosa’s High School Hardwood Classic on Sunday at CINTAS Center – home of the Xavier Musketeeers. 

Junior Will Bertoli lays in two of his eight points vs. Mount Healthy. (Photo by Dick Maloney.)

It was early in the fourth quarter. Mount Healthy High School’s boys basketball team had the ball, down by double-digits and running out of time. The Owls set up their offense looking for a good shot … and looking, and looking, and looking. They moved the ball side-to-side, sometimes to the corners, but could not get close to the basket.

At the other end of the court, Loveland High School players and coaches were standing, cheering and applauding their team’s defensive effort – an effort that began at the opening tip and lasted for 32 minutes Sunday at Cintas Center, as the Tigers knocked off the Owls 60-41 in the first game of the second day of the LaRosa’s High School Hardwood Classic.

Lovelandy forced 18 Mount Healthy turnovers and held the Owls to 27.8 percent shooting (15-for-54); a quarter of Mount Healthy’s points came in the final two-and-a-half minutes, with starters from both teams out of the game.

The victory was Loveland’s eighth in 10 games, after an 0-4 start, and accomplished in the same manner as most of the previous seven.

“We felt we could pressure them up and down the court, and we thought they would turn it over if we put some pressure on, and they did early in the game and we didn’t rebound very well. They had 11 offensive rebounds at half,” said Loveland coach Rob Reis, who often complimented his player for their communication on defense during the game, said. “We spend a lot of time working on details so our guys know that’s the expectation and we love not allowing the other team to do what they want to do on that end of the floor.”

Loveland senior Jack Sauer accepts the award for Most Valuable Player after the Tigers’ win over Mount Healthy Sunday at Cintas Center. (Photo by Dick Maloney.)

Senior Jack Sauer was chosen as the Player of the Game. He scored 18 points on 8-of-15 hooting, with eight rebound (six offensive), two steals and an assist. At 16 points per game, Sauer is sixth in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference in scoring, with 10 or more point in 11 of 14 games. he scored a season-high 24 Jan. 12 vs. Winton Woods.

 “Jack is the kid that every coach wants to coach. He is a fantastic player and a fantastic person … even better person,” Reis said. “So what you saw out there tonight is kind of what he’s done pretty much every game and he’s one of our leaders and we love the kid. He’s probably going to go play college basketball somewhere next year.”

Senior guard Carson Brown leads the ECC in assists per game with 4.4. He had three vs. Mount Healthy five days after a season-high 12 vs. Lebanon. Sauer and Brown are two of five seniors on the roster, but only they and guard Andrew Breese saw significant playing time last season. Breese had 12 points and three rebounds vs. Mount Healthy.

Sophomore guard Chase Martin (20) directs the Loveland offense (Photo by Dick Maloney.)

Sophomore guard Chase Martin scored 12 points vs. the Owls and is part of the young core that took time to adjust to varsity competition.

“I think it just took us a few games to kind of gel. We knew we were pretty good. We did not shoot the ball real well early. We’ve got good shooters they started shooting it and we’ve kind of taken off,” Reis said. ‘You know, the two teams we’ve lost to in the last month are really two of the better teams in the entire state of Ohio. So, yeah, we’re excited about the rest of the season. We’re happy to be playing well.”

Loveland senior Jack Sauer drives for a layup in the first half vs. Mount Healthy. (Photo by Dick Maloney.)

Loveland lost to North Ridgeville 74-72 Dec. 27, and to Winton Woods 75-62 Jan. 12. The Tigers sat 5-4 in the ECC, in a three-way tie for fourth place with Little Miami and Turpin, entering Tuesday’s game at Milford. To move up, they will have to get used to playing away from home. Seven of the last eight games are road games; the only exception being Senior Night vs. Harrison Jan. 27.

“It’s a great league. It’s very competitive,” Reis said. “Coaching is outstanding, and it’s going to be a great second half of the league schedule. I think we better bring it every single night.” 

Loveland junior Will Bertoli scored eight points vs. Mount Healthy. (Photo by Dick Maloney.)

The game at Cintas was Loveland’s first in a bigger arena, Reis said his players loved the experience. The Tigers also used the home team locker room. Xavier’s senior associate athletic director for external relations, Brian Hicks, is the father of senior guard Ben Hicks.

Coach Rob Ries and the Loveland bench watch during the second half of Sunday’s win over Mount Healthy. (Photo by Dick Maloney.)