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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 2
Thanks for letting us tag along
The bottom line was — at least, this is how it felt going into the winter, even when Thanksgiving was something still a few weeks away — that Chillicothe’s boys basketball team should be held to a different standard than the rest of the teams around. From the talent on display to the attitude behind closed doors to the coaching that was obviously there, this wasn’t a normal Ross County, Gazette-area team. And it never felt like it should be covered like it was. Maybe you think that’s wrong, and it’s OK if you do. But, to this day I feel like it was the right way to cover the Cavs, and anything less would have been cheating the team. And the Cavaliers welcomed that. To the point where it was a little weird at times. This wasn’t something new, but when you’d ask Gary Kellough a question, the coach would give you the answer — whether it was something that ought to be in the paper or not. If the Cavs didn’t play well, Coach K didn’t mess with coach-speak. He’d tell you his team stunk, and to what degree the stink made it to. So would Anthony Hitchens and, eventually, Ray Chambers. So would guys like Seth Dawes, Caleb Knights and Stu Beverly. A lot of the time even if they were the ones doing the stinking themselves. And when Hitchens set his eyes firmly on a state title — it was around the first Zanesville game when that started coming out in interviews — he’d tell you that, too. To cover the Cavs, you had to pick and choose what to use (the ghosts of free-speech journalism pioneers are planning their attack on the Gazette right now, I’m sure). But it was out of respect, and because that’s what felt right at the time. Maybe you think that’s wrong. And it’s OK if you do. But that team was taking all of us on a ride this winter. They knew where they were going, and if you could read between the lines of what made it through the Cavalier filter, you knew where that was in the end. And that’s why covering the Cavs like we did felt right. Chillicothe scored 100 points twice. The Cavs went a full quarter without giving up a point. They beat North College Hill, Newark, Dayton Dunbar, Zanesville, Vinton County, Poland Seminary and Toledo Libbey along the way. And they put all of us on their back, and they let us go along for the ride. And we did what we could. As fans, we painted faces, we made signs. We rolled along the roads between Cincinnati and Columbus and the Convo. We screamed ourselves hoarse at the Schott. We watched history. And, as some of the folks who ran around writing about this particular team… We did what felt right. All this might be a little on the over-the-top side. This was, after all, just a winter of basketball, which is a simple, easy game at the end of the day… (“You put the little orange thing in the little orange ring,” is how coach Kellough said it at one point. ) … that the Cavaliers were able to play it a little better than the team on the other side of the floor. Or, they did that 25 out of the 27 times they hit the floor at least. And every time, they opened up about what happened. Uncomfortable or easy, unquestioned or questionable, the Cavaliers opened their arms to those of us who tagged along during a pretty special trip. Thanks for letting us be there for the ride.
(Gray can be reached at 772-9302 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)
o be honest, this wasn’t an easy team to cover. That sounds worse than it is, because this team couldn’t have been any better to those of us who followed it around. From invading practice for a preview story to busting into the locker room at Gallia; from waiting for a college coach to walk away from Humpty to getting Gary right before he got on the bus, the Cavaliers were as good as anybody — any of us who walk around with a notebook in our back pocket — could have asked. But still, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. This is not complaining. Please understand that this is about as far as complaining as you can get. This was a good problem to have, but it was one that doesn’t usually come about when you’re writing about high school sports. There was a fine line to walk this year with the Cavaliers. And that’s what made it hard. It’s also what made fun.
CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 3
A look back at the final few seconds that changed everything
By PHIL GRAY
Gazette Sports Writer
Before we really get into this, there are two stories to tell. Or really, there’s one story to tell — and we’ll get into that in a minute — and there’s one thing to clear up. We’ll start with that one. And that starts with a question for Ray Chambers. Dude, why didn’t you just dunk it? Between TV news, SportsTime Ohio’s re-broadcasts and about a hundred thousand different Web sites, we’ve all seen it by now. Anthony Hitchens outruns the defense down the left sideline with his team down a point and the final 5.1 seconds sliding out of overtime. And, with a clear look at the rim, Hitchens — Chillicothe’s all-time leading scorer — doesn’t shoot. Instead, he tucks away that sweet jumper — the one where his legs kick out Jordanstyle — in favor of a simple bounce pass to his big man, Chambers. And Chambers tosses up a little, awkward layup. It’s really an ugly thing, where the ball bounces around the rim —
and bounces, and bounces — long enough to give a jogger a heart attack before. Finally. Going. In. So seriously Ray, why not just dunk it? Why not bring down the house and end the whole thing without the drama? “I figured by the time I’d dunk it, the clock was going to run out with the ball still in my hands,” Chambers said. “I swear, when I passed it to you, I heard the horn,” Hitchens said to Chambers. “I thought as soon as I caught the ball, it was going to go EEEEH and go out,” Chambers said — ‘EEEEH’ is the sound of the buzzer, for the record. “I must have had time to shoot it, but I didn’t even really shoot it. I just threw it up, like, a little baby shot, just pooched it up as quick as I could. “Now, if I would have known I had more time, I would have torn the rim off.” Fair enough. The meat of this story is the final 5.1
See 5.1, Page 5
This is it — the shot that won the final game against Toledo Libbey. The ball is out of frame because it’s making the first of its many — many — painful bounces on its way to falling through with the final points of the Cavaliers’ magical season.
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 5
From Page 3
seconds of Chillicothe’s 70-69 overtime win against Toledo Libbey in the state championship game — relived here in a three-way interview with coach Gary Kellough, Chambers and Hitchens as they watched a tape of the deciding little bit of the final game. It really was that 5.1 seconds that came together in a dramatic ending to a magical season, the kind of season that doesn’t come along very often. But before we get into those final few seconds, we’ve got to go back a couple days and tell this story. This one is about Hitchens. Against Poland Seminary — the No. 1 team in Division II; a team that hadn’t been beaten all year — Hitchens put up 24 points, 10 of which came in a crucial run down the stretch in the fourth quarter to put the game away and secure a spot in that now-legendary game against Libbey. But after that Poland game, when the Schottenstein Center was quiet except for the sound of warm-ups for the Division IV game that was on deck later that afternoon, Hitchens said this: “It’s like I told my dad the other day. It don’t matter to me if I don’t score a point Saturday as long as I get that ring. For real. I do not care. As long as I get that ring.” To be fair, Hitchens got a pretty hard time for that comment. “Shut up,” was part of what was said back to him (it was the writer of this story saying this, for the record). “You’re not going to allow that to happen.” “No. It won’t happen,” he said back. “But it wouldn’t matter to me. I’ve said it all along that if we don’t win state then I’ll feel like a failure. I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.” In the end, Anthony Hitchens proved to all of us how serious he was about that. It’s not like he didn’t score against Libbey. Fact is, Hitchens put up a teamhigh 24 points in the title game, with that Jordan-jumper paving the way to Chillicothe’s 16-point second-half comeback. But the proof was in that final 5.1. When Hitchens dished. And Chambers scored. When you really think about it, that bounce pass past Libbey’ last line of defense was, one way or the other, the final touch of Hitchens’ high-school career. He had his chance to shoot, and it was a high-percentage shot at that, considering how deep he got against Libbey’s press. But he didn’t. Anthony Hitchens did not score a point as time ticked out. He did not score the bucket that everybody talked about. He didn’t even try. Because the ring was out there, hanging on Hitchens’ split-second decision. And because Chambers was open under the basket. “His shot was easier than mine,” Hitchens said later. “And I took it. Took the shot.” Chambers said back. “I mean,” Hitchens said, “He’s on the blocks, he’s 6-7. He better hit it.” And he did.
The final few
We have to start this part just a little before those fateful final seconds. To really get into it, you have to go back to about 5.5, when Buford — Ohio’s Mr. Basketball this winter — had the ball in his hands and his team was down by a point. Because that’s when Buford did the same thing as Hitchens. And it nearly made just as much difference. Buford drove the lane before passing up the shot by passing to a teammate. On that end, it was Julius Wells. Who was hammered by Ray Chambers. “I was like, he’s got to earn it at the free throw line,” Chambers said. “So I gave him a hard foul to make sure he didn’t get the and-1.” The and-1 would have changed the world, at least in the simple sense of what was playing out at the Schott that Saturday afternoon. The and-1 would have made Chambers’ final shot — if it even worked out for him to take it in that scenario — a game-tying shot, one that would have sent the whole thing into double-overtime.
See 5.1, Page 6
And this was Anthony Hitchens breaking the press on the final play of the season. The play was designed for Hitchens to take the final shot, but, as Hitchens said, “His shot was easier than mine.” And so Hitchens passed to Chambers, and history was made.
The Cavs are
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From Page 5
And then, who knows. But Wells didn’t get the and-1. Ray Chambers’ fourth foul kept that from happening, sending Wells to the line needing two free throws to tie the game. “And the logic behind that foul is that if he (meaning Chambers) gives up the layup, the clock’s still running,” Cavs coach Gary Kellough said. “And we might not even get a timeout until it’s down to two or three seconds. So he’s got to foul him right there.” Which he did. And Wells — after a timeout, with the blueand-white portion of a packed house in Columbus screaming in full throat — drained both free throws. “Other than Buford, Wells is probably their best foul shooter,” Kellough said. “If you watch him in warm-ups, he strokes them, there’s no doubt about it. But it didn’t matter if it would have been their best or their worst foul shooter, you still have to foul him.” Wells’ free throws were sandwiched in between two timeouts, the first by Libbey, the second one a frantic call by the Cavaliers’ bench when things didn’t look right on the floor as the last play of the year set itself up. That’s another thing we’ll deal with in a minute. As for the first timeout: “There was so much time during the timeouts with the TV and all that that sometimes we just let our kids drink water and relax,” Kellough said. “Sometimes we were done talking in half a timeout, and that time we basically just told our kids where we wanted them to be after the free throws.” Problem was, the Cavaliers didn’t get there. After Wells drained the second, everybody in the world was expecting the inbound to go to Hitchens. But some confusion under the basket left Chillicothe
“There wasn’t anybody else down there. It was an easy layup for me.”
“This is why I don’t listen to anything he says.”
line in the middle of a Libbey double-team. Nearest to Beverly and the Ball was Caleb Knights, who eventually played a huge part as history was written for Chillicothe basketball. Deeper was Ray Chambers, set initially around half court. The way things were drawn up, Chambers was that deep in anticipation of a last-second rebound and putback of a Hitchens jumper. Yeah — that last shot was Humpty’s to take, as far as the X’s and O’s of the whole thing went. Deeper still was Seth Dawes, who figures into the final few in a bit. But first, here’s how Hitchens got open: “I’m not going to say I wasn’t serious, because I was serious as I could get,” Hitchens said. “But I was talking to (the defenders), like, I knew you was going to double me. And they were kind of talking back to me. And I was trying to time it up perfectly when the ref gave Stu the ball. I kind of got position on the one defender — that’s what coach said, he said break down, use one
Emotion like this ran through pretty much the whole game that Saturday at the Schottenstein Center. Here the Chillicothe bench readies itself as the final play sets up.
out of position, and it left the coaching staff screaming to use its final timeout of the season before any time could run off the clock. It also left the coach and the leading scorer with a different opinion of how things played out. watch it, everything was going to happen the same way. Just a little bit different.” “But there’s a time lapse of about two seconds,” Kellough said. Hitchens: “But when I pass it to Stuart (Beverly, just before the officials recognized the timeout), I was already at the volleyball line. I would have about four more seconds. Kellough: “He wasn’t where we wanted him.” “There wasn’t anybody else down there,” Hitchens said. “It was an easy layup for me.” Then Kellough: “This is why I don’t listen to anything he says.” Then to Hitchens, “There was 15,000 people, minus the Libbey people, in that building who did not want you taking the stinking ball out of bounds.” In the end, it all worked out without any time burning — or not burning — off the clock while Hitchens inbounded the ball, then got it back. The Cavs burned their final timeout, then went about diagramming history. By getting the ball to Hitchens. “We’ve been doing that for three years,” Kellough said. “Under a minute, it goes there and everybody runs. We got the second timeout and we got everybody in their places.”
The second time out
“Coach was trippin’.” Hitchens said. Said Kellough, “Humpty’s energy is always rattling. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind who was going to get the ball when it came in bounds, but we had to have them in the right places. Raymond (Chambers) and Seth (Dawes) were running into each other down there, and (Hitchens) decided he was going to grab it and get it in bounds.” Hitchens: “But coach, if you
The second timeout did serve to set the pieces where the Cavs wanted them. Instead of the confusion under the basket, it was Stu Beverly with the ball. Hitchens was to his right, standing a little removed from the foul
See 5.1, Page 7
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 7
From Page 6
defender, so that’s what I did. I put my butt on this one defender, kind of boxing him out, so I could get a jump.” Kellough: “And that’s why you don’t see Humpty in Caleb’s spot. We wanted to bring him from the weak side of the ball. You don’t want, when people are doubling you, you don’t want him on the ball side. That’s why we give him the chance to do that kind of stuff.” The way it worked out was that Hitchens broke toward the ball. With Knights standing so close to Beverly, one of the defenders doubling Hitchens was basically screened off Hitchens, creating a one-on-one down the sideline as the clocked ticked into four seconds left. “We’re in our strength right here against their press,” Kellough said. “Julius Wells at 6-6 comes up and tries to guard Humpty in the middle of the floor. I mean, he’s looking like he has sand in his shoes.” play we drew up even then. I just, once we got it in his hands it was off to the races.” Simple as that. For the Cavaliers, it was heaven. For Libbey, it took 5.1 seconds for things to go the other way. “Now, people said how bad of sportsmanship Libbey had,” Kellough said. “They didn’t have that. They were devastated. If we didn’t execute here and if we didn’t get the breaks, I’d have had to peel my guys up. They were devastated. They’d been through everything we had, worked for a year-and-a-half to win a state championship and they deserved to be devastated like that.” And Chillicothe deserved to feel the pride of a championship. “The first thing that went through my mind was all my alumni that’s played for me through the years,” Kellough said of his reaction to the final shot. “All my alumni that played all those years that wanted something like this but never got the chance. The second thing was that I was proud for these guys. They know how hard they’ve had to work and what it took to get here.” “I kind of watched (the last shot) from an angle,” Chambers said. “I was scared to turn around and really watch it. But once it went through and everybody got off the bench, I just started jumping too.” “I don’t think I’ll ever believe it,” Hitchens said. “I believe it, but I don’t believe it. Because it’s me, you know? It’s us. We really did it.” “And it’s out of the blue,” Chambers said. “For little old Chillicothe.”
(Gray can be reached at 772-9302 or via e-mail at email@example.com)
The final 3
Hitchens made a little move at halfcourt, enough to leave Wells behind. After that it was Hitchens driving toward the top of the key, with Chambers down low. And Dawes hanging out on the side. “I was trying to read off Hump and see what he was going to do,” Chambers said. “I mean, I saw Hump break the defender down, so I told myself to get to the open spot, because I might possibly get the pass or get the rebound and put it back in real quick, whichever. It didn’t matter.” It did in the end. “Buford, he’s 44, he had to go with Raymond for a little bit (underneath),” Kellough said. “Then he comes off him and goes after the ball. Then he makes the cardinal sin where he’s hung out.
And this was the scene once Chambers’ final shot fell through. Chillicothe’s bench emptied and emotion spilled over as the school celebrated its first ever basketball state championship.
“See, right there is the 2-on-1 (Hitchens and Chambers against Buford in the lane). Wells falls down (at half court) and William is not worried about Raymond anymore, he’s got to stop the ball. And look…” That’s when the light went on for Hitchens. “I didn’t see Seth over there. I never saw Seth over there. I never saw Seth.” Who was wide open to Hitchens’ right. Kellough: “See, we sent Seth on the backside, and Julius made a big mistake by taking off and running after you (Hitchens) at halfcourt. You had Seth for an easy stroke. But we had a 3-on-1 right there. That wasn’t getting a break. Our kids executed what we wanted.” like, oooooh! I didn’t even watch it. I didn’t see it go in. I just looked up, just stood over there.” This might have been the biggest game ever for the Cavaliers, with Chambers shot ranking as the biggest single moment for the program. But it wasn’t the first pressure situation this team had ever been in. “We’ve been there before. We’ve been under five seconds in his career, Haven’t we Hump?” Kellough said. “And it was probably a pretty similar
The final shot
“At first I didn’t think I would get the ball,” Chambers said. “But when I saw Buford step up, I kind of figured (Hitchens) was going to pass it. That’s the ring on the line, and he’s got the ball. I was figuring out that he was probably going to make the smart decision and pass it up.” “Once he shot it, I jumped with him,” Hitchens said. “I was
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Sectional championship: Chillicothe 78, Hillsboro 50 District championship: Chillicothe 49, Logan Elm 48
Regional championship: Chillicothe 71, Meadowbrook 49 State championship: Chillicothe 70, Toledo Libbey 69
Keith Knights James VonVoorhis Ron Smith Jordan Benson
Napoleon Cross Greg VanVolkinburg Gary Kellough Richard Scott
CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 9
By JOEY CHANDLER
Gazette Sports Writer
SCHOTT was sweet
Even for CHS’s senior role players, their last
Five months ago, they were hesitant about playing. A week ago, they became Division II State Champions. Looking back it was the best decision they’ve ever made. Seniors Mike Newman and Nathan “Juice” Woodworth weren’t cast into the limelight during Chillicothe’s storybook season — but they were there, an essential part of the team, and loving every minute of it. “We were both kind of questioning whether or not to play because we weren’t sure how much playing time we’d get,” said Woodworth. “We thought maybe we’d try and get jobs somewhere instead of playing. I told my dad and he said to me after that I have all my life to work. He said I’d regret it if I didn’t play and I would have.” “He (Woodworth) just came and told me, ‘Dude we’ve got to (play). We’ve been together forever with this and I’m going to do it. Let’s make it our season — it’s our senior season,’” said Newman. After a come-from-behind, 7069, overtime win against Toledo Libbey in the state title game, the boys were first to rush the floor in celebration. The pair never made headline news like teammates Ray Chambers and Anthony Hitchens. There were no game-winning shots or 1,000th career points, but ask the state CO-tournament MVPs and they’ll tell you how much Newman and Woodworth meant to the rest of the Cavs.
ing. That brings us together as a team — as one.” That’s when Chambers chipped in: “We’re just family, you know? They don’t get as much playing time but they are right there on the bench supporting us. Cheering us on and we need that. They are good leaders also — we all get along, laugh and clown, we just enjoy ourselves.” Both seniors dealt with nagging injuries but stayed tough, never complaining. Newman dislocated his left shoulder junior year during a football playoff game and continues to have problems with his right one popping out. Devastated when the doctor informed him that his senior season of football was out of the question, he turned his focus to basketball. “It just put it all in perspective. I left everything in God’s hands and prayed, hoped I could make it through the season. I was just hoping to get through one basketball season — just do my all to make it through that,” he said. Woodworth’s injury also came on the football field, last fall against Portsmouth. A Trojan player landed on his knee, resulting in a level three MCL tear. “I didn’t have to have surgery because they don’t do them for MCL (tears) anymore. It hurts them more than it helps them. I went through physical therapy and wore my brace after that. The first couple of practices it slowed me down and I lost some speed but I was never that fast to begin
Nathan Woodworth, left, and Mike Newman might not have had a huge impact on the court, but were still part of what made the Cavaliers into champions during their senior years. Here the two celebrate after CHS beat Meadowbrook to earn its way into the Final Four.
“Juice didn’t play a lot but he motivated us. He fouled Ray in practice and it helped him,” said Hitchens. “You need people like that. That know their role and that, I mean, maybe God didn’t give you all the gifts to be a top notch athlete. But you practice hard and keep smiling and clown-
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 10
From Page 9
with,” said Woodworth. Worried about the pain he might face during the season because of his knee, Woodworth said he adjusted fine. If anything, the brace hurt his teammates more than him. “The only thing I think that bothered me was the stinkiness. It is kind of hard to wash and sometimes it bothered my teammates by clanking them on the knee or something,” he said. When it was time to focus, however, they were first to keep the team in line. “Basically when things would go wrong in practice and we weren’t paying attention they were the only two that would keep us together. They put us back on the right page,” said sophomore Michael Turner.
For Newman, it was a long list of “Kelloughisms.” “What I will always remember from my senior season is some of the quirky quotes that Kellough said. I will never forget those,” said Newman. “He used to say ‘Michael Turner, you look like a frog in a frying skillet,’ or that we look like a Chinese fire drill during scrimmages. “Sometimes he’ll just start ripping somebody and say a certain word or his accent started to come out. We all looked around and started smiling. We were laughing on the inside because otherwise he’d get mad. Those are the kind of moments we had between each other that we’ll always remember.” As for Woodworth, it had to be the excitement on the sidelines. “I always sat by the same people on the sidelines screaming and cheering on the team,” said Woodworth. “They’d (the other team) come by and we’d start yelling at them to get in their heads. Alex Grow, James VanVoorhis and I always just screamed and jumped around. We’d stand up — we were a pretty cocky bench and every time we scored we would just rub their faces in it. It was fun.” No matter what the memory, they are moments the boys will never forget about their state championship senior season. A season both came close to missing altogether. “I’d have been so upset. I’m glad I played and the end result was awesome,” said Woodwoorth. “Now we get rings and we’ll always be state champs.” “In all reality it is probably the best season of our lives,” said Newman. “We’ll never have another season like this.”
(Chandler can be reached at 772-9304 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Injuries aside, Newman and Woodworth embraced their roles within the team. “You couldn’t ask for two better kids as far as senior guys that aren’t playing that much,” said Cavs coach Gary Kellough. “They are the first ones off the bench celebrating with the other guys because they know they are a huge part of it and what is going on. ... But really when you look at their minutes they played a lot because we were always ahead by so much. They played a lot in the third and fourth quarters. “Those five seniors are pretty tough dudes. Juice and Mike, I think if you talk to them they enjoyed it and the really great part of what we needed out of them was the hard work in practice. They were leaders on the team. It wasn’t always the three (Stu Beverly, Hitchens, Chambers) it was Mike and Juice — the seniors behind the scenes that were leaders.” Leaders that kept the team together — even when some brotherly squabbling hit the court. “Yeah we had like problems in practice and stuff. We pulled apart a couple scraps and things like that but now we are just family. Every time I see them we shake hands or high five or whatever. We are a pretty close team,” said Woodworth. Sometimes all it took was a little Mike and Juice to lighten the situation. “Ask anybody else and we were the biggest goofballs, stupid and laughing 24-7. It brings the chemistry of the team together. We were not all uptight and we’re all friends. It was one big team and one big family and I feel like we had a big part in that,” said Newman.
Woodworth and Newman celebrate their team’s state championship at a postgame rally at CHS after the Cavs beat Toledo Libbey in the title game.
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 11
Chillicothe 51, Gallia Academy 26
14 points, while Stu Beverly added eight and Caleb Knights chipped in with seven. But as much of a letdown as a loss in the opener — on CHS’s home floor, no less — might have been, things changed soon enough for the Cavaliers.
Reliving the Cavaliers’ magic season, one game at a time
different. I’m not going to say we win, but it wouldn’t be like it was.” From that point forward, nothing was the same for the Cavaliers. The thing about the Brookhaven game was that the Cavs kind of bought into the hype. Everything in the offseason — the final year of the high-school careers of high-profile athletes, for one thing — pointed to the winter of 2007-08 running like a Porsche, with a high-horsepower engine carrying everything else through the race. The Brookhaven game changed everybody’s mind. “That game humbled us back down,” Hitchens said. “Coach
This is how it started, with the Cavs hosting Brookhaven in the season opener. But things went sour with a late letdown, and CHS started the season 0-1. Brookhaven 72, Chillicothe 68, OT
It all started so well. But the start didn’t end very well at all. Ray Chambers did his best to rip off the rim less than 10 seconds into the season. It was a dunk that set the tone early in the
game as the Cavs rolled out to a 14-point lead early against Brookhaven. It all collapsed in the final three quarters, with an overtime letdown thrown in for good measure. But when you look past the big beginning, it was when things started winding down that set the tone for the rest of the year for the Cavaliers. “That was jitters. First-game nerves, I guess,” Chambers said later in the season. “I don’t know what it was.” “We got a lead and thought we were too good,” Anthony Hitchens said. “We got that lead and stopped playing, for real. If we played them again, it might be
said it best when he talked to me — coming into the season, people were predicting that we were this or that in the state and everything, and we got a big head. Losing that game brought us back down, for real.” “When you let another team hang in there like that,” Chambers said, “then anything can happen.” Numbers-wise, Chambers led the Cavs in their opener with 29 points and 10 rebounds, but missed a jumper at the end of regulation that could have won it for Chillicothe and kept things from going into the extra four minutes — the four minutes that cost the Cavs the game. Hitchens hit for
Here’s where the defense got right. It’s also where the offense took a step back. Chillicothe didn’t exactly get off to a smooth start to the season, a fact on display even in this easy win over Gallia Academy in the Cavs’ first league game of the year. While the defense gave up less than a point per minute against the Blue Devils, the other side of the ball wasn’t where it should have been. And the Cavs weren’t happy about it. “What we did on our layoff (it was about two weeks between the opener and this game) was focus on our team defense …” Cavs coach Gary Kellough said at the time. “We spent a lot of time with drills and everything else, improving that, and it was where we wanted it tonight. But, on the other side, offense is two things — it’s finesse and rhythm. And we were really crude on offense tonight.”
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 12
From Page 11 This was the one that got the Cavs going in the right direction. CHS’s first SEOAL game of the year ended up as its first win — a blowout on the road over Gallia Academy.
This game also showcased one of the themes of the Cavs’ season. Wheelersburg went in determined to break Chambers down on the blocks and take the 6-foot7 option out of Chillicothe’s playbook. To the Pirates’ credit, that much of their plan worked. Chambers finished the game with just 11 points, giving the big man 21 points in two games after scoring 29 in one game against Brookhaven. It wasn’t really that anything had changed with Chambers. It was just that other teams were getting their hands on game film of him. “If you look at the Wheelersburg game, they were rotating three, four guys on him to keep him away from the basket,” Kellough said later. “They banged on him all night, but he kept his composure and put it in when he could. If you try to take away one part of us, we still have three, four others that can hurt you.” In that game against Wheelersburg, Hitchens led everybody with 30 points while Seth Dawes kicked in a dozen more. Knights — who missed this game a year before while mending a collarbone broken during football season — finished with nine points. And, for the record, Chillicothe’s worst quarter of the game was the fourth, when the Cavs scored 15 points. The Pirates scored 15 total in the second half. Seven. That’s the number that best shows how well Chillicothe’s defense clicked Friday night. It was a run about three minutes long in the second quarter, and it went like this: Ray Chambers block. Anthony Hitchens steal. Caleb Knights steal. Anthony Hitchens steal. Traveling. Foot on the line. A bounce out of bounds. That’s how seven straight possessions went for the Tigers Friday — seven straight turnovers. It was really how much of the night went as the Cavs’ defense continued to assert itself as the dominant part of Chillicothe’s game. “Our kids are all buying into the idea of wanting to be the best defensive player they can be,” coach Kellough said at the time. “Defense is important to them, and they work hard at it.” And on this one, finally, the offense came on like it should. Before the Tigers even scored a point, the Cavs had a dozen. By halftime it was a 36-13 game. By the end of it, Hitchens had more points than Ironton. Seriously. Humpty had 30, Ironton had 28 on that particular Friday night at Hatton Memorial Gym. Chambers checked in with just nine points, but his 12 rebounds went a long way against a small SEOAL opponent. And the win went a long way to prove where the Cavs stood in their league. But it wasn’t long before they got a good look at the rest of Ohio. would come to define their schedule. But the thing about this one was that the Cavs didn’t phone anything in. Even with the starters out of the game by the middle of the second quarter, the Cavs put it on the Ironmen, no matter who was on the floor. Here you go: As usual, Hitchens led Chillicothe in scoring. But in this one, he wasn’t alone at the top of the leaderboard. Mike Turner — MIKE TURNER — matched Hitchens with 13 points, despite being the Cavs’ third option at the 1. “We were saving the (starters) a little bit,” coach K said as the team rolled out of Jackson. “They played about a quarter and a-half, then didn’t play at all in the second half. We were just glad to keep the bus warm.” Harsh? Nope. Not with what the Cavaliers had on deck the next night.
Chillicothe 83, North College Hill 70
Still, crude or not, it was enough to get Chillicothe going in the right direction — in more ways than one. This game helped set the tone for many of the Cavs’ games as they went forward during the winter. And while there were certainly times when the offense got hot, it was this kind of defense that became the Cavs’ trademark. In fact, in the second quarter against Gallia, Chillicothe did not give up a single point — the first of two quarters during the season the Cavs were not scored on. “… We got better by playing this game tonight,” Kellough said. “The positive is that the kids came out and played really hard, even if there were a lot of errors on offense. If they can keep up
that effort and intensity, we’re going to be OK.” And they were. Starting the very next night when the Cavs got a little revenge.
Chillicothe 68, Wheelersburg 42
A year before this, it was a letdown at home. This time around, it was an easy win in Wheelersburg. “The difference was, this year we had Caleb in the lineup,” coach Kellough said a few days after beating the ’Burg. “It was a pride game. Last year, after we led most of the game and let it get away from us, I think the kids wanted to go on the road and get this one. And they did. They were relaxed and they played hard.”
Chillicothe 74, Ironton 28
Seventy-four points isn’t a bad night. But even with that, the defense was even better. Chillicothe took a big step in the right direction in this game, even after a layoff of almost a week after beating Wheelersburg. Here’s what it said in the Gazette the day after the Ironton game:
Chillicothe 71, Jackson 26
This was a necessary day at the office. Look at it like working on a Sunday. Or reading office e-mail when you’re sick. The Cavaliers rolled down to Jackson a day before getting back to the kind of marquee games that
At the risk of coming across as over-corny, this game is where the magic really happened. This is where the door opened. This is where the Chillicothe Cavaliers showed what kind of team they had the potential to be. It’s one thing to beat Jackson by almost 50. You can have a guy like Hitchens outscore Ironton, and you can roll out your lock-down defense against Gallia Academy all you want. But this one, especially so early in the season, this is the one where eyes started to open when it came to the Cavaliers. After all, this was Cincinnati North College-daggone-Hill, a team that had won three of the last four state championships in Division III.
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From Page 12
at Chillicothe — kept the Cavs close, even when North College Hill rallied to overtake the Cavs going into the fourth quarter. But the final eight minutes… those belonged to Big Man. We’re going to run the risk of crossing into corny territory again here, because we’re about to talk about Ray Chambers’ four fourth-quarter dunks. Four. In the final 1:40. It all amounted to 10 total points for Chambers, and it put the punctuation on Chillicothe’s biggest win in a long, long time. Let’s face it, it’s tricky to read too much into a dunk in high school basketball. The fact is, Chambers was born with an ability not a lot of people get. It’s the luck of the chromosomal draw — so to speak — that one guy gets 6 feet, 7 inches from toe to top, plus a wingspan as wide as a Ford Focus, plus enough of a vertical leap to make a joke out of the 10 feet from floor to rim. In a way, making too much out of Ray Chambers and his ability to dunk a basketball is like standing in awe of a traffic cop as they direct traffic. Because the bottom line is, each is just doing what they do. But for Chambers, those dunks against North College Hill… Those dunks were special. (If you want to see them, search for Ray Chambers on YouTube. The North College Hill game is five or six down from the top, and it’s worth the time to watch it.) It was the second one, really, that was so ridiculous. In the first half, North College Hill’s Alphonso McPherson and Stefone Grace frustrated Chambers under the basket and pretty much took him out of the game (he had only eight points in the first 16 minutes of the game). On that second dunk, Chambers took a pass from Caleb Knights, put his body between the low block and Grace, then tore down the rim. There are thousands of folks out there who can put down a dunk. Not a lot of them can do it when a game like this is on the line. Call it corny, but this win was special to the Cavaliers, and to Chambers. And we all know what’s happened since this game, at Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena a few days before Christmas, when the big man took over. he doesn’t care who it is, but somebody has to step up.” The Cavs didn’t have a lot of trouble finding their leaders over the next few games …
Chillicothe 76, Logan 41
Chillicothe 79, Portsmouth 51
One of the most enduring images of 2007-08 was that of Ray Chambers trying to rip a rim off its roots. This one was part of four game-changers Chambers put down in Chillicothe’s landmark win over Cincinnati North College Hill.
And the Cavs put it to them. Even when it wasn’t easy. Ray Chambers rattled around in the paint early against the Trojans, but a few blocked shots and some early fouls took him out of Chillicothe’s gameplan. But Hitchens was there, and his fadeaway jumper — the shot that came to define his senior season
You can’t call it a letdown. Not when you win by 28 points. Not after you go almost a week after such an emotional win in such a big arena. And it’s never a letdown when so much goes right. Still … “The problem with a team like this is that we have such high expectations of how we want to play,” Gary Kellough said. “And when we don’t live up to those expectations, it upsets our coaches, our players and our fans.” This was the start of a downswing in Chillicothe’s schedule. After the North College Hill game, the Cavs hit a stretch of four games and almost two weeks of league games before getting back to the big boys of their schedule. In this one, Chillicothe’s defense again stole the show, with the Cavs giving up just 13 points to Portsmouth big man Nate Cadogan. Offensively, the Cavaliers didn’t get a lot out of their biggest threats, but they got enough. Hitchens hit for a game-high 17 and Chambers had a dozen. Stu Beverly added 15 more, while Seth Dawes had 11. The fact that the Cavaliers spread out the responsibilities in scoring, and in rebounding, was the best news of the night. “Coach has been stressing that he has to find the second rebounder,” Dawes said. “He says
… starting with Ray Chambers, who put up more points than the Chieftains through three quarters of this one. Back at the Hatt, Chambers checked out of Chillicothe’s fifth SEOAL game of the year with 23 points through 24 minutes. At that time, Logan had 23. And the Cavs rolled to another easy mid-season win. Starting with this game, the Cavs were finally able to put the holidays behind them and settle into more of a regular routine. “That’s what we need,” coach K said. “Now we can maybe get into a rhythm instead of sitting around all the time. It’s hard to get better when you aren’t playing.”
Chillicothe 85, Gallia Academy 30
How’s this for an understatement: “The press seems to be working,” CHS coach Brian Collins said after this one. You think? Early pressure by the Cavaliers resulted in a 15-point lead by the end of the first quarter, then gave up three points in the second on their way to a 38-point lead at the half. “It’s no secret that we’re going to come after you with it,” Collins said. “And the kids are finally stepping into the passing lanes like they should and they’re forcing turnovers with it. It helped us build a big lead and set the tone tonight.” Chambers led Chillicothe with 18 points and 11 rebounds — not a huge night for the team’s leading scorer. Still, the Cavs had 11 players
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 14
From Page 13
score at least three points as the team picked up its eighth straight win since the Brookhaven game. game, but had three against the Tigers. Chambers wasn’t exactly sharp either, with the big man putting in 11. Which is why Beverly’s 25 was so big. “Stu did his job,” Collins said. “He hit two 3s late in the third and two more early in the fourth to get us the lead. He came through.” But just about everything got right when the Cavs got on the big stage the next night. needed to believe in themselves. And they’re starting to.” To put this particular weekend in its place, remember that Marietta was 4-7 going into its game against the Cavs. Newark, on the other hand, was already entrenched as a true big-school powerhouse, and was about half through its run to the Division I state championship. The Cavs were a different team in each game. Hitchens followed up his three-point game against Marietta with 23 against Newark, while Chambers upped his output to 17. Caleb Knights added a half-dozen points to the landmark win. And it was a victory the Cavaliers put together in style. It went Chambers-HitchensChambers early in the second quarter to give the Cavaliers the lead for good. From there, Chillicothe’s defense settled in to hold the Wildcats to just nine points in the second quarter and 11 more in the third. “Playing the way we did today was a good sign,”
Chillicothe 63, Marietta 51
As it said in the paper: Give Stu a save in this one. Stu Beverly put up a careerhigh 25 points — 15 on 3-pointers — as Chillicothe barely got out of Washington County with their league record unblemished. Granted, it was a 12-point win. But the Cavaliers’ heart just wasn’t in this one. The trip to Marietta was on the eve of Chillicothe’s game against Newark at Ohio State, and without Beverly, things might have been different. “What I saw was us looking past this one,” Cavs assistant Brian Collins said. “I didn’t see us playing our normal game or getting after it like we normally do.” And guys didn’t score like they normally did, either. Going into the game, Anthony Hitchens was putting up points at a pace of 19.6 per
Chillicothe 59, Newark 53
“Coach has been stressing maturity,” Anthony Hitchens said after winning this one. “Last night we played bad. Today was a brand new day.” And this win was another step into the new era of CHS basketball. At the same time, it was a win that really reinforced how temperamental this team could be. “Right before the game, my final words were that this is a game we’re supposed to win,” coach Kellough said at the time. “Yesterday we just didn’t play well. Today, the kids
Humpty might be his happiest on the big stage, but on this particular day the Cavs were all happy to be playing in a big game. CHS shook off an ugly performance the night before to pick up its second huge win in three weeks by beating Division-I Newark at Value City Arena.
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From Page 14
Hitchens said. And, again, the win was big. “This is a monster win for Chillicothe basketball,” said Kellough, still standing courtside at the Schottenstein Center. “For the team and the community, this is a message that we can go to two big stages (he was including the North College Hill game in this) and compete with anybody.” It wouldn’t be long before it was three big stages. And an even bigger win. the rest of the game, we’re going to be on the bench. And that’s not the place I want to be.” Beverly finished the game with a team high six steals. Chillicothe gave up 22 points in the first half, then gave up 10 in the second half. Here’s the big (little) number — Warren only scored two in the fourth quarter. That’s one basket in eight minutes. That’s Chillicothe, quite literally, running away with the game — outscoring Warren 19-2 in the final stretch. Ray Chambers led the Cavs with 17 points and 11 rebounds and Hitchens scored 14. Also in double digits was Beverly with 13 points and Seth Dawes with 11. zero degrees. Inside, the reputation of Chillicothe’s boys basketball team was boiling. So was the stock of the Cavs’ leading scorer. Hitchens poured in 15 of his game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Cavs to a win over Dayton Dunbar. Going into the game, Dayton Dunbar was the No. 1-ranked Division II team in Ohio. And the Cavs handled things almost easily. As easy, at least, as Hitchens made his jumper look against the Wolverines. The game was close through three quarters, with Dunbar tying things at 41 with about 11 minutes left in the game. Those points for the Wolverines came on free throws, awarded by virtue of a technical foul against Coach K. Which is what swung the game back to Chillicothe’s favor. “What got to me was when Coach got that tech,” Hitchens said at the time. “You know, that tied the game and — I’m not saying we hung our heads or anything, but you could see it starting to happen. I wasn’t going to let it happen. Right there, I knew I had to step up.” And he did. After Dunbar hit those foul shots, Chillicothe outscored the Wolverines 29-21 over the final 11:32, notching the biggest win yet of the Cavaliers’ landmark season. “This was all about heart,” Ray Chambers said. “All week it’s been about developing heart; tonight was about playing with heart. That’s what it came down to — both teams can play, both can score. It was who wanted it more.” On that frigid night in Wellston, the Cavs got everything they wanted. And they were about to get even more.
Chillicothe 66, Ironton 40
This one was your typical tale of two halves. Ironton managed to hold a 17-16 lead early in the second quarter, but it didn’t last long. Any chance the Tigers had for an upset dissolved in the second half, quickly. It took just 10 seconds, and the Cavs never looked back. Two factors stood out in the transformation: Chillicothe’s D and Ray Chambers. The Cavs held Ironton to just six points in the third quarter. That’s also when a quiet Chambers started to make some noise. The big man scored all of his 11 points in the second half — starting with a putback that got the Cavs rolling. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. Halfway through the fourth, Chillicothe built up a 20 point, 5030 lead. Anthony Hitchens hit two 3s on his way to 24 points and Ron Smith stepped off the bench to score nine points. The win marked Chillicothe’s eleventh straight of the season. Chalk up another W to the defense. It’s like senior Stu Beverly told the Gazette after the win: “I told coach before the game I’m here to play defense. And coach told us at halftime if we don’t play defense
Gannett News Service photo
It took a huge effort late in the game, but Chillicothe won its third straight game against Zanesville with an overtime thriller during the regular season on the Blue Devils’ home court.
The scoreboard hit triple digits. Chillicothe’s starters poured it on thick early, and the bench kept it going. “Our kids are like piranhas,” Kellough said at the time. “When they smell blood in the water, they’re gonna come after you. When they get like that, it’s hard to run with them.” Just check out the stats in the first quarter alone. Hitchens and Beverly each had 10 points and the Cavs jumped out to a 38-9 lead. Tack on an 18-4 second quarter and this one was way out of reach. 1 In just 2 ⁄2 quarters Hitchens racked up 19 points and seven assists. Seth Dawes put up 15 points and five steals and Chambers had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Ron Smith contributed with 12 points. Michael Hamilton, who had played a total of 28 of Chillicothe’s 452 varsity minutes up to that point, exploded off the bench with a 10 point performance. Basically, the bottom seven dominated the second half. Sophomore Michael Turner released a 3 with 1:16 left to hit the 100 mark. “I’m especially proud of the second and third (string) kids, the kids we brought in the second half,” said Kellough. “Michael Turner and those guys, they’re out there every day in practice too, and this was a big chance for them to get a good bunch of varsity minutes.”
Chillicothe 67, Warren 32
Chalk up another win over a No. 1 team in this one. For the second time in less than a year, CHS topped a top-ranked school when the Cavs beat Dayton Dunbar. Chillicothe 70, Dayton Dunbar 62
Chillicothe 59, Zanesville 58, OT
Outside the gym on this particular Saturday night in Wellston, the temperature hung right around
Chillicothe 104, Jackson 40
This wasn’t a pretty game. Tempers flared and Chillicothe stalled. And Zanesville was right on the verge of getting back at the Cavaliers after CHS bounced the Blue Devils twice the year before.
Six players hit double figures.
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 18
From Page 15
Zanesville had the Cavs down 11 with a little more than 6:30 to go in the game, in fact. That’s a long way to go against another top-10 Division I opponent. But the Cavs got there. It took 14 points in the final 6:10 by Hitchens to help get things even at the end of regulation, and his jumper with 30 seconds to go in overtime brought Chillicothe all the way back for its fourth marquee victory of the winter. “Heart,” Hitchens said. “It’s just heart. Our basketball team, we’ve been playing together for a while now. And we’ve got heart, we’ve got faith, we’ve got confidence, we’ve got talent and patience, poise — we know what it takes to win.” This was also the point of the season where the Cavaliers really stopped being satisfied with being good today. After this one — after so many wins over such big opponents — Chillicothe’s thoughts started to turn to the future. “These are unbelievable games for the kids and the fans to have, where they’re going to talk about them 20 years down the road or whatever, but we’re still in the mode of trying to get better,” coach Kellough said. “We’re still making mistakes, and I still believe that there’s another level we can get to offensively that’s going to make the difference for us. What can you say — we just came out and beat a Division I team that was state-ranked coming into this game, but we have to turn around and play them again in a couple of weeks.” Down the road for the Cavs was the SEOAL Day of Champions. And a weird bookend to such a strong regular season. and Chambers combined to score 63 of the Cavs 93 points. “Two players with 30 is huge,” said assistant coach Brian Collins after the game. “We started slow again, but Humpty (Hitchens) carried us in the first half.” Hitchens scored 25 of his 33 points in the first 16 minutes — 15 in the first quarter alone. One quarter later and Chambers lit up the scoreboard with 16 of his own. The big man scored 22 of his 30 points after halftime. “Ray was the recipient of a lot of kickbacks in the second half,” Collins said. “We had a lot of steals that would just go forward to Ray, and he really ran the floor well today.” time, “and focus on Zanesville.”
Chillicothe 104, Athens 37
Ten days ago it was Michael Turner. This time the glory belonged to Nathan “Juice” Woodworth. Woodworth’s putback with 1:45 to go pushed Chillicothe into triple digit land. Just icing on the cake for the Cavs 67-point margin of victory. No Chillicothe team has ever scored over 106 points in a game, and had Chillicothe performed better from the free throw line (11-of-21) the outcome could have made history. Nonetheless, the Cavs hit the century mark, 104 points to be exact, for the second time. Hitchens recorded 26 points, 22 in the first half and Stu Beverly hit five 3-pointers on his way to 15 points. Chambers picked up a double double (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Dawes added 12 points. Chillicothe had just nine turnovers — compared to a whopping 32 for the Bulldogs.
In a weird bookend to such a strong regular season, the Cavs — and Caleb Knights, above — lost their season finale to Zanesville in the SEOAL’s Day of Champions game. But hard lessons are learned hard, and it just made CHS stronger going into the postseason.
from the left wing. Less than a minute later Beverly scored on a free throw then cashed in on an offensive rebound on the Cavs’ next possession. All that in the first 1:35 of the game. “Well, Stu got his confidence up when it comes to shooting the basketball,” Kellough said at the time. “The good thing about us is that we don’t always have to have Ray or Hump to be the person who steps up all the time.” Chillicothe took a commanding 51-25 lead over the Tigers at halftime, who managed to make it a 15 point game as late as the third quarter. Beverly finished with 21 points — 15 in the first quarter. Hitchens led the way with 24. All this before Chillicothe faced one of its toughest challenges of the season — a rematch against Zanesville at Hatton Memorial Gym. “It’s like coach said in the locker room, it’s time to put this game behind us,” Beverly said at the
Chillicothe 93, Portsmouth 70
Chillicothe 88, Waverly 58
The dynamic duo both put up big numbers in this one. Hitchens
Twenty five seconds. That’s when Ray Chambers went inside-out to Beverly, who buried his first 3 of the game
The first one, and the last one. That was Chillicothe’s losses in the season of 2007-2008. The last one of the regular season, that is. And it came to Zanesville, in the SEOAL Day of Champions at Hatton Memorial Gym. And it came in a game in which the emotion of the game between the two teams two weeks before had the Blue Devils worked into a fine frenzy during the game. On their side, the Cavaliers did what they could to keep quiet going into the game. This was Gary Kellough before the regular-season finale: “We have to play better than we played two weeks ago. But we can’t let the outside stuff deter us from our respect for them. It’s a great rivalry game, and we need that. This school needs that.” Here’s what he said after the loss: “There’s no excuse. When you only get production from two or three kids, you’re not going to beat a good team. And Zanesville is a very good team.” For 18 straight games, Chillicothe was too. Not on this night. Not all the way around, at least. Big men Chambers, Seth Dawes and Ron Smith have a combined height of 19 feet, five inches. In this one, they combined for a total of 13 points. “Honestly, I thought our perimeter kids played pretty well,” Kellough said. “But our big kids didn’t do much at all. We just could not get a big play tonight from anybody other than Humpty.” Hitchens did manage 34 points in the game. Problem was, that was more than half of the Cavs’
Zanesville 68, Chillicothe 63
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 19
From Page 18
production. The good side of the game — of both of Chillicothe’s losses, in fact — was that it came at a good time. By losing this one, the Cavs came back down a little bit. “This and the Brookhaven game — we didn’t finish either one,” coach K said. And it’s not even that we didn’t finish tonight. We hacked, we put them on the line, we turned the ball over in the fourth quarter. And all game, we just could not get into a flow at all.” Unfortunately, that was a trend that carried into the postseason. Thing was, the Cavs got it cleaned up when it counted. But, in a way, that can be chalked up to Chillicothe’s weeklong layoff between the Day of Champions and the Cavs’ first game of the postseason. But in this one, where Chillicothe’s offense fell a little short, the defense did more than enough. The Cavs forced Hillsboro into 19 turnovers in the game, which led to much of the offense the Cavs managed. Chillicothe’s running game ran well enough, and the defense was good enough, to punch the ticket into the district tournament. “We focused a lot on defense coming into this game,” Ray Chambers said after wrapping up his few minutes on radio at Southeastern’s Larry Jordan Gym. “Now we have to focus on the offense and executing it better. That and keeping the pressure on.” The offense worked well enough early on, as Caleb Knights put up four quick points and Chambers scored 10 in the first eight minutes, giving the Cavs all the cushion they needed for the easy postseason win. Ten Cavaliers scored in the game as Kellough emptied his bench going into the fourth quarter. Hitchens led the way with 22, Chambers added 15 and Knights put in 14 more. Going forward from there, the task at hand was clear for the Cavs: “We have to clean up the offense,” Kellough said. “Sharpen it up as we go forward. We’re a team that knows it can rise to the level of competition, but at this point we should be playing at the top level all the time.” Things got sharp once the scenery changed. by Marietta’s Anthony Tabler to open up a 60-27 lead with 31⁄2 minutes to go in the third. “For us, I’d say the difference was our focus this week,” said Dawes after the game, one of five Cavs to hit double digits. “Our preparation for Hillsboro was horrid — this week was different.” Chambers led Chillicothe with 16 points, while Hitchens, Caleb Knights, and Beverly all finished with 14. Heading into the week of practice before the district title game against Logan Elm, this is what Kellough said: “It isn’t how you start. It’s where and how you finish.” Kellough had no idea how much that statement would mean in just a weeks time.
District finals Chillicothe 49, Logan Elm 48
The offense didn’t sparkle, but the defense was enough for CHS to roll over Hillsboro for a sectional championship and a trip to the Convo… Sectional championship Chillicothe 78, Hillsboro 50
The scare of the season for the Cavaliers came against Logan Elm in the district finals. Down by as many as 10 points, Ron Smith (above) and the Cavs had to put together a huge second-half rally to keep their season alive.
Cavaliers wake up for Convo. “I told you before that we will be focused from here on out,” Kellough said at the time. “We wanted to get out after it on defense, then, in the second half, we switched our pressure up again. I wanted it done in the first four minutes of the third quarter. And it pretty much was. Hitchens and Dawes sandwiched layups around a 3-pointer
The offense kind of fell back to where it was against the Blue Devils.
The headline for this story said it all.
District semifinals Chillicothe 77, Marietta 47
This was the scare of a lifetime. The game that nearly ended the season, and at the same time created the sense of urgency that helped propel the Cavs to a state title. “You’ve got to have games like this,” said Cavs assistant coach Brian Collins. “They make you stronger.” Chillicothe trailed Logan Elm the entire game, but mustered up just enough strength to overcome the Braves. Ray Chambers drained an 11foot jumper in the game’s final minute to take the lead and Seth Dawes and Ron Smith converted free throws down the stretch for insurance. “I’ve been here before, we’ve been here before,” Chambers said after the one-point win. “There is a lot of pressure, but there is a key word — heart. You just have to have the heart to go get it done.” At one point, Logan Elm’s lead
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 20
From Page 19
reached double digits as the super-powered Cavs’ offense sputtered early in the game. “In the back of my mind I knew we’d have that kind of game with Logan Elm,” said CHS assistant Napoleon Cross. “We knew they’d pose a problem if we didn’t play well — and we didn’t.” Chillicothe had just 23 points at the half and trailed by six. Behind Chambers’ game-high 21 points, though, the Cavs rallied for the win, outscoring Logan Elm in both the third and fourth quarters. “In the tournament, you’re always going to have one or two games that are going to be backand-forth, nip-and-tuck,” Kellough said. “You’re going to have these games where you basically just have to survive.” And survive the Cavs did, back into the regional tournament for the second-straight year. that came in the middle of Hitchens’ shooting spree that made the difference in the game. “I didn’t even recognize it. I mean, I was down on the bench talking to Ray and he was telling me about the third. He was like, you’ve got 28 points and I really don’t even know how it happened,” said Hitchens. Beverly finished with 19 points and eight rebounds and Ron Smith added 10 points. So that’s the condensed version of how Chillicothe punched its ticket to the Elite Eight.
Regional semifinals Chillicothe 89, Vinton County 42
Well rounded. There is no other way to describe it. Tough defensive pressure, shots inside the paint and behind the arc... You name it Chillicothe did it. And not your typical going through the motions type play, but with style. Caleb Knights cashed in from the paint just 10 seconds after opening tip. The Cavs built a 6-0 lead, two minutes before the Vikings even got on the board. “The defense set the tone,” Kellough said at the time. “And you know how the defense can ignite the offense.” Beverly put up 11 points in the second to help build the Cavs lead to 40-20 by halftime, but it was Hitchens’ third quarter performance that got people talking. Chillicothe opened up the third quarter with an 11-0 run to take a
The scare against Logan Elm might have had something to do with it, but the Cavs came out huge their next game. Chillicothe piled on the points and dominated on defense on its way to a 47-point victory over Vinton County and a berth in the regional championship.
51-20 lead — and all 11 points belonged to Humpty. In fact, he scored 21 of the Cavs’ 30 third quarter points. Of course, who can forget Hitchens’ dish underneath to Chambers for a dunk that moved the Convo crowd to its feet, a pass
The Cavaliers won. And that was the biggest thing. Winning the regional locked up a berth in the state tournament for the Cavaliers, and it helped them put things in proper perspective heading into the final two games of a magical year. “We’re past all the other stuff,” coach Kellough said. “This is the state tournament now. We want these kids at their highest confidence — we want them feeling like they can beat anybody.” On this particular Sunday in Athens, Coach K’s team probably could have. At the start, it went like this: Meadowbrook found a point on a free throw. And Chillicothe scored the next nine. Hitchens hit a 3, then Seth Dawes turned a steal into an easy hoop. On Meadowbrook’s next possession, a Hitchens steal turned into a Hitchens layup. After that, it was Chambers inside. For a regional title game, this one was decided by early offense, and a defense that didn’t break when the clock was winding down. “We want to win state,” coach Kellough said. “When you look at
Regional championship Chillicothe 71, Meadowbrook 49
This was the game the made history for the Cavaliers — up to that point, at least. An easy win over Meadowbrook sent Ray Chambers (above) and the Cavaliers into the Final Four for the first time.
where we finished last year, you’d be crazy to not think all along that a state championship is our goal. But that’s the case for every team that’s going up there. Nobody gets to this level and is just happy to be there.” Let’s stop for a minute to talk about things. Before the season started, Anthony Hitchens was talking Final Four. “We can’t go no lower,” he said, sitting on the upper-deck bleachers at the Hatt, a day or two after the Cavs lost their first game of the year to Brookhaven. “We were six points away from going to Columbus last year, and we can’t go no lower than we were.” By this game, Chillicothe was already talking all the way.
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 21
From Page 20
Hitchens dropped this one, for the first time, a few days before putting in 27 points against Meadowbrook. “If we don’t win state, I’ll be a failure.” It popped up more than a couple times in interviews as the Cavs went down the stretch. But Hitchens never had to feel that way. We all know the story behind this one. Chillicothe didn’t have a prayer. Down 16, second half, Mr. Basketball on the other side of the ball. And then, the Cavs came back. Erased their big deficit one basket, one steal, one defensive rebound, at a time. The Cavaliers took a lead late in the fourth quarter, then watched a rebound bounce off Libbey, then off Chillicothe, then into Lance Jones’ hands. Who burned a long jumper through, and sent the game into overtime. From there it was the final four minutes. It came down to Hitchens’ assist — and, for the record, Seth Dawes was wide open on the wing once Hitchens beat Libbey’s defense — and Chambers layup. It came down to a ball bouncing around the rim, then finally falling through. To make history. Through this whole thing, it’s been a re-hashing of the plays that were played, the statements that were made. But here’s one you haven’t yet heard: “We’ve been there before,” coach Kellough said. “We’ve been under five seconds in (Hitchens’) career. And it was probably a pretty similar play we drew up even then. Once we got the ball in his hands, it was off to the races.” And into history. That’s corny, but it’s the truth. From Hitchens. To Chambers. To the win. And to a state championship.
State championship Chillicothe 70, Toledo Libbey 69
Kellough had a simple plan to thwart off Poland Seminary’s press. Fast breaks that end with the ball inside to the big man. Combine that with Chillicothe’s in your face man-toman pressure and it was fool proof. The Cavs ‘D’ flustered Poland early — resulting in the long ball team shooting just 1-for-14 from behind the arc in the first half. Frustration levels continued to rise thanks to Chambers’ presence underneath. He led the field with a game high 31 points and 17 rebounds, including a pair of second quarter dunks. “I was feeling those,” said Chambers after the game. “Especially that first one. I was trying to tear the rim off.” His first dunk broke a 16all tie with 6:28 left in the half. It was pretty much all Chillicothe after that. The Bulldogs got it within eight, but after a timeout Hitchens took control. A Hitchens pull-up 3 from the corner at the end of the third gave the Cavs a 51-40 advantage. Just the spark they needed to pull off a victory in the fourth. The rest, as they say, is history.
State semifinals Chillicothe 78, Poland Seminary 70
This is what the whole thing came down to for the Cavaliers — a chance to celebrate on Ohio high school basketball’s biggest stage. Chillicothe’s dramatic onepoint overtime win over Toledo Libbey was the exclamation point on the Cavaliers’ magic season of 200708.
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And Coach K has done a great job in Chillicothe. He’s built the program to where we want it to be. I don’t think our job will get harder from this point. I think it will only get easier. The kids know what we expect of them.” Of all the assistant coaches, none has had a better vantage point at watching the way Kellough builds programs than Scott. Currently Chillicothe’s junior varsity coach, Scott played under Kellough in 1975 at Adena High School. “Not much has changed,” Scott joked. “He lets you play the game like it should be played. He’s a disciplinarian, but yet a fair coach.” Scott, who also went on to win multiple Ohio Regional Campus Conference titles as a player at OU-Chillicothe, stayed in contact with his former coach over the years. When Kellough got the Chillicothe job in late 2005, a well-timed visit by Scott changed everything. “When I heard he got the job I went to congratulate him at open gym,” Scott said. “He said, ‘great, you’re just the guy I’m looking for.’ He said he needed me to help him out.” Scott joined the staff shortly thereafter and has now spent three season working with the Cavaliers’ guards. “It’s been a great experience for the kids and even for the younger kids coming up to experience that kind of atmosphere,” he said. “It’s the reward for all the hard work and dedication they put in from the last two or three summers.”
(Cranmer can be reached at 772-9361 or via e-mail at email@example.com)
CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 22
They are the team behind the team. Coach K’s squad of dirty-workdoers who make the scouting trips, break down the films and do all the stuff that head coaches don’t have to do anymore. And Gary Kellough will be the first one to tell you that without his assistant coaches, the Cavaliers’ historic run to a state championship wouldn’t have been possible. Brian Collins, Napoleon Cross, Dave Hammond, Richard Scott, Keith Knights and Mike Arledge. To the general public, they’re the army of guys in the blue and white polo shirts. To the Cavs, they’re the guys who help bring it all together. “I’m just glad I got to be part of something everybody will remember,” said Collins, the team’s firstyear varsity assistant. “I’m happy for the kids and the fans and the community.” A former player on championship teams at Ohio UniversityChillicothe and later a longtime coach for the Hilltoppers, Collins joined the Chillicothe program just before Labor Day — or as some might say, at the perfect time. “The kids made fun of me for it,” he said. “They told me, ‘one year and we got you a ring.’ It was a great run for me and a great experience.” Collins worked extensively with the team’s guards this season and got a first-hand look at the team’s progression into champions. “I think the one thing that stuck out in my mind was when we won the regional tournament in Athens and I knew we made it to the final
Along with fellow assistants Brian Collins, Brian Collins, Dave Hammond, Richard Scott, Keith Knights and Mike Arledge, Napoleon Cross (above) helped make the Cavs go this season with countless hours of work spent almost entirely behind the scenes.
four,” Collins said. “The kids were accepting the trophy, but you could look in their eyes and tell they weren’t satisfied. They always stayed hungry. The practices were bigger battles for them than some of the games. It made them stronger that they could go at each other like that and it made them hungrier.” The experience of making the run to a state championship was something new to just about everyone. For Cross, however, it was a flashback to the early days of his coaching career in 1970. “I know how it feels to win in front of 15,000 people. I was blessed to be part of a state championship again,” he said. “Some people don’t ever get that first championship, now I’ve got two.” Cross’ first state title came during his days as a high school coach in Arkansas. “We were down by one with 13 or 14 seconds left and came back. It was a similar situation,” Cross said. “We had great players then, too. Great players win championships.
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For the Cavs, losing in the postseason was never in the cards; after all — they needed some new equipment
“It’s been kind of a joke among us that we went through the last six weeks and each week we picked up a ball and didn’t have to pay for it.”
to share the last two or three weeks.” That’s when the idea was born. “The guys started talking about how every time you win a sectional, district, or regional, you get a ball. So they said, ‘Coach aren’t you gonna write stuff on those?’ and I said, ‘No we’re going to use them for practice,’” said Kellough. Just like that, after just about every win, Chillicothe’s ball rack started to replenish. After winning a regional title, the rack was full and each player had their own ball to warm up with at the state tournament. “It’s been kind of a joke among us that we went through the last six weeks and each week we picked up a ball and didn’t have to pay for it,” said Kellough. The first ball came after a 78-50 win over Hillsboro in the sectional championship game. Ball 2 emerged after a narrow 49-48 escape over Logan Elm for a district championship. Then, finally, there was the regional ball. The
The dream of a
CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 23
By JOEY CHANDLER
Gazette Sports Writer
Plenty of basketballs dream of this moment. They envy their friends from opening tip. They sit there, watching, in awe. Thinking that one day they too will become a coveted championship game ball. It’s an honor few ever get. And even fewer get the opportunity to ever be dribbled again. Three of Chillicothe’s tournament balls got that chance. Before retiring in a case at CHS, only to collect dust and be on display for years to come, they reunited with old pals. They sat on a rack telling stories about the Cavs’ performance that brought them back to Chillicothe. They bragged about their new prestige, knowing it was only a matter of time until they lived in infamy. Knowing that sadly their practice ball counterparts were destined to eventually deflate and fade from memory. Their historic adventure started halfway through Chillicothe’s championship season. “Some of the Rawlings balls were losing air and some of our guys didn’t want to use some of the secondary balls,” said Chillicothe coach Gary Kellough. “We were about two or three balls short late in the season so it was funny because we’d come out and do our pre-game stuff and everybody needs a ball. Some of them would have
(Chandler can be reached at 772-9304 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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result of Chillicothe’s 71-49 win over Meadowbrook. “We won the sectional and my assistant coaches said we only need two more to have a full rack. Then we won districts and we were only one short. We won regionals and finally had enough to practice with at state. Now we’ve got an extra ball by winning the state so we are one ball up,” said Kellough, laughing. So not only did the sectional, district and regional balls get another chance to fall through the net, they accomplished yet another feat few ever do. They hit the hardwood at the Schottenstein Center during the State Final Four. Since their exciting journey, the trio of championship balls has been plucked out of the rack and currently rests in Kellough’s office. Soon they will join the state championship ball on display in the halls of CHS. As much as they look up to the ball that picked up the highest prestige — a state championship — at least they can say they experienced the event first hand. For now the ball rack remains partially empty, tucked away in storage and waiting for its newest arrivals. “We haven’t replaced them yet but we will once we make our orders (for next season),” said Kellough. A new shipment of Rawlings, with a new set of dreams.
Ron Smith shoots late in the Cavs’ sectional title game against Hillsboro. After this game, and after each of CHS’s postseason championship showdowns, the game ball went in the rack, ready to be used to warm up the Cavaliers on down the tournament trail.
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 24
Reliving big wins
Chillicothe senior Anthony Hitchens jokes with sophomore Mike Turner after the Cavs’ mid-season win over Newark at The Schottenstein Center.
Photos by Sarah Wright/Gazette
Chillicothe’s James VanVoorhis reacts in the final minutes of the Cavaliers’ state title win over Toledo Libbey.
but it’s pride
Chillicothe backup guard Mike Turner takes a shot in the second half against Vinton County.
Lindsay Niegelberg/ Gazette
It might not be minutes,
CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 25
Life as a player on the scout team isn’t glamorous – then again, being a state champion isn’t all that bad
By JOEY CHANDLER
Gazette Sports Writer
If Gary Kellough had posted a classified ad for his 2007-08 scout team, it would read something like this: HELP WANTED Looking for hardworking and dedicated young men who attend CHS. Must be willing to rough up the likes of 6-foot-7 Ray Chambers and Anthony Hitchens. Quick learners with a knowledge of basketball preferred. Whiners need not apply. Compensation: A sense of pride and a 2008 Division II State Championship ring upon completion. Interested? So were the seven Cavaliers that accepted the challenge. As cliché as it might sound, you’re only as good as your scout team, and Chillicothe was no exception. If anything, they shed light on how accurate the statement truly is. Enter Alex Grow, Mike Hamilton, Mike Newman, Michael Turner, Nathan Woodworth, Greg Van Volkinburg and James VanVoorhis. The lesser known players — the behind-the-scenes guys that formed Chillicothe into champions. “That is what made us. If it wasn’t for that group being able to run the same sets, do the same defense of their team, you are
“When we were going full scrimmage it was split squads and both teams were about .500. Hardly ever did my first seven simulate the other teams’ offenses, so that is how important (the second seven) really were.”
Cavs coach Gary Kellough
lost,” said Kellough. “If you have got a bunch of kids that don’t want to sacrifice to do that, you know, it makes it very difficult.” During scrimmages in practice the players split up with two subs on each team. But when it came time to break down an opponent’s plays, it was a different story. “When we were going full scrimmage it was split squads and both teams were about .500,” said Kellough. “Hardly ever did my first seven simulate the other teams’ offenses, so that is how important
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 26
From Page 25
(the second seven) really were.” Preparation for the Poland Seminary game made Kellough’s scout team extremely important. The players ran a Poland-style press against the top seven to get them used to the Bulldogs pressure. Then, in just a day’s time, the Cavs had to adjust to Toledo Libbey’s schemes. “We talked about how we had to change our style of defense and offense from Poland to Libbey in a 48-hour period. Our kids were able to do that and a lot of it was because of our second team. We really don’t call them a second team or subs. We call them all subs and we focus on making sure that is the way it is,” said Kellough. Hitchens and Chambers took plenty of abuse on the court during the Final Four, but by then they were already conditioned for it. “At practice coach let us play and he doesn’t call anything,” said Chambers. “People be out there bleeding and twisting ankles. You go hard in practice.” Their teammates made sure to rough them up at practice in preparation for game day situations. “That is why (seniors) Mike Newman and Juice (Nathan Woodworth) were so valuable on our team is because they beat the snot out of them,” said Kellough. “That is why you don’t worry about it when you get hammered down inside. If you don’t finish it’s because you’re weak.” “We would talk trash back and forth playfully and when he (Chambers) went up for a layup I fouled him pretty hard,”said Woodworth. “I was doing it to make him tougher and stronger during a game. Doing all the stuff that refs don’t catch people for, like holding, you to try and burg and VanVoorhis added four. “My second (team) could have won a lot of games in our league and it is hard for them sometimes, especially early in the season until everyone really establishes their roles,” said Kellough. “Sometimes to accept that role it’s hard but by the end of the year our guys were all one and everybody knew their role. It was easy. They all did what they had to do to make us win. “I didn’t have to worry about individual egos or what your mommies and daddies were saying — or what people were saying. They did exactly what we did here.” For Michael Turner, being guarded by Hitchens in practice made game time situations a lot easier. “When you try going to the hole against Hump it’s hard. I mean you just have to learn ways to go against him,” said Turner. “Once I got in actual games it takes the pressure off. You get quicker playing against him. It gets you prepared for the upcoming, and for those of us coming back it gets us prepared for going back to state.” “He’s (Turner) the only sophomore I moved up. It would be a waste to put him on the reserve team. He’ll step right into Humpty’s spot next year and score 15, 18 points per game,” said Kellough. Despite some of the early hardships the team faced, by the end of the season they understood what it takes to win. They understood what their roles were to accomplish it — scout team, or not. “We are brothers. We are supposed to argue and go at it,” said Hitchens. “That is what made us mentally tough and win.”
(Chandler can be reached at 772-9304 or via e-mail at email@example.com)
Chillicothe’s reserves lock arms in support of their team as the final minutes of the Logan Elm game play out at the Convo.
get them ready for the game.” As much as the scout team made the top seven better, the scenario worked both ways. Take Chillicothe’s 104-40 win over Jackson — the subs stepped in without missing a beat. With 1:16 left Turner hit a 3-pointer to push the Cavs into triple digits. He finished with seven points, while Hamilton scored 10 and both Van Volkin-
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 27
Reliving the lighter side
Coach Gary Kellough hoists the net after his team breezed past Meadowbrook to punch its ticket to the Final Four. As it turned out, that wasn’t the final net Coach K was able to cut down this year.
Lindsay Niegelberg/ Gazette
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 28
Reliving taking home the title
Chillicothe players erupt seconds after Ray Chambers’ final shot finally fell through the hoop for the deciding bucket in Chillicothe’s state championship victory.
This wasn’t the shot that won it — it’s just Ray Chambers doing his thing. Chillicothe’s big man finished the day against Libbey with 23 points.
photos by Sarah Wright/Gazette
Ron Smith, center, and the rest of the Cavaliers hold up the state championship trophy after the ceremony to commemmorate their dramatic overtime win against Toledo Libbey.
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CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 29
Reliving the moments
Seth Dawes looks for a putback bucket against Marietta’s defense in the district semifinals at Ohio University. The Cavaliers weren’t tested in that one — they won by 30 with Dawes piling in 11 points.
Sarah Wright/ Gazette
Anthony Hitchens poses with Gary Kellough before Senior Night in Chillicothe’s final home game against Waverly.
CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 30
Reliving the moments
Nathan Woodworth puts up a shot late in the game against Vinton County. For Chillicothe’s role players, that 40-plus point win was a chance to get some time on the floor at Ohio University, and a chance to give the starters a rest heading into what was to come.
Photos by Lindsay Niegelberg/ Gazette
Mike Newman holds up four fingers after his team beat Meadowbrook to earn its way into Division II’s Final Four.
Anthony Hitchens and Gary Kellough hold the regional tournament game ball after the Meadowbrook game. And, if you’re wondering, yeah — it went in the ball rack as a warm-up ball for the state tournament.
CAVS - WAY TO #1 STATE CHAMPS
RAISE THE ROOF!!
150 Cooks Hill Road, Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
CHS • RELIVING THE MAGIC • 2007-08 • PAGE 31
Reliving the final day
Chillicothe’s defense swarms around Toledo Libbey’s Rodney Everage early in the state championship game against the Cowboys.
photos by Sarah Wright/Gazette
It’s usually an easy bucket for Ray Chambers, but all of Chillicothe’s big men had to work for every point they got against the athletic Libbey team.
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2008 STATE CHAMPIONS Chillicothe Cavaliers
Congratulations from the CBBC and all of our business partners on your historic state championship this year. The team will be remembered not only in Ross County basketball history but also throughout the state of Ohio. This has been a truly exciting and memorable season. This team has captured the hearts of fans young and old everywhere!
YOU ARE CHAMPIONS!!!
Coach Kellough: Thanks for the time, effort, and commitment to these young men. You have taught them teamwork and dedication. Now together you have achieved excellence! A standard in boys basketball by which no other in Ross County has ever achieved.
Photos Courtesy of Jim Day
Chillicothe Boys Basketball Club 2007-2008 Ofﬁcers: President Rob Hitchens, Treasurer Steve Dawes, Secretary Linda Knights
THE CHILLICOTHE CAVALIERS “REFUSED TO LOSE” AND NOW ARE THE 2008 O.H.S.A.A. D2 BASKETBALL STATE CHAMPIONS
The CBBC is currently accepting business and corporate advertising request for next season. Please contact a CBBC ofﬁcer for more information: Linda Knights 740-772-4516 or Rob Hitchens 740-773-1727
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