The McClain Tigers and boys basketball coach Jesse Mitchell are on the prowl for wins they didn’t hunt down last year.
The Tigers went 5-18 last season, losing several of their games by slim margins. McClain is back for blood this season with more experience, better chemistry and a promising lineup of five seniors, five juniors and one freshman, hoping to revisit some of their closest games.
Mitchell, who is in his second year as head coach, said he hopes he can lead the Tigers to a winning season.
“There were six or seven games last year where we were winning, tied, or down by two or three and we lost,” Mitchell said. Seven games ended last year with McClain losing by five points, the coach added.
Similar losses happened when McClain went up against Miami Trace twice, Chillicothe twice and Hillsboro twice.
“All those games were close last year, and we lost all six of them,” Mitchell said. “Leesburg was another close one, and at Southeastern, we lost in overtime.”
Mitchell said he has only two starters right now in Mat Barton and Jacob Starkey — adding Landree Gray to the mix as a possible third — with the remaining spots being fought out among five or six of the Tigers. Mitchell said he thinks that’s a good thing.
“Last year, we had one guy that had played varsity minutes,” Mitchell said. “Now we have five.”
Brock Dean, Jay Beatty, Owen O’Connor and Dalton Mischal will all start at some point this year, Mitchell said, but their order will depend on the scheme and opponent of the night.
Mitchell told The Times-Gazette he feels this year’s team has good chemistry and length, but still has a ways to go in handling the ball, pressuring and improving its late-game decision-making.
“We want to be competitive night-in and night-out,” Mitchell said.
And they’ll have their chance. McClain is set to play four games within the first seven days of their season, with three of their challengers being high-enrollment schools.
“This will test us early,” Mitchell said.
The McClain Tigers will begin their season Saturday night at Southern State Community College against Upper Arlington at 8:45 p.m.
David Wright is the sports editor for the Times-Gazette. He can be reached at 937-402-2570.