GREEN The general consensus has been that the Federal League boys basketball race is wide open this year.
The Green Bulldogs unofficially threw their hats into the ring earlier this month with a 70-66 win over Canton McKinley at the Canton Memorial Field House. It was Green’s first-ever win over McKinley at the iconic venue, but its significance went beyond that feat.
McKinley is annually one of the top teams in the Federal League and defeating the Bulldogs on their home court is no small task. Behind 27 points from Kaleb Martin, Green did exactly that and combined with a few other surprising results from the early part of the league slate, it appears the race to the top will be a multi-team battle.
"The McKinley win was a big win for our team. To be able to go into the Field House and to come away with a victory against a quality team will give us confidence going forward," Green head coach Mark Kinsley said. "We know that we are able to go on the road and beat one of the top teams in our league."
The McKinley game showed Green’s scoring depth, as senior forward Miles DeMuesy added 14 and several other Bulldogs chipped in to provide enough scoring punch to outlast an athletic McKinley squad.
As Jackson proved last season in winning both the league and state titles, and as other league rivals such as Lake have proven regularly over the past few years, winning in the Federal League takes more than one standout player. A team needs depth to weather the storms of injuries and other challenges that come its way during the course of the year.
"We have received contributions from a number of different people," Kinsley said. "Each night we have had different players step up and contribute to the win. Our biggest strength is our depth. We can play a number of different players and we can also play them in different positions depending on matchups for that night's game."
Wins in four of their first five games - and three of their first four league contests - have set Green up well for the remainder of the season.
The campaign hasn’t yet reached its halfway point so little has been decided just yet, but falling off the pace in the league race with multiple early losses makes it extremely difficult for any squad to climb back in. Kinsley credited the team’s veterans with playing a big role in the good start and although the veteran coach wants to see more consistency from his team on both ends of the floor, he knows that he has a solid contingent of battle-tested players to lean on in big moments.
"We have 11 lettermen back this year," Kinsley said. "This experience has allowed us to win some close games early in the season."
With at least one more game remaining against every Federal League team, Green will have itself a taxing schedule with which to contend in the first few weeks of the new year. The Bulldogs know, as do their six league rivals, that surviving that slate and getting ready for the postseason is as tough a battle as they will fight all year long.
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