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The Suburbanite
  • Bulldogs, Panthers prove they’ve got staying power

  • It’s easy to be a shooting star in any walk of life, to come out of nowhere to brilliantly light up the sky, and then, just as quickly, to fizzle out and disappear.

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  • It’s easy to be a shooting star in any walk of life, to come out of nowhere to brilliantly light up the sky, and then, just as quickly, to fizzle out and disappear.
    Because there isn’t time for everybody to see it and appreciate its sparkle, it’s almost as if it didn’t happen.
    The real test is to be consistent and, no matter what, to retain that glow year after year after year, in good times and in bad. That’s the sign of excellence with distinction, to steal one of the state of Ohio’s terms for ranking the academic standing of school systems.
    It’s that way in sports, too. Two high school basketball programs that have stood the test of time, that have excelled for just about as long as anyone can remember, have, not surprisingly, been at it again this season.
    I’m talking about the Green boys team and the Manchester girls squad.
    The Bulldogs went into last week’s Alliance Division I District Tournament with a 20-2 record following an easy 72-36 victory over Austintown Fitch in a sectional championship game last weekend.
    Despite that impressive mark, the Bulldogs didn’t win the Suburban League title. In fact, they have never captured it under Mark Kinsley. But don’t let that fool you, for his decade and a half as head coach is, by far, the best sustained run in the history of the program. Green has almost always been in the title race during that time and has been extremely difficult to beat at home.
    The program has enjoyed successful periods in the past, but they were infrequent and short. However, with the arrival of Kinsley, a former basketball player at the school, the Bulldogs have developed into a consistent league power, and, year in and year out, one of the top programs in the area overall. At the start of the year, it’s a given that Green will be among the teams to beat in the league, the postseason sectional and district tournaments.
    Going all the way back to the late 1960s under first head coach Jim McCollum and then Dan Drake, Green has always been known as a football school. That’s easy to understand after the Bulldogs won eight Suburban League crowns in the 10-year period from 1968-77, the best stretch by anyone in league football history.
    Now the Green basketball program has earned the right to be recognized and praised as well.
    It starts with Kinsley. Green has long had an abundance of great athletes, and he has convinced a lot of them to not just play basketball, but to work hard in the offseason to hone their skills in it. It’s a difficult thing to change a culture, especially one that’s been entrenched for 45 years.
    Page 2 of 2 - But give Kinsley credit for doing it, and, of course, his players each and every year for carrying it out on the floor and making it happen.
    Kinsley isn’t one to accept praise. It’s just not the way he does business. He will instead give it to the players, like a good point guard getting the ball to the open man. But his presence is the consistent factor in all the success since the late 1990s. Everything, and everyone else, has changed.
    Now for the Manchester girls. In what was really a rebuilding season after heavy graduation losses following a 24-0 start last year, the No. 1 ranking in the Division II state poll and a trip to the regional tournament, the Panthers came back this season with a young team that wasn’t very deep or big, and still managed to finish 22-4 and be the Lake District runner-up while winning their ninth-straight Principals Athletic Conference championship.
    Yes, that’s right, the Panthers have captured nine league crowns in a row. That may be the most consecutive league titles for any program – boys or girls – at any of schools in The Suburbanite’s coverage area.
    Like Kinsley, the Panthers’ Tucker Pappas played at the school where he is now serving as head coach. He took over after the retirement of Bob Eckert, who built the program from one that perennially struggled to one that perennially was among the best in this region, and kept the success going.
    Pappas has tried to model his program after the school’s longtime, highly successful football program. He doesn’t want to have a year in which things fall apart. No matter what players he has, their size or their experience level, he’s made sure that the Panthers have kept the tradition going.
    It’s a real trick to do that in any sport at a public school, because the area from which you can draw student athletes is limited – a veritable pin dot on a map rather than a five-county area. But the Manchester girls basketball program has done it, and so has the Green boys basketball program.
    As such, the Panthers and Bulldogs are to be highly commended for being not shooting stars, but stars that are fueled by what seem to be eternal flames.