COVENTRY TWP. It's inevitable when a team undergoes a coaching change that some will wonder if the transition will result in a down year.
The Coventry Comets have proved this season that changing coaches doesn't mean changing their winning ways and have not only a winning record, but a postseason victory to prove it.
Fresh off a 60-53 win over Portage Trail Conference rival Norton in a sectional semifinal, the No. 7 seed Comets and their 14-9 record are chugging along under new head coach Devon McAfee as they prepare for Friday’s sectional final against No. 2 seed Louisville at the Division II Canton District tournament.
"It's been an up down season and definitely a roller coaster ride," McAfee said. "We've experienced some key injuries and that has definitely affected us."
One of those major injuries is forward LaNeer Surles, whose post play was a factor in Coventry's strong start to the season.
When he went down with his injury, Surles left a big void in the low post. Two of the players who have stepped up to fill it have been Surles' brother, LaGreer, and sophomore Landon Burkhart.
"Landon and LaGreer have really stepped up. LaGreer is more of a slasher and going inside and outside for us, but he wanted to step in and try to help and doing some of what his brother does when he got injured," McAfee said.
The result is a 13-9 regular season record and 9-5 Portage Trail Conference mark, along with the tournament win.
The injuries coincided in large part with a tough stretch of the schedule that further tested the Comets.
"Having five away games in a row, where we went to places like Cloverleaf, Streetsboro and Woodridge, that's going to be tough on any level," McAfee said. "But we learned from the losses and I think we've responded well."
Guard Ronnie Thompson has been one of the steadying factors across all of the ups and downs. His shooting and ball handling abilities are vital to Coventry's success and as the primary ball handler, he's a focal point for opponents.
"When you have a guy like Ronnie who is explosive with the ball in his hands and can make plays at any moment, teams have to account for him and respect that," McAfee said.
The biggest wins along the way, according to McAfee, have been a victory over a talented CVCA team led by his own former high school coach, Jay Peters, as well as beating Norton in its own gym earlier in the year.
Those wins add up to what has largely been a successful season for Coventry, even as it has gone from one head coach to a new one, albeit a coach in McAfee who was with the program previously as its junior varsity coach and had a good working knowledge of the roster from day one.
Stacking another winning season on the pile is proof that the Comets have made the transition and believe they can continue to do the same going forward.