Friday, April 10th, 2009
By Gary R. Rasberry
Kahlig, Kanney grab top honors
  The area's most prolific scorer and a coach who guided his team to within one game of the state final four earn The Daily Standard's top honors for boys basketball for the 2008-09 season
Fort Recovery junior Greg Kahlig becomes the first Indians boys basketball player to earn the Player of the Year honor since it was started in 1994. Kahlig was the only player in the Grand Lake area to average 20-plus points per game on the season and sparked the Indians to a district appearance for the second straight season and third time in five seasons.
Coldwater coach Mike Kanney becomes the first coach to win the Coach of the Year award at two different schools, having won the honor at Celina in 2002. Kanney guided his alma mater Cavaliers to their first regional appearance since 1999, losing to eventual state runner-up Tinora in the regional finals.
Kahlig much more than scorer
Although his 23 points per game, almost seven points more than the second-best average in the area, is the stat most people will notice, Kahlig became a more all-around player this season as he assumed the role of team leader for the Indians.
Kahlig averaged 2.6 assists per game and was third in the area in rebounding at 8.2 boards per game. Kahlig also went to the line 152 times in the regular season, connecting on 78.6 percent of his charity tosses.
"This year, I did a better job distributing," said Kahlig. "Last year I didn't have a lot of assists. I had to crash the boards more (this year) because I was one of the taller players on the team this year (at 6-5). I had to step up in the rebounding area. Thankfully, we had a lot of players that hit some shots when I passed the ball."
The biggest change of the season was that Kahlig, who had been a wing/guard his first two varsity seasons, now had to defend guys that could be a couple inches and several pounds heavier in the paint.
"It was tough going from guarding quicker players to go inside," said Kahlig. "I thought I did a pretty good job this year against (bigger players). I had to stay out of foul trouble guarding bigger guys, which was pretty difficult to do.
"That part of the game, coach (Brian Patch) challenged me, saying not only did I have to be a good offensive scorer, I had to step up on defense, to guard the best player on the other team," added Kahlig.
Kahlig earned plenty of postseason honors, winning Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year and was named third-team All-Ohio in Division IV.
And, to the delight of Indians fans - and the likely concern of opposing coaches - Kahlig, who went over the 1,000-point mark late in the regular season, will be back next year.
"One of my goals was to get to 1,000 last year," said Kahlig. "Hopefully, if I can keep building ... trying to make my game better each year. Hopefully, I can become the all-time leading scorer at Fort Recovery (the current mark is 1,418, held by Ken Heiby) if I have the season I had (this past) year. That's been a goal since I was a little kid."
Kanney finds right track
The Cavaliers got their season going at the start of 2009, when the team was back at 100 percent health and were in full basketball mode after another successful football season.
"At the beginning of the year, we had some injuries," said Kanney. "(With) Zach (Siefring) being out early (due to a football injury), other guys had to step up and help at that point guard position. That, in the end, helped us because the other kids stepped up and played different roles."
After going 14-6 in the regular season, losing the regular-season finale to Delphos St. John's, the Cavaliers got very hot in the tournament. Kanney credits the tough schedule during the season to help the team, especially after some losses.
"Sometimes you learn a lot from your losses, more so than your wins," said Kanney, who cited the loss to New Knoxville as a turning point. "From that time on, our kids started playing well together."
After knocking off Lima Central Catholic in overtime for a sectional title, Coldwater faced big challenges at the district, needing to beat state top-five powers Liberty-Benton and Ottawa-Glandorf - the defending state champion - to make it out of the Elida District.
Coldwater led Liberty-Benton until a late score by Aaron Craft, but Eric Lefeld got the game-winner as Craft - the state Division III Player of the Year - missed a shot at the buzzer to put Coldwater into the finals against O-G.
After trailing by 11 at the break, the Cavaliers came back to send the defending champs home with a 58-54 decision to put Coldwater into the Sweet 16 for the first time since its run to the state runner-up trophy in 1999.
"Our kids didn't panic," said Kanney about the district games. "They kept working at both ends. If you're going to win big games, you've got to do that."
Although the Cavaliers' run ended a game short of Columbus, Kanney is happy that the program is running on all cylinders and credits the team.
"It's all due to the way the kids played well together," said Kanney. "We talked about that going into the tournament. Before the first game, we talked about the last time the team won a sectional. I've been here four years and haven't won one. That was our first goal. Once we got that, I felt, and so did our assistant coaches, that we can play with anybody. The kids picked up on that and did what they had to do."

Past Winners:
Grand Lake Area Past Player of the Year Honorees
1994 - Tim Hamen, Celina
1995 - Mitch Lefeld, Coldwater
1996 - Ryan Uhlenhake, St. Henry
1997 - Ryan Uhlenhake, St. Henry
1998 - Dennis Wendel, St. Henry
1999 - Kyle Dingledine, Celina
2000 - Cory Eyink, Marion Local
2001 - B.J. Wolters, Marion Local
2002 - Todd Boeckman, St. Henry
2003 - Craig Wolters, Marion Local
2004 - Tim Homan, Celina
2005 - Dane Sommer, Minster
2006 - Kurt Huelsman, St. Henry  
2007 - Adam Johns, St. Marys
2008 - Tony Meyer, New Knoxville
2009 - Greg Kahlig, Fort Recovery

Past Winners:
Grand Lake Area Past Coach of the Year Honorees
1997 - Keith Westrick, Marion Local
1998 - Mike Lee, Minster
1999 - Joe Bruns, Fort Recovery
2000 - Al Summers, St. Henry
2001 - Don Vogt, Parkway and Keith Westrick, Marion Local
2002 - Mike Kanney, Celina
2003 - Keith Westrick, Marion Local
2004 - Josh Leslie, St. Marys
2005 - Mike Lee, Minster
2006 - Mike Ernst, New Bremen
2007 - Joe Niekamp, St. Henry
2008 - Dan Hegemier, New Knoxville
2009 - Mike Kanney, Coldwater
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
• Kids taught early how to give back
• Tourism draws record dollars
• Tile replacement projects voted down due to landowners' concerns
• Local river basin to get bird area designation
• Mortgage paid off; area residents given awards
• Container gardening catching on this year
• Celina baseball blanked 5-0 in Defiance no-hitter
• Bulldogs now 0-6 after blowout home defeat
• Coldwater barely avoids upset to New Knoxville
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