Sunday, September 24, 2017 Elyria 58°


Columbia coach Matt Sheets is basketball coach of year


A day after Columbia lost to Lutheran West in the sectional finals, Raiders point guard Jay Banyasz called coach Matt Sheets and asked if he could have the game tapes to look over.

Two days later Banyasz texted Sheets a list of things he saw that the Raiders could have done better.

Is it any wonder Sheets is already thinking about next season?

“I wish we could start tomorrow,” said the third-year coach, who will have six of his top eight players back from a team that went 15-7, not to mention a point guard dedicated to making himself and his teammates better.

And that’s not even Sheets’ only reason to be excited. Thursday he was named the Northeast Lakes Division III co-coach of the year along with Pete Moran of Burton Berkshire.

Eight players from Lorain County earned first-team honors. For the boys, Keystone senior Caleb Schillace, Elyria Catholic sophomore Jeremy Holley and Clearview senior Anthony Fears were honored in Division III. On the girls side, Avon senior Emily Julius and Magnificat senior Stephanie Haas, an Avon Lake resident, made it in Division I, Keystone senior Emily Nagy was selected in Division II and Lake Ridge junior Monet Saunders and senior teammate DaVonna Bradford were named in Division IV.

Schillace, a 6-foot-3 forward, averaged 14.8 points and 14.1 rebounds a game for the Wildcats, who went 16-6 and shared the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division title with Wellington.

Holley, a 6-5 forward-center, scored 17.2 points and pulled down 12 rebounds a game, while Fears, a 6-0 guard, averaged 20.1 points.

Julius, a 5-9 guard-post, averaged 19 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals. Haas, a 5-8 guard who led the Blue Streaks to a 20-4 record and their first trip to regionals in 10 years, scored 19.7 points and handed out almost three assists a game.

Nagy, a 5-9 guard-post, was a key member of a Wildcats team that went 22-2, won the PAC Stars title and made it to the district finals. She averaged 15.7 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Saunders, a 6-1 forward-center, averaged 14.5 points and 10.9 rebounds for the Lions, while Bradford, a 5-10 guard-forward, scored 12.2 points and pulled down 7.1 rebounds.

Sheets was honored after leading Columbia to its first season of double-digit wins since the Raiders went 10-11 in 2005.

And he did it with an entertaining style of play that featured full-court trapping defense and a run-and-gun-take-the-first-good-shot offense.

“We defended with smoke and mirrors,” said Sheets, who prefers his team play hard-nosed man-to-man defense but decided this year’s team would benefit from a change of pace. “I figured we could play man-to-man and go 10-10 or we could run and trap and make it fun for the kids.”

The kids had fun, that’s for sure. Columbia not only won 15 games and contended for the Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division title until late in the season, it also averaged 74 points a game … even after being held to 40 in a season-ending tournament loss.

The Raiders opened the season with three straight games of 90-plus points and scored 60 or more in 18.

“We’re the Baby Mentor,” said Sheets, referring to the Cardinals, who are ranked third in the state in Division I and are known for their fast-paced style.

Sheets, 30 and a basketball coach for 12 years, is confident that if he can keep his players healthy even better things are on the horizon for the Raiders next season.

“Our kids believe now,” he said.

Contact Kevin Aprile at 329-7135 or

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