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Heartland leads the way on All-Area boys team

The Heartland Christian boys basketball team was planning on success after returning eight lettermen, including three starters, from an 11-win team.

The Lions had bigger ambitions when they added junior Jonathan Bertovich, who set East Palestine’s single-season scoring record the season before.

“Anytime you get a kid like that, it puts one of the best players in the area on your team,” Heartland coach Josh Scott said. “We felt the program was heading in the right direction, but he sped things up.”

Scott is the Morning Journal’s 2020-21 All-Area boys basketball coach of the year after guiding the Lions to a school-best 17-5 season.

After losing to Salem in the season opener, Heartland finished 7-1 against Columbiana County teams. The Lions started to earn respect.

“We’ve talked a lot about getting the program to where it is a team you have to reckon with night in and night out,” Scott said. “We’ve got a start to that. The guys are hungry to add to that now. We want to do that year in and year out.”

No player of the year was selected due to the balance across the board on the first team.

Bertovich returns to the All-Area first team and is joined by Salem junior Drew Weir, Lisbon senior Blayne Brownfield, Wellsville senior Luke Green, Crestview senior Drake Golden, East Liverpool junior Cole Dailey, Southern senior Brock Smalley and West Branch junior Jaxon Hendershott.

Here is a look at the All-Area honorees:

DREW WEIR (Salem) — Weir, the Columbiana County co-player of the year, led the Quakers to a 16-8 season and a share of their first Eastern Buckeye Conference title. He averaged a team-high 14.3 points, six rebounds and 1.5 steals a game. He made 58 three-pointers, while shooting 53 percent from the field and 70 percent from the foul line. “Drew is an athletic player that improved his game to become more than just a catch-and-shoot kid,” Salem coach Jeff Andres said. “He rebounded the ball well and defended at a high level and will continue to get better. He is one of the premier scorers in the area. His best basketball is ahead of him.”

BLAYNE BROWNFIELD (Lisbon) — Brownfield, the Columbiana County co-player of the year, was the area’s leading scorer. He averaged 23.8 points, eight rebounds, 1.5 assists a game while leading the Blue Devils to a 14-9 season. “Blayne dedicated himself to changing his game this season,” Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold said. “He worked on becoming an inside out threat his senior year. His hard work and dedication made him a more productive player.” Brownfield had high games of 39 and 37 points, while scoring at least 25 points in 10 games. He set a single-season school record with 119 free throws. He shot 52 percent from two-point range, 42 percent from three-point range and 79.3 percent from the foul line,

JONATHAN BERTOVICH (Heartland) — Bertovich scored less this season, but Heartland got more wins with his all-around play. He led the Lions in assists (6.3), steals (3.0) and minutes (30.0), was second in scoring (16.9) and third in rebounds (4.9). “He has been the hardest-working kid I’ve ever been around,” Heartland coach Josh Scott said. “He has the mentality he wants to work as hard as he can to get to his goals. A great addition to our program. He’s very skilled and we get him back next year.” Bertovich scored 372 points on the season and went over 1,000 for his career. “He has high aspirations and he wants to play at the next level,” Scott said. “We feel he can.”

LUKE GREEN (Wellsville) — Wellsville always had a chance with Green on the court. He sparked the Tigers to a 15-8 season as he was the area’s second-leading scorer (20.0). He also averaged 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals and three assists a game. “He was a steady player and a hard worker and did whatever I wanted him to do,” Wellsville coach David ‘Bug’ Thompson said. “I hate to see him go. It will be hard to replace him.” Green scored more than 1,000 career points.

DRAKE GOLDEN (Crestview) — Golden finished as Crestview’s all-time leading scorer with 1,475 career points after leading the team in scoring all four seasons. He led the Rebels by averaging 15.1 points, 1.9 blocks and shooting 54 percent from the field. He also averaged 6.7 rebounds. The Rebels finished with a 9-15 record after winning 25 games over the previous six seasons. “Drake has helped bring Crestview basketball back to be respected and very competitive,” Crestview coach Rick Gates said. “Drake was the focus of every team Crestview has played in the last four seasons, often being double or triple teamed. Drake has all the tools to go to the next level and will continue his career at Geneva College.”

COLE DAILEY (East Liverpool) — It didn’t take the 6-foot-5 Dailey long to emerge as East Liverpool’s top threat. “Cole had a good year for his first real varsity season, but he has the capability with a great off-season to be great,” East Liverpool coach Nate Conley said. “He led us in every category but blocks.” Dailey averaged 16.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals a game, while shooting 65.7 percent from two-point range — all team highs. “He is long, athletic and just simply gets the job done,” Conley said. “He can be a special player for us next year”

BROCK SMALLEY (Southern) — A three-year starter, Smalley was the leading scorer on a Southern team that went 14-6 and won its first-ever league title, capturing the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference crown outright. He averaged 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. The Indians did not start the season until Dec. 12 due to health concerns in the district. Smalley fell just shy of 1,000 career points due to three games being canceled due to COVID-19. “It was an honor these last four years to coach Brock and watch his talents blossom,” Southern coach Gerard Grimm said. “Transforming his body and his game, Brock became a premier scorer and ball handler in our area. His business-like, focused approach to the game set a great example for his teammates.”

JAXON HENDERSHOTT (West Branch) –Hendershott’s backcourt play helped West Branch to an 18-7 season and a share of a second straight Eastern Buckeye Conference title. He set a single-season school record with 73 three-pointers, while shooting 42 percent from three-point range. He averaged 14.2 points, three rebounds and three assists a game. “Jaxon’s commitment to the game of basketball extends outside the regular season,” West Branch coach Michael Brown said. “It was enjoyable to see all the hard work and time he put into his game pay off in a big way this year. Jaxon has set an attainable goal of playing college basketball someday and we look forward to the progress he makes heading into his senior campaign.

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