CIRCLEVILLE — There’s a dynasty growing near the state capital and Tony Stockman has something to do with it.
A standout for Medina — Stockman was named co-Mr. Basketball while playing for the Bees in 2000 — and at Clemson and Ohio State, the Medina County Hall of Famer is getting things done as a coach at the college level.
It is happening at Ohio Christian University, as Stockman wrapped up the 2013-14 season by leading the Trailblazers to a National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association Division II title.
It’s the second year in a row Ohio Christian has won the championship. Not coincidentally, Stockman has been at the helm for two seasons, so beating Arlington Baptist College 91-69 to go back-to-back didn’t came as much of a surprise.
“I thought in the summer we would be better than last year,” said Stockman, whose team finished 25-10. “We were deeper in the aspect of we had better, more-talented players. I knew we’d be clearly better on offense.”
Thinking the Trailblazers wouldn’t have much of a problem in the league — Ohio Christian has won 41 straight NCCAC D-II games — Stockman frontloaded his schedule with tough teams. It was a strategy that paid off as the Trailblazers won 20 of their final 21 contests.
“If you think about regular-season schedules, you have your easier games early and the conference is the tough part,” Stockman said. “Our conference is easy, so we schedule D-II’s and NAIA Division I’s and D-III’s at the beginning of the season.
“We play some tough teams. We ran into a stretch where we played Malone, Walsh and Ashland, but those were the things that helped us get better. The speed of the game is faster. They’re bigger and stronger, so it raises up our game to when we get to our region play, we get a lot better.”
By the time the postseason rolled around, the squad was ready. An 87-85 overtime Mid-East Region win against Kentucky Christian pushed Ohio Christian to the NCCAA Nationals.
OCU opened with a 69-63 win over ninth-seeded Pensacola Christian before knocking off fifth-seeded Grace Bible 79-64 in the semifinals. It was academic after that, as No. 2 Arlington Baptist didn’t put up much of a fight in the finals.
This title meant just as much to Stockman as the first, if not more.
“I was pushing them as hard as I could push them last year,” the 32-year-old said. “I never let up on them at all. This year, I enjoyed it a lot more. Last year, I didn’t know how good we had to be. I just kept grinding.
“This year, I could tell we were getting good. I let up a little bit and had fun. The guys I had back were focused, especially when we got to the tournament.”
The bad news for Stockman is he loses senior point guard Ernie McCoy (11.3 ppg). The good news is East Tech’s Jimmy Horton Jr., who was a backup on the 2013 OCU title team, will be back after missing the season with a torn ACL.
So will NCCAC Player of the Year Wesley Russell (16.6) and everyone else on the team. Buckeye’s Cory Inman will join Ohio Christian and so will 6-foot-7 standout Stanley Okoye of Nigeria.
“We lose one, but add three or four players,” Stockman said. “What that does is keep them motivated. After you win one title, you’re not as motivated because you won that first one.
“It’ll be even harder for them to stay focused for that third one. But with so many guys, if you don’t play as hard as you can, someone else will. When guys push for minutes, that will raise our intensity and our level of play. … That’s why I love coaching so much. It is different things every year. Those challenges make it fun for me because no two years will ever be the same.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.