Hockey and Men’s Basketball Look to Repeat 2013’s Success

The defending state champion Raider hockey team and regional runner-up Raider basketball team have their sights set on another ring in 2014.

Marching out of Nationwide Arena engulfed in a sea of red and white was a revitalizing experience for Shaker spirit, and perhaps a motivational catalyst for Shaker athletes. Shaker hockey and men’s basketball are both contending, yet again, to make some noise in their respective state tournaments this year.

The defending state champion Red Raider hockey program, under new head coach Jon Rice, came into the season in a pool of question marks after losing legendary coach Mike Bartley as well as the wealth of talent in the class of 2013. Despite the rocky offseason, Shaker hockey was ranked number three in the Plain Dealer’s top 25 preseason poll.

“We knew it’d be tough,” junior Nathan Christman said. “Losing nine seniors and a coach is tough to overcome. We’re just looking for guys to step up and fill the void which seems to be working out.”

They proved themselves worthy of the praise after their overtime defeat of number four Walsh Jesuit in the season-opener Nov. 22. The defending state champions carried on their success from there, winning ten straight games and remaining undefeated as they enter rivalry weekend.

Shaker has a rematch of the state final four game Dec. 14 against Rocky River, followed by a matchup against University School Dec. 15.

Shaker Hockey continues to work hard to overcome a tumultuous offseason, and they are hoping to pave a road back to the state tournament.

Shaker men’s basketball was also ranked number three in the Plain Dealer’s top 25 preseason poll, and they look to continue the success they have had in recent years. Their focus this year is to reach the state championship and capitalize on the talent they have at their disposal.

“We have very high expectations this season,” coach Danny Young said. “Our first goal is always to win the league title in the tough NOC. Then we set goals to make a strong run in the postseason.”

The Raiders worked hard during the offseason, and continue to work hard to achieve those goals. Coach Young emphasized conditioning, and has employed weekly weight room and yoga sessions.

“We work harder than most other teams around here,” senior forward Rosel Hurley said. “We work as hard as we can in everything we do. We know that we have to focus on the little things to achieve our goals.”

The team lost sophomore Keith Griffin, but the void was filled quickly as Benedictine-transfer T.J. Steele stepped in as the starting point guard. Steele attended Shaker through eighth grade, and is already comfortable running the floor with his old teammates.

Last year, the Raiders, led by 2013 NOC Player of the Year Esa Ahmad, lost in the Regional final to the 2013 state champion Mentor Cardinals, who they will see again Dec. 19.

Ahmad is already proving to be a key to the Raiders’ success again in the 2013-14 season, as he scored 28 and 31 points respectively in Shaker’s wins over Toledo St. John’s and Strongsville. The team looks to build around the big man in the middle to break through the state tournament.

The 2013 hockey state championship is proving to be the base of potential athletic success for all Shaker teams, and Raider athletes are hungry for another ring in the 2014 winter season.

“We are going to keep working hard and keep doing the little things right,” Hurley said. “That’s what it’s going to take to get that ring.”

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