By Taylor Kauffman
Hartville may be a small town, but that doesn’t mean they are underdogs.
“We feel like we have a target on our back all the time. It doesn’t faze us. It doesn’t bother us,” Hartville senior Ryce Piper said.
The Eagles are defending Class 2 state champions, back-to-back Blue & Gold Tournament champions and most recently beatstar-studded Kickapoo and Greenwood to win the R12 Winter Classic.
“With our team, any night a different person could lead us in scoring. They are so balanced. I think that is what makes us so tough,” Hartville head coach Brett Reed said.
Winning championships takes the whole team, but few are as consistent as senior Ryce Piper.
“There are many nights he has put us on his back. He is one of the guys who can go get his own offensively,” Reed said.
In the R12 Winter Classic, Piper averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds per game while shooting 62% from the field. That is about par for the course for the numbers Piper has posted so far this season.
“I try to come in every day and not just focus on one aspect of the game, but try to do as much as I can on both ends of the floor. Whether that be points, rebounding, assists, steals, whatever it is I try to get it done,” Piper said.
“Ryce is our point guard. He is our leader. We need him to play well most nights, and he does. He shows up every night,” Reed said.
His motivation isn’t self-serving.
“I love the game. I have done it ever since I was little. I have to do it for myself, my teammates and everybody else in the community,” Piper said.
Hartville is off to a 19-0 start this year, and has a 30-game winning streak going dating back to last year. The Eagles will look to make it two state titles in a row come March. If they are able to accomplish that feat, Piper will be a big reason why.