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01-08-04: Wildcats hope to snap Tigers’ winning streak

League battles get the Friday night focus this week as the Western Buckeye League and Midwest Athletic Conference teams are hoping that Santa Claus gave them some wins for the new year.
An early battle at the top of the MAC takes place down in Darke County as 5-1 Minster faces unbeaten Versailles. Both teams are unbeaten in the MAC with Versailles holding the slight lead after Tuesday’s win at Coldwater.
The Wildcats, after a dismal opening night loss to Spencerville, have been dominant in the five straight wins, including Saturday’s 66-53 win over Jackson Center. With key scorers from last season graduated, Mike Lee has done well putting together a core of players that can step up and score at any time.
The Tigers haven’t let the state football championship run filter any thoughts of success on the hardwood. With four starters being key cogs in the gridiron title run and one more off the bench, the Tigers have put together a solid successful group that has blown out several teams this season with a strong outside shooting game.
Marquee Matchup: Dane Sommer vs. Kyle Gehle.
Sommer has been the top scorer for the Wildcats this season, averaging 18.4 points per game in the five wins. As the only productive scorer back from last season, the junior had some shoes to fill as the leading scorer when his older brother Dustin took his catcher’s mitt to Toledo. The 6-1 junior has come through and has a lot of help when his shot was off.
Gehle has dominated on the court as he did on the field. The senior is coming off a 25-point night against Coldwater and already has a 30-point game to his credit after taking MVP honors at the Jet Classic at Franklin-Monroe scoring 33 in a 60-point win over the host Jets.
Gehle has been lights out from behind the three-point line, shooting 45.9 percent from the arc coming into this week. After hitting 55 three-pointers in 21 games last season, Gehle is on track to break that mark, making 20 through six games this season.
St. Henry at Fort Recovery
Beyond Versailles and Minster, The Redskins might be the hottest team in the area. After having two subpar games to start the season, St. Henry followed by scoring 70 or more points in five of their six straight wins since.
The offense has mixed things up with four players getting into double figures on a regular basis. WIth a starting lineup going 6-0, 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 and 6-9, the Redskins pose matchup concerns with all teams.
The Indians have mixed good games with not so good games this season. The Indians are due a good game after losing to previously unbeaten Ansonia on Dec. 27.
Marquee Matchup: Kurt Huelsman vs. John Bihn.
At 6-2, Bihn is one of the smallest centers in the MAC, but the three-year letterman has been used to taking on much larger players in the paint and Bihn regularlly puts up strong efforts.
Bihn has had some big games this season. In the loss to Ansonia, Bihn pulled down 10 offensive boards and finished with a 14-point, 18-rebound night. Bihn is currently the only area player averaging double figures in both scoring (12.3 ppg.) and rebounding (11.7 rpg).
Bihn will need to battled Huelsman — and for that matter Steve Sutter as well — in the paint. Huelsman (6-9, sophomore) has been strong during the winning streak. Huelsman has hit 61.4 percent of his shots this season and averages five blocks per game. In Saturday’s win over Ansonia, Huelsman had seven blocks, five coming at the expense of 6-5 center Adam Barga.
New Knoxville at Coldwater
Both teams enter the game looking for a spark for the rest of the season. The Cavaliers overcame a big deficit to give Versailles a game on Tuesday night before seeing their record even out at 3-3. The Rangers are coming off a win over Anna that evened the team’s mark at 4-4.
The Cavaliers have had some struggles finding the players to shoot the ball when the time is right. Coach Don Vogt hoped that Tuesday’s game, which saw three Cavs in double figures, will be the start of something bigger.
The Rangers seem to be alternating wins for losses, not a great sign considering that the last game was a win. One good sign is that the Rangers have played tough with the Cavaliers in the past, including last season when the Cavaliers had to hold on for a six-point win.
Marquee Matchup: Tyler Henschen vs. Brandon Bettinger
Henschen has been slowly turning his game into a dominant factor in the wins for the Rangers. The 6-1 sophomore leads the team in scoring at 9.6 points per game and also has been pulling down five boards a game. Henschen’s 55.7 percent field goal percent ranks among the leaders in the area this week.
Bettinger, who didn’t play basketball last season, has made the most of his senior season so far. Coming off the bench, Bettinger is averaging five points and two rebounds this season. Bettinger could be getting more minutes after coming up with a solid game against Versailles. Bettinger hit both his field goals and was 6-of-10 from the foul line in scoring 10 points.

St. John’s at New Bremen
It may be time to change the policy of the coach of the MAC team champions getting the coach of the year honors in the league.
Cardinals coach Mike Ernst deserves a big nod for the award after the early turnaround his team has had. After winning just five games all of last season, New Bremen has won five of its last six with the loss coming at the hands of always-tough Fort Loramie.
The Cardinals look to equal its conference win total from last year on Friday as St. John’s comes to town.
The Blue Jays are off to a strong start after the late debut due to football. The Blue Jays are coming off a win over Wapakoneta. Coach Brett Norris has been using a rotation of eight players to start the season.
Marquee Matchup: Scott Schmiesing vs. Chad Reynolds
Schmiesing has been a powerhouse in the hot streak the Cardinals have had this season. The 6-5 senior leads the team in scoring with 14.1 points and in rebounding at 8.6 boards per game.
Reynolds saw plenty of time last season as a sophomore for the Jays and has taken the scoring role with the departures of Brian Clark, Nate Klaus and Mike Anthony. The 6-6 Reynolds averages 14.5 points and 5.2 boards a game for the Jays.
Wapakoneta at St. Marys
The Roughriders are coming in strong after a good victory over Sidney on Tuesday night. After dropping a slugfest to Minster in game four, St. Marys has spun four wins in a row and needs the win over Auglaize County rival Wapak to stay unbeaten in the WBL.
The Redskins are doing a lot better this season than how they started last year. The 3-3 mark this year already matches the win total from all of last season, when coach Brian Vorst suffered through an 0-10 start.
Wapak will bring a small team to the floor with just one player that stands over 6-1 in 6-3 junior Matt Brackman.
Marquee Matchup: Austin McCormick vs. Tom Burke.
McCormick has been a regular scorer for the Redskins this season. The 5-10 junior guard had a breakout game against St. Henry with a 22-point showing in a 87-75 loss. That combined with backcourt mate Brett Schroeder’s 20 allowed the Redskins to stay in the game.
Burke has been a consistent compliment to Scott Vossler’s big game, averaging 8.9 points per game. Tuesday night was Burke’s breakout night, scoring 20 points on the help of a record-tying six three-pointers in the win over the Yellow Jackets.
Marion Local at Parkway
One thing is for sure for the Panthers: Things cannot get any worse. On the flipside, things can always be a little better for Marion Local.
The Flyers are 2-2 and after winning a share of the MAC last season, Mariona is 0-1 in the conference thanks to an overtime home loss to New Bremen. Marion was victorious over a tough Covington team on Dec. 27 but due to a flu outbreak at Lehman that postponded their Dec. 30 game, has not played since.
The Panthers have looked a little better the past couple of games. The team shot 58 percent from the floor in an eight-point loss to Ottoville last week. Although the shooting percentage was down nearly 25 points in Tuesday’s loss to Fort Jennings, the Panthers are starting to get some added scoring.
Marquee Matchup: Cory Luebke vs. Mark Snyder
Luebke is one of the only returning players back from the state title team last season that saw any significant playing time. Luebke has stepped up and took over some of the scoring this season, scoring 15 in the win over Covington on Dec. 27. At 6-3, Luebke can go inside to post up but can hit the long-range shots, something that he specialized in last season.
Only a sophomore, Snyder has become one of the key components for the future of the Panther program. The 6-6 forward is second on the team in scoring at 9.2 points per game and his 7.7 rebounds per game leads the team and is in the top 10 for the area.


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