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01-29-04: ’Riders ready to battle Tribe


With five teams within one game of first place in the Western Buckeye League, any minor slip-up for St. Marys could prove costly.
On the other hand, this weekend provides an opportunity, because if St. Marys (9-4, 3-1 WBL) can upset league leading Shawnee (8-3, 4-0 WBL) it will move into a first-place tie in the WBL.
That of course is easier said then done, especially since the game is in Lima, and the Indians have Jamar Butler.
Butler, a likely Mr. Ohio candidate this season, is averaging 32.8 points, 7.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game.
“We kind of look at it as he’s going to score his points, there’s nothing you can do to keep him from getting 20 or 30 points,” said St. Marys coach Josh Leslie. “I think the idea a lot of coaches take is you need to limit what the other guys get. Defensively you need to find (Jermain) Bratton and keep those guys in check and don’t let them get a lot of good looks at three-(pointers).”
Limiting the other guys hasn’t been easy for most teams either, as the Indians are averaging 80.6 ppg. Bratton has been a nice second scoring option for the Indians averaging 13.5 ppg. while making 47 percent of his three-point attempts. Four other Indians average over 7.0 ppg.
“He (Butler) has the same type of role, but the players around him are better than what he’s had the last couple of years,” said Shawnee coach Jeff Heistan. “In particular, the post players have done a great job being able to handle Jamar’s passes and finishing at the basket. The player that I really count on improving the second half of the season is Jordan Swift (7.4 ppg., 2.6 rpg.), he has a lot of capability and is a really good athlete. He really hasn’t got going yet, but I look for him to bust loose at any given time.”
The Indians guards are the biggest threat for Leslie and the ’Riders, as Shawnee loves the three-point shot.
Butler has hoisted 122 threes this season, while the Indians have taken 237 as a team through 10 games, making 38 percent of those shots. Shawnee has attempted just 197 shots from inside the arc.
“If he (Butler) breaks us down we can’t help, we’ll have to give up a mid-range jump shot and not allow him to drive and potentially kick it to one of those three-point shooters,” Leslie said. “It’s tough sometimes because you have to give up something to get something else, if you can’t contain you can’t help on a couple shooters.”
If St. Marys can limit those good outside looks it has to like its chances, because Shawnee’s inside game while good, isn’t strong enough to carry the scoring load. If the Indians’ three-point shooters have an off night, the ‘Riders zone defense is good enough to give them a few more headaches.
One major question mark defensively is Corey Vossler, because of a knee injury suffered last weekend. Vossler is easily the ‘Riders best on-the-ball defender and he keys the pressure at the top of St. Marys’ zone.
Wes Clark, who’s been able to provide a scoring punch for St. Marys, also tweaked a knee injury last weekend.
“We’ll find out today (Wednesday) in practice to see how they progress,” Leslie said.
That duo also combines to average roughly 16 ppg., and for a Roughriders offense that has already struggled to score, it cannot afford to lose any offensive threats.
The positive side is that Shawnee hasn’t been stellar on defense, as the Indians are allowing 68.4 ppg. and opponents are shooting 44 percent from the field and 47 percent inside the three-point line.
That could be good news for Scott Vossler who’s averaging 16.9 ppg., because the senior has shown he can be a force in the paint.
Todd Graves could be another Roughrider to have a big night. Graves is only averaging 3.8 ppg., but he’s been a tough matchup for opposing big men because of his ball-handling skills.
“The Graves kid impressed me a great deal, he played guard quite a bit,” Heistan said. “They’re more versatile basketball wise than St. Marys has been in a while.”
Butler has garnered most of the tougher defensive matchups for Shawnee this season, such as Celina’s Tim Homan, but Heistan said he won’t be guarding Scott Vossler on Friday.
“That’s not a good matchup for us simply because of his strength, so we’ll use a variety of players on him and try to force an up-tempo game and try to get him up and down the floor,” Heistan said.
Leslie, meanwhile, is hoping for a lower scoring and physical game.
“If it’s in the 70’s or 80’s we can’t compete, we have to make sure we take a shot that’s good for us each time down the floor. We can’t be in a fast-paced, helter-skelter type game like last year when we played them,” Leslie said. “We’ll also need to send guys to the glass, we have to get as many opportunities as we can. We can’t be content with taking one shot and then sprint back.”
Shawnee has been out rebounded by its opponents 282-238, and the Indians have allowed an average of 11 offensive rebounds a game.


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