By GARY R. RASBERRY
This week’s slate of games features a number of rivalry
Celina and Defiance meet in the Battle of Bulldogs, Parkway
plays host to former coach Don Vogt and his current team, the
Coldwater Cavaliers, and New Bremen and Minster meet in Cardinal
territory for the renewal of the Battle of Ohio 66.
The notable rivalry game of the week takes place at the Hangar
in Maria Stein as Marion Local hosts St. Henry. Friday’s
Midwest Athletic Conference game marks the 96th meeting between
the teams since Marion Local was established in 1955.
The Redskins come in at 12-4 after splitting a weekend doubleheader
against two state-ranked teams. St. Henry went toe-to-toe with
Versailles before losing 51-50 on Friday and pounding Russia
on Saturday by 20 points.
“It was good to see our kids go to Versailles and compete
like they did,” said St. Henry basketball coach Joe Niekamp.
“Then to come back and follow that up with a real big
performance against a good Russia team in a game that had significance
with tournament draw coming up. It was some of the best basketball
we’ve played all year.”
The weekend also showed that St. Henry has evolved into a balanced
team as the season has progressed. Steve Sutter, who came off
the bench for 12 points in the Versailles game, had 25 points
against Russia to push his average into double figures at 10.9
points per game. Kurt Huelsman had a strong weekend in getting
into double digits at 10.8 ppg. Add in regular big scorers Nate
Stahl (12.9 ppg.) and Ross Niekamp (10.6 ppg.) and the Redskins
are peaking at the right time with the tournament trail just
three weeks away.
“I think when you have several guys who can have a good
night offensively, it poses a problem (for the other team) to
defend them,” said Niekamp. “That’s a positive
thing going for us.”
Post play will have to be a key for the Redskins to be successful
but with Marion playing its trademark matchup zone, trying to
get the ball inside will be a premium.
“I think they take the point of view that they want continuous
ball pressure,” said Niekamp. “They don’t
give you really good looks from the perimeter and also don’t
give you a good enough look to set up to get the ball inside.”
Marion, 8-6 overall and 2-4 in the MAC, has to be concerned
as to who will be roaming on the baseline for the Redskins.
In Tuesday’s win over Newton, the Flyers had trouble with
6-1 freshman Kyle Booher, who frequently put pressure on the
Marion zone defense. Flyer coach Keith Westrick expressed concern,
considering that it will be either the 6-6 Sutter or the 6-9
Huelsman down there on Friday night.
The Flyers have been up and down all season, snapping a two-game
skid with the weeknight win over Newton. Westrick voiced his
concern about consistent play on Tuesday night, especially not
being able to consistently execute set plays.
“We need more consistency,” said Westrick after
Tuesday’s game. “We need somebody to step and take
charge during one of those lulls. Someone needs to shake up
their teammates and get them to work for the better shot and
do the things necessary to get the high-percentage shot instead
of just running around and not running an offense.”
The Flyers will look to seniors Cory Luebke and Russell Moeller
to set up the upset bid. Luebke leads the team in scoring at
17.5 ppg. and had 12 in the win over Newton. The 6-5 Moeller
worked his way to 14 points and six rebounds.
Add in junior Ryan Winner into the threats coach Niekamp will
need to be concerned about. Winner comes in averaging 10.9 ppg.
and had the hot had in hitting four three-pointers against Newton,
leading to his game-high 20-point effort.
“It’s going to be a game where both teams are going
to battle,” said Niekamp. “The game is just down
the road (about 10 miles along Ohio 119) and will be a great
atmosphere. Marion has played some really good ball and has
some outstanding players.”