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02-12-04: Flyers, Redskins renew intense rivalry


This week’s slate of games features a number of rivalry games.
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.”


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