By Gary R. Rasberry
If Joe Niekamp is experiencing some deja vu this week, he’s not dreaming.
For the second straight year, St. Henry will play Archbold in the Division III district semifinals.
This year, though, Niekamp is hoping differences will be to his team’s advantage.
Rather than make a near two-hour trip to Napoleon, the teams will play relatively closer to St. Henry at Ohio Northern University in Ada.
The other thing that the Redskins hope for is a change in the outcome. The Redskins lost to the Blue Streaks 52-46 at the Grand Canyon in Napoleon a year ago.
Archbold enters district play at 18-3 after running the table in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League. Coach Doug Krauss has a potent offensive team that averages 67.3 points per game and has three players in double figures.
The player that may be on the minds of most of the Redskins is junior guard Dan Borcherdt, who had 15 points in last season’s win. Borcherdt leads the team in scoring with an average of 18.2 ppg. and is not the player to put on the line late in the game, making 93.3 percent (83-of-89) of his free throws this season.
“He’s an outstanding shooter,” said Niekamp. “He can shoot the ball from everywhere and late in the game, you can’t put him on the foul line. And he’s still young.”
In the paint, Krauss will look to 6-5 senior Joel Ruffer for points. Ruffer averages 11.9 ppg. and pulls down 8.4 boards per game. Six-three senior Mike Pratt is the third double-digit scorer in averaging 10.2 ppg. while shooting 53 percent from the field.
“We have some balance, as does St. Henry,” said Krauss. “I think we make teams guard the whole floor as well as inside and outside. Every night we have people capable of stepping up, so you can’t bear down on one guy.”
“They have about four guys who can score in double figures,” said Niekamp. “Ruffer is a nice inside player and really compliments Borcherdt. (D.J.) Selgo is a nice athlete who I think was hurt earlier this season. He’s been playing good basketball. They keep you honest with the balance that they have.”
Sophomore Josh Johnson will run the offense for the Streaks. The 6-0 Johnson has dished out a staggering 132 assists this season for an average of 6.3 apg while also leading the team in steals with 2.76 spg.
Krauss had no trouble remembering what St. Henry brings to the table — size. The Redskins will start a lineup that goes no shorter than 6-0. Last year the Blue Streaks were able to keep Sutter, Huelsman and the graduated Todd Boeckman in check for most of the game.
“We’ve faced teams with big players this season, but we haven’t faced a team with the size like St. Henry,” said Krauss. “You hear how big St. Henry is, it sends shivers up your spine. After last year, we know we’re able to play with them.
“They’re a very formidable opponent,” added Krauss. “They had some size last season, so we’re familiar with that. I think this year they might be a little more athletic.”
Niekamp also has broken out the tape from last years game.
“It helps a little bit,” said Niekamp. “You look at some of what they do now (from a more current tape) and compare to last year. It gives you a little bit of confidence as far as having a good look at what they’re doing.”
One thing that Niekamp is not hoping for is a repeat of the start of the game when Archbold jumped out to an 11-0 lead.
“That was so crucial. You want to get out to a good start and not dig yourself a hole,” said Niekamp. “Even though our kids showed a lot of poise and bounced back and getting a lead. That’s an up-hill climb. Getting off to a good start at a new facility is important.”