By Gary R. Rasberry
Marion Local football coach Tim Goodwin once said that winning the Midwest Athletic Conference title was tougher than winning a state title.
Keith Westrick, the boys basketball coach and a former football assistant under Goodwin, might have to agree with that after this season.
After going 2-7 in the MAC, the smallest conference win total for the team since the MAC formation, the Flyers have swept through the tournament, getting a second straight appearance at the Schottenstein Center when the 17-9 Flyers face 24-1 Sebring McKinley in the state semifinals on Friday at 11 a.m. The winner plays the winner of South Webster and Holgate on Saturday at 5 p.m. for the Division IV state title.
It’s been a very busy week for Westrick, who’s been looking for all the information he can handle on Sebring, even more than last season when Westrick won his first state title.
“Crazy,” was how Westrick described his week thus far. “I don’t remember this being so hectic last year.”
The Trojans have a young group with four starters coming from the junior class after losing four starters from a team that lost in the regionals last season. The McKinley program has not been to the state final four since 1973 and is making the trip for only the third time since 1970.
Leading the team is 6-1 senior guard David Scarpitti. Scarpitti was the Co-Player of the Year for the All-Northeast Inland District and was named first-team All-Ohio. Scarpitti, whose father Dave played on the 1973 state tournament team, is averaging 13.7 points per game for the Trojans to go along with an all-around game where he’s averaging 8.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game.
“He’s a leader for them,” said Westrick of Scarpitti. “He’s active in the offense and creates most things for them. He penetrates and kicks it down to his big men or penetrates and kicks it out to the guards. He shoots off the dribble really well. Not a lot of tendacies, he goes right or left. The kind of guy that makes the game for them.”
Junior Joe James adds to the scoring for the Trojans, averaging 13.5 ppg. Junior Dan Scarpitti, brother of David, averages 10.3 ppg.
“One of the games we saw. James had two threes, four twos and was 2-for-2 from the line for 16 (points),” said Westrick. “(Dan Scarpitti) is also very balanced. They definitely can stroke it from the perimeter.”
The post spots are manned by a pair of 6-5 juniors in Matt Ferguson (8.6 ppg.) and Joe Amabeli (8.3 ppg.). The pair are also key rebounders, averaging around seven boards per game each.
The Trojans will have to deal primarily with getting open in the Flyers’ matchup zone. With Dan Scarpitti and James combining for 93 three-pointers during the regular season, the Flyers will have to extend the matchup to the perimeter, unlike the regional tournament where inside games from Yellow Springs and Jefferson had Westrick tell his players to pack it in.
“It’s more like we were used to in the districts trying to contain (Minster’s Dane) Sommer and (Ada’s Kyle) Grimslid, even New Bremen’s outside shooting threat,” said Westrick. “What we’re going to see from Sebring is a little more than we’re used to.”
The Flyers’ starting five has been playing well the latter half of the season. Seniors Cory Luebke (17.6 ppg.), who was named second-team All-Ohio, and Russell Moeller (12.8 ppg.) have been the constants in scoring all season. Junior Ryan Winner (10.9 ppg.) made up for tough nights from Luebke and Moeller on Friday against Jefferson with 20 points. Sophomore forward Curtis Moeller (4.4 ppg.) has been a tough defender as a baseline defender in the matchup while senior point guard Adam Kremer (4.2 ppg., 3.0 apg.) has been solid on both ends of the court.
Marion’s bench will also need to step up. Juniors Wes Everman (2.8 ppg.) and Ryan Stucke (1.9 ppg.) have been the primary players off the bench for most of the postseason while Kyle Moeder (2.1 ppg.) has also seen some playing time.
“They want to keep their five starters on the floor,” said Westrick. “Some teams have played a running-type game to get them to sub more. The things I hear from coaches are that they are extremely well-conditioned. They might play 32 minutes. If there’s no reason to pull them off the floor, they won’t sub.”
Both teams are nearly equal in the offensive/defensive putout department. Marion has the slight edge in points per game with 57 compared to 56.5 at McKinley. The Trojans hold the defensive average advantage 41.2 to 48.
“They don’t push the ball as much as we do,” said Westrick. “The balanced scoring is something we’ve been striving for and is something they do well. They can score from all five spots. The reason their offensive scoring is low is because they don’t run a high-possession game. They’ll walk it up if you let them and are patient, looking for high-percentage shots.”