By Gary R. Rasberry
Although the season is still in the early stages for St. Marys after the long and successful football run, a big game awaits the Roughriders on Friday as undefeated Van Wert comes to McBroom Gymnasium for a key Western Buckeye League matchup.
The Cougars have been playing well all season at 8-0 and 2-0 in the league but have been relegated to practice for over a week after last week's ice caused some postponements. The last game for the Cougars came with the annual battle with Wayne Trace, which the Cougars won, 57-45.
Coach Dave Froelich brings in a team that has plenty of experience from last season and that is well-versed in sharing the wealth when it comes to scoring. Three players are regularly scoring in double figures with several others showing potential for big games as well.
Van Wert faces a St. Marys team that bounced back after suffering its first loss on Friday followed with a close win on Saturday in beating previously unbeaten New Bremen.
Both teams match up well size wise with the tallest player on each team being around 6-5. Van Wert has allowed more than 50 points only once this season, against Celina, and has been strong in putting together a strong defense to take out the other team's top scorers.
St. Marys will need to rely on its stingy defense since the Cougars are not afraid to take the three-point shot. Several long-range scorers may force the Roughriders to overextend their defense.
The Big Matchup -- Rian Rainey vs. Tom Burke
Rainey has been a veteran team leader on both ends of the floor for the Cougars the past several seasons. This year, Rainey leads the team in scoring with 13.1 points per game. Rainey is also the one St. Marys (Continued from page 1B)
cannot foul late in games. Rainey's 76.2 percent free throw percentage is tops on the team.
Burke came up with the big game against Lehman last week in breaking his own record for three-pointers in a game by nailing seven long-jumpers. Burke is second on the team in scoring with 13.3 ppg.
Fort Recovery at St. Henry
A good number of players from last year's 55-51 overtime thriller at Fort Site Fieldhouse, won by St. Henry, will be on the court again for the revival of the rematch at Redskin Gymnasium. Five players from each team last season will likely see time on the court on Friday.
The Indians' three losses have come to three pretty good teams in Minster, Versailles and Ansonia -- who have three losses combined so far this season -- The Indians will be looking for momentum after losing to 10-1 Ansonia on Saturday night.
The Tribe will have to deal with the factor that other teams have had this season with St. Henry when 6-9 Kurt Huelsman hits the floor. Huelsman is averaging double figures scoring and is close to doubles in rebounds this season. The Indians will need its two post men, Sean Kahlig and Tyler Wuebker, to be resilient without getting into foul trouble to contain Huelsman. The rest of the defense will likely help out on the low post but will have to be concerned where the other Redskin shooters like Nate Stahl and Andy Puthoff are located.
St. Henry will need to be wary of where Fort Recovery's shooters are. While Travis VanSkyock and Dusty Tobe are two of the top scorers, freshman Clint Tobe has been solid stepping out and hitting the shot, hitting 10-of-20 from the three-point line this year.
The Indians have more size than normal the past couple of years. Both VanSkyock and Kahlig have had big games in the paint with rebounds and putbacks.
The Big Matchup -- Nate Stahl vs. Travis VanSkyock
With each player standing around 6-5, the pair pose matchup problems with their ability to launch the three-pointer.
VanSkyock leads the team with 13 three-pointers and a 50.5 percent field goal percentage. VanSkyock will need to shake the St. Henry defense and be accurate on the trey to help the Indians counter the inside game.
Stahl has worked inside more this season, although he has connected on seven treys during the season. Stahl leads the Redskins with 13 points per game.
Versailles at Minster
Both teams enter with unblemished MAC marks. Minster is up a half game on the Tigers with a 3-0 mark. Versailles had a chance to move up and try and knock St. John's from the unbeaten ranks in the MAC, but it was postponed until Jan. 25.
Minster was able to get a couple of games in, posting a huge conference win over Coldwater at the Palace then coming home to beat Fort Loramie. The Wildcats will be using the home atmosphere to try and curtail the hot shooting Tigers.
Minster will need to be aware of the outside presence of the Tigers. With Joe Shardo, Adam Barga and Jeremy Shardo being able to hit three-pointer, complexion of games can change in an instant.
The Tigers will be dealing with a Minster team that is smaller and quicker than in past seasons. The Wildcats have double the amount of steals (111) than their opponents (54) this season. With an average of 12.3 spg. and 192 forced turnovers already. The Tiger ballhandlers will need to be on guard for the pressure.
The Big Matchup -- Jeremy Shardo vs. Zac Boeke.
The Big Matchup actually features two of the smaller players on the court.
The 6-0 Shardo, the younger brother of Joe, has been a constant player in running the Tigers offense. Shardo averages 2.6 assists per game.
Boeke, at 5-5, has been doing a lot of things for coach Mike Lee. Boeke is second on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg.), and leads the team with 24 steals (2.67 spg.). The best stat could be Boeke's 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, the best on the team.
Elida at Celina
The first Battle of the Bulldogs in the Western Buckeye League this season features an Elida team that has been cruising well and a Celina team that is coming off a big non-conference win.
Chris Adams' Elida squad is unbeaten in the WBL at 2-0 with the lone loss coming to Spencerville. Elida has an experienced group returning this season. The bulk of the offense comes from the starting five as four starters average double figures and the fifth is at 6.3 points per game. Elida will usually bring just two off the bench as just seven players have appeared in all 10 games..
Celina will need to be wary of the outside shooting. Elida has made 76 three-pointers this season and is shooting well from the arc with a 42 percent clip.
Mercer County's Bulldogs got a big win over Toledo Rogers on Saturday after giving up a good lead and being forced into overtime. With a young team starting to mature, the win will help as the WBL schedule gets back under way this week after last week's ice storm wreaked havoc on the schedule.'
Elida matches up well height-wise with Celina. Elida has done a good job in forcing turnovers, averaging 12.4 per game. Celina has averaged 11.4 per game. Whoever wins the battle of taking care of the ball will have a leg up in deciding who wins the game.
The Big Matchup -- Dustin Mathias vs. Aaron Braun.
Mathias leads a solid group in scoring with 15.1 points per game. Mathias, at 6-2, is solid from the arc, making 41.1 percent of his three-pointers (24 on the season). Mathias is also solid at the foul line, making 25 of his 27 tries from the stripe (92.6 percent).
Braun is coming off the game of the season on Saturday. Braun scored 24 points and sake the game-winner in the final seconds of overtime to beat Rogers 61-59. Braun jumps up and takes the scoring lead of the team with 13.4 points per game and is tied for the lead in rebounding with 5.2 caroms a contest. In the paint, the 6-6 has been nearly automatic, making 71.2 percent (42-of-59) from the field and has an overall shooting clip of 57.8, one of the best in the Grand Lake area.
New Bremen at St. John's
The other battle for a share of the penthouse in the MAC features two teams that can score with the best of them.
New Bremen has the edge in scoring offense with a 62.7-57.3 margin but the Blue Jays are better at defense, allowing seven less points per game.
The Cardinals come in looking to return to winning after suffering their first loss of the season on Saturday against Auglaize County rival St. Marys. The Cardinals will be a little more even in the matchup against St. John's, who has a little more height than the Roughriders.
The Blue Jays calling card has been the three-point shooting. The team is connecting on 36.8 percent of their trey tries, making 71. The Cardinals will have to know where the shooters are at all times. If Matt Webb or Chad Reynolds are left open and are shooting well, the tide of the game may turn.
The teams both like to play physical inside. With the Blue Jays starting all-state running back Matt Shumaker at center and the Cardinals countering with all-state lineman Marcus Overman inside, the game could hinge on who can hit the foul shots.
The Blue Jays will face another big team as the Cardinals will go with a front line that could go 6-3, 6-5 and 6-6. The battle of rebounds will also play a key in the game.
The Big Matchup -- Matt Webb vs. Scott Steineman
Both are 6-3 and both have the ability to hit the long ball.
Webb is second on the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game and has hit 23 three-pointers this season. Webb actually has a better three-point percentage (38.3) than overall percentage (38.0) but has the ability to dish the ball to the open teammate, leading the team in assists at 3.8 apg.
Steineman is the only Cardinal in double figures at 13.3 ppg. but gets plenty of help as six teammates average 5.4 ppg. or better.
Steineman is the big long-range threat, making 14 treys this season.
Coldwater at New Knoxville
The Cavaliers could use a big game after playing two very close games over the weekend, losing to a pair of good teams in Minster and Elida.
The Rangers could use a break as well after getting a lead at Fort Recovery before the Indians came back to win.
Coldwater has to be aware of the scoring attack of New Knoxville. Both Kale Wierwille and Dustan Kruse have the ability to launch the shot when open. The Rangers were doing well when one or the other was on target against Fort Recovery.
New Knoxville has to be wary of Coldwater coming out strong. The Cavs had a lead on Minster for a good portion of the game and went toe-to-toe with a strong Elida bunch. If Coldwater is playing well, it is tough to keep up with them.
The Big Matchup -- Chad Geier vs. Ross Stienecker.
Geier is coming off one of his best weekends in a Cavalier uniform. The senior guard had 19 against Minster on Friday and followed up with a 21-point effort against Elida on Saturday. Geier leads the Cavaliers in scoring with 14.4 points per game.
Stienecker hit a hot streak to start the second half to help the Rangers get a lead on Fort Recovery. Stienecker finished with 10 points with some nice mid-range jumpers.
Parkway at Marion Local
Both teams could use a pick-me up on Friday since both come in on a down note.
The Panthers have not played Jan. 4 thanks to the weekend being postponed due to ice both at Rockford and in Logan County with Ben Logan calling off the game.
Marion saw its modest three-game win streak snapped on Monday against Spencerville, who saw half its 50 points coming from the shooting of sophomore Logan Nourse.
Both teams will look to try and capitalize on the other's weaknesses. Marion is just starting to gel as a team after losing four starters and most of the scoring to graduation. The Flyers had 12 turnovers in the first half of Monday's game but trimmed it to five in the second half.
The Panthers need to find another regular solid scorer. With teams bearing down on Mark Snyder and his double-double output (14.3 ppg., 10.0 rpg.), another person in double figures will help take off the heat.
The Big Matchup -- Jordan Heckler vs. Ryan Stucke.
With Snyder providing 29 percent of the teams' scoring through seven game stats, Heckler will be called on to try and add some more scoring. the 6-2 junior is averaging 9.7 ppg. this season.
Stucke is looking to add some more scoring to help out the Flyers. Stucke had nine points in the loss to Spencerville on Monday.