By Gary R. Rasberry
Even when the matchup comes indoors, the Backyard Battle is highly anticipated along Ohio 118.
The annual matchups between St. Henry and Coldwater are talked about by fans weeks before the game takes place.
The boy's basketball game takes place on Friday at the Palace in Coldwater. The 114th rendition is one of the most evenly matched contests, historically, as the Cavaliers hold a slight 57-56 edge in the series but St. Henry has been in control the past several seasons.
The teams come into the game on the heels of tough losses. St. Henry suffered just its second loss of the season to a Wapakoneta team -- that was 3-6 coming in -- and made eight three-pointers against them. Coldwater last played Saturday, where a strong middle two quarters, that saw the Cavaliers take the lead from Fort Loramie, ended up with a six-point loss when the Shelby County Redskins came back with a run of their own.
It's a battle of height versus speed when the teams meet. While the Redskins bring a starting lineup that goes no shorter than 6-2, the Cavaliers have a team that has one true post player around a group of outside shooters. The Redskins have worked their size in with quickness this season as the Redskins like to press, using 6-9 Kurt Huelsman at the front of the press rather than the typical position of the tallest player at the back of the press.
St. Henry saw a perimeter oriented team against Wapakoneta and that style of play on Tuesday should be a help against Coldwater. The Cavaliers have shot 46 three-pointers during the season, making a respectable 35 percent.
The Cavaliers will need to find a way to contain the inside dominance of the Redskins. Coldwater has just two players taller than 6-3 while the other starters will likely go 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 and 6-2.
One thing that could go the Cavaliers' way is rest time. Coldwater last played Saturday while the Redskins are starting their grueling run of games that were rescheduled due to the football playoffs. St. Henry will have a busy weekend with state-ranked Ansonia on the road Saturday, with three more games set for next week.
Home cooking will also help. Vogt is 22-12 at the Palace as Coldwater coach. St. Henry, though, has not lost at the Palace since the 1997-98 season when the Cavaliers won 61-56.
The Big Matchup -- Kurt Huelsman vs. Chad Miller.
Huelsman will likely see double-teams and collapsed defenses as soon as he gets anywhere near the ball. It's nothing new for the junior as most teams have tried to contain the 6-9 center this season with multiple defensive looks.
Despite being the focus of opponents, Huelsman leads a balanced scoring attack for the Redskins with 12.8 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Miller is playing the post spot with tenacity and great effort this season. The 6-5 senior has been able to score, averaging 8.9 ppg. while leading the team in assists at 1.7 assists per game. Miller will need to turn up the defense since it's likely he'll get the task of guarding Huelsman. Miller has been a strong defensive player since getting the callup to the varsity two years ago. This year, Miller is averaging 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.
Celina at Bath
Talk about a turnaround week for the Bulldogs. Celina went from the outside looking in to being right at the top after beating WBL co-leader Elida in a classic battle last Friday. That, along with St. Marys doing the same thing to unbeaten Van Wert a few miles down the road, put the Bulldogs back in the WBL title hunt. Six teams in the league are with one loss with Celina sharing the half-game lead with Ottawa-Glandorf at 3-1 in the WBL..
This week, the Bulldogs faceoff with a Bath team that isn't at the bottom of the league thanks to beating Kenton.
The Bulldogs got the big shot from Brandon Wurster, who had not made a shot the entire game before launching a three-pointer with 5.5 seconds left.
Celina's inexperience has played well in 2005 and especially down the stretch. The win over Elida marks the second straight game-winner in the last seconds for Celina. Aaron Braun was the hero of the game against Toledo Rogers with a lay-in at the buzzer.
On paper, it looks like Celina should win this game, but the Bulldogs know from their game on Monday against Kenton that every game in the WBL is a big matchup and that they must be ready to play each and every night.
The Big Matchup -- Seth Staugler vs. Brock Best.
Staugler is the type of player who can play bigger than his listed 5-7 frame and coach Mike Kanney has found a solid floor leader. Staugler averages 7.4 ppg., leads the team in steals with 1.5 picks per game and is coming off a game against Kenton where he scored a career-high 19 points.
Best has been a constant player for the Wildcats this season. If the game is close, the 6-0 junior is not the player to put on the line, having made all 17 of his free-throw attempts this season. Best is also a threat behind the three-point line, making 41.2 percent of his trey tries this season.
New Knoxville at Minster
The Wildcats are doing what they have been doing for years, playing well without a whole lot of fanfare and pizzaz. Minster is 9-2 and moved up in the state rankings thanks to beating previously unbeaten Versailles on Friday.
This week, however, Minster faces a New Knoxville team that has been on a tear, winning three straight, including convincing wins over Coldwater and Botkins over the weekend.
Ranger coach Dan Hegemier is no stranger to the Wildcats, having coached against Minster during his years at Fort Loramie. Minster won the game last year against New Knoxville, 58-52, but New Knoxville holds the series lead by a healthy 70-53 margin.
The Rangers will have to be aware of the Wildcats' speed on defense. With a smaller lineup than in the past, coach Mike Lee has utilized speed to control the game. Minster forces 12.5 steals per game on defense, leading to many easy offensive opportunities.
Minster should be wary of the Rangers' hot shooting and the difficult thing about containing the New Knoxville offense is that it's a very balanced team.
The Big Matchup -- Ross Stienecker vs. Jake Luttmer.
Stienecker has stepped up at key points all season. This weekend was no different as he scored 40 points over two games, including 23 in the blowout win over Botkins.
Luttmer has been one of the silent assasins for Lee this season. Averaging 8.9 ppg., Luttmer has been able to quietly hurt defenses with opponents usually focused on teammate and leading scorer Dane Sommer. Luttmer is coming off the weekend with a pair of double-digit games, including 14 to share the team lead in the win over Versailles.
Shawnee at St. Marys
Two Fridays ago, St. Marys was coming off its first loss and a drop from the top of the WBL.
A Friday later, they're back tied at the top of the title chase in the WBL, thanks in large part to Todd Graves' game-winning bunny with 0.8 seconds left to knock off previously unbeaten Van Wert at McBroom.
St. Marys gets a chance to stay near the top of the leaderboard when Shawnee comes to McBroom.
The Indians are not the team they have been the past couple of seasons, primarily because Jamar Butler is now running with the Buckeyes at Ohio State, but Shawnee is no doubt dangerous.
Marion Local and Ohio Northern star Nick Bertke moved up from the junior varsity to take over when Jeff Heistan stepped down to coach the Shawnee girls. The Indians are coming off a Tuesday night loss to Defiance, who is coming on strong with three straight wins.
The Big Matchup -- Jordan Swift vs. Tom Burke
Swift has taken over the leading role in the scoring department with Butler graduated. Swift scored 29 points as the Indians swept the weekend games with Wapakoneta and Toledo Woodward.
Burke returned to form on Saturday after getting held to five points by a tough Van Wert defense. Burke had 17 in Saturday's drubbing of Perry.
Marion Local at Fort Recovery
The Flyers continue to rebound from the uncharacteristic 0-3 start, going 5-1 since then and sweeping last weekend's games. Fort Recovery has also bounced back from a short losing streak before pounding Houston on Saturday.
The matchup between these two teams have been highlighted by some close battles over the years, especially last year's last-second win at the Hangar.
The Indians will need to take advantage of Marion not having a strong inside presence. With 6-5 Sean Kahlig and 6-2 Tyler Wuebker capable of scoring on the inside, the Tribe will need to continuously try to get the ball inside with Marion's matchup zone focused on the perimeter.
Even with Kahlig and Wuebker inside, Marion will need to still cover the outside well. With shooters like Clint and Dusty Tobe and Travis VanSkyock on the perimeter, the Flyers must be able to get to the shooter quickly preventing open looks. Last week the Flyers had trouble getting to Spencerville's Logan Nourse quickly, resulting in the Bearcat sophomore scoring 25 points.
The Big Matchup -- Kyle Moeder vs. Sean Kahlig.
Moeder will be looked upon to handle the rebounding and inside defense against the Indians. The 6-6 senior leads the team in rebounding at 5.5 boards per game and adds 8.5 points per game.
Kahlig has been the big player off the bench for the Tribe. Averaging 17 minutes per game, Kahlig slipped below double digits in scoring for the first time in awhile at 9.5 ppg. but maintains a strong 5.5 rpg. Kahlig remains one of the best shooters in the area with a field-goal percentage of 58.5 percent.
New Bremen at Versailles
Both teams dropped from the top spot in the MAC last week with losses. Now the teams meet to see who drops to third place in the conference.
Both teams rebounded with big wins over the weekend against non-conference foes, but the Cardinals needed the win to stop a two-game slide, winning in style over Covington.
New Bremen will need to overcome not being in its confines, a place that has been warm and cheery for them as the Cardinals are 4-0 at the Nest. Bus trips have not been as warming as the Cardinals lost two straight on the road before Saturday's win and are 3-2 away from New Bremen.
The Tigers are in need of a compliementary shooter to go with Joe Shardo. Last season, it was Kyle Gehle along with Ben Shappie who helped score when Shardo had a cold night. The Tigers are coming off a Monday loss to last year's regional final foe Maderia.
The Big Matchup -- Adam Barga vs. Troy Lammers
Barga came up with a big game on Saturday against Tri-Village, leading the Tigers with 20 points.
Lammers got a late start to the season in recovering from a football injury. The speedy Lammers has made up for it in the last six games, averaging 8.5 ppg.
St. John's at Parkway
The Blue Jays suffered the brunt of Van Wert's frsutration over losing on Friday during their game played at the Schottenstein Center. The Blue Jays had a tough night shooting and suffered a 13-point loss.
The Panthers come in on a high after picking up their second win of the season, marking the first time in three seasons that the Panthers will win more than one game in a season.
St. John's will need to recoup the losses from Saturday's game and face a Parkway team that has plenty of momentum and a hunger to get better.
The Big Matchup -- Matt Webb vs. Derik Snyder
Both players handle the offense for their teams, with one being a veteran leader and the other a bright spot for the future.
The senior Webb leads the Blue Jays in scoring at 15.5 ppg. and dishes out a team-high 3.2 apg.
Snyder is one of only a few freshman playing in the MAC, a tremendous feat considering the talent on each of the 10 teams in the league. Coach Rusty Allen has been careful in not letting Snyder put the brunt of the team on his shoulders and allowing him to get comfortable to the varsity game. Sndyer is averaging 6.1 ppg. and has dished out 1.7 apg. on a team where three players are averaging 2.5 or more assists a game.