By Gary R. Rasberry
With the boys basketball season winding down -- and nearly complete in the Southwest District -- postseason tuneups are underway for most teams in the area.
Big games, however, are still in good supply.
Two that stand out this week are the rematch from the Division III state title game from last season and a battle for first place in the MAC.
The state final rematch takes place at Redskins Gymnasium on Friday as Versailles faces St. Henry.
The last time the teams played was at the Schottenstein Center last March in what many called "MAC Day" with those two teams and Marion Local all playing for state titles on the same day. The Redskins avenged the regular season loss to the Tigers at the Schott, 61-49, for the state title.
Both teams have key players back from last year and both teams have had strong years.
The Redskins, however, have continued momentum that they started in the latter part of last season, losing just twice in 17 games this year and staying a half-game back of the top spot in the conference.
Versailles is 14-4 but has lost conference games to New Knoxville and Marion Local. With their postseason getting underway Feb. 17, the Tigers are focused on trying to peak before the first tourney game.
St. Henry had to deal with the multi-faceted scoring attack last year with Joe Shardo, Kyle Gehle and Ben Shappie. This year Shardo returns and has some strong scorers again with Adam Barga and Paul Borchers stepping up their game.
The Tigers will again have to deal with the size of the Redskins. With the starting frontline going 6-5, 6-5 and 6-9, holding the Redskins to one shot without any offensive rebounds is a key.
The Big Matchup -- Joe Shardo vs. Nate Stahl.
Both are counted on as the clutch shooters on their respective teams, and both have flourished in that role.
Shardo, who missed the state final meeting with the Redskins after tearing his ACL in the regional (Continued from page 1B)
final, is coming off a strong weekend that saw him hit for 27 points and five three-pointers in Friday's win over Parkway and 15 more in the loss to Marion. At 6-5, Shardo can bring a big presence inside but is a threat to throw up NBA-distance three-pointers if given any daylight.
Stahl is coming off a strong week that saw three 20-point showings against St. Marys, New Knoxville and Van Wert. Stahl has raised his average to 14.5 ppg. and has increased his three-point total to 36 on the season.
Minster at St. John's
Minster's shot at getting back to a share of the MAC lead hinges on this weekend with the trip to the Vatican -- Arnzen Gymnasium. The Wildcats are hoping to do something the Blue Jays were able to do last week, find a win at a place where success has been tough to find.
St. John's finally won a game at the Palace of Coldwater last week, snapping a seven-game skid in the 14 years the new Cavalier gym has been open for business. The Blue Jays' solid play earned the top seed at the very competitive Division III sectional at Elida.
Both teams boast a strong three-point shooting unit. Getting to the open man a second later than needed could spell deep trouble if a team gets the hot hand.
Minster will have to contend with the Blue Jays being slightly taller with players like Chad Reynolds and Kazz Bryan who can rebound and play solid inside.
St. John's must contend with a Minster defense that has a knack of getting turnover when needed. The Wildcats continue to lead the area with an average of 11.8 steals per game.
The Big Matchup -- Justin Spillers vs. Kazz Bryan.
Spillers is the only true big man for the Wildcats, a change from past teams. The 6-5 Spillers averages a solid 8.2 ppg. and leads the team with 6.2 rebounds per game.
Bryan has a solid bloodline. His father Tom was a star in the 1960s for Fort Recovery and later went to to play college ball at Nebraska and pro ball oversees, splits time at center with Matt Shumaker.
Bryan averages 15.3 minutes per game, scoring 4.8 points and pulling down 4.3 rebounds per game.
Celina at Wapakoneta
The Bulldogs are continuing their strong season after posting one of the most prolific shooting efforts over the weekend.
On Friday, they hit 14 threes in 17 tries in a 71-42 drubbing of Defiance then hit another 9-of-17 against Sidney on Saturday. More importantly, the Bulldogs kept a share of the WBL lead with the wins.
The Bulldogs will have a tough hurdle to cross with a Wapakoneta team that has played well since starting the season 0-5.
Brian Vorst's team is 8-8 now and has posted some big wins over teams like St. Henry and went the distance two weeks ago with WBL power Elida before falling in double overtime. Vorst has talked about being happy with the turnaround his team has made during the season.
Celina will need to be wary of the Redskins having several big shooters. The Bulldogs have done well in holding down shooters the past several games.
Wapak needs to keep a close eye on the arc. With the Bulldogs hitting 68 percent (23-of-34) from the three-point line the past two games, the hot streak may be just getting started.
The Big Matchup -- Austin McCormick vs. Eric Klosterman.
McCormick is the leading scorer on a balanced team. The 5-11, 165-pound senior was out for the first several games of the season with injury, which Vorst pointed out was a part of the rough start for the Redskins.
McCormick averages 13.5 points per game this season, hitting his average in last Friday's win over Bath.
Klosterman was 2-of-2 last Friday during the Bulldog barrage. Saturday, he took center stage hitting all six of his 19-9ers to score a season-high 22 points in the thrashing of Sidney.
The scoring of late has made him a double threat. In addition to his 8.1 ppg., Klosterman leads the Bulldogs in assists with three a game.
Bath at St. Marys
While Celina looks to keep its share of the WBL, St. Marys will do the same at McBroom in anticipation of a Battle of Grand Lake on Feb. 18 with the league considerations at stake.
The Roughriders bounced back from a loss to St. Henry -- with St. Henry hitting nearly 66 percent of its second half shots -- with a big win over Elida and Sidney between a close game with Greenville.
The Riders got the second seed at the Division II Lima sectional and will look to boost themselves up with a win over the Wildcats.
Bath played a close one against Wapak last week but has followed up with two wins over the weekend against Perry and Bryan. The Roughriders will need to be wary of the late-season charge and not be looking for the easy win.
The Big Matchup -- Jared Brackman vs. Adam Johns
The 6-4 Brackman is second on the team in rebounding at 6.7 boards per games and led the Wildcats last Friday with 13 points in the loss to Wapak.
Johns continues to impress in his sophomore season with the varsity. Johns averages 11.6 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game.
Coldwater at New Bremen
A win to break a long losing streak is one of the best motivaters a team can have.
The Cavaliers' 57-43 win over Jefferson last Saturday snapped a nine-game losing streak that saw the Cavaliers being in the lead for most games but losing the lead at one point. Last Friday the Cavs were nearly doubled up by St. John's, which seemed to fire the team up for Saturday.
The Cavaliers will need that fire to face a New Bremen team that has won two straight. The Cardinals will be playing on a short week after playing three games in four days over the weekend, going 2-1.
The renewed vigor in the Cavaliers should be a big concern for the Cardinals. With the MAC race out of sight for Coldwater, the chance to play spoiler and get ready for the tournament will have the Cavaliers ready to play.
The Cavs will need to keep the Cardinals off the foul line after a strong showing at the stripe on Monday. New Bremen made 16 straight in the fourth quarter and made 25 in 33 tries.
The Big Matchup -- Chad Geier vs. Allan Webster
Geier continues to be the steady scorer for the Cavaliers, averaging 11.1 points per game.
Webster is a solid player off coach Mike Ernst's bench. Webster had 11 points in the win over Marion on Monday and raised his average to 8.1 ppg.
New Knoxville at Marion Local
This series has been one of the most even matchups the last several seasons. The Rangers got the one-point win to end a Marion four-game winning streak. Before that, the Rangers were able to get some wins in the past at the Hangar.
With the Rangers looking to still build on some big wins of late over Versailles and Russia, Dan Hegemier's team has been playing strong getting ready to make an impact in the tournament.
Marion has struggled the last couple games. Save for Saturday's upset of Versailles, the Flyers had two bad games on Friday and Monday. Coach Keith Westrick had some frustration after Monday's loss to New Bremen. A win over a tough Ranger team would help in getting ready for another matchup with New Bremen in the sectional.
The Big Matchup -- Josh Niemeyer vs. Sam Schwieterman
Niemeyer has been solid at a guard spot for the Rangers. Over the past three games, Niemeyer scored 26 points as the Rangers went 2-1. Niemeyer's scoring average is now at 9.1 points per game.
Schwieterman may be getting more and more playing time on the varsity after a strong game on Monday.
The 6-2 sophomore, who has been splitting time between varsity and Bill Elking's unbeaten junior varsity team, scored six points and pulled down five boards in two quarters of action in the loss. Westrick may be looking to bring up Schwieterman for more minutes with the chance to get him more once the junior varsity season ends and the tournament begins.
Fort Recovery at Parkway
Fort Recovery wrapped up the second seed with the big win over New Bremen on Friday then promptly lost to Indiana rival Jay County the next night.
The Indians wrap up MAC play on Friday and a win would put them over .500 in the conference for the first time since the 2000-01 season when they went 5-3.
That, coincidentally, was the last time Parkway was over .500 in the MAC. Since then, the Panthers have won just three games in the conference and are looking for their first this season.
The Panthers have played well of late, losing by 10 to a tough Spencerville team and has been competitive. With most of the starting lineup expected to be back next season, a late surge into the playoffs could make for a great setup for the 2005-06 season.
The Big Matchup -- Greg Faller vs. Justin Hamrick
Faller is not the prototypical point guard at 5-8 and 200 pounds, but the running back/point guard has been solid for the Indians. The senior averages 4.9 points per game and is the team leader with 2.8 assists per game.
Hamrick has been getting more solid shots as the season has gone along. The junior averages 3.6 points per game and adds to the offense with 2.7 assists per game.