By Gary R. Rasberry
It's been three years since Minster has been to the regionals, but it's been a little longer for St. Bernard-Elmwood Place.
The two teams finally get their return to the Sweet 16 tonight when the teams meet at approximately 8 p.m. at the University of Dayton Arena in the Division IV regional semifinals.
In the other semifinal, Lockland will play Cedarville. The two winners will play Friday night at 7:30 p.m. for a berth to the state final four.
The teams got to Dayton on different routes.
The Wildcats (19-4) have been playing strong all season, and beat Fort Recovery 52-48 on Friday at the Wapakoneta district final. The Titans entered the tournament with an 8-12 record but has advanced to the regional by beating teams from the Cincinnati area. On Friday, the Titans, with no player taller than 6-2, beat Ansonia, which featured 6-6 center Adam Barga, to make the regionals for the first time since 1974. The Titans last went to state in 1972, when they lost to Indian Valley South, which featured current University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, in the state semis.
St. Bernard's tallest player is 6-2 junior Aaron Byrd but that hasn't seemed to stop the Titans tournament run.
"They have quickness out front," said Minster coach Mike Lee. "That's the first thing that comes to you. Combine that quickness with the 5-to-7 players they play. I think they're a formidable team. At this stage (of the tournament) you don't overlook anybody. They just didn't get there by waltzing through."
Leading the way for the Titans is 5-10 senior Quincy Curry, who earned third-team All-Southwest District honors. Curry averaged 14.0 points per game this season and scored 12 in the Ansonia win.
Byrd provides the inside muscle for the team. Byrd scored 16 and pulled down eight rebounds against Ansonia.
Their defense in the district final against Barga, a first-team All-Southwest District selection, impressed Lee.
"Adam didn't get a whole lot of touches.," said Lee. "That's a credit to what they (St. Bernard) did. They shadowed basically. I think we'll see some similarities to what we saw (them do) against Ansonia in terms of a three-quarter court 2-2-1 press. They'll fall back into a zone."
Ben Haarman, who only became eligible after the start of the new year after transferring from Roger Bacon added 11 points in the district final and is scoring at a clip of 15 ppg. in the tournament. Also getting playing time this season is 5-10 Jay Ralston, 5-9 senior Doug Miller and 5-9 sophomore Tony Granger.