By Gary R. Rasberry
There's an old adage that suggests success breeds success.
With a number of football players from the Division II state runner-up team on the basketball team, the adage rings true in St. Marys.
Saturday night's thrilling 60-57 double-overtime win over Van Wert still has Roughrider fans talking around Auglaize County.
The excitement still has yet to subside for coach Josh Leslie.
"It was probably the best game I've ever seen or been involved in during high school," said Leslie. "The momentum of both teams -- the rise and fall, the ups and downs of the game -- it really was amazing." Now St. Marys (21-3) will have to be ready for the most difficult task it has faced this season if the team wants to make its first regional final since the state final four team of 1993.
Standing in the way is the top team in Division II as unbeaten Upper Sandusky (24-0) battles St. Marys at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at John F. Savage Hall on the campus of the University of Toledo.
The winner of the game plays Saturday at 3 p.m. against the winner of the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary/Parma Padua game. The SVSM-Parma game is being played on Wednesday at the Canton Fieldhouse.
The Rams won the Associated Press poll title in Division II and feature three 1,000-point scorers in the lineup on a team that isn't afraid to get up-and-down the floor at a frantic pace.
The big thing about the Rams is their full-court pressure. In 13 of the Rams' games this season, Upper Sandusky has scored 85 or more points, including a 111-62 win over Fostoria.
"They are a trapping, pressing, full-court man-to-man, trap you every sort of way team," said Leslie. "They bank on you folding under the pressure.
"It's not scoring from halfcourt sets. It's turnover-layup, turnover-three. That's what they want to do."
Not even the pressure defense of St. John's and Van Wert can compare to what Upper does with its defense.
"Pressure? Yes. Fullcourt pressure? No," said Leslie about what he has seen this season. "They gamble on every single pass. It's like St. John's or Van Wert where they lock in at you. They run 10 guys (starting five plus bench) at you. Organized chaos, basically.
"You can't go into the game saying you won't turn it over. It's a matter of breaking it, being as mentally tough as you can and making the layup and taking the shot when you can."
The big scorer is 6-6 sophomore Jon Diebler, one of two sons playing for coach Keith Diebler. Diebler was honorable mention All-Ohio as a freshman and reached the 1,000-point mark on his career already in averaging 24.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Diebler already has verbally committed to Valparaiso University
"He's not a post player," said Leslie. "He's a 6-6 guard."
Older brother Jake Diebler is just as potent. The 6-3 senior point guard -- who also is signed up to go to Valpo -- earned first team All-Northwest District honors as well as the Player of the Year award in averaging 18.8 points and 11.1 assists per game to go along with 7.8 rebounds.
The third threat is Greg Micheli. The 6-3 senior guard went over the 1,000-point mark on the season and is third on the team at 15.4 ppg. and six rebounds per game this season Micheli earning second team all-district honors this season.
Also a concern is Brock England. The junior had a career-high 14 points in the Rams' 93-68 win over Norwalk on Saturday at Ashland.
Preparing for what Upper has to offer is a tough task in practice.
"It's tough to simulate, because we don't have the legs they have," said Leslie. "There are things we can work on to get us prepared for that. What it comes down to is how tough will we be with the ball. If we're tough, we can be right there. If not, look at their other scores and see what happens."