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Western Reserve Rough Riders Boys' Basketball Schedule

(15-9,11-3)

 

 

 

12/2

Margaretta

51

@ Western Reserve

63

12/3

Oberlin Firelands

62

@ Western Reserve

58

12/9

Monroeville

40

@ Western Reserve

77

12/10

Keystone

53

@ Western Reserve

63

12/16

New London

66

@ Western Reserve

57

12/17

Mapleton

65

@ Western Reserve

73

12/20

Western Reserve

37

@ Sandusky Perkins

59

12/22

Western Reserve

54

@ Sandusky

70

12/30

Plymouth

35

@ Western Reserve

62

1/6

Western Reserve

60

@ Crestview

56

1/13

Norwalk St. Paul

56

@ Western Reserve

50

1/19

South Central

56

@ Western Reserve

58

1/21

Western Reserve

59

@ Monroeville

46

1/27

Western Reserve

60

@ New London

51

2/3

Western Reserve

46

@ Mapleton

54

2/4

Western Reserve

62

@ Plymouth

60

2/10

Crestview

46

@ Western Reserve

68

2/11

Western Reserve

42

@ Norwalk

51

2/17

Western Reserve

56

@ Norwalk St. Paul

51

2/18

Edison

51

@ Western Reserve

48

2/24

Western Reserve

62

@ South Central

51

3/3

Western Reserve

58

Willard

56

3/9

Western Reserve

36

Clear Fork

34

3/11

Edison

44

Western Reserve

35

 

 

     
   

Puder at the Buzzer Gives Western Win Over Clear Fork

   

          Dale Smith fed Colton Puder on the left block and he laid it in at the buzzer and Western Reserve edged Clear Fork (36-34) in the division three district semi-finals on Thursday night at Norwalk High School.

          They play Edison (15-9) for a district title on Saturday afternoon back at Norwalk.

          “I thought they really over collapsed on baseline penetration.  That is something we picked up on film.  Every week we will highlight a couple of things we think will work.  I guess it was good to save that one for the end.  We said, hey Dale, you have two reads and Dale made the perfect read.  Puder did the easy part,” said Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon.

          Clear Fork (7-17) played its best basketball in the tournament with wins over Galion and New London.  Coach Steven Bechtel says his kids gave great effort.  “Both teams just battled.  They just made one more play at the end and it just happened to be at the buzzer.  I couldn’t be prouder of the kids with the way they came out and battled every single possession and throughout the tournament and the season too.  Just picking up after a rough year and getting that momentum and carrying us to this position,” said Bechtel.

          Western Reserve, a team that normally relies on the three point shot made only 1-18 threes on the night.  Sheldon says they kept shooting them because that is what they are about.  “It was just a gutsy performance.  We didn’t let it bother us.  I told them at halftime we are getting good looks, we are good shooters, we have to be ready to stroke it, and keep hoisting it.  That’s what we do,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “You don’t get to the district championship game by changing colors.  The zebra has stripes and so do we and our stripe is the three point line.  It was key for us to just keep battling.”

          Puter’s was the only field goal scored by either team in what was a physical fourth quarter.  Clear Fork tied the game at (34-34) at the 4:46 mark of the fourth quarter on two free throws by Justice Rebman.  There were some missed shots, but there was some pretty good defense too for both teams.

          Smith led Western with nine points.  Rebman was the only player in the game in double figures with 10.

          Sheldon says Clear Fork beat them to a lot of the 50/50 plays in the fourth quarter, but his kids gave it all they had.  “I really thought in the fourth quarter they got more than us.  We were just fortunate they couldn’t make a basket either because we gave them a lot of second shot opportunities.  If we don’t clean that up Saturday we won’t be near as fortunate as we were (Thursday) night.  I thought our kids sold out and gave every once of sweat they could and poured their hearts out and we are just fortunate to have the ball last and hit a big bucket,” said Sheldon

          Clear Fork held a five point lead (28-23) with 4:37 in the third quarter on Brennan South’s field goal and a four point lead with 1:49 left in the third after two free throws by Jay Swinehart, but they couldn’t hold on.

          It is the second year in a row for a Western Reserve (15-8) and Edison (14-9) showdown in the district final.  Edison won last year (55-38) and they won a regular season game this year (51-48) on February 18.

“They have some really good players.  It starts with Roberts and Ostheimer and they have some really nice role players.  We had a heck of a battle three weeks ago that came down to the wire.  I am sure me and Kyle (Hammond) are expecting the same thing come Saturday night.  Their kids and going to play well and our kids are going to play well.  We’ll throw the ball up and at the end of 32 hopefully its good news for the Riders,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 3/10/17

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Western Reserve Respects Clear Fork and its Coach

  

          Western Reserve, the runner up in the Firelands Conference, faces Clear Fork, of the Ohio Cardinal Conference, Thursday night in the division three district semi finals at Norwalk High School.

          The Colts (7-16) blasted Firelands Conference champion New London (61-41) in the sectional final last Friday night.

          Western coach Chris Sheldon says the Colts have a lot of things that their defense will be forced to contain, including a couple of pretty good guards.  “It would be hard to argue that they aren’t playing the best basketball they have played all year long.  It starts with their two lead guards in South and Barnett, both of them have their strengths.  They can both score the ball in a multitude of ways.  The thing that impresses me right now they can put four or five guys on the floor almost at all times that can all score the ball in some capacity whether it be three point line or off the bounce and some guys in the low post that can present some problems as well with their size and athleticism,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “When you are looking at playing teams you are looking for things that you can try to exploit when you are trying to guard them.  Right now, that is the biggest threat that they present to us is they can put five guys on the floor that can all doing something productively at the offensive end.  That is going to make our ability to guard them that much more difficult.  Not just to hold down South and Barnett, but also making sure we are getting in their shooters, keeping their bigs off the glass and really trying to limit their slashers as well.”

          Sheldon also took issue with the fact that Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel was informed last month that his contract as coach would not be renewed.  “I hear last month that the community and board of education doesn’t think coach Bechtel is good enough to be their coach.  It boggles my mind because I watched this same team a year ago and to see the growth in them as players that is all you can ask for from a basketball coach.  To drop a bombshell on that program is even more of a credit to coach Bechtel and their staff.  To be able to rally these kids for all of the right reasons I am just impressed.  If you are a Clear Fork board member or a community member I can say two things to you your team is good enough to win the district tournament and that is a credit to your coaching staff.  If you don’t think that is the case I would tell you there is a drug epidemic in this society right now so you might want to seek out rehabilitation because you may be high or there are psychiatric services in the Mansfield area and you should dial one up,” said Sheldon.

          Clear Fork plays a much tougher schedule then does Western Reserve (14-8) and Sheldon says they are used to playing against better athletes than the Roughriders have.  “The two things that stick out to me are number one when you are used to playing bigger, stronger more athletic teams like they do compared to what we do in a night to night basis it really makes you have to work on guarding on ball even that much more affectively.  They are probably at a disadvantage with their schedule being their size school most nights from an athletic standpoint.  I think it improves their ability to guard number one and number two we traditionally, and it has been no different this year, we like to guard people baseline to baseline, especially in our man to man.  I think our man to man full court is not going to have near the effectiveness or look as intimidating maybe as it has for most of the opponents that we play because they are used to getting picked up by Senior High and Wooster and Madison and all of these athletes that are way more intimidating then us country bumpkins that I think gives them an advantage from that standpoint with who they have played and how it could possibly impact the game come (Thusday) night,” Sheldon said.

          Western Reserve advanced to the district final a year ago, losing to Edison, and Sheldon admits they do have an experience advantage.   “We do have four, three year varsity letter winners that have played in a district championship game, that have been in quite a few tournament basketball games in their career and their kids haven’t.  I really think after three, four minutes go buy in a game that is sort of out of the window.  I think at that point the jitters have worn off.  I think where it gives us the advantage is we understand what the natural routine is for this week and it helps calm our nerves a little bit more because we have been in that situation,” he said.

 

Published 3/09/17

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Western Reserve Faces Something Different

  

          Western Reserve and Willard lock horns in the division three sectional final at Shelby High School on Friday night.

           For the Roughriders (13-8) it is going to be something a little different.

They finished as runners-up in the Firelands Conference this season after downing South Central (62-51) last Friday night.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says he thought last week was pretty good preparation for this week.  “I thought we played fairly well and made some really big plays as the game went on.  We tended to make plays in a tournament style game.  It was physical with two competitive teams going at each other.  All of the things that you typically see in tournament games in March I thought we did fairly well in that basketball game and that is something we can hopefully build on as the calendar turns to March and tournament time,” he said.

          The Roughriders played in the district final last year and Sheldon says really they have a lot of good experience when it comes to the second season. “We have four guys in the lineup that are three year letter winners that have played in the tournament since they were sophomores and one since he was a freshman.  That is something that hopefully we can use to our advantage just from calming the nerves and understanding the moment as big as it may be at times it really isn’t a life or death situation and you are going to be fine regardless of what happens at the end of the night.  Hopefully those veterans for us can establish the tone that way some of our younger guys who are going to get their feet wet can just relax and go play,” said Sheldon.

          Willard (3-19) comes out of the Northern Ohio League where they are the smallest school.  Sheldon says the Flashes are bigger than them, are very competitive and do some different things on defense.  “I told our guys we don’t judge people based on their record because I don’t know how much better our record might be if we played that same schedule.  The thing that obviously stands out about them is their length.  They have some really long, tall players, which is the direct opposite from us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They play a style of basketball that is different than what we are used to playing in and the way they use some of their defensive coverages is different that a lot of teams that we play, so that is going to be an adjustment for us.  They are extremely competitive and get after you and really compete every possession.  We have to be able to match their competitiveness.  Those are the three things that really stand out to me.”

          Sheldon says the Flashes have some players that have good talent and will be a challenge for them. “Getting into their personnel more specifically, Cofer, Daub, Baldridge, all three of those kids have really impressed me.  The Bailey kid is a nice player and has gained confidence as the year has gone on.  So, they have some guys that definitely concern us and scare us, but like any game we have to go in and do what we focus on as a basketball team and individuals.  We have our assignments and our job is to go try and do those assignments to the best of our ability.  If we do that I think we can be competitive and give ourselves a chance to win,” he said.

 

Published 3/01/17

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Western Reserve Must Take Care of Business

  

          Western Reserve is hoping Plymouth can help them out on Friday night, but if they don’t win at South Central that won’t mean anything.

          New London leads the Roughriders and Norwalk St. Paul by a game in the Firelands Conference standings heading into the final Friday.  New London plays Plymouth and St. Paul plays Mapleton.

          The Roughriders (12-8,10-3) gave themselves a chance with a (56-51) win over St. Paul last Friday, erasing a five point fourth quarter deficit. 

          They then lost a tough one to Edison (51-48) on Saturday night in non-league play. 

          Coach Chris Sheldon says the difference between Friday and Saturday was they just couldn’t make the big shot against the Chargers.  “We played pretty well and had the lead the whole game and it sort of a little bit of a role reversal form Friday night.  We did a lot of things well, but the difference between Friday and Saturday was Friday night with the game on the line we made a couple of more shots and that was the difference in the game.  Saturday night again we did some great things, but just were unable to make the big shot down the stretch even when we had the lead with three minuets to go and they did and that was just the difference in the outcome of the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “In those type of situations you look at the small things.  Typically those little small things then add up.  When you make shots it covers up for some of those mistakes.  Unfortunately for us Saturday we just didn’t make enough shots in the last three minutes.”

          The division three district tournament begins next week and Western plays Willard on March 3 in Shelby.

          Sheldon says they must start finishing shots better, especially those in the lane.  “We have done those things fairly well.  This is the first loss that we have had this year we actually didn’t shoot the 20 percents on Saturday night.  We made 10 threes and shot 41 percent from behind the line and typically when we do that we are successful.  There were a couple of plays in the lane if we could have back and finish some shots in the lane that is the difference in a win.  In March that is the difference from moving on and going home for the rest of the year.  That is the challenge we have as we move forward.  That is what I told my guys we are going to see we did some really good things on film we just have to finish plays when the game is on the line if you want beat good teams and we weren’t able to do that,” said Sheldon.

          It is a trip to South Central (13-8,8-5) for the Roughriders on Friday night.  They won (58-56) in the first game and Sheldon expects this one to go down to the wire too.  “I think so much our style and their style mimic each other in a lot of ways, especially offensively.  I think the key for the game for both of us is which team is able to knock down threes and which team is able to make some easy baskets in the lane and at the end of the day on the flip side who can get that big stop and who can make life uncomfortable for each other.  That was sort of how that first game went back in January and I don’t expect much different coming into this Friday night,” said Sheldon.

          As far as the conference title goes, Sheldon says they have to do their part of nothing else matters.  “That is sort of what we have shared with our guys even as early as Saturday night is we have to go take care of business and we have got a heck of a task on our hands.  The biggest thing I told our guys is let’s go out and play and try and compete for a league title and we will just see at the end of the night where we stand, but if we don’t take care of business Friday it doesn’t matter,” he said.

 

Published 2/22/17

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Western Reserve With a Chance

  

          Western Reserve has put itself in position to get back into a share of first place in the Firelands Conference.  They need to beat co-leader Norwalk St. Paul and have Mapleton upset the other co-leader in New London.

          Last week, the Roughriders blasted Crestview (68-46) in a conference game on Friday night to keep themselves in position in the conference and lost to Norwalk (51-42) in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they weren’t aggressive enough on Saturday night and they need to learn from that.  “Our effort was good.  The difference was that we went through early this week with our kids.  Friday night I thought we were aggressive on both ends of the floor.  We were the ones that were setting the tone with our attacking both offensively and defensively.  Saturday night I thought it was a role reversal.  We were way more timid than they were and we settled.  We settled for jump shots and were a couple of steps late on defensive rotations rather than attacking dribblers.  I thought that was the real reason we won Friday and lost Saturday,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “On top of it Saturday we only shot 26 percent from the floor and when you are playing a decent basketball team I don’t care who you play when you shoot 26 percent from the floor you are not going to win many games.  I think that was we were not as aggressive as we need to be and not attacking on the offensive end.  Good weekend, but not great weekend. We have to learn from those mistakes on Saturday night and not let that happen as we play two very good basketball teams again this week.”

          Western Reserve (11-7,9-3) plays at Norwalk St. Paul (15-4,10-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Friday night.  The Flyers were (56-50) winners on January 13 when they played at Western.  St. Paul beat New London (42-40) last Friday to move into a share of the lead with the Wildcats and move Western back into the race.

          Sheldon says St. Paul wants to play slower than then and tempo is going to be a factor in this game.  “It is just a contrast in styles on Friday night.  They are very big, long and lengthy.  With everything that has unfolded we are predominately five guards most of the night on the floor.  I think the game is going to come down to whose style is more successful and who is able to dictate the tempo.  Whether we play at our pace of theirs.  I think that is going to be one of the key deciding factors of the evening,” he said.

          It is at least possible that last year’s Firelands Conference Player of the Year Jaret Griffith will return for the Roughriders.  Sheldon knows that will help them it is just a matter of how much.  “The positive of Jaret being out for this long over the last two months has really allowed other guys to step into roles and raise the level of their play.  We have had two guys do that consistently for us here over the last month and half.  The second part is we have had some other guys show signs.  Those guys have got to continue as Jaret tries to acclimate into the program.  Our other guys have to maintain where they are at.  At the same token when Jaret is finally able to play in a game as he has started to join us in practice everybody has got the understand when you take eight, nine weeks off rehabilitating from an injury it is going to take some time.  He is going to have to knock off some rust and feel his way through the games.  Once he is able to do that.  Once we do get him back in whatever form, shape and size he comes in it gives us another bullet with all of the bullets we have lost out of the chamber here over the last eight to nine weeks we could use some reinforcements at this time of year,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/16/17

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Western Reserve Thinking About Tournament

  

          Western Reserve trails New London by two games with three games left to play on the Firelands Conference schedule.

          They play at home against Crestview in a conference game on Friday.

          Although they are not eliminated from the race, coach Chris Sheldon says their focus needs to be on becoming a better basketball team and not the conference race.  “Obviously the probabilities right now continue to shrink.  I told our kids frankly that has to be the farthest thing from our minds at this point.  Where we are today as a basketball team is where a lot of teams are at this point in the year just trying to get better and trying to get to the point where you are playing your best basketball heading into the final weeks of the season so you are ready to go tournament time.  Last week was unfortunately a total role reversal to what it was the week before.  We had a lot of illness and we lost two key contributors in a starting wing player and a post player off the bench.  With a team that has already sort of been hurt by injuries now it is three of our top eight are done,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “I told our kids right now it is just a testament to who we are as people and how we respond.  That is our challenge right now to get better.  The positive from Saturday was we had two sophomores on the floor that really rose to the occasion, especially when the second half continued to be a tight ballgame.  With some of our big guns down now they are going to have to continue to gain in confidence and continue to play well if we want to have a successful end of the year.”

          At the beginning season the Roughriders were probably considered to be the conference favorites, but it has been a season hurt by injuries.  Sheldon says the players have to learn from this.  “High school coaches say all of the time the great thing about extra-circulars is that is helps young men prepare for life.  Not everyday is going to be fair, not everyday is going to be successful, but you get up that day and try make positive strides to be a better person and this case a better basketball player.  When you look at our district tournament there are some good basketball teams, but there probably is not the dominate basketball team that there has been in year’s past.  I said to one coach that out of the 10 teams there are six teams that could probably win our district tournament.  It is just a matter of who gets hot at the right time.  I think even though we have had a substantial step back we are still a basketball team with enough good basketball players that in that 10 day window a lot of things could go well for us and that has got to be where our goal is,” said Sheldon.

          Western (10-6,8-3) entertains Crestview (8-9,5-6) on Friday night.  They play Norwalk (4-13) of the “NOL” on Saturday night in a non-conference game.

          Crestview nearly beat second place Norwalk St. Paul last Saturday before losing (47-40) in the end.  It was overtime the first time the Roughriders and the Cougars played with Western winning (60-56) on January 6.

          Sheldon says the key in playing sound defense.  “Two weeks ago they get beat substantially and then last week they lead most of the game against Norwalk St. Paul and they get beat by 15 on Friday night by Plymouth.  I think when you play a team like that is starts with how you guard Stevens.  He got going pretty early against St. Paul on Saturday night and he has got to be our focus.  They have the Leaper kid back that had a good game as well.  I think that is the big key for us is how you guard those two guards.  When you play a team that has been up and down you can’t let them gain confidence.  You do that by how you guard people and what kind of pressure you put on in rotating and executing the game plan.  If they gain confidence they are a very good basketball team and that is going to critical for us going into Friday night,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/10/17

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Western Needs Defense on the Road

  

          With some sickness on the team, Western Reserve is going to need to rely on defense as they travel to Mapleton and Plymouth for Firelands Conference games on Friday and Saturday nights.

          Western made things a lot more interesting when they took down conference leader New London (60-51) to climb within a game of the Wildcats.  Norwalk St. Paul shares second with Roughriders in what has developed into a three team race.

          After the big win last Friday, coach Chris Sheldon says they kind of got kicked in face, or a little lower, buy sickness.  “Now you can see there being the possibility of an opportunity to maybe get back in the hunt here for a league championship.  We understand that.  The biggest thing is we have another tough one on Friday.  Mapleton is two extremely good basketball players in Berone and Davis.  They have some really nice complementary pieces to go along with them.  It is at their place, which is never easy to play.  We know we are in for a dogfight,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “As great as last week was for us it is almost like we have had a little reality check this week as two of our starting wing players have been out all week with illness.  A guard off the bench has been diagnosed with mono.  We are sitting here scratching our heads when we already don’t have Jaret Griffith on how we are going to go in and compete.  The one thing that I know is I have a bunch of resilient kids that are going to go in an battle.”

          Defense has been a cornerstone of the successful Western Reserve program and Sheldon says they are going to need a lot of that at Mapleton (9-7,3-6) and Plymouth (2-13,1-8) this weekend.  “Especially when you maybe without the offensive punch that you normally have.  You are asking some of those kids that maybe are a little more inexperienced to step in and play some of those roles.  They are going to have some jitters to say the least.  You can’t expect them to have the same offensive output as maybe some of the guys that they may have to step in for.  So, you have to be able to rely on defense.  At this point it is going to be a great challenge for us, but it is way the cards have been dealt and there is nothing we can do about it but go play and compete,” he said.

          With the win last week the race is on again, but Sheldon says they know they can’t afford to slip up any more and stay in it.  “Especially in February, we know that.  The one thing we also knew going into this is in the first round six of our seven games were home, well now we are on the back side of that and six of the seven are on the road, which makes it even more of a challenge. We tell guys that offense doesn’t always travel, but defense does.  That has got to be our motto and our expectation going into these two games that we know are going to be highly contested games for us on the road.  At the end of the day we have put ourselves in a spot to continue to compete. I told our guys let’s just go out and see what happens and see if we can still be standing here after another week in February,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/03/17

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A Must Win For Western

  

          If Western Reserve is to have any chance to be in the mix for the Firelands Conference title this year they have to win at first place New London on Friday night.

          They trail the Wildcats by two.

          They were in the same position last week and they beat South Central (58-56) and Monroeville (59-46) to keep pace.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they did what they needed to do and that’s what counts.  “We knew that last week coming off the St. Paul loss that we were in the position that we had no choice but to win and we couldn’t have any missteps or mishaps.  We knew it was going to require us to get two “w’s” and we were able to do that.  The South Central game we played well and got some timely shots when we needed them.  Saturday night we did what we had to do.  It was definitely not one of our cleanest games from an offensive standpoint, but it was exactly what we needed to do to go on the road and get a “w” and we did that.  It puts us in the line with basically the season on the line with our hopes and aspirations on the line so we know it is do or die,” he said.

          New London’s senior Ryan Lane scored his 1,000th career point in a (70-42) win over Crestview last Saturday.  Sheldon says not only does he score, but he makes those around him better.  “He requires so much attention.  The two things that you notice about him is how many rebounds he gets a game and the easy baskets he gets his teammates by making the right pass.  It is rare when you watch the kid play and he takes two or three bad shots, it just doesn’t happen.  He makes the right play every time down.  That makes them that much more dangerous because besides scoring the ball he just makes his teammates better,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Then when you look at their roster what really hurt us the first time around was how well the other guards shot it around him.  Woodmancy hit five threes, Howell hit a couple of threes and so did Gerlak.  It is hard enough to guard him, but then when you put three guys around him that shoot the basketball at that high a rate that is the challenge we face this week.  We have to figure out how to tighten our coverages and make our defensive rotations quicker so they can’t get as clean a look.”

          New London (12-2,8-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat the Roughriders (8-5,6-2) by a (66-57) count on December 16.  Sheldon reminds that was a game where Jaret Griffith was in the lineup.  He is not expected to play on Friday.  “You want to talk about a concern.  The first time around we had Jaret (Griffith) and he scored 20 some points and we are really, really efficient offensively and now we don’t have him and they beat us the first time around.  We are going to have to be that much more efficient.  They do so many things well defensively.  They don’t give a lot of clean looks.  It seems their coverages are really good in recovery areas and getting to shooters and making them take contested shots and then they guard on ball fairly well.  We have seen some things that maybe we are going to try and exploit this time, but at the end of the day we have to go and play aggressively offensively and we have to knock down some shots and make some plays.  If you are going to beat a good team you have to have some guys step up and that is our challenge this week,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/24/17

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Roughriders Edge South Central

   

          Colton Puter’s three pointer that bounced on the rim four times before falling through with 17 seconds remaining lifted the Western Reserve Roughriders to a (58-56) win over South Central on Thursday night in Firelands Conference action.

          That keeps Western (7-5,5-2) two games behind conference leading New London, who beat Plymouth (63-46) on Thursday, and drops the Trojans (7-5,4-3) three games back.

          South Central had taken a (56-55) lead on Jason Hale’s hoop with 42 seconds left.

          After the Puter three, South Central coach Brett Seidel called a time out with nine seconds left to set up a final play.  Ben Lamereaux’s three from the right wing was in an out, but was rebounded by Michael Ponchel and he was fouled with .9 seconds.  Needing make both free throws he missed the first and purposely missed the second, but the Trojans were unable to get a tip in.

          Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon says they persevered and that is what you have to do this year in the Firelands Conference.  “That is what our league has become this year to be honest with you.  Even in our two league losses they have come down to the last minute and really our overtime win with Crestview the same way.  It comes down to which guys are going to make the play and the last play.  The greatest thing about Colton hitting that big three was you preach to kids all of the time stay in the moment, stay in the game, he is obviously out best player right now on the floor, but he was hampered with foul trouble all night.  It is really easy for guys in those situations to sulk, to lose sight of what their goal is, what their purpose is on the bench, and stay mentally tuned into the game.  He came in and gave us four great minutes with four fouls and hits a big shot and we are fortunate enough to escape with their good player missing a free throw,” said Sheldon.

          Tyler Bartlett led all scorers with 18 for the Roughriders.  Cody Palmer added 16 and Dale Smith had 10.  Freshman Simon Blair led South Central with 13, Lamereaux had 11 and Ponchel 10.

          South Central was down as many as 10 in the first half (30-20,) but the battle back to take a (45-44) lead on Blair’s three with 6:15 left and again with 1:47 left (54-53) Lamereaux’s three.

          Seidel says Western made some big shots and they made too many mistakes.  “To be honest with you I just thought they shot it well.  That is my honest opinion.  I didn’t think we rebounded the ball very well in the second half.  They got a lot of second shots.  We had a lot of careless turnovers.  I thought our shot selection was suspect at times.  Credit them I thought they shot the ball really well (Thursday) night.  I have about every film on them and they shot it well, so credit Chris.  I thought they did a nice job of taking Simon (Blair) away in the first half.  In the second half they didn’t allow us to run anything, so we stuck with motion and our transition and felt like that was somewhat affective.  I thought we got to the rim.  We got to the front of the rim as much as we wanted to, but they made one more play that is what it came down to, they made one more play than us,” said Seidel.

          Five different Roughriders made threes on the night and Sheldon says his team has to make perimeter shots to win games.  “That is sort of what we do.  We don’t have a big hog that we can throw the ball down into the post to.  What we are affective doing is shooting the three and (Thursday) night we shot it fairly well and we hit big ones at the right time.  I think the thing that pleases me the most is we have had some guys go through some slumps here and there, but its still looks to me like we are shooting the ball with confidence and that speaks volumes on just how mentally tough we are at this point,” he said.

          Western Reserve was successful in taking South Central out of lot they wanted to do on offense.  Sheldon says they game them a lot of different looks.   “I think when we were able to get our lead we got a lot of deflections on the basketball with our pressure and the different looks we were giving them.  That was really, really affective for us, especially in that second quarter when we extended the lead.  They came right out, as good teams do, and made a run right back at us to start the third.  We did for the most part make them take tough shots unfortunately there were some moments in there where we had some really poor defensive possessions,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “More importantly having a four point lead and the ball with two minutes to go and not able to close them out with veteran guys on the floor.  The great thing is we made those two mistakes and we were still able to come away with a win.  Hopefully we can learn from that and improve on that and we are going to have to because this isn’t going to be the last one.  This first round has just been a meat grinder and we start back over Saturday night and it is going to continue to be that way coming down the stretch here,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/20/17

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Western Knows the Deal

  

          Western Reserve plays host to South Central in a game that determines who stays in the Firelands Conference race and who does not on Thursday night in suburban Collins.

          Last Friday, the Roughriders fell into a share of second place in the conference when they lost to Norwalk St. Paul (56-50) in game where they shot just over 30 percent from the field.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they just couldn’t make enough shots.  “It was a game of momentum.  They were able to get the most of it in the fourth quarter.  We were able to get up eight midway through the second quarter and let that lead slip away by halftime with some breakdowns we had offensively and defensively for them to cut it to three.  They come out first possession and hit a three to tie it up and we proceed to score only seven points in the third quarter.  They took a nice little lead going into the fourth and extended it in the fourth all of the way up to 12 before we were ready to make a run to get back in it.  I thought our kids kept competing and kept trying to execute our game plan.  We did a pretty decent job defensively we just forgot to make shots.  We came all of the way back to cut it to two with 1:20 to go and they hit another big bucket and we didn’t have an answer and that was the ballgame.  They shoot 60 percent from the floor and we shoot 32.  You just aren’t going to win many games when the numbers look like that.  We pointed out about eight or nine different things that were key possessions in a basketball game that could have determined the outcome of the game that had nothing to do with missed shots.  Those are the areas that we have to get cleaned up,” said Sheldon.

          Western Reserve (6-5,4-2) plays at home against South Central (7-4,4-2) on Thursday night.  Sheldon says like their records the teams are pretty similar in what they do on offense.  “We are pretty similar in a lot of ways.  Both teams only have one true post player and a lot of guys that like to create off the bounce and shoot the three.  So, our styles are fairly similar from an offensive standpoint.  I think we both have some guys that can be explosive at times.  I think both of our issues have been consistency night in and night out against good teams.  That is why we both sit at 4-2 in the league and it should be a great match-up,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It is basically do or die for both of us.  Whoever looses this basketball game basically puts sharing a league title or winning a league title out of reach with New London sitting there undefeated the first time through.  So, there is a lot on the line for both of us from that regard and on top of it both of us trying to add to our resume of being a good basketball team.  Something both of us are really still in search of and that is going to be critical going into the game.”

          You can never really predict what is going to happen, especially when it involves teenagers.  However, Sheldon says you would have to believe the loser of this game is out of the conference race.  “If you look at the fact that of three teams that are chasing them us, South Central, and St. Paul they get two of the three of us at their place.  To sit there and say they might lose three games I think is a far stretch.  Could they lose two with as competitive as our league is?  I don’t think that is out of the realm of believing that is a possibility.  Our kids and Brett’s kids both know this is a do of die and you have to win if you want to stay in this thing.  Otherwise you are looking to rearrange your goals for the remainder of the year.  I just told our guys it is what it is.  We put ourselves in this situation and we can’t change the past we can only control that night.  We have to go out and play with great effort, energy, and focus in trying to execute our game plan and what we are going to try and do,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/18/17

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Western Reserve Knows What it has to do

  

          Western Reserve hosts Norwalk St. Paul in another key game in the Firelands Conference on Friday night.

          Currently, Western trails conference leader New London by a game in the conference standings.

          They beat Crestview (60-56) in overtime last week to keep themselves right in the thick of things. 

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they were able to make the big plays in the end.  “I hope in a month and a half we can look back on that and say that was pivotal for us.  I think in the meantime right now it just continues to reinforce for us and for our kids that every possession matters and most games in our league right now are going to come down to the wire.  Teams that can execute and get stops are going to be teams that put themselves in position to take care of business and come out on top.  I don’t expect it to be any different this Friday.  That is sort of the mindset that we have to play with so we can build on that momentum from last week,” he said.

          They have been forced to play the last couple games, and likely for a while longer, without leading scorer Jaret Griffith.  Sheldon says they have made only minor changes to their offensive approach.  “I would say not really.  Obviously you add a wrinkle here or there.  Some of those wrinkles and for Jaret to be the number one option and those get moved and put on some different guys.  With the game on the line and we want to run a little set here or there we know we have to put the ball in the best guys hands.  That is the only adjustment from an offensive standpoint.  All year long even with him there we still had close to four guys averaging double figures.  We have always emphasized a balanced offensive attack,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Obviously that is the hardest to guard.  When you have guy that scores at a little higher rate than the others, so now we have to continue to focus on sharing the basketball and guys having aggressive mindsets offensively.  That is still key for us and that hasn’t changed.”

          Western Reserve (6-4,4-1) entertains Norwalk St. Paul (5-3,3-2) in a crucial conference game on Friday night.  St. Paul beat South Central (53-37) on Wednesday night to stay in the race.

          Sheldon says with their height when they start to make outside shots they become a very dangerous team.  “I know Smitty has talked about them struggling to make perimeter jump shots and that was probably the difference in the basketball game is they made quite a few (Wednesday.)  When they start making perimeter jump shots with their inside scoring ability already they become that much more dangerous as a basketball team.  So, we have got our hands full with them coming off a big win and having even more confidence.  I think that is the thing about our league right now is it is a grind and we are going find out which team is mentally ready and up to the challenge.  I think our guys understand that or at least starting to.  This thing is far from over and you have to give everybody your best shot and that all starts with your mental preparation and your ability to mentally execute during the game,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/13/17

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Western Must Continue to Improve on Defense

  

          Western Reserve stepped it up on defense last week in a win over Plymouth and they have to continue to do that this week when they travel to Crestview for a Firelands Conference game on Friday night.

          In a (62-35) win over Plymouth last week, coach Chris Sheldon thought that was their best defense performance of the season.  “It was by far our best defensive execution in a basketball game to date. Some of that had to do with them having a couple of guys banged up in their best ball handler and their best scorer, but you still have to go out an play the guys that are on the floor.  I thought with the exception of about four or five possessions it was our highest rated defensive performance to date.  Not just in our execution, but in our effort and our mental fortitude of going in and not having mental breakdown, after mental breakdown, after mental breakdown on the defensive end which has happened on several occasions.  That was the plus that we take away and now we have to carry it to this week and try to continue to build on that,” he said.

          Western Reserve (5-4,3-1) plays at Crestview (6-2.3-1) in a conference match-up on Friday night,  They share second place in the league.  The Cougars got a big win at the buzzer last week over Norwalk St. Paul.

          Sheldon says the Cougars play very hard.  “It all starts around Stevens who is a very, very good basketball player and then they surround him with some very good athletes.  I think the thing that has stuck out to me about them is how hard they compete.  They do a lot of little things well in terms of that energy that they play with and how well they guard and how active they are on the glass and how much they can turn you over with just simple man to man pressure,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “All of those things are just equated to just how hard you play and the energy you play with.  I think if we don’t match that energy then we are in trouble.  Number two, we have to be able to go in and defend on the road now like we did last weekend.  By the same token we have to shoot the ball a little better than we have.  You can’t go out on the road and play a good basketball team and not bring both your offensive and defensive game or else you are going to find yourself walking out of that gym with a loss.”

          Crestview tends to score points in bunches and Sheldon says to stop that you must limit your turnovers.  “I think they do that by turning you over with their man pressure, getting you to play faster than you want to play.  How they guard there in the half court.  If you can take care of the basketball and really execute what you are trying to run you are going to limit those offensive run outs for them that are created by their defense.  That is a key for us and we have to go in and do that.  That is something they did a year ago and they have continued to carry into this year.  If you limit those mistakes and turnovers you are going to minimize their opportunities to score easy buckets in transition off of bad basketball plays at the offensive end,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/04/17

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Western Must Build

  

          Western Reserve after playing two games against bigger schools with a lot talent returns to action in the Firelands Conference Friday when they host the Plymouth Big Red.

          The Roughriders lost last week to Sandusky Perkins (59-37) and Sandusky (70-54) in non-conference play. 

          Coach Chris Sheldon believes they turned in a much better effort against Sandusky last Thursday and that is something they can build on.  “We went over there wanting to play against an athletic basketball team and that’s what we got.  We had a one point lead with a little over two minutes to go in the third.  We cut it down to five early in the fourth with about six minutes to play.  We went back to back where we fouled their best player on a jump shot and he goes to the line and makes all five free throws.  We come down and got good looks and just missed them.  If we get a stop there maybe that outcome could have been different.  The positive is we did compete after not competing on Tuesday night.  We did not rise up to the challenge against Perkins.  They are a good team, but we made them look outstanding.  We looked like we didn’t want any part of it.  That is something we have to continue to build on,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We have to compete whether we are playing good athletic teams or we are playing smaller school teams that are in our league.  Here for the next month we are back in our league and our focus is to get better and compete in and win basketball games.”

          Plymouth (1-6,0-3) plays at Western Reserve (4-4,2-1) on Friday night.  The Big Red got leveled on Tuesday night by Colonel Crawford (87-46,) a team coach by Sheldon’s brother David.

          Chris Sheldon says Plymouth has some guys on their team that can make plays.  “They have a substantial amount of talented players back and yet they are still young.  With exception of (Tuesday) night against Colonel Crawford they have been in every ball game no matter who they have played.  (Tuesday) is the first time they got blown out there in the second half.  They have only won one game they are not a team you can overlook.  They have a number of shooters, a number of athletic drivers.  We have to be able to get to their shooters and contain their driver’s penetration.  At the same token we have to come out and continue to build on some of the things we are trying to do to execute offensively which we haven’t done consistently over the last four or five games.  It has been nice to have four days of practice this week in preparation for this Friday,” said Sheldon.

          Plymouth likely will finish in the bottom half of the league standings, plus Sheldon says they are at home and that means a must win.  “You have to win at home.  If you are going to win a league title you have to win at home.  Unfortunately we have already lost one at home and we can’t afford to drop another league game no matter who we are playing at home.  That is something that we understand. We have to be committed to focusing on the only team we play on that night and that is Plymouth.  They have to get our 100 percent effort and attention.  That is the big thing we have been harping on.  The other thing is we have lost three of four.  We can’t take anybody lightly when you are in the mist of a little bit of a losing streak.  You have to focus on what you do well and go out and execute that to the best of your ability,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 12/29/16

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Western Reserve will see More Adversity

  

          Western Reserve is a pretty good basketball team, but one that has a chance to be much better if they can start to battle adversity better than they have been.

          They get a chance to prove that on Thursday night as they play the Sandusky Blue Streaks at “The Big House.”

          They lost to unbeaten Sandusky Perkins (59-37) on Tuesday night.  Coach Chris Sheldon says in the games they have lost, the other two coming to New London (66-57) and Oberlin Firelands (62-58,) they have not handled adversity well at all.  “It was sort of a reflection of what has happened so far through seven games for us.  I the four games that we won, with the exception of opening night against Maragretta, we have controlled the game from the opening tip and really extended the lead and held on and pushed through all of the way through the end.  That is what we talked about with our guys (Wednesday.)  We have been a very good basketball team with the lead and really build on the lead and had double digit leads in all of the victories.  Most teams can do that that are talented enough to build through leads and maintain them.  Our challenge has been in our three losses we haven’t been able to overcome adversity in all three losses against good teams.  The first two we were right there and obviously (Tuesday) night it was tied early and they went on a run and we had no answer and the walls started caving in.  I guess what I am getting to is if we want to become a great basketball team we have to overcome adversity,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We can’t just be a basketball team that maintains a lead, holds a lead, and pushes it throughout.  There are going to be times if you want to be a good basketball team that you are going to be down and go through two, three minute stretches that you don’t play very well and overcome that and right now we haven’t been able to.  That right now is our biggest challenge.  What is disappointing about that is we have done that with six veterans and we aren’t young anymore.  Our guys have been able to do that in the past for what ever reason to start the year out and it has been our Achilles Heel.”

          It is going to be a battle in the Firelands Conference this year with New London, South Central, Norwalk St. Paul, Mapleton, and Crestview. Sheldon says they will continue to face adversity.  “Good basketball teams excel in those moments.  They understand you can’t play a perfect game, but you strive for that.  When the those bumps in the road do come you band together with your brothers and you work through it and focus on that possession you are on and try to win that possession and just take that mentality as you move on from possession to possession.  You don’t dwell on the past, you don’t dwell on mistakes, you move on from them.  Right now that has been our problem we haven’t been able to do that.  It has been a hindrance and that is something we are going to see for the rest of the year.  We are definitely going to see it (Thursday) night, but we are definitely going to see it as we move through our conference.  Anybody that has seen our conference through the first month realizes our conference is pretty darn good this year,” said Sheldon.

          Western Reserve (4-3) plays at Sandusky (4-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school divison, the Northern Ohio League co-leader on Thursday night.  Last week, Jayreese Williams became Sandusky’s all time leading scorer eclipsing the great Scott May.  However, Sheldon says the Streaks are more than just Williams.  “Their athleticism everybody can understand that and respect that when you play a Sandusky basketball team, but I think the thing that has impressed me the most not having a lot of familiarity with them before having the opportunity to watch them and study them and try to analyze them is just how well they move the basketball and how unselfish they are from one another.  Jayresse (Williams) is the one everybody recognizes and he is going to have the ball in his hands quite a bit.  Even with a good player they share the ball really well and play well with each other.  It has been multiple nights in the different games I have been able to watch that different guys step up and really play well for them whether it was a guy against Ashland or a guy against Ontario or a couple of guys against Willard.  It is not just Jayresse and I think that is the thing that has surprised me the most in watching them.  The second thing would be how undersized they are, it’s not like they have any bigs, they just get after you with the five, six, seven guards they play.  They are going compete and that is what we are searching for and striving for.  I think most people would say what are you playing them?  That is exactly why we are playing them because it is going to give us the opportunity see if we are going to start taking steps in the right direction,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 12/22/16

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Western Reserve with Huge Task

  

          Western Reserve, the preseason favorite in the Firelands Conference, plays two unbeaten teams in conference games on Friday and Saturday nights in New London and Mapleton.

          They picked up two wins last weekend over Monroeville (70-44) in conference play on Friday and LaGrange Keystone (63-53) in non-league play on Saturday.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they still have a lot of work to do in becoming the team they can be.  “We definitely did get better on the offensive end.  We shot it at a high rate, took a lot of really good shots, and the ball went in.  From that standpoint I can’t complain a lot.  After you watch film sometimes and you make a lot of shots it fools you that you fixed a lot of problems and when you get into film there are still some areas that we have to get better at.  They next four games for us are going to be a tremendous test for a defensive standpoint when you talk about we have two undefeated teams this weekend, a undefeated team next Tuesday and on the back end a one loss Sandusky High team on Thursday.  The next seven days we are going to play four games against maybe the four best teams right now on our schedule.  We are going to find out just where we need to get better” said Sheldon.

          New London and Western Reserve finished in a tie for fifth place in our initial Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division.  The Wildcats (2-0,1-0) are coming off an impressive (68-31) thumping of Crestview last week.

          Sheldon says they might have the best player in the conference in Ryan Lane, who had 29 points and 19 rebounds against Crestview.  “Right now what they have is they have a number of shooters around (Lane) with the Howell boy and a couple of guys they have.  It allows them to play a little faster because they are guard oriented.  In the years past they have had a really good big.  I do like the young Marschall kid that comes off the bench for them right now.  He has given them some production in the low post, but they don’t have that traditional post presence like they have had.  They are playing much faster and looking to shoot the three.  At the end of the day they what might be the best player in the league in Ryan Lane that can do it all.  He can post you up, take you off the bounce, shoot the three, and he rebounds it at a high rate.  When you have that kind of piece to go around shooters it makes the game of basketball to come a little easier,” he said.

          Mapleton (4-0,1-0) make the trip to Western (3-1,1-0) on Saturday night.  They walloped Plymouth (76-53) in their first conference game last Friday.

          The Mounties have not been a serious contender in the Firelands in many a year, but Sheldon says this a very good basketball team they will be playing Saturday night.  “Somebody questioned the level of competition they have played and I said I don’t care who you are playing if you are scoring points at that high of a rate in four consecutive games.  They can really do a lot of things.  I am really just impressed.  Obviously Barone has been around if seems like for nine years, but its only four and the young man is highly talented, highly skilled and really athletic.  He plays the game with a great feel.  I think everything is predicated off of him of how he is playing and he makes his teammates around him better,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Then they put three or four shooters with him and a really nice athletic bench.  It isn’t your typical Mapleton team.  I think their starting five is as good as any starting five in the league.  They have some shooters coming off the bench that come in and knock down threes.  I think on top of it all the thing that stuck out to me is the confidence and the swagger they are playing with.  Those kids are believing in themselves and believing in what they are doing.  When you do that and shoot the ball at a high rate and have some skill there is a reason why they are 4-0 and it looks like going to be a player in this league before it is all said and done.”

 

Published 12/15/16

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Defense is the Focus For Western Reserve

  

          Western Reserve, like some other teams, is dealing with some injuries to start the season, but their coach says the biggest thing they are dealing with is a lack of execution on defense.

          The Rough Riders (1-1) beat Margaretta (63-51) on Friday and lost to Oberlin Firelands (62-58) on Saturday.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says, especially on Saturday, they were not very good on defense.  “I definitely think it had something to due with our lack of success on Saturday night being able to finish a ball game.  What really hurt us is we were just awful on defense on Saturday night.  I would like to be able to blame that on injury, but so much of it was just simple technique and how we went out and executed some defensive game plans.  Guys that unfortunately were not getting it done on that night were veterans.  They have been going through techniques in our schemes for seven years.  As much as I would like to blame it on injuries at the end of the day we didn’t get it done.  That is something we focused on this week on a plan of attack on how we have to get better in that area if we don’t want to come up with another “L” this upcoming weekend,” said Sheldon.

          Sheldon says they have tried this week to improve on the things they need to, but at the same time they have been trying to get some kids some needed rest too.  “We take the month of December to gauge where your weaknesses are and where your strengths are and how you can try to get better at those weaknesses and continue to utilize those strengths.  That is really what December is about to win enough games to keep you around so you are in a league race come January, February and you can build on those as the year goes on.  That is sort of where we are at night now,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “The thing that is hurting us with the injuries we have to give a little bit of recovery time and we open up with the a double, double, double, and then a Tuesday, Thursday, so right now trying to get better in the middle of the week is our focus, but at the same token we are still trying to get some people recovery time for their bodies.  That is the only obstacle that has presented a challenge from a coaching standpoint.”

          On Friday night, Western plays at home in its first Firelands Conference game of the year against Monroeville, led by a new coach in Al Mielarek.  Sheldon admits there are a lot of question marks regarding the Eagles.  “I don’t know what to expect to be quite honest.  They haven’t played a game.  I haven’t been able to see any scrimmage tape.  What we have to go off of is personnel that do return that we have some familiarity for a year ago.  That has sort of been our key so far this week.  More than anything we have to go out and execute what we want to do and things we know we have get better at and try and improve on those and not worry so much about our opponent, which is the opposite of our philosophy.  We focus so much with what our opponent is going to do to us both from an offensive and a defensive standpoint and that is how we scheme all week long.  It is going to be a little interesting come Friday night.  We just have to be able to make some adjustments on the fly and we will see how that evolves,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 12/09/16

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Western Reserve Kind of Healthy

  

          Western Reserve, the preseason choice to win the Firelands Conference, has been hampered by injuries during the preseason, but they are all going to be ready to go on the weekend.

          They host Margaretta on Friday night and Oberlin Firelands on Saturday night, both are non-conference games.

          Luke Buck, Colton Puder and Cody Palmer have all been cleared to play, however, coach Chris Sheldon says it is a matter of how close they will be to normal.  “Whether they are coming around or not the season is upon us.  It is going to be a matter of can we be just good enough to be better than them.  That is ultimately what is going to transpire on Friday night.  We have finally got everybody cleared by a physician to play now it is a matter of how quickly can our main guys get going at full go and be ready to play at the level they can play at.  That is going to be our challenge.  The one thing I do like regardless if we are at 100 percent or not is we bring six returners back.  That is something we are going to rely on heavily here on opening weekend.  You hope that that experience and their past success will be just enough to get us some “W’s” at the end of the day,” said Sheldon.

          Western returns all five starters from a conference runner-up squad, and the runner-up in the division three district tournament, including Jared Griffith, the conference MVP as a freshman, and Sheldon likes the experience that he has.  “In the moment as a coach you would rather have those reps leading up to it and more of them than what we have had.  At the end of the day I would rather has some experience back than not.  I think the positive is our guys are hungry and they are ready.  Even with limited reps they are ready for live action in real games.  They are tiered of practice and beating on each other.  Scrimmages are old hat at this point for them.  They are ready and hungry to get out there under the bright lights and see what happens,” he said.

          In the opener Western Reserve sees the Margaretta Polar Bears, a team that Sheldon thinks is really good.  “Margaretta in my opinion is on the verge of being a really, really good basketball team.  They bring back a great amount of experience from a year ago and in my opinion their four best players.  They don’t have a senior on the roster, that is how young they were a year ago,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They bring back maybe the best post player in the district and 6’5” kid by the name of (Isaac) Fenwick that was a football player.  Then they bring back another 6’4” post player to put right next to him that is really athletic as well in the Bailey Kimberlin kid.  They have their quarterback that is only going to be a sophomore the Nick Leibacher kid and have a couple of shooters around them.  They really just have a nice mix of a floor general, a couple of shooters, and two really athletic bigs.  They went through their ups and downs a year ago.  Now they are a year older.  I think they are a team that before it is all said and done that will have a lot to say not just in their own league, but in our division three district tournament.  I think it is a heck of an opening test for us.  Quite honestly I wouldn’t be shocked if this is not the last time we see them before it is all said and done at the end of this year.”

 

Published 11/30/16

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Western Reserve Ready to Compete

  

          With most of their kids back from a conference runner-up and district final team, Western Reserve is considered by many the front runner for the Firelands Conference title this season.

          During practice the scoreboard is turned on and a score is kept.  Coach Chris Sheldon says there is a definite reason behind that.  “The game of basketball is played with the scoreboard matters.  That dictates a lot of times how well we are playing or how poorly we are playing and how we respond.  Everything we do in practice has a value to it and a winner and a loser.  I think that is the only way you can simulate kids to figure out how competitive they want to be and hopefully that tends to carry over on game nights.  That is something we rely on and use everyday for about every drill, whether it is a shooting drill like we are doing right now or an actual live defensive drill or offensive drill.  That is something that is very important to our progress,” he said.

          Sheldon says there have been some good spots and some bad spots during the preseason mostly related injuries suffered during football season.  “I think we have looked like a team that has been missing some kids.  We have had some good days where we have practiced really well.  We have had some days when it has looked like we have a lot of inexperience and that is how our scrimmages has been whether it be a good quarter here or there or some really poor performances and that is in large part due to four or our top six performers being on the shelf at different periods throughout this preseason.  We are still not all of the way back,” he told Swankonsports.com during practice on Monday, “One positive though it does give you the opportunity to find out from some of those other guys that maybe you weren’t counting on could they fill a role as a sixth, seventh, eighth man for you.  I think maybe that is one of the things we have taken away from this thing early is we have seen a couple of guys that might be able to give us some quality minutes.  Trying to find our cohesion as we get some guys back is going to be our biggest challenge as enter this next phase.”

          When it comes to having the favorites tag going into the season, Sheldon says they are alright with that, in fact, they rather enjoy it.  “We are used to that.  We have been in that situation before.  15 years now in this building these kids we would rather have the target on our backs.  If you have he target on your backs that means you have to done something to put yourself in position where people think you are good.  That’s what we want.  We thrive for that and this group is going to have to learn to respond to that.  At the end of the day we are still going to approach it like this thing is a marathon not a sprint.  Nobody wins the season title at the beginning of the year you win it in February, but what you do at the beginning of the year is ultimately going to pay dividends down the road and figure out if you did enough to be in that situation.  The good thing is with having this number of guys back we were in that situation last year.  At the end of the first round we were undefeated going into that game with South Central and then we went through a real lull where we went through some growing pains.  Being a year older and hopefully a year wiser it is going to help us as we start to navigate these waters come two weeks from now,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 11/22/16

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Western Belts Galion

 

          Freshman Jaret Griffith scored six of his team high 10 points in first two and half minutes of the game as Western Reserve raced to an (11-0) lead and went on to punish Galion (65-47) in a division three district semi-final on Thursday night at Norwalk High School.

          They play Edison (22-2) for a district title on Saturday night at Norwalk.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they ran the floor, made shots and contained Galion's leading scorer in Houston Blair.  "We came out and really shot it well to start with.  We got going in transition.  We are pretty good in the open floor and we had the right guys stepping up and making big shots.  I think it rattled them a little bit.  From that point on our defensive game plan worked to a "T" to hold Houston Blair to five points and basically take them out of their all of their offensive flow," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "I didn't know how we were going to rebound among all of those athletes, but we were gladiators (Thursday) night.  That is a credit to my kids and their belief to want to go in and win a basketball game knowing that that was what it was going to take.  We went out and did that for 32 minutes."

          Galion coach Colby Bright says it hard to beat a team that shot as well as Western did.  "It was more of them hitting shots.  I am good friends with one of their assistant coaches and some of these guys weren't shooting like that all year.  They hit a lot of shots and played really, really well," he said.

          Blair was one the leading scorers in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference this year and Sheldon says they were determined to limit his opportunities.  "We felt he is such the face of their basketball team and they really control so much tempo in what they do and he is that good of a player.  We just said if they are going to beat us he ain't going to be the reason.  Our kids to their credit where just tremendous all night long with it.  We stuck with it, stuck with it, stuck with it.  It happened to be very, very successful for us," he said.

          Colton Moore led Galion (12-12) with 25 points, including all 11 of their first quarter markers.

          Bright says that Western Reserve (16-7) had them well scouted and did a good job of taking them out of what they wanted to do.  "I think they kind of knew the scoop if you get it out of Houston's hands and we struggle.  They didn't let him do anything all night and he is the key to our whole operation and that hurt," he said.

          Western Reserve had 10 three pointers on the night, including three Tyler Bartlett, who finished with 13 points and they got a season high 15 from Aaron Logan, all in the second half.  "Tyler is our second best three point shooter and he shot the ball extremely, extremely well.  When he is shooting it and the contributions we got from Aaron Logan off the bench, his best game of the year.  You always want seniors to play well at tournament time and he did (Thursday) night.  It was just a huge deciding factor for us.  All night long we were just in a rhythm and they couldn't get us out of it," said Sheldon.

 

Published 3/03/16

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Western Faces Athletic Galion

 

          It's Western Reserve and Galion to the division three district semi finals at Norwalk High School on Thursday night.

          The Rough Riders (15-7) beat Crestview (70-66) last Friday at Shelby High School to advance.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they just continue to mature.  "This is the first time for these guys playing tournament basketball and it is different than the regular season.  We played really well for the first three quarters and then sort just hung on for dear life there at the end.  We did some really good things in the last two minutes to win the basketball game.  Obviously getting a chance to play again Thursday night is just going to be another positive for this basketball team when it comes to the future, but we have our hands full to say the least," he said.

          Galion (12-11) out the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference red division beat Margaretta (52-35) last week.  Sheldon says with the big schedule that they play don't be confused by their record and he says they have one of the best guards in the area.  "Especially at the division three level.  They have one of the better players in our district in Houston Blair.  He is a really good guard that can do some different things with the basketball in his hands.  He is very unselfish on top of it.  He is a true floor general for them and really makes them go.  He is critical to their success and to ours, how well do we defend him?  They have the Moore kid ion the wing that is really athletic and can score in a multitude of ways.  Then you add their big athletic post players on top of it," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Just their rebounding alone is going to make it a very tough challenge for us.  At this point and time you have to be able to defend, you have to be able to defend in the paint, you have to be able to rebound the basketball.  That has to be the main focus for us if we want to have a chance to hang around and maybe compete for a victory on Thursday night."

          Galion has played some tight games with good teams, losing to Ontario (46-44) and Upper Sandusky (61-55) and they have done it by controlling the tempo.  Sheldon thinks they will try and so that on Thursday too.  "As much as I have seem of them they do like to control tempo, they do like to slow the game down a little bit regardless of who they have played.  What they do so well is they execute with what they are trying to do with each offensive possession.  There is a purpose to what they are trying to do.  A lot of times against teams like that we are going to try and play at our tempo.  More than anything we just have to try and disrupt their timing.  You can do that with a couple of little wrinkles here and there, which is what we will try.  At the end of the day we have to come out and make shots and we have to be able to rebound the basketball and make them shoot contested shots.  It is a very simple philosophy, but it is very hard to do especially against these kinds of athletes.  That has to be our goal and our focus.  I know one thing about our young kids is they will try to go out and execute and do that and we will look up after 32 minutes and see if that was good enough," said Sheldon.

 

Published 3/03/16

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Western Must Get Stops

 

          Western Reserve plays Crestview for the third time this season, this time in the second round of the division three tournament on Friday night at Monroeville High School.

          Each school won on their floor, Western (69-63) and Crestview (71-68) just three weeks ago.

          Western (14-7) coach Chris Sheldon says there aren't going to be many secrets and they must be better on defense.  "Familiarity is going to be at the top of the list for each team, especially just playing each other a couple of weeks ago.  Our kids and their kids understand each other's personnel and for the most part understand what each team is trying to do offensively and defensively.  A big part of basketball game is going to come down to who can execute their game plan.  For us we have to do a much better job than the last time we played them on the defensive end of the floor.  We had a hard time stopping them from every spot on the floor.  We had a hard time stopping them.  They really hurt us and made us pay.  Our focus this week has got to be how do we guard them better?  We are trying to do that and put it into action on Friday night," said Sheldon.

          Crestview point gaud Trevor Durbin has hurt Western in both games with his quickness and Sheldon says they have to work hard to contain him.  "He played really well against us both times.  Whether it was his scoring or his creating for other people.  It has been a tough match-up for us to date.  He is just really quick with the basketball in his hands.  He does a great job of getting the ball in the lane to score and they has shooters around him and that makes the job that much easier on him when he is rocking and rolling.  We have to do a great job of  trying to keep him in front of us.  A lot better job than we have done the previous two times," he told swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We have to do a better job of rotating where their shooters and scorers are off his penetration.  That is going to be a tough task.  Not one that is going to be easy for us.  More than anything it comes down to us being able to defend fundamentally in our defensive scheme.  That is something we haven't done a good job of.  If we are going to win Friday night that is what is going to come down to."

          Crestview (12-10) has not been trapping as much as they did earlier in the season, but Sheldon says they are very active on defense and the Rough Riders haven't handled that well this year.  "One of the things they do a really good job with is being active defensively.  They aren't trapping as much as they were early in the year, but they are very active defensively in passing lanes and on the ball.  They are a very active hands.  We have the read what they are giving to us, number one, and number two making sure we are strong with the basketball.  At times we have been a little careless and that has hurt us.  You are going to turn it over against a team that is that active defensively, but what can't happen is you go in spurts where you don't get good looks at the offensive end and you are turning it over and you are giving them a chance to get out in transition, which is something they are very good at," said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/24/16

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Western Reserve Still Looking For Consistency

 

          Western Reserve is a good team that is till trying to find wants to become a very good team.

          One thing that is holding them back is consistency.

          Last week, they beat Norwalk St. Paul (61-48) in a Friday night Firelands Conference game at home and then lost (61-41) to Sandusky Bay Conference leader Edison on Saturday night on the road.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says last weekend has been what it has been like all season.  "It was just a snapshot of what our whole season has been, especially the second half of the year.  We play really well at home, shoot the basketball at a high level and then go on the road and can't throw it in the ocean and really don't do a great job defensively.  That's a bad combination, especially when you are playing a good basketball team.  It kind of unraveled and we just couldn't right the ship.  We play exceptionally well at home and the we go on the road and it's a 50/50 coin toss on whether we are going to make shots.  Making shots has then predicated how well we  have defended," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "There is not a lot of time to get that corrected.  All we can continue to do is show up and grind it out and continue to battle.  It is not like our kids don't play hard on the road.  We are a team whose offense carries over to our defense and that tends to dictate the kind of confidence level we play with.  Obviously tournament games are on the road.  More than anything I think it is how we approach it mentally and how we respond is going to determine how long we play and if we can make a tournament run."

          Western Reserve (13-7,9-4) hosts South Central (16-5,11-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the small school division, the Firelands Conference champion, on Friday night in a conference game.

          Sheldon says he wants to be tested, especially late in the season.  "I am actually pleased with how things have shook out as far as scheduling.  We have been able to play some good basketball teams here the last month of the road.  You want to be in close basketball games because ultimately that is where you are going to grow.  Friday night is not going to be any different.  It is going to be a tournament style basketball game," he said.

          South Central beat Western (49-43) in their first meeting.  Sheldon says the Trojans are really playing well right now and they have a lot of guys that can score.  "They are coming to our place and they are coming off probably their best weekend of the year.  They got a big time win against Crestview to win the league outright and a more impressive win on the road against a very good Sandusky St. Mary's team.  For them nothing has changed.  They have five guys that can score.  It is gong to come down to how well we can guard them.  We didn't guard them very well inn the second half at their place and at same time we weren't very efficient offensively.  That has been one of weaknesses and it is great going into the tournament to be able to play that kind of game, the last game of the year before all of the marbles are on the table," said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/17/16

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Western Reserve Just Interested in Getting Better

 

          Western Reserve trails Firelands Conference leader South Central by two games with two to play, but their coach says they believe a conference title is an outside shot.

          They would need Crestview to beat South Central on Friday, they would have to beat Norwalk St. Paul, and then beat South Central next week.

          Coach Chris Sheldon doesn't want his kids to think about that, he wants to them to concentrate on getting better.  "I have a feeling that our nine lives have come and gone.  I think we have to approach this basketball game Friday from the standpoint of a team that beat us the first time around.  They are big and athletic and coming off a pretty good weekend for themselves.  The end is near and our guys can see the finish line and it is a matter of how do you want to finish.  We got off to such a great start, we stumbled in the middle stretch, and now we get an opportunity to say can we be playing at our optimum level, not just here in the tournament, but against the toughest stretch of our schedule with who we have remaining.  That's our focus right now.  This title talk has come and gone and we have sort of blown that one away.  Now it just a matter if we can get back and play at a high level," said Sheldon.

          St. Paul (7-12,6-6) beat Western Reserve (12-6,8-4) last time (52-50,) which was their first conference loss.  Sheldon says they are going to need to make some perimeter shots because the Flyers are going to make it tough to score inside.  "When St. Paul makes shots they play with a lot of confidence.  That is what they did in both games in watching the New London game and watching ours live.  When they make shots they tend to get a little more pep in their step and that carries over to the defensive end as well.  On top of it they are long and athletic and that adds a whole other component to it.  They are the only team in our league with multiple shot blockers in the lane.  For us to be successful we have to knock down some shots, which we didn't do the first time around," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We are going to try and attack the paint and score in there, but they have a lot bigger bodies and they jump higher and their kids weigh a lot more than ours do.  It might be tough for us to have some success down there, so we have the make some shots.  Hopefully we can defend them a lot better than we did the first time.  Make them shoot more contested jump shots and try to take away some of their dribble action that they do.  If we can do that there just might be enough in us for 32 minutes to be victorious."

          Then Western plays at Edison (17-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Saturday night. Sheldon says it is going to be a big test.  "They are very athletic with multiple skilled guys.  You don't get ranked eighth in the state for no reason and that is what they are right now.  They have some seniors guards that have been though it since they were freshmen.  They have a couple of nice, young post players that go with them.  They go to the final four in football and the you add on that skill as well.  They are as athletic as we are going to play and there is a reason why they are number one in our district.  For us it is a good thing because it is going to give us another advantage going into the tournament against somebody of that caliber this late in the year.  It's gives us and opportunity to see would we, could we play with a team of this caliber if we would happen to be able to meet them two weeks later," said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/10/16

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Western Needs Some Shots to go

 

          Western Reserve sits in a share of second place with New London in the Firelands Conference, just a game behind South Central, but they must travel to dangerous Crestview on Friday night.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says the final three weeks of the regular season should be fun, they host South Central in their final conference game.  "I thought going into the year our league had as good of depth as it has had in quite a while.  Maybe part of that is we just don't have that dominating, elite team at the top that we have had these last couple of years as well.  Basically the Firelands Conference is like the wild, wild west right now.  Anybody can beat anybody on any given night.  That is way it is shaping up to be coming down the home stretch," he said.

          Western (11-5,8-3) beat Crestview (8-9,5-6) by six (79-73) in December.  Sheldon says the Cougars have got some players that are tough to defend.  "I think they have three very talented guards that all complement each other very, very well.  With Durbin and what he can do with all his penetration and speed.  Then you look at the shooter's they've got in Stevens and Greybill and Stevens' ability to score in a multitude of ways they can be very, very dangerous offensively and they show that.  I think on other nights they just can't shoot it that well and they are ineffective.  That is sort of how we have been," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "If both teams show up it is going to be a very entertaining game, but if both teams show up and don't shoot it very well it might put both crowds to sleep.  We are expecting to go there and be in a battle on the road.  Hopefully, we can put the ball in the hoop and be effective."

          If you are having trouble making shots, like Western has at times lately, get some easy ones.  Sheldon says that can help your defense too.  "It's obviously high percentage and it allows you to be much effective with what you want to do defensively, especially with both of these teams that want to do some things with pressure defensively.  The easier the game come to you on the offensive end the more confidence and momentum you tend to play with.  That was story with us on Saturday night, that was the story for us early in the year when we were playing really, really well and that is something we are trying to get back to.  If we can do that we are in a much better situation to be way more efficient offensively, but also come out on the good side when things like that happen for us," said Sheldon.

          On Saturday night, the Rough Riders entertain Norwalk (8-8) of the Northern Ohio League.  Sheldon says this will be a different kind of experience for them and a good one.  "The thing with Norwalk is you look at their schedule. They have come on hard times quite honestly because their schedule just got a lot tougher.  I think it is a combination of that and the injury they suffered with the Jordan kid.  He was their one true low post threat.  For us they are as athletic a team was are going to play when you look at their guards and the kind of things they try to do to you defensively we just don't typically see night in and night out in our league.  That is what I like about this game, we are going to play against good athletes, we are going to see some things defensively that are going to make things much harder for us offensively.  It's a great test for us on how we handle that athleticism and also how we execute under a little more pressure than we are used to seeing.  If will be a great game for us, a great test, especially this late in the year," said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/03/16

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Western Has to Shoot Better

 

          Western Reserve has now dropped two games behind South Central in the Firelands Conference race and they need to get back on the winning track and do it now.

          They have two chances this weekend as they play at Mapleton on Friday and at Plymouth on Saturday.

          They fell into a share of second place last week when rival New London beat them (49-45) to grab their share of second.  Coach Chris Sheldon says again it was a matter of them not making enough shots.  "It was back and fourth all game long.  A typical Western-New London game, a real physical game.  The bottom line they made more plays than us.  We have lost four of our last five and the problem with us right now more so than anything is just making shots.  We only shot 28 percent from the floor.  We did that in our loss St. Paul, we shot 20 some percent.  In the game against South Central we shot just about 31 percent. For us it's come down to getting our confidence back and knocking down shots," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "We are getting good shots, we just aren't making them,  Making shots makes up for a lot of things.  When you don't make shots it make the game that much more difficult.  It makes every mistake you make defensively that much more heightened.  The thing for us is just getting back to shooting the basketball."

         Sheldon says they have to find the confidence to pull the trigger and believe it is going to go in.  "When you hit a little skid like we have I am sure our confidence is wavering a little at the offensive end.  We keep reiterating to our guys, you have to be mentally tough.  You have to take shots to make shots and you don't let misses bother you.  That is something we are trying to get back and get over the hump with.  We are too good offensively, we have too many skilled guys to not be shooting the ball well enough.  It is just a matter us we have to do that a game or two in a row and really try and get our confidence going in the right direction as we get ready to turn for the last month of the season," he said.

          Western (9-5,6-3) is at Mapleton (5-11,3-6) on Friday night and then take the bus to Plymouth (4-10,4-5) on Saturday.  Sheldon says these are both teams that could beat them if they don't play well.  "They are two teams that are playing a lot better.  When you look at Mapleton they have beaten two teams in St. Paul, who beat us, and Crestview, who we played in a real close ball game in the last two weeks.  When you look at Plymouth they have beaten New London and South Central in the last two weeks, again two teams we have lost to in the last two weeks.  This weekend hopefully we can use our defense to ignite our offense.  We have to get back on track offensively and score the ball and being aggressive with the basketball in our hands," said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/27/16

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Western Has to Continue to Respond

 

          With a loss to South Central last week, the Western Reserve Rough Riders fell out of a share of first place in the Firelands Conference and their assignment is to keep winning in order to keep pace.

          They beat Monroeville (60-52) last Saturday in a game in which they were down nine at the half.  Coach Chris Sheldon says he was very pleased with how they responded and the way they did it.  "I think the biggest thing that could have happened on Saturday for us was we didn't play a very good first half, partly due to our own fault and partly due to Monroeville, we are down nine at halftime.  It was exactly the same thing that we have been talking about of the last week with our three game losing streak.  How are we going to respond in the face of adversity?  Our leading scorer was hampered all night long with foul problems.  He only had three points, so it was a matter of who was going to rise to occasion or do we do it collectively.  We probably put together as good a 16 minutes of basketball in that second half on Saturday night of doing just that," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We responded to adversity by getting defensive stops, holding our opponent to one and out, not letting their leading scorer score, who had 18 in the first half, score a single bucket.  Taking some of those things personally and going out and showing it with our actions and showing a little bit of grit and toughness was exactly what we needed.  Offensively it took care of itself in the second half finally.  I am proud of my kids and now lets see if we can build on that going into a another tough one here on Friday night."

          It is a huge game Friday night as the Rough Riders (9-4,6-2) are at New London (8-4,5-3) in a battle of chasers in need of a win.  Sheldon says they know what to expect from the Wildcats.  "Their backs are against the wall just like ours.  On top of it you have two basketball teams that respect each other, but maybe don't like each other all that well.  Every time we get together it is going to be a battle for 32 minutes and we know that.  I think a large part of our success is again going to be how well can we guard people in close basketball games.  Second, how well do we execute offensively what we are trying to run.  Our downfall has been careless turnovers at crucial times.  We were able to stay away from that on Saturday night.  It is going to be a big test offensively can we be strong with the basketball, make our reads, and execute without giving the other team for easy run outs and taking possessions away from us.  We have to go in with that mindset, try to execute that plan, and see what happens," said Sheldon.

          Ryan Lane, the Wildcats junior, might be the best player in the league.  Sheldon says he does a lot of things.  "He is one the best guards in our league, one of the best players in our league.  He can do everything.  He is a big kid at 6'3".  He is a wide body.  He can post you up, he can take you off the bounce, and he can step out and shoot the three.  The thing I think that I am most impressed with that young man is he plays with such great tempo and composure.  No matter what you try to do to him you don't speed him up, you don't rattle him.  He just continues to play the game at his pace.  I think that is the sign of great players.  No matter what a defense does to you, you are always in control.  He is obviously going to be a huge focus of ours.  They scored 96 on Saturday and they have a plethora of other shooters around him.  So, out ability to guard the three point line and stop Ryan is going to be critical to our success," said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/20/16

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First Place Goes to South Central

 

          After trailing by 10 points after the first quarter, South Central outscored Western Reserve (41-25) the rest of the way and they downed the Rough Riders (49-43) Thursday night to take first place to themselves in the Firelands Conference.

          South Central (9-4,6-1) cut the Western lead to seven at the half (28-21) and took the lead on a Michael Ponchel basket and free throw (34-31) with 4:27 to play in the third quarter.

          "They came out shooting it well.  We had some ill advised shots I will call them.  I thought we got in a hurry and their pressure really got to us in the first half.  I thought in the second half we came out and we were tough.  We were tougher and still ran our offense through their pressure.  I don't feel like either team shot the ball well, but I would say that is kudos to both defenses.  I felt like it was a grind it out like game.  Very tournament like.  Very happy for my kids, hoping to build on this," said South Central coach Brett Seidel.

          Freshman point guard Jaret Griffith scored 11 points for Western in the first quarter as the Rough Riders took at (18-8) lead, but he didn't score after that.  "They just turned up the intensity for a physicality standpoint.  They turned it up a notch in how they were defending us, getting into us.  We really didn't rise to the challenge.  If you look at the second half, they go an get it on the offensive glass.  In their drives to the basket we don't match their physicality on on the ball defense and they get it to the rim.  You go down to our end and they get physical with us and we can't get it to the front of the rim. On top of it every shot we take is one and out.  We aren't going and getting it off the glass like they were.  It just comes down to they had more will power.  It wasn't that we didn't play hard.  It wasn't that we didn't execute," said Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon.

          Ponchel led South Central with 18 points, while Brayden Wilhelm added 15 markers.

          There weren't a lot of easy shots in the game and the Trojans shot just 30 percent from the field and Western Reserve 32 percent.  "We were aggressive, but we still missed layups.  We still got our wide open threes that we like and didn't knock those down either.  I think there is still room to build, still room to improve," said Seidel.

          With the defense played by both sides Thursday night there were a lot of lose balls and Sheldon says it seemed that the Trojans got to most of those.  "At the end of the day to win big basketball games it comes down to how physical you are and do want to go make those 50/50 plays.  They did, we didn't," he told Swankonsports.com after the game Thursday, "It is not like you look at the stat sheet and they are making a lot of threes, which they are known for doing.  They literally took at drove it to the rim and that is how they beat us.  It is a combination that they are more physical that us, they are stronger than us, and it shows.  We are still underclassmen.  They are a majority of upperclassmen, and that is the difference in winning basketball games on a big stage."

          Leading (43-38) with just over a minute left in the game, the Trojans made five of seven free throws down the stretch.  "We had some kids step up and make some free throws late, but not early.  I think throughout the game the ball didn't go in the basket basically for either team, but for us especially I thought.  We struggled from the field and from the line.  I am very happy with our kids effort.  They were very tough in the second half," said Seidel.

 

Published 1/14/16

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Western and South Central Play for First Place

 

          The winner of Thursday night's contest between Firelands Conference co-leaders Western Reserve and South Central takes lead in the conference standings at the halfway point.

          Western (8-3,5-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the small school division, had sole possession of the lead for three days last week before losing to rival Norwalk St. Paul (52-50) last Friday.  Western coach Chris Sheldon says they didn't show they were ready to play.  "Unfortunately some of the things you preach on a daily basis like focusing on the task at hand, preparing for each game as if it were for the league championship, giving respect to your opponents regardless of their record.  You preach those things on a consistent basis, but sometimes with 16, 17, 18 year old kids they have to learn through the hard knocks," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Unfortunately we are going to have to learn from Friday night's situation down the road here.  You would think that we would be able to get up and be ready to play the team that we are tied with for the conference lead.  It was a stumbling block that we had last weekend, but there is nothing we can do to change that.  All we can do right now, and what we have done this week in preparation, is focus on South Central and try to take a step forward and get prepared for a big basketball game."

          South Central (8-4,5-1) returns six players that played a lot last year on a team that finished second in the conference. Sheldon says you have to guard all of the Trojans.  "Offensively they are awfully talented and skilled.  They put five guys out on the floor that can pass and shoot and I think that makes them one of the more difficult teams we play because all five guys can hurt you in some form or fashion on the floor and that requires you to be at your highest efficiency wise at the defensive end.  I mean we are really going to have to sit down and guard with fundamentals to do what we want to do with them.  From a defensive standpoint you can't game plan a whole lot and do some things that we typically do with teams that don't have a guy or two on the floor that you don't have to worry about on offense," said Sheldon.

          Sheldon adds that they also have to be really good on offense if they have a chance to win.  "We have got to score the basketball.  We have ton use our ability to impact the game.  That is sort of what hurt us last week that we were just so poor offensively.  We didn't do a great job executing and we didn't do a great job of putting the ball in the hoop.  If we have any chance to compete with them we have to match them bucket for bucket and hopefully get enough stops along the way," he said.

          In games between good teams like this, Sheldon says it is often the little things that make the difference.  "We just have to be much more aware of guarding the three point line, really be ready to shut down penetration and close out on shooters.  There are just a few more finer points that you have to pay attention to.  We want to play an up tempo basketball game and we want them to play at our pace.  I believe that they really like to play at that pace.  At the same time our guys have go to be aggressive.  I think the team that comes out and is relaxed and plays within themselves and at the same time doesn't change their identity is going to be more relaxed and play a little more efficiently," said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/14/16

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Western Getting Ready For Rival

 

          Western Reserve continues to play outstanding basketball as they hold the Firelands Conference lead heading into a meeting with rival Norwalk St. Paul on Friday.

          The Rough Riders only game during the holidays was a (79-73) win over Crestview on December 30.  Coach Chris Sheldon says he thinks with school back in they are going to be ready to go come Friday.  "This week we are back to our normal routine being in school every day and practicing after school.  I think that helps negate the long lay off and getting back to a regular routine rather than laying around and doing God knows what when they are not in school.  I don't sense that and I sense that we are picking it back up and feel comfortable heading into Friday night," he said.

          St. Paul (2-6,2-3) is at Western Reserve (8-1,5-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Friday night.  Sheldon says St. Paul has had some shooting problems in some games, but they get ready to play them.  "What has been the difference for them is some games they make shots and some games they don't.  Watching four of their games now over the last week that has been obvious to me.  It has also been a little puzzling to me as well because I think they have some pretty good players that can make shots and they just haven't," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "They have gotten good looks and they just aren't making them.  One thing is for sure those guys have gotten up to play us and bring their best effort and their best game toward us and that is what we are expecting come Friday night.  When you get to January and you are still on top of the league standings and you are after a league title you have to expect and be ready for somebody's best effort and that is what we are planning on come Friday night."

          Sheldon feels if they can play some good defense early they can be in control of the game.  "Especially when you are talking about a basketball team and their confidence when it comes to knocking down shots might be wavering a little bit.  They are going to be a team that is going to play more on momentum.  If they get off to a decent start shooting the basketball that is only going to build their confidence and make that game much more challenging.  I think that is the key, how well do we defend early on not just with our energy and our effort, but more importantly just covering up their shooters and make them take contested shots.  If you do that it does make it harder for the ball to go in the hole.  That's our goal, just make them take contested shots and see if we can rebound it and get out," said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/06/15

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Western Reserve Wants to be Good

 

          Western Reserve shares the lead in the Firelands Conference and they have played some outstanding basketball this season.

          Their only loss comes in overtime to LaGrange Keystone.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they have solid team chemistry and they have been together as a group longer than a lot of teams.  "At the beginning I didn't think we would be in the position that will are not only record wise, but how well we are playing.  Obviously the chance of a  March victory is much more substantial than I thought it would be at this point.  It is a combination of a couple of things at this point.  One, we had 23 of our 28 guys that were in our gym all fall long, so it gave us a quicker start compared to most people we play.  Two, I think our guys and how well we have jelled together has been a quicker response that what I anticipated.  Those two things are why we are 7-1," he said.

          Freshman Jaret Griffith is the leading scorer for the Rough Riders and Sheldon believes he has made the players around him better.  "Our strength without a doubt is our guard play and it starts with a freshman.  He is one the best players in his class in the state of Ohio already.  A large part of it how much time this kid puts in the gym and how much he works on his craft.  He has really elevated the work habits of the kids around him.  There are one or two things great players do.  They elevate the play of the players with them.  Kids recognize there is going to be competition and we want to be part of this.  The understand they have work to do if they want to get their number called.  I think that is what this kid has done.  He has elevated the play of the rest of guys, not just on game night, but in the off season and the time it requires to be put in the gym," said Sheldon.

          Next Wednesday, the Rough Riders (7-1,4-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the small school division, play an improved Crestview (5-2,3-1) basketball team in Firelands Conference action.  Sheldon says new coach Daniel Spencer has done a tremendous job.  "They have went through a lot of coaching changes the last couple of years and it has been hard for them to get any continuity.  I think one of the things that happened during that process was they lost any sort of identity.  Back when coach Kurtz was their coach you knew what they were.  They were going to be a great motion team and they were going to get up and guard you in the half court and make things really hard.  Since that point and time they are really gone through a transition it looked like many times their kids were unsure what they were supposed to be doing and their style of play.  The new coach has come in and really got these kids to buy into we are going to push the tempo offensively, we are going to take a lot of quick shots, a lot of threes and at the same token on the defensive end we are going to come out and pressure you and trap you all over the place," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "It looks like right now for the first time in about four or five years this is a Crestview team that is confident and believing in what they do.  A large part of that is the new coach has got the kids to buy into that and they have three pretty good players to go with it.  That combination is a credit to them and their new coaching staff and I think that is why they have surprised so many people because everybody expected it to be the same old same old."

 

Published 12/24/15

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Western Has to Play Defense

 

          Western Reserve is tied for first place in the Firelands Conference with South Central heading into play on Friday night.

          The Rough Riders (5-1,3-0), #5 in Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the small school division, play at home against Plymouth (1-4,1-2) in a conference game on Friday night.

          It was two wins for the Rough Riders last weekend as they beat New London (58-55) and Mapleton (71-42) in conference games.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they are playing well at both ends.  "We have gotten off to a good start.  The thing I am most pleased with are the contributions we are getting from so many different guys at the offensive end.  That culminated last weekend with four guys getting in double figures each night.  Especially Saturday night there was a lot of unselfishness and really sharing the basketball well.  If you do that at the offensive end with guys that can score the game becomes easy at that end," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "On top of that defensively we have just been really good with ball pressure.  Just simple man to man, old school, nothing fancy, no trapping.  Just setting down and just guarding people from baseline to baseline.  That has been advantageous for us."

          The Rough Riders are feeling pretty good about themselves after the first three weeks, but Sheldon says they have make sure they don't get cocky.  "We are 5-1 right now and should be 6-0, but that is what it is.  Right now they are playing with a lot of confidence.  That is our job to really try and harness that and have them understand there are still mistakes they are making night in and night out and there is still plenty to focus on.  Winning and being successful is fun, but you have to remember you show up everyday and there are things you have to get better at.  If you get caught up in thinking you are a little better than what you are you can tend to stub your toe and right now that is something that we are battling against," he said.

          Plymouth lost to Norwalk St. Paul (58-48) and Crestview (88-78) in conference games last weekend and then suffered a (64-43) setback to division two Bellevue on Monday.  Sheldon says he thinks the defending conference champs are better than a one win team.  "I think their record doesn't speak to maybe the talent that they have right now.  I think they have a multitude of guys that can score the ball.  Their challenge so far is in a lot of their games they have been in every ball game, maybe with the exception of Monday night, they have just gone through a stretch, a three to four to five minute stretch, where they just didn't play very good basketball and their opponent was able to capitalize on it.  Otherwise their record would be totally different than what it is.  That is a scary thing because you hope come Friday night they don't put 32 minutes together against you.  We have to prepare for that and be ready to compete because we know they have a number of guys that can score, so we have to be ready to defend," said Sheldon.

 

Published 12/18/15

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Western Has Been Good on Offense

 

          It's a double weekend in the Firelands Conference for the Western Reserve Rough Riders as they host New London on Friday and Mapleton on Saturday.

          After getting nearly 80 last week in a win over Monroeville (77-49) coach Chris Sheldon says they are kind of ahead of the curve on offense this season.  "We have gotten out of the gate here pretty fast, especially from an offensive standpoint.  You are not usually in sink or in rhythm this early in the season.  I guess the only thing that I can attribute that to is of our top nine guys, seven of them were with us all fall and maybe we got a head start on our competition from that standpoint having more guys that have had a ball in their hands and playing for quite a while compared to our opponents," he said.

          One of the big keys for the Rough Riders has been they have been sharing the ball on offense.  Sheldon says their assist totals have been pretty high.  "For the most part we have shared it pretty well amongst our group.  Sometime our guards try to do a little "iso" on their own.  One of the downsides to having guys that can really handle the basketball they tend to over dribble it because that is what they have worked on their whole lives and they can really dribble it well," he told Swankonsports.com, "That is still something we have a lot of work to do on.  We had 17 assists last week against Monreoville.  If our assists are high that means we are making the right passes and making the extra pass."

          Defense is what the Rough Riders have always been good at over the years.  However, Sheldon says this team hasn't really proven how good they are on defense quite yet.  "I don't know because in all do respect that may be due to some of the level of competition we have played so far.  There are still plenty of mistakes that are happening at the defensive end," he said.

          It is an important weekend for the Rough Riders with both New London and Mapleton.  Sheldon says this is going to be a good race in the Firelands Conference this year.  "When you look at scores and you look at teams and what everybody has got back I think every night if you don't bring it you are going to be in trouble.  I think there are five, six teams that have really separated themselves.  I think it is only something that can make you better, the stronger your league is the  better your basketball team is going to be come February and March," said Sheldon.

 

Published 12/11/15

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Western Reserve off to Good Start

 

          Western Reserve swept their two non-conference games last weekend and now they are preparing to meet Monroeville in their first Firelands Conference game of the season on Friday.

          The Rough Riders downed Margaretta (61-52) on Friday and then handled Oberlin Firelands (74-51) on Saturday.  Coach Chris Sheldon was pretty impressed.  "To come out of that 2-0 and truthfully play as well as we did Saturday night against a pretty good basketball team and then blow them out late in the second half was better than I could have possibly imagined.  We did a lot of things well and the good thing is there are still plenty of mistakes to throw in there to clean up and correct.  Right now, our offensive efficiency has been tremendous.  Defensively I think we are starting to make some strides that I really wasn't seeing in the preseason.  On top of all of that we are playing eight guys.  We, hopefully, get our second best player back (Tuesday) from a football injury, so then we will be able to go nine deep.  I think early on that has been our best identity we are wearing people down with our depth," said Sheldon.

          And that depth is only going to help the Rough Riders even more as this season unfolds, according to Sheldon.  "With the production we are getting right now.  It's early and obviously this thing is a marathon not a sprint.  We are picking people up full court and putting a lot of pressure on them at the defensive end.  Being able to run a lot of fresh bodies at them and that has been a good thing for us.  If we are able to continue to do that as the season progresses, and with our youth getting more and more experience and hopefully continuing to establish some success things could be very, very bright for us as the season goes on," he said.

          Western (2-0) plays at home against Monroeville (0-1) in conference play on Friday night.  The Eagles lost their first game to Sandusky St. Mary's (102-64) last Friday.

          With Monroeville, Sheldon says you know what to expect and what you have to do.  "The important part when you play a team like Monroeville that plays that style you have to limit their peaks and you can't dwell on your valleys.  I think that is the most important piece going into it.  Yeah, you are going to make some turnovers.  They are going to go on a quick spurt here and there, but you have to limit both of those.  That is going to be important for us," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "If we take care of the basketball, and share it, and be efficient on the offensive end.  On the defensive end guard the three point line and keep them off the glass.  Watching them so far on one film that seems to be their strength on the offensive end.  Obviously, Diebler is going to come out and pressure you and so some things, whether it be half court or full court, and we have to be prepared for that."

 

Published 12/01/15

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Can Western Defend?

 

          Western Reserve has some kids this year that can score the basketball, but can they stop the other guys from doing it?  Defense is going to be the key to the Rough Riders season.

          Coach Chris Sheldon has seen some good things in the preseason, but the has seen some not good things too.  "As a basketball coach I don't know many that like exactly what they see in November.  For us it has been a typical preseason where you have a couple of good days and then take a couple steps backwards.  That's why you do so much breakdown stuff and really hit hard on some of the very specific fundamental components that make up your offenses and defenses this time of year.  Our group has been no exception to that.  The thing I have been most pleased with is we have stayed pretty competitive and that is something maybe we haven't had the last couple of years there seems to be a good competitive spirit about getting better each and every day.  Maybe the increase in basketball skill level has something to do with that.  We are on the right track," said Sheldon.

          Offense gets headlines, but it is defense that wins a lot games.  Sheldon says he and the staff are working hard with their players on defensive fundamentals.  "We bring five letter winners back and all of them were underclassmen  and multiple were freshmen and sophomores.  So, we are still going to be pretty young, but even though we are young we still have varsity experience, so we really can't hang our hat on that, but having that experience is going to be valuable for us.  I think the thing about this team and something we haven't had for a while, we have a lot of guys that are diehard basketball guys that can really score the basketball," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "For us right now our struggle for success is going to depend on is do we want to guard anybody?  So far in this preseason that has been our biggest hurdle.  We think we can win games in the 60's and 70's and that just doesn't do you any good in high school basketball.  You have to be able to guard people and right now we still have a ways to go with that."

          It is sort of a mental thing.  Sheldon says the players have to understand the importance of defense and right now they are not.  "We are doing our best as a coaching staff to slap that reality into them every day, but with high school kids unfortunately that typically doesn't happen to game night.  You hope that is doesn't cost you a win or two, but sometimes those things have to happen for young people to understand the importance of some of those hard working, fundamentally correct, strategies that we are trying to teach them at the defensive end.  So far, we are not growing with the leaps and bounds like I want to on that end of the floor.  You never know, we might have to learn that lesson the hard way.  It is one the downs sides when you have kids that have skill with the basketball in their hands and their success their whole life has been scoring the basketball and that has been what they have been applauded for and told they are good basketball players.  It is not until you get to the varsity level that kids have realize that defense is just as important as offense and sooner or later we have to figure that out and hopefully it is sooner rather that later," said Sheldon.

 

Published 11/20/15

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Western Still a Mystery

 

          Western Reserve's basketball program is used to success, but this year has been a different story for the Rough Riders as they have produced only five wins.

          They play Woodmore in the division three sectional semi-finals on Wednesday night at Oak Harbor High School.

          With the turning of the calendar, coach Chris Sheldon hopes they can get a few basketballs to bounce their way.  "Anytime you don't play well.  Trying to figure out why on certain nights certain guys play well and why other guys don't play well that can be frustrating to say the least.  I am just glad February is over because we went 0-for-February.  The positive is it is a new month and hopefully that means a little more good fortune for the Rough Riders come March," he said.

          Woodmore (10-11) out of the Northern Buckeye Conference has some potential.  Sheldon says they know what they have to do.  "They have one really, really good player.  A 6'4" kid that can step out on the perimeter and can post you up and do a lot of things with the basketball.  Around him they just have a lot of scrappy guards.  They don't have significant size outside of him.  They pick you up full court all game long, they try to deny you, do a little bit of trapping.  They just really try and speed you up and get you to play the game at a different tempo then you want to play," he said.

          Sheldon says they can't allow this to become a high scoring game or they aren't going to win.  "For us we have to be able to control tempo number one, and number two we really have to limit their best player's opportunity to score the basketball because he is the one guy that could definitely beat us if we don't work hard to make him have a tough night offensively," he said.

          He has been the coach at Western Reserve for more than a decade now and Sheldon admits he really can't figure this team out.  "There have been nights we have gotten off to a good start, we had an eight point lead in the second half against St. Paul, and it all fell apart.  The week before we were slow out of the gate and made a comeback to get back in the ballgame and then we fell short at the end," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "That has just been the mystery with our basketball team it is not necessarily a good start or not a good start it is more can we play 32 minutes of basketball and that is going to be a challenge for us.  Unfortunately when you have a basketball team that has that kind of flow to a basketball game is why you are having a losing season and why you aren't playing very well comes back to the lack of consistency."

 

Published 3/04/15

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Western Trying to Get Ready for Tournament

 

          Western Reserve has not been in the Firelands Conference race this year, which is rare, but the Rough Riders have the potential to do some damage in the tournament if they can become more consistent.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says their focus right now is on the tournament.  "Why you are inconsistent is you just aren't as talented as you have been or as talented as the people you are playing.  We have certainly ran into a little buzz saw here these last two weeks with some of our competition.  Hey, it is what it is.  I told our kids the great thing about basketball is you have tournaments right around the corner and everybody makes it.  We can put everything we have done so far this season in the rear view mirror by trying to finish strong and play with confidence into a tournament and a draw that we really like.  It is a situation where I think our kids are still hungry and are working hard trying to get better.  It is just a matter of can we be consistent for 32 minutes," said Sheldon.

          Western Reserve (5-12,3-8) is at home for Crestview (4-15,4-7) in a Firelands Conference game on Friday night.  Sheldon says they have to defend the post better than the first time they played the Cougars.  "They have some pretty talented players.  They have the capability of really putting it on you and anybody has that ability against us.  They are definitely dangerous for us.  We can't overlook anybody.  We had a great game there, a one point game, the last time we played them, a 65-64 game, that I think was extremely entertaining for anybody sitting in the stands watching because neither team could stop the other team, so there was a lot of scoring.  Both of us have the potential to do that," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Our biggest thing is we can't count on scoring 65 points again we have to try and do a better job of trying to slow them down this time.  They really hurt us in some post isolations.  It has been a focus this week on how we can guard them in the post a little bit better than we did the last time."

          The Rough Riders will play Woodmore in a first round tournament game in division three and likely second seeded Huron if they can win that one.  Sheldon thinks they fared very well.  "Being the 11th seed out of 13 an you knew going in the you weren't going to have a whole heck of a lot to choose from.  We are going to be in a bracket with one of the top three seeds and it played out that way.  In reality for us to be able to play the 10th seed that was right in front of us and be able to go jump on them gives us the opportunity to take a young group of guys into a tournament game with an opportunity to win and hopefully play for a sectional championship.  I think it was as good a draw as you could ask for when you have five wins.  So, I was pleased with it and the match-up we got was one two match-ups we were hoping we could get going into the draw.  For it to be able to unfold that way was probably the biggest win we could have gotten this season," he said.

 

Published 2/20/15

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Western the Underdog Against Plymouth

 

          This has not been a typical season for the Western Reserve Rough Riders and they are going to have to step up their game a great deal as they play Firelands Conference leader Plymouth on Friday night.

          Last week, the Rough Riders lost a conference game to Mapleton (81-78) on Friday and a non-conference game (54-29) to Norwalk on Saturday.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they have just not been up to the challenge, especially when they play the good teams on their schedule.  "That's a byproduct of being an inconsistent basketball team and that is exactly why we set here today at 5-11.  Teams that struggle to put it together for two, three quarters some nights and other nights it's just like going to the dentists office for four straight quarters.  That is a product of you are just not very good and right now that is just where we are at.  Especially depending on the opponent right now is a big difference maker for us," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "One of the hurdles we have struggled with all year is when we walk in knowing a team is a good caliber basketball team our guys just haven't been willing or able or capable of stepping up to the challenge.  That is just what sort of happened on Saturday night we just sort of laid an egg again and it is unacceptable.  The good thing is we still have four games and we get another opportunity to play a very, very good basketball team.  We will see if we can step on the floor willing, ready, and able to compete for 32 minutes and that is the objective this week."

          Western Reserve (5-11,3-7) is at Plymouth (17-1,11-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the small school division, in a Firelands Conference game on Friday night.  Sheldon says to have any chance they have to make a high percentage of shots.  "The first thing is we have to go to church on Sunday and say a couple of extra prayers.  Secondly, we have to be at our best offensively.  I think against a team of this caliber you might be able to do one or two things with a wrinkle at the defensive end, but you are not going to stop them.  You are not going to be able to hold them back at the defensive end of the floor, especially when you look at our team and how undersized we are," he said.

          Sheldon says the goal is to just kind of hang around, which is something they didn't do the first time they played the Big Red when they were (70-33) walloped.  "If you can make shots you can gain confidence and if you can gain confidence against a good team you start believing.  The longer you are able to do that the more you hang around the more you give your kids a shot to win.  On their end doubt starts to creep in as to why are these guys still playing with us?  And all my gosh are we going to be upset?  That is what you hope for when you are a pretty big underdog against a pretty good basketball team.  That is where you see upsets happen and that is how they typically happen.  That is what we are hoping for as we try to play with them for 32 minutes," said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/11/15

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Western Reserve Getting There

 

          After a win last week over New London it looks like the Western Reserve Rough Riders are becoming a pretty good basketball team.

          The Riders beat New London (60-56) last Friday night and coach Chris Sheldon says it was a huge win terms of confidence for his team.  "It was really something our basketball team desperately needed.  I thought that was the closest our team has come to putting together for 32 minutes of basketball.  That is something we have got to be efficient at.  That is something we have to do in order to be able to continue to take steps and get better," he said.

          This year's team does not have some of the firepower of the Western teams of the recent past and Sheldon says they have to be really good if they are going to win.  "When you don't have the ability to go out and score in bunches you have to really be efficient and be consistent more so than anything on a play to play basis night to night.  That is definitely an area that we have struggled with a lot.  It is something where over the last month our basketball team is a lot better at," he said.

          Western Reserve (5-9,3-6) hosts Mapleton (4-11,4-5) in a Firelands Conference game on Friday night.  Sheldon says they would like to get into the Mapleton bench if they can.  "I think you see the inconsistency with them because of their lack of depth.  I think they have three really good basketball players that are as good as anybody in our league outside of Tyrell.  When you look at how their supporting cast plays that tends to be why you see them be inconsistent because the three guys do draw so much attention.  Not that their role players need to do a lot, but they need to do just enough to keep the other team off balance," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "They do have three kids that can really fill it up and that is going to be our focus come Friday night.  We have to do a good job on the Barone brothers and really limit their post player's touches because I think he is really good with his back to the basket.  We have our hands full and I have said to our guys all season long every game in our league, outside of Plymouth, is going to be a real battle and those that can consistently bring it for 32 minutes and focus on one possession at a time is likely to come out on top at the end."

          The Rough Riders play at Norwalk (8-7) in a non-league game on Saturday night.  Sheldon says this game, against a good division two opponent, will be good preparation for them is they are able to reach the district tournament.  "We have actually had some really good games against them even when they have had some of those really good teams we have been able to compete with them for at least part of the game the last two years and prior to that we had some success against them.  For us it is one of the few times we are able to get out on a big floor and that is something we like.  In no means are we an odds on favorite to get to the district tournament this year, but when you look at the likes of Huron and Colonel Crawford and Eastwood might be more favorites to get there this year.  Norwalk is historically athletic and those kinds of teams help you preparation for those kinds of ballgames," said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/06/15

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Western Starting to Play Well

 

          They have been waiting a while for this, but Western Reserve may turned the corner in terms of their execution and played perhaps their two best games of the season in their last two outings.

          They beat Norwalk St. Paul (56-52) last Friday and Crestview (65-64) on Monday night, both in Firelands Conference games.  Coach Chris Sheldon says this is what he had been waiting for.  "I think the biggest difference in where we were at a week ago more so than anything else was playing with confidence and believing in ourselves.  We really saw that Friday night against St. Paul.  The first two and half quarters was the best we have looked as a basketball team all year long.  We were clicking on all cylinders," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We were so efficient at both ends of the floor.  That is what helped to build a 17 point lead with four minutes to go in the third.  Unfortunately a couple of things started to unravel and things maybe didn't go our way mainly due to us and some of the good things that St. Paul stated to do.  We were able to hang on and it wasn't necessarily the prettiest of wins.  It was exactly what we needed from the standpoint of, hey, we won and we got a little bit of a monkey off of our back and started to gain some of that confidence back."

          With some good things accomplished against St. Paul, Sheldon says they were able to enhance things a little more against Crestview.  "I thought we carried a little bit of that over and played excellent on (Monday) night.  I think anybody that watched that game would not have thought that was a one win and a three win team playing each other because I thought both of us played really, really well.  Not only did we win a close game in the end, but we made all of the right plays at the right times.  On Friday night we were a little lucky at times to come away with some things that went our way where (Monday) night we made some plays and we made some shots and did everything we had to do to win the ballgame.  That is a big step and hopefully that is something we can continue to build on as we move on to these next nine games," said Sheldon.

          It will be a much more of a challenge for Western Reserve (4-7,3-4)  when they play at South Central (9-3,6-1) on Thursday night.  Sheldon says they know they have to continue the momentum.  "That is what has our guys excited a little bit and has me excited going into Thursday night coming off two of the best basketball games that we have played you can see some of the confidence back in our guys steps now we can see where can we move to?  Is that our ceiling or can we go and beat a good basketball team?  That is not to say that St. Paul and Crestview aren't good basketball teams, but their records and ours are what they are.  Now, we get to test ourselves against the second best team in our conference that is a pretty good basketball team to see if we can continue to make strides in the right direction." he said.

          South Central won (72-54) on December 12 and Sheldon says to turn that around they have to guard the ball better this time.  "I think the biggest thing is you have to be able to guard the basketball.  They have so many guys that can handle it and break you down off the dribble.  If you can't guard the dribble all you do is allow them to set themselves up for easy shots or make plays for their teammates and they have a lot of shooters.  The whole key is can you guard the ball and keep it in front of you that is going to be our biggest challenge because that is what we didn't do well the first time we played them.  That is why they are seeing the success they are seeing because they are utilizing their strengths and playing to them well.  We have to take that away in order to be successful," said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/21/15

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Western Still Searching for Confidence

 

          It's almost mid-January and the Western Reserve Rough Riders have only won two games and that has been unheard of over the last decade or a little more.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they just seem to find ways to lose games when they could win them.   "We just continue to find a way to self destruct.  It is a combination of several things.  The end of the day I take full responsibility for it because I haven't been able to get the message delivered and get us to be able to execute the way we need to finish off games.  Saturday night we are tied 40-40 at the end of the third quarter and we come out and shoot ourselves in the foot with back to back to back turnovers that are self inflicted," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "A lot of that right now is lacking confidence with the game on the line and unfortunately that is one of the negative things that comes with losing.  It is my job to get that turned around, try to change that mentality, and turn things around.  That is something we are going to continue to work at heading into St. Paul."

          Right now, the coach says his players are not reacting well when the game is on the line.  "Some of our turnovers have just been poor reads.  We had two of the four on Saturday night where we just throw the ball to the white team and we are the team in blue.  It's like how did you miss that defender there?  We are just not making the right reads.  Part of that is just panicking a a little bit, feeling the pressure of losing, feeling the pressure of the fourth quarter.  That tends to speed you up a little bit.  Sometimes if you speed up and don't slow your self down mentally you are going to make mistakes.  To me, and the guys in the stands, it looks like a pretty boneheaded mistake and much of it is attributed to the fear of losing and not playing with the confidence they need to go out and execute in those moments," said Sheldon.

          Western Reserve (2-7,1-4) is home for a Firelands Conference game against rival Norwalk St. Paul (2-6,2-3) on Friday night.  Sheldon identifies perimeter defense as a key because St. Paul has shooters.  "The thing I think I have been most impressed with that I didn't realize is their ability to shoot the basketball.  Obviously they didn't shoot in well on Saturday night in scoring only 28 points, but if you look at every game up to that they have really shot the ball well from the perimeter, so that concerns me.  They have a couple of athletic guys that can create some problems off the dribble.  Plus, I think their leader, their toughest player in the Rockford kid, if we plays well they play well.  I think that is really something we have to work on early in the game in not letting him get comfortable and getting the basketball in his hands and finding ways to beat us," he said.

 

Published 1/14/15

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Western Reserve Working on Things

 

          Western Reserve is a team that needs to grow a lot this year to become a good basketball team, but they ran into a  road block last week in the Plymouth Big Red.

          Plymouth pounded the Rough Riders (70-33) and coach Chris Sheldon says they kind of got intimidated a little bit.  "We are not a typical Western Reserve team right now.  What is misleading and what most people don't now is at halftime Tyrell has four and Bebee has six.  If you would have told me that going into the game I would have told you we are in a pretty good situation, but unfortunately their other players really hurt us.  That is a testament to how much better that Plymouth basketball team is this year.  We just got smacked in the mouth early and we didn't respond in the way that we would have liked to," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "They turned it up a little bit from a defensive intensity standpoint and we for the first time sort of backed down.  We didn't come through and make shots either.  We were 1-19 from behind the line.  When you are playing a team the caliber of Plymouth you have to be hitting on all cylinders to just be in the game rather than compete with them. Some of those things led to our downfall and demise on Saturday night."

          Western (2-6,1-4) visits Crestview (1-7,1-3) for a Firelands Conference game on Friday night.  Sheldon says he wants them to concentrate on getting better, not necessarily Crestview.  "It's two struggling basketball teams, but at the end of the night somebody has to make enough plays to come away with the victory.  What we are banking on is continuing to have a productive week and attack areas that we are not really strong in so far, but more importantly try to build some confidence.  When you aren't doing things well kids start to second guess themselves and they start to lose faith in what they are trying to do.  For us regardless of Crestview's situation that is what we talked about all week long, what can we do to get better.  Because with where we are at at 2-6 that has to be the focus.  Hopefully, some of the things we are trying to attack this week we can get better at and cause some positive things to happen at their place.  I think at the same time it is a good situation for us to play another team that is struggling and facing some of the same things that we are hopefully allows us to gain some of that confidence back," said Sheldon.

          What Sheldon wants most of his club is to continue working on getting better and if they do they will start to win games.  "That is some of the things we have been talking about.  The great thing about basketball that is different from football is a bad start doesn't mean the season is over.  A bad start is just where you are at this point and time.  You have options you can either dwell on it and continue on that path or you can show up every day and keep working hard and if you do good things will happen as the season continues to progress.  That is something that we have been preaching.  We really thought we were headed in the right direction, but we ran into a buzz saw last week in Plymouth.  Hopefully with Crestview on Friday night and Sandusky Perkins on Saturday we have a chance to get back on the winning ways," said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/08/15

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Western Just Wants to Hang Around With Plymouth

 

          Western Reserve has been making some steps forward, but they have been baby steps so far and that might not be good enough to compete with Firelands Conference favorite Plymouth on Saturday night.

          Last Saturday, they had a chance to beat Mapleton, but let it slip away and the Mounties came out on top (66-63) in a conference game.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they are making progress, but still getting caught up with not being able to execute at crunch time.  "It has been painfully obvious over the last couple of weeks that things have been happening to our basketball team during critical moments with our inexperience and those are the situations that we have been put in.  The thing I am hopeful for that our guys continue to show up from practice and learn from those mistakes.  I think it is just a matter of time before we put it all together.  This past week we were probably as efficient offensively as we have been all year long.  We have started to resemble a varsity basketball team at the offensive end of the floor," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "That was a positive step in the right direction for us, but unfortunately we had some critical mental breakdowns that cost us the basketball game.  Those are situations you go through when you play young guys, when you are playing guys in positions that they have never been put in before.  Like I said at the beginning of the year I don't know how many games we are going to win, but I think at the end of January going into February we are going to be a basketball team that not a lot of people want to play."

          The Rough Riders (2-5,1-3) host defending champion Plymouth (6-1,3-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Saturday night in the Firelands.  Sheldon says the Big Red is really becoming a good all around team.  "They are the basketball team that everybody is gunning for right now, but at the same time they are a basketball team that you better be careful what you ask for because they are that talented.  They can just beat you in multiple ways.  Everybody obviously knows about Tyrell and T.B. , but an even bigger difference for me so far is the players around those two.  Obviously Dodge Collins can make shots and then they have some other plays that are athletic and can make plays for them.  It makes it awfully hard when they have those two players, but when you put other players around them it is a tough match up we are going to have our hands full Saturday night," said Shedlon.

          Plymouth put the game away last Saturday against Crestview with a barrage of outside shots.  Sheldon says that is just a chance you have to take.  "That is the only way that you can continue to play them is to dare them to beat you from the perimeter and if they make shots they are going to beat you.  If you can get those guys to miss a couple of shots early and get them to start thinking a little bit and maybe you can you hang around a little bit.  that is really what we are gunning for is to just hang around and try to make it a game in the fourth quarter and see what happens.  When you play very good teams and they know they are the favorite and they know they are much better than you.  If you can hang around in the fourth quarter maybe you can get them to panic a little bit an think why are these guys still playing with us and maybe get some momentum on our side," said Sheldon.

 

Published 12/31/14

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Western Trying to Find Answers

 

          There are no two ways about it, Western Reserve got beat up pretty badly last week and now they have to be able to respond.

          South Central belted them (72-54) in a Firelands Conference game and then LaGrange Keystone beat them up (72-37) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

          Coach Chris Sheldon they got hammered and now they have to learn from it.  "We knew what the possibilities were no doubt about it.  We played South Central, who I think is the second best team in our league and they played like it.  They had every answer and we couldn't match it.  Every time we tried to make an adjustment they made a better one.  Then Saturday night we knew we were probably playing the best team on our schedule this year.  We got taken to the woodshed needless to say," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "The disappointing part of that night was is I don't think we competed and we almost became intimidated and started to back down.  It is one thing to get beat, but you can't get beat because we mentally aren't willing to rise to the challenge.  So, we have had some growing pains.  You know that is always going to happen when you are green.  We are going to try and utilize those experiences from last week and make ourselves better this week in practice."

          Sheldon says they have been working hard in practice and he says this weekend when they play Monroeville and New London in conference games will be a chance to sort of make amends.  "That is what we have been talking about all week.  Every time you step out on the floor there is somebody in the crowd watching.  You always leave an imprint of yourself and your team every time you take the floor.  I talked about the bad taste we left in our mouth and the impressions that we left for anybody that watched us play last weekend.  The good news is we get an opportunity to change people's mindset and what people think of us this coming weekend and that all starts with the mentality and the desire that we try to step on the floor with," he said.

          Jeremiah Diebler is new coach at Monroeville (1-2,1-1) and he has instituted his father's system of wall to wall pressure.  Sheldon says they must handle the basketball and guard the three point line.  "You have to be able to handle it and move the ball efficiently.  The one thing that is noticeable about his team early on in watching them on film is they are playing with a sense of urgency with a lot of passion and energy and I think that is the other half of the battle is being able to match that urgency.  That is something at both ends of the floor that we have to be able to do.  They have done a really good job, in the couple of games that I have watched, in shooting the basketball.  They have a lot of guys that are going to host a lot of threes as the Deibler system has done in the past.  We have to do a good job in not just handling the ball and not turning it over, but we have to guard the three point line.  Those are going to be key elements at the end of the night of how well we do and how successful we are," said Sheldon.

 

Published 12/19/14

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Western Growing as a Team

 

          Western Reserve played a pair of overtime games last weekend in beating Margaretta and losing to Vermilion in non-conference play.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they certainly found out a lot about their team and how they were going to perform in pressure situations.  "As a basketball coach you want to hang around until the fourth quarter and you want to be competitive and put your kids in a situation where you can win or lose the basketball game.  We definitely did that Friday and Saturday night.  We went from one extreme to the other unfortunately.  Friday night we were able to fight back from 10 points down with four minutes to go.  We really stepped and made a lot of key plays in what we call those toughness plays at both ends of the floor when the game mattered.  That was the difference in the outcome.  Then there was a little role reversal on Saturday night when we had a nine point lead in the fourth quarter and let is slip away.  We said going into this that was had a lot of guys that were really green around the ears.  Guys that were never in the position that they were going to be put in in a varsity basketball game.  The one thing that game out of this weekend for us is we got put in two situations where that hopefully we can learn a lot about ourselves.  If we can do that we can continue to make strides in the direction we want to go in," said Sheldon.

          This might be the youngest and most inexperienced team Sheldon has had at Western and he says there is a lot of potential for this team to get better as the season unfolds.  "My 13 years of being here one thing I can tell about this team from here to the end of the season they have the greatest potential to grow.  Because of where we are starting from and how green we are how young we are at times on the floor.  In both games last weekend we had three sophomores and a freshmen on the floor.  That opportunity for us to gain those valuable life lessons on the floor here can only help us get better because being this young and being this green means we don't know a lot, but we have plenty of time to learn and grow here in the next three months," he said.

          The Rough Riders tip-off Firelands Conference play on Friday night by hosting South Central (0-2) at their place.  The Trojans lost non-conference games against Mansfield St. Peter's (48-43) and Edison (53-48) last weekend.

          Sheldon says this is team with a lot of weapons.  "I think they have a lot of different guys that present a multitude of different problems for us as starters.  The only thing that they don't technically have is that true low post player.  I do think the sophomore Hale kid has a chance to really become that for this group as the year progresses.  They can put seven other guys out there that can really handle the basketball, shoot the basketball, create shots for themselves or others.  There is not one guy," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "I think most people would have said going into last weekend that you have to stop Yost and Wilhelm to be successful.  Well Yost and Wilhelm were held down, but then a couple of their other guys Lamerauex and Gray stepped up and made big plays and big shots for them against two pretty good basketball teams.  That is what is scary about them.  You can't key on one guy because all five guys can hurt you."

 

Published 12/10/14

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Western Reserve Still Searching

 

          The search is still on at Western Reserve for a go to scorer and a more consistent team, so far coach Chris Sheldon has not found either.

          He says one day it looks good and the next day not so much.  "One day we will take a step forward and they next day we will take a step backwards.  It is a sign of a lot of youth and inexperience and those two things tend to go hand and hand.  You just can't figure out yet what it takes on a daily basis to be a varsity player and play with the consistency needed at both ends of the floor and that has continued to be our problem over the last week," he said.

          Margaretta, of the Sandusky Bay Conference, comes to Western for a non-conference match-up on Friday night.  Coach Sheldon says it will just be good for his team to get on the floor for real.  "Not just getting a win, but getting that experience under the lights with people in the stands.  Scrimmages are great for teaching points and they give you some idea what speed and size are going to be like at the varsity level.  You never know how kids are going to react until game time and the lights come on and it's time to put up or shut up.  We need to get that out of our way and under our belt.  The more wins this basketball team can experience the more I think our confidence can grow," said Sheldon.

          He thinks a lot of the game might be based on if Margaretta's best player Dylan Bailey is able to play or not.  "They are almost a mirror image of us in a lot of ways.  I think the biggest question mark going into Friday night is whether or not all-district play Dylan Bailey is back and healthy.  He set out the second half of football.  He sat out most of the preseason.  We are approaching it as if he is going to play, but we have no idea.  He is a heck of a talent and a tremendous scorer.  He is a great basketball player that has played for four years and has the ability to carry a basketball team," said Sheldon.

          If Bailey is not in the line-up then Sheldon says there are a lot of unanswered questions.  "If he can't go than I would say we are mirror images of each other from the standpoint that there is not a true go to guy, we are going to play eight or nine guys, will be scrappy and compete and get after it.  But neither coach Keller or I really know what we are going to get from play to play for our guys.  From seeing a little bit of film on them that is what I have seen so far.  It going to be a test and one that our team needs against not necessarily an elite basketball team out of the gate, but a solid basketball team that is going to do a lot of things well at both ends of the floor," he said.

 

Published 12/04/14

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A Lot of Questions For Western Reserve

 

          Western Reserve has been one of the winningest boys' basketball programs in North Central Ohio over the last more than a decade, but their coach is a little concerned about this year.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they don't have much experience and as of yet they haven't developed consistent scoring from the players they do have.  "This year coming into it after the summer we had and the loss of two really good players to graduation it is the first time in my 13 years as a head coach that there are a lot of unknowns going into the year from the standpoint that we don't have a quote unquote go to guy.  We have to establish who is going to be good night in and night out at the offensive end of the floor and really because of our lack of firepower have had to focus on what we can control at the defensive end of the floor.  On top of it being very lean from an experience standpoint we have been looking at 13 guys right now that are fighting for eight spots," said Sheldon.

          However, one thing is clear.  Sheldon says this group of players is willing to put in great effort everyday.  "Even though we are still really inconsistent right now it is a group that has gotten better everyday.  It is a group that is hungry and competing.  I don't know how skilled we are or how good we are going to be and what that is going to translate into wins and losses, but for a group that probably has the lowest amount in terms of expectations for a team that I have ever coached I couldn't be happier from the standpoint of our daily drive and our desire to become better basketball players," he said.

          Western Reserve has won more titles during Sheldon's time as coach than. six, than another school.  Sheldon says other league schools get up to play them, so it will be hard to be looked at as underdog this year.  "Nobody in our league is going to look at it that way.  When you are the team that has beaten everybody for so many years.  When they see Western Reserve pull into their place or they walk into our gym they are still getting up for that game because they don't get a chance to beat us very often.  That is one of the messages that we are trying to deliver to our guys," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "The other component is when I look at our league this year everybody has got people back.  Plymouth is just loaded with everybody back, South Central has their top eight back, Crestview brings back a ton, Monroeville brings back their entire starting five.  Us and St. Paul and New London and really the only schools that lost anybody.  Mapleton brings back their three best players.  We have our work cut out for us when it comes to our league, no doubt about it.  I saw a preseason poll where we were picked second, but I think that was in large part to just tradition.  If people really knew what we were putting out there on the floor compared to the other people in our league I don't know if our talent matches up with them."

          When all is said and done Sheldon says their kids still have a lot of confidence in their ability to win.  "Our kids still believe in the tradition and the ability to win basketball games.  It is just going to be how much better can we get every day.  With the days dwindling down how much better can we improve and get ready for varsity game action?  I am excited, but at the same time quite nervous," he said.

 

Published 11/25/14

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Western Plays the Role of Underdog

 

          Western Reserve has been a pretty good tournament team over the years, including advancing to the district finals last year, but this year they are the fifth seed in the division three tournament at Oak Harbor and have taken the underdogs role.     

          They meet Pemberville Eastwood in the sectional semi-finals on Wednesday night.

          Coach Chris Sheldon likes the way they are playing after Firelands Conference wins over New London (47-44) in overtime and Norwalk St. Paul (64-48) last Friday.  "We have won three of four and in reality could have won our last four, but that wasn't the case.  What I like is I think we have gotten better.  We have played much better as a team and we have started to get more contributions from some of our supporting cast besides our two mains scorers, which is something we really need at this time of year.  I think our guys are hungry and eager and excited about the opportunity to play a tournament basketball game," he said.

          Sheldon says their recent play and their past tournament success has given them a measure of confidence, but he knows Eastwood is a very good team.  "Even though we are the underdog going into the game our kids don't believe that and they know what its like to play in tournament games and how exciting that can be, especially if you can get on a little bit of a roll,' he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, " We definitely have our hands full.  It's a very good basketball team and it starts with their shooting guard.  He is a 1,000 point scorer and he does a lot of things really well.  They have good complement players in three really athletic post players.  Then we really have to do an outstanding job rebounding the basketball all night long.  I think those are the two biggest keys for us.  Can we take some of those things away and make some of their role players beat us."

          With games against the likes of Norwalk, Sandusky Perkins, and twice Plymouth, Sheldon thinks they are well prepared for what they will see on Wednesday night.  "I would like to think that our first 21 games have gotten us ready for this opportunity.  We haven't had a win on our schedule all year where we have went out and beat somebody that is better than us, but at the same time I believe the teams that we have played like Plymouth in our conference and obviously our non-conference schedule have got us ready for this moment and this is time when you want to put those type of games together and that is going to be what it takes for us to come victorious," said Sheldon.

 

Published 2/26/14

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Western Dealing with Injuries

 

          This year more than some has been a series of difficult challenges for the Western Reserve Rough Riders, and the latest is injury.

          Their best player in guard Nate Good tweaked an ankle last week and did not playing in a Firelands Conference win over Crestview (60-54) and a non-conference loss to Edison (47-45) and coach Chris Sheldon says they just had to find some other ways.  "It has been one of those years where every week it has been a different scenario we have been working with and dealing with.  Right now we are without our leading scorer at 16 points a game, a first team all district player, our best player, Nate Good, and we went through that this past weekend," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "I thought our kids responded tremendously well on Friday night, and played really well on Saturday night and lost a basketball game in a fashion which I never thought was possible, but it did.  For us, we have to use it as a learning experience going forward.  Hopefully we can get Goodie back if not this week, by the weekend, and try to do something here as we come to the final stretch."

          Western Reserve (9-10,8-4) pays a visit to New London (10-9,9-3) on Wednesday night for a make up game in the Firelands Conference.  Sheldon believes that New London coach Tom Howell has done a tremendous job with the circumstances he has been faces with this year.  "I think there is no doubt with the growth they have made and the victories they have been able to secure, just how far they have come.  I think they started out the season like 2-4 and to be where they are right now, they are in second place by themselves.  This is for second place come Wednesday night.  It's going to be a battle.  He has kids that play really, really hard.  He has got them to play very unselfish.  There is not one guy you would probably key on.  It is just a ball club that has leaned to share the basketball and that is why they have been able to have the success they have had even with the limited amount of players that they have," said Sheldon.

          The Rough Riders host rival Norwalk St. Paul (8-12,6-7) on Friday night for a conference game.  Sheldon says the Flyers will know everything they do.  "The one thing they do very well, and Mike's ball clubs typically have, they are well prepared, as well as anyone in our league.  They try to take away some of the things you do with your first and second options.  It really makes you bear down and focus to get to you third and fourth option and continue to play the play," he said.

          Sheldon believes the way the schedule is this week will be of assistance when they play in the division three sectional tournament next week.  "I like this week that we get to play a Wednesday, Friday.  It will be similar to what our next week will be as we get play in the sectionals on Wednesday night and if we are successful again on Friday night.  We are going in with the mindset that this is sort of preparing us to play two good basketball teams in a short amount of time.  Hopefully we can go out and fine tune a couple of things, be successful, and get healthy for the second season," he said.

 

Published 2/19/14

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Western Has Big Task

 

          An upset loss to Mapleton last week in all likelihood cost Western Reserve a chance to share the Firelands Conference title with Plymouth.

          They now trail the Big Red by two games heading into their showdown with Plymouth on Friday night in Plymouth.

          Last Friday, Mapleton held Nate Good to just five points and they beat Western (46-43) in overtime.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they didn't execute very well and fell back into some bad habits.  "Yeah, I thought they played tremendous and unfortunately it was one those games for us where it seemed like we couldn't do a whole lot right.  It was a combination of a very poor shooting night from all of our guys, including our leading scorer (Nate Good), foul trouble, turnovers, and that whole nine yards just played into Mapleton's hands.  The disappointing thing was we had a chance to take care of business and be playing for something and unfortunately stubbed our toe.  All we can do now is try to finish strong these last few weeks and see what we can do about playing our best heading into March," said Sheldon.

          He says there will be no pouting at Western due to their current situation.  They just plan to continue to work hard.  "There is no secret we have been up and down all season long.  We would win two, win three, lose two, lose three.  That has sort of been our M.O. all year and that is a sign of a basketball team that is just inconsistent.  It is not due to lack of effort.  I don't think it due to our kid's lack of commitment to do the right thing it is just a matter that there are nights when we are just not as skilled, or not as sharp, at both ends of the floor, and we are not a team that can afford to have off nights and have consecutive possessions when we don't do good things with the basketball," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "That is something we are still trying to work and correct because it is a 20 some game season for a reason and you are playing those 20 some games to get you ready for the end of the year and that is still our focus and our goal.  Friday night is another opportunity for us trying to come out and get better and that is the approach that we are taking right now."

          The Rough Riders (8-8,7-3) are at Plymouth (16-2,10-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coach's poll in the small school divison, for a conference game on Friday night.  The Big Red won (67-55) in Collins on December 27 and Sheldon says for it to be any different on Friday they have to force Plymouth to work extremely hard.  "You have to play well yourself obviously to start with because they are such a good basketball team,  They have enough scoring options that they are going to score baskets, but you have to make things a little more difficult for them.  You can't give them easy plays.  Easy plays that they really exploit you on are turnovers out front and easy buckets in the lane, whether you don't rotate quick enough on drives, or when Tyrell catches it in the low post or offensive put backs.  You just have to make them earn everything all night.  I think if you look at the two teams that beat them (Buckeye Central and New London) that is sort of what happened.  Unfortunately through 18 games they have only lost twice and that's why they are that good.  We have to disrupt them and come in and play aggressive and really handle the basketball and not give them easy opportunities for buckets," said Sheldon

 

Published 2/06/14

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Western Ready to Get Going Again

 

          It took a little while, but Western Reserve is starting to play some pretty good basketball and they hope the weather doesn't get in their way.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says despite school being cancelled due to the cold weather they have been able to get into the gym this week and that has been a blessing.  "It was bad for us from the standpoint that we are really starting to play well.  We have gotten into a real good rhythm at both ends of the floor and you could really see our kids jell well together.  It is what it is.  We were able to get into the gym little bit (Tuesday) and (Wednesday).  Hopefully (Thursday) getting back into school and getting into that routine will get us ready for Friday and get ready for what I think is a challenging basketball game against a team that doesn't have a lot of wins, but they have some talent that scares you," he said.

          After loosing three of their first five and then struggling in mediocrity, the Rough Riders have won their last three games and Sheldon says they have really become a different team.  "I still think if their is one area that we can get better in it is not so many unforced turnovers.  We just tend to kick ourselves in the rear end sometimes with unforced turnovers.  Since we had a roster change we have become a lot more athletic basketball team and that aggressiveness and using our athleticism has really helped us in a lot of ways.  We have went back to a lot of our four guards around one post player offense and it has opened up our offense a lot more," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "More than anything it has allowed some of our role players to stop thinking and just start playing and allowing some of their skill to come to the forefront.  If you can get guys to just play basketball by reading and reacting in the flow of the game and not just sit there thinking and processing so much we become a much better basketball team and that has really been the difference for us the last two and a half weeks."

          On Friday night, the Rough Riders (8-7,7-2), in second place in the Firelands Conference, a game behind Plymouth, travel to Mapleton to face the Mounties (2-12,1-7) in a conference game.  Like other coaches in the league Sheldon says Mapleton is better than their record.  "If you look at their scores they have played everybody really close at home and they play a lot better at home.  When you look their scores and their margin of victory at home as compared to on the road.  I think they have four pretty good guards.  Unfortunately it looks like they have lost their best post player to an injury for the rest of the season.  They have four good guards and they have the one guard back since the last time we played them.  I think at times their guards can be very dangerous off the dribble, very explosive, and they mix a couple of shooters in there as well.  You have to guard the drive and get to their three shooters and not let them get into rhythm.  You try to slow them down and disrupt them and that is going to be a key for us on Friday night," said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/30/14

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Western back in it

 

          Western Reserve is back nipping at the heels of Firelands Conference leader Plymouth as the Rough Riders are again just one game behind in the conference standings.

          Last Friday night, New London upset Plymouth (52-51), handing the Big Red their first conference loss, and then Saturday night Western went to Monroeville and took care of business (70-52) against the Eagles.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says there is a new energy around the program. "I think it was a positive for our kids to hear what happened on Friday night.  I thought it gave us a little more energy and we went over there Saturday with a lot more on our plate as we got to play for possibly a league title.  It definitely was a little boost in energy.  We went over and played as good a basketball game offensively as we have all year long putting five guys in double figures and that is something that we have not done.," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We got great contributions from three guys besides our big two.  If we can start to get more confidence from those role players and continue to get some balance we might be able to continue to make steps in the right direction."

          With some better man to man and some zone Western Reserve has played some petty good defense this year.  Sheldon says it's improved offense that is going to make them competitive.  "I think defensively we have been consistent for the most part with who we have played and what we have tried to do.  For us right now it's about taking care of the basketball and not turning it over and trying to get balanced scoring and we were able to do that Saturday night," he said.

          Western (6-7,5-2) will be at South Central (5-6,3-4) in a Firelands Conference game on Wednesday night that is a make up from last Friday.  Sheldon says you have to get in the face of the Trojan shooters.  "I think the whole key for them is you have to be able to guard the three point line.  They have so many guys that can shoot the basketball you have to be able to cover the three point line.  And off of that you have to be able to guard the drive.  That's a critical piece for us to be successful.  It's one I am looking forward too in seeing if we can continue to buy in and do what we have been doing for the last week or so I think we have made some steps in the right direction and we will see what happens," said Sheldon.

          This Friday the Rough Riders host New London (6-5,5-2) in a conference game and then play them at New London next Monday.  Sheldon says the Wildcats will bring intensity.  "The one thing you know about a Tom Howell basketball team is they are going to get after it and they are going to compete and they aren't going to back down and they are going to play you for 32 minutes.  That is exactly what they did on Friday night against Plymouth.  They were down double digits midway through the fourth quarter and they didn't quit.  They continued to claw, scratch and fight and got all of the way back in it and give themselves a chance to make a play and win," said Sheldon.

          He says the two teams love playing each other.  "They have been our biggest rival in this league year in and year out.  Their kids and our kids have a mutual respect for one another, maybe not so much of a liking for one another, which can be a healthy thing.  That has given us so many great basketball games over the years.  Hopefully, our kids will be ready to respond and be up for the challenge," he said.

 

Published 1/21/14

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Western Reserve at a Crossroads

 

          With some roster changes and losses in three of their last four games, the Western Reserve Rough Riders need to get back on track.

          Last week, they lost to Norwalk St. Paul (51-47) in a Firelands Conference game on Friday night.  Coach Chris Sheldon believes they are showing progress in practice, but that has to start showing during games.  “I think we are definitely making progress.  The problem is right now we have lost three of the last four in the past two double weekends.  At the end of the day you are ultimately measured by your wins and losses and not just what your coach thinks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “That is ultimately what everybody evaluates.  I think right now going into this weekend we are at a critical point for our basketball team.  We have to figure out a way that we can become more consistent and start to do in games what we are starting to do in practice.  I think that right now that is the last step we have to take from a transitional standpoint and put 32 minutes and four quarters together.”

          On Saturday night, the Rough Riders played very well in losing (49-36) to Sandusky Perkins, #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in large school division.  Sheldon thought it was a step in the right direction.  “I thought Friday night against St. Paul we took steps backward and then Saturday night against a real good Perkins team we took steps forward we just couldn’t seal the deal in the fourth quarter.  If you would have told me going into Saturday night after Friday night’s game that we would be down two with the ball in the fourth quarter I would have told you bye me another.  Perkins made some plays and their athletes and their talent just took over.  It’s a critical weekend, but that’s where you are in the middle of January,” said Sheldon.

          Western Reserve (5-7,4-2) travels to South Central (5-5,3-3) on Friday night in conference play.  The Rough Riders beat the Trojans (55-45) in early December.  Sheldon outlines the keys to doing it again.  “I think they do play better when they are at home.  We have to go to their place and that is going to be to their advantage.  We were really successful the first time by doing two things.  We guarded the three point line well and we exploited them by trying to attack them in the paint.  Those are two key pieces that we have got to have to be successful Friday night.  We know they have a lot of three point shooters and I think a lot of teams that have beaten South Central have made it hard for their three point shooters to get good looks,” said Sheldon.

          Then they are at Monroeville (2-9,0-6) on Saturday night.  Sheldon says they are not in position to take any wins for granted.  “We are not a basketball team this year that is just going to overpower you.  I have had some teams in the past that on the back half of a double weekend and you are playing a team that hasn’t had a great deal of success this year we might be able to just show up and win the game by the time the second half starts.  We can not walk over there on Saturday night thinking this is going to be a walk in the park.  If we do that we are going to be in for a long night and a rude awakening when we wake up on Sunday morning.  We have to be ready to understand that this double weekend is extremely critical to where our basketball team is right now and how we finish strong in this second half of the season,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 1/16/14

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It’s still Defense for Western 

          Western Reserve continues to trail Firelands Conference leader Plymouth by a game in the conference standings as they look forward to the rematch with Big Red in about a month.

          Last Friday, they made the big plays at the end to beat Crestview (55-53) in overtime.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they had a lot of kids step up.  “I thought we really executed well down the stretch in the second half and then the fourth quarter.  It was a large compliment to the multiple seniors that were on the floor they were making the right reads and the right plays at the right time.  I never saw panic and I thought we kept our composure really well and that was evident in our execution and that was huge win for us Friday to stay where we need to stay here as we attempt to compete in the league as we move to a new year,” said Sheldon.

          Western (5-5,4-1) is a team that has shown a lot of improvement since what was a poor beginning to the season.  Sheldon says he even saw that in a loss (74-45) to Norwalk on Saturday night.  “We have improved a lot since November and I think you even saw that on Saturday night even though it was a loss and even got a little ugly there as we got into the second half.  I thought we competed and made tremendous strides as to where we were three, for weeks ago against the same caliber and type of ball club.  We were able to stay in the ball game for a while and compete and do some things.  That’s a sign of our young men making progress and that is all you can ask for,” he said.

          The Rough Riders will be at Norwalk St. Paul (2-5,2-4) in a rival game in the Firelands on Friday night.  Sheldon says again it is all about defense for them.  “The have two big guys that can score the basketball inside and they have a nice returning letter winner on the perimeter as well.  For us it’s going to be can we disrupt their timing a little bit and put them in some situations were they feel uncomfortable on the offensive end.  That is going to be the commitment to the defensive end and how hard we work at that.  At the end of the day the difference will be if we can execute our defensive game plan,” said Sheldon.

          They have been primarily a man-to-man defensive team over the years, but Sheldon says they have added more zone this year.  “I think our man has really improved.  It was a situation early on where I thought that was a weakness of ours, but as time has gone on it has definitely gotten better for us.  In order for you to be successful and be a winning basketball team you have to be able to guard people in man, that is something we have believed in,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have had to rely on our zone a lot more than we would have liked to, but if we can keep using those defenses and intertwining them together, not only does that make you a better defensive team because you can give different looks, it also keeps your opponent a little more off balance because they don’t get used to going against one style all game long.”

 

Published 1/10/14

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Western Reserve has to Buckle Down

 

          After losing at home to Plymouth last Friday, Western Reserve clearly understands its assignment for the rest of the season.

          They play the Big Red again on February 7 at Plymouth.

          Last week, coach Chris Sheldon says they executed everything they need to do accept they couldn’t make shots, many of them pretty easy shots, in the (67-55) loss to the Big Red.  “It was a frustrating game because I thought we missed a lot of opportunities to not just be in the ball game, but to win it.  Then watching and studying the film over the weekend that was clearly evident.  To get Tyrell three fouls in the first half and us not be able to capitalize on that was probably the difference in the basketball game and that was with one their kids hitting eight threes.  We know in reality for us to be a successful basketball team we are going to get our scoring from our guard in Nate Good, but we have to rely heavily on our three post players to balance that out and dominate the paint,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “After watching more film we got every shot we wanted all night long, but unfortunately it was a night when our post guys went a combined 8 for 23 and that’s in the paint.  We get 23 shots on them in the lane and easily over 14 of those shots were from within two feet and we couldn’t get it to go in and that was really the difference in the ball game and that is with TB getting double figures, Tyrell getting double figures and one of their kids hitting eight threes.  We are right there were we need to be we just didn’t finish the play.”

          Friday night they host Crestview (3-5,2-2) in a Firelands Conference game.  The Cougars upended Norwalk St. Paul (45-43) in their league game on Friday night.  Sheldon believes this game will be decided in the paint.  “This is going to be interesting.  I told our kids (Monday) this is first team we have played that has two post players as their main focus.  Inside the lane they are bigger than us.  It will be interesting to see who’s post guys dominate this game and want to go out and win it for their team.  They have a lot of nice shooters around and they have an athletic point guard in the Durbin boy that runs the show for them.  It is going to be another challenge.  What we have to understand right now is we can only play one game at a time at this point and we really have to focus on that game on that night and that is going to be starting with Crestview,” said Sheldon.

          If they are going to stay in the conference race and have a chance to make the second game against Plymouth important Sheldon says there is no time for pouting.  “Good teams that are hungry and want to be in a league title race come February are not going to set there and dwell on the negatives and what would a, should a, could a happened in a previous loss, especially a league loss.  You have to look at that and learn from your mistakes and try to apply some adjustments and make sure you don’t repeat those and go back out there and fight, scratch and claw and see what happens.  Hopefully when we talk a month from now and February is turning the page and we are still right there a game out behind Plymouth, but there is a lot of work between now and then and it starts by how we respond this week in practice,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 12/31/13

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Western Reserve and Plymouth Battle for First Place

 

          Defending Firelands Conference champion Western Reserve plays host to preseason pick Plymouth in an early showdown in the Firelands Conference on Friday night.

          Both teams are 3-0 in the conference after Plymouth beat Crestview (54-41) and Western beat Mapleton (55-41) on Friday night.  Western coach Chris Sheldon says they had to make some halftime adjustments against Mapleton, but they were successful.  “We were down one at halftime with a little bit of foul trouble going into half, but at the same time I thought Mapleton was really doing a lot of things to exploit us at the offensive end and we were just a step late.  We were not ready to rotate at the defensive end and they were taking advantage of it and making us pay for those mistakes.  I thought halftime we made a couple of little adjustments with what we wanted to do, mainly in our man to man,” he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday, “We were able to come out and execute those adjustments on the defensive end and really limit their offense for the first quarter and a half in the second half.  At the same time I thought we went down and were really efficient at the offensive end.  We got some contributions for our point guard that we hadn’t gotten in previous games that really sparked us and put us on a winning way.”

          Western Reserve stretched its overall record to (4-3) with a (61-56) win over Wellington in non-league play in Saturday night.

          There have been some Western teams over the years that have been able to score points in bunches, this year may not be one of those.  Sheldon says this team will have to play very good defense to win.  “We are not an offensive powerhouse by any means, so to compete and be in games night in and night out we definitely have to bring it at the defensive end.  One of the things so far that has been a bread and butter is our match-up zone defense and that has been really good for us, but I thought Mapleton was really the first team we had played that hurt us a little bit in that defense.  So, that gave us some things that we have to learn from and make some adjustments because that still has to be one of our key defenses, but I thought our man to man defense as the difference in the basketball game and that is something we have to have if we are going to win basketball games,” said Sheldon.

          Plymouth (4-1,3-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball poll in the small school division, brings a team with not many seniors, but Sheldon says they have a boatload of experience.  “You have to throw their age out the window of those four guys, three of them have been playing for at least two years and another one for at least a year.  They have as much experience and talent, head and shoulders above, anyone else in our league.  Outside of the opening night when they stumbled a bit against a very good Buckeye Central basketball team they have been really, really impressive so far here in the early part of the season.  To get to this point we have had some high and low points in the season, but it gives us the opportunity to walk in to a gym on Friday night with first place on the line at our place, and that’s exciting.  We have to work extra hard this week and make sure we understand what our assignments are in order to give ourselves a chance to win in that game,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 12/23/13

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Confidence an Issue for Rough Riders

 

          Western Reserve is tied for the lead in the Firelands Conference.  After two games the Rough Riders and Plymouth have 2-0 conference records.  However, this year has been a struggle at times for Western.

          Last week, they put things together in the fourth quarter and beat Monroeville (62-46) in a conference game.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they are getting better and that is the most important thing.  “Through three quarters we had only scored 40 points and in the fourth quarter we were able to get a little bit of an offensive outburst and score 22 in the fourth.  We just strung a lot of things together there that went well for an eight minute stretch and that was the different in us stretching the lead form six to 16.  There were a lot of positives that was can take away from last Friday night’s game and that’s all you want to see right now when you are inexperienced, been inconsistent, and been struggling a little bit, you just want yourself to make some strides in the right direction and I thought we did that last week,’ said Sheldon.

          Not turning the ball over and getting good shots have been a key to good performances for the Rough Riders this year.  Sheldon says when they do that they give themselves a chance to win.  “For once we didn’t turn it over and that has been a common theme for us.  When we don’t turn it over we can score baskets.  When you turn it over not only do you not give yourself an opportunity to even score, but then you create fast break opportunities for your opponent, which is the hardest type play to defend.  That combination has been successful for us in our two wins,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “On top of that the guys we were playing against weren’t the caliber of opponent as maybe some of our games earlier in the year.  When we have not been out athleted we have been pretty successful, but when we have been out athleted we have struggled.  That is really the biggest difference right now. At the same time it is a matter of us playing with confidence and last week we did that.  In other times when we thought maybe we were outmanned we haven’t played as aggressive or confident as we need to be.”

          Mapleton (0-3,0-1) will come to Western on Friday night for a conference contest.  Sheldon says the Mounties have a tough, physical nature to their game.  “What has stuck out for me this week on film as we have prepared for them is they do have some very good athletes.  They have a toughness about them that they are not going to back down, they are going to compete.  The other thing that has really impressed me is their two guards have the ability to put the ball in the lane and score.  That is going to be the challenge, can we stop their dribble penetration to score,” he said.

          Western Reserve has won two of the last three league titles and have been the most consistent team over the last decade.  However, Sheldon says that doesn’t have any real relevance to this game.  “I think that maybe it’s a factor before you step into the gym and step onto the floor and when the lights go on it is just a matter of competing.  I don’t think it plays a lot in it.  Anybody that has seen us play right now the furthest thing from the tip their tongue would be the word champion,” he said.

 

Published 12/19/13

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Western Must Rebound and Handle the Ball

 

          Western Reserve has been the most consistent team in the Firelands Conference over the last decade, but this year has been a struggle so far for the Rough Riders. 

          The have won their only conference game over South Central (55-45), but they have lost all three of their non-conference games and have not scored more than 45 points in any of those.

          Coach Chris Sheldon thought things were going right after the win over the Trojans.  “Friday night I thought we for the first time all year long did a lot of things at both ends of the floor that we know we have to do to be successful.  We moved the ball fairly well Friday night offensively and we didn’t turn it over and it gave us more of an opportunity to get more looks at the rim and score points.  At the same time I thought we did a really good job of holding South Central to one shot and out, which was the key to us holding them to 40 some points,” he said.

          But, then on Saturday night they were bullied by LaGrange Keystone (61-23) and Sheldon says they were intimidated.  “We turned around Saturday night and took three steps backwards.  It all started with we just didn’t step up to the challenge and compete.  For the first time in 12 years I felt like our basketball team had their will broken.  We allowed that to happen and didn’t fight back and that was probably the most disappointing thing,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “That led to the two things we did well Friday night that we did horribly Saturday night.  We had over 20 turnovers and we allowed 20 offensive rebounds.  That’s a formula for disaster and that’s what unfolded Saturday night.  You allow the opponent to get 50 some shot attempts and you only get 20 some.  Those two stats turnovers and offensive rebounds are a direct correlation to that.”

          Western has had trouble competing with athletic teams this year and Sheldon says they have to find a way.  “We have to fix that and regardless if it is a good team or a really athletic team and right now that seems to be the thing that we are struggling with the most.  When we play big athletic teams that causes us some problems.  We are not going to see a lot of that in our league, but we do see it in our non-conference because that is what we have become accustomed to and it is something we have to find a solution to rather quickly,” he said.

          The Rough Riders (1-3,1-0) host Monroeville (2-2,0-1) on Friday night and play at New London (0-3,0-1) on Saturday in a double weekend in the Firelands.  Sheldon says Monroeville is going to give 110% against them.  “Watching them on film they remind me of a very similar style to what South Central tried to do.  They are very guard oriented in their strengths.  They are going to look to drive and score and drive and pitch for threes.  They are undersized, but they make up for that in their effort and their ability to hustle.  I thought last Friday in watching them play it was a game in reality that really they could have won.  They had a good first half lead and they let is slip away because of a dry spell in the third quarter,” said Sheldon.

          There is no question they can win these two games, but according to Sheldon they have to do the things they haven’t been.  “It comes down to we can’t turn the basketball over that has been our Achilles Heel.  We have to manage the game at the offensive end of the floor.  Defensively we are not going to create a lot of turnovers.  That’s not the type of team we are this year.  We have to really make sure we hold people to one and out.  If we can do those two things then we have success.  If we don’t do those two things we tend to struggle.  That’s going to be the deciding factor for us,” he said.

 

Published 12/12/13

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Western Not Very Good on Offense

 

          Western Reserve is off to its first 0-2 start in more than a decade as they scored only a combined 68 points in losses to Vermilion and Margaretta last weekend.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says right now they just don’t have enough guys that can score the ball and that means they have to be very, very good at all of the other things in the game.  “The thing that is so different about our basketball team right now as to where we have been in the past is we don’t have the multitude of explosive scorers that we had on a lot of spots on the floor in the past.  Right now we have two pretty good scorers and we have a couple of nice complementary pieces around that.  With that said we are not as athletic and quick as we used to be, so right now we are not getting a lot of offensive options in our first wave of transition.  We are not getting a lot of steals or run outs that lead to easy baskets at all and that is a large part of where we are at offensively,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “The last piece is don’t have our two point guards that are still injured.  A combination of those three things has led us to we have to make sure we control the tempo a lot more on offense and we can not allow our opponents to go on 6-0 or 8-0 runs.  When you are not an offensive juggernaut you can’t afford to give those up because it’s harder to come back from.  Friday night that happened we got down nine right out of the gate.  We answered that run and cut it back to a one-point ball game, but in second quarter they went on another 10-0 run that we just couldn’t answer.  It compounded from there.  Saturday, the same thing we get down 11 in the first half and come back and tie the ball game and then we go on to score only two points in the fourth quarter.  When you are not an offensive juggernaut you have to be better at the defensive end and just a lot of the little things that make up the plays in the game of basketball because you don’t have the ability to make up for some of those weaknesses with offensive scoring.”

          Sheldon says they are going to go right to work in practice this week to get better as a basketball team.  “We talked Saturday night that improvement has to begin now.  We have never been 0-2 since I have been here, but it is what it is.  We can look at this and say you know we can learn from what we see on film and learn from the experiences that we put ourselves in on Friday and Saturday and try to get better and attack those areas.  If we do that and we do that for the next four days it is only going to help us as we move though this season.  This thing is a marathon it is not a sprint.  There is a lot of time for us to get better.  It is not like we are staring at March right around the corner,” he said.

          Western (0-2) hosts South Central (1-1), with a loss to Mansfield St. Peter’s (63-61) in overtime and win over Mansfield Temple Christian (84-64) in the Firelands Conference opener for both on Friday night.  Sheldon says the Trojans have a lot of good, young players.  “The things that stuck out to me in watching those two games is number one they have a lot of guys that can shoot the basketball really well.  The second thing is they have a lot of these young kids that can really handle the rock.  They focus on spreading you out and taking you off the dribble.  They are either going one on one or pitching it for an open three.  On the opening week they really made a lot of good offensive plays.  They really share the ball well, pass the ball well and knock down shots.  It reminds me of a younger team of what I had the last two years where we had a lot of guards like that that were capable of doing that.  The other thing I thought I hadn’t seen from a South Central team in quite a while was the desire to get out and guard people and really trying to use some of their quickness to get up into their opponent and cause some problems,” said Sheldon.

          In his opinion, Sheldon says South Central should be 2-0 right now and their young group appears very coachable.  “Quite frankly, and coach Durham would probably tell you the same they should be 2-0.  St. Pete’s hits a bank in three and a runner at the end of overtime or else South Central wins.  Then the way the bounced back as a young team as they did Saturday night really speaks to them buying into what coach Seidel is having them do right now because when you lose a game like that with young kids on Friday night and respond like they did on Saturday is a huge step for them,” he said.

 

Published 12/03/13

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Western Looking For More Players

 

          Western Reserve is the defending Firelands Conference champion and division three district runner-up, but this year might be a building process at least early on.

          The Rough Riders participate in the Vermilion tip-off tournament this weekend.  They play the host on Friday and either Lorain Brookside or Margaretta on Saturday.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they are trying to work through some injury problems and they just don’t have a lot of experience.  “I don’t think any coach is really ever happy at the beginning of the year.  A large part of that is we are still dealing with some injuries and so much lack of experience with only two guys with any experience.  Coaches are always sweating bullets when you have that on opening night,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It is a little different then a year ago when I brought six returners back.  You feel more confident, but we went out and lost that game on opening night too.  Hey, we will see where we are at.  I think we have a long way to go on the eve of tipping this thing off.”

          With only two players back with much experience, Sheldon says there are going to be a lot of unknowns come this weekend.  “That is the biggest challenge and that is the biggest unknown.  You can watch them in practice, you can even watch them in a scrimmage, which is as close as you can get to turning the lights on, but still there is a big, big difference when there are a lot of people in the stands.  Since that is the case the one thing that we do know we have two guys that can do a lot of things for us offensively and they have done it before on the biggest of stages.  We are going to try and lean on those two heavily on these first two games and see if our other guys can do just enough of the little things for us to get a “W” on the opening weekend,” said Sheldon.

          This year, Sheldon says they have to have guys that know what their role is in order to win games.  He says they have been pretty good at that in the past.  “You hope that you can get guys to buy in and play their roles and that has definitely been a big part of our success for us over the years is guys willing to do what takes for the betterment of the team.  On the opening weekend in order to grow sometimes you have to go through some of those learning experiences.  You just hope there isn’t a lot of them and that is something that we will find out and see how we respond to those types of situations this weekend,” he said.

          Winning is always the most important, but Sheldon says they are also looking for building blocks.  “It is a big growing experience for us, especially when you get two non-league games like this with your opening league game the following week.  You hope that those two games can give you something to build on and give you an idea of where you have to get better.  When the ball is up in the air, the clock is on and they are keeping score you still want to win.  The balance and figuring out how you do those two things, especially going against Vermilion, who has two really good guards it is going to great opening night for us,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 11/28/13

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Western Reserve and Ontario Meet in Districts

 

          Two of the more consistently successful boys’ basketball programs in North Central Ohio meet on Thursday night as Western Reserve and Ontario collide in the division three district semi-finals at Willard High School.

          After escaping with an overtime win over Woodmore (57-51), Western Reserve put together an outstanding performance in beating Millbury Lake (67-55) in the sectional final.  Coach Chris Sheldon says it might just have been their best overall effort of the season.  “We definitely went from the dentist to New Year’s Eve in a matter of three days.  We came out and played with a lot of energy and passion.  I thought a lot of that was due to our aggressiveness.  On top of it we made a lot of good basketball plays between making passes and the right reads to knocking down shots.  When you knock down shots it makes the game a lot easier.  That was the huge difference between Friday night’s win and the previous Tuesday.  We were able to do that and do that well for most of the night.  It was probably our best performance maybe all season and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Sheldon.

          Western (18-5), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball poll in the small school division, locks horns with Ontario (19-4), #1 in the final poll, for the first time at least in many years in the postseason.  Sheldon says Ontario has all of the elements of a good team.  “We have another great challenge in front of us, but that’s what happens at this time of year.  You will want to play another day, but the problem with playing another day is the challenge only gets harder.  That’s what we have in front of us with Ontario.  The one thing that makes them so challenging for us to really be successful against is they have a combination of two really good point guards that get into the lane and score,” he told Swanksports.com on Wednesday, “They have a tremendous post player that is versatile and scores in the paint on post ups or off dribble penetration.  Then they have three shooters that go around those guys.  It is sort of pick your poison.  Do you want to win by allowing them to take open jump shots or do you want to win by allowing them to try and score one on one in the paint.  It has been a challenge to figure out how you want to attack them.  We have come up with a game plan that I am not going to share here.  We’ll see if what we are going to do is going to work.”

          Both squads concentrate on playing solid defense, so there are not going to be many open shots.  Sheldon says the team that can make the tough shot and rebound will win.  “I think this will be an outstanding district semi game.  There are going to be a lot of chess matches between Joe and I and how well our kids are able to execute those just because of the versatility that we offer to each other.  Quite frankly due to the lack of depth in our leagues we have not had similar personnel to play against.  I think the team that holds the other to one and out and the team that can make jump shots is the team that going to end up being successful,” he said.

          Ontario coach Joe Balogh has been at the helm for 27 years and for many of those years he coached against Chris Sheldon’s father Rob when he was at Wynford.  Chris says that will make this game kind of special.  “Coach Balogh is as good as they come.  He goes so far back with my father and being a very good friend.  The great thing that my dad and coach Balogh have taught the younger generation is that it is all about competing.  We are going to compete against one another for 32 minutes.  We are going to do everything in our power to try and beat the other person, but at the end of the night we are still going to be friends and we are still going to support and cheer for one another when it is all said and done,” said Sheldon.  

 

 
 

Western Survives to Live Another Day

 

          Chris Sheldon may have lost a few years off his life this week, but his team won in overtime in the first round of the tournament and will play Friday night for a ticket to the district.

          Trailing for much of the season half, Western Reserve (17-5), #3 in the final Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, forced overtime and went on to beat Woodmore (57-51) in the division three sectional semi-finals at Sandusky High School on Tuesday night.  Sheldon says it is nothing he would care to live through again.  “It was like going to the dentist office Tuesday night.  It was painful and it was painful basically for 33 of the 36 minutes that we had to play.  I thought we tried to run our stuff offensively.  He took some really good shots.  We just forgot to make them on Tuesday night.  Typically at this time of year when you shoot 30 percent usually means your season is over.  Most teams when you get beat in tournament basketball it’s because you didn’t play well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “For us to still be in the tournament and playing and having a chance to try to get to the district tournament on Friday night is a blessing.  At the same time I told our guys that is speaks to our mental toughness to be able to overcome such adversity and not allow frustration to set in and still be able to plug away and find a way to win.  From that standpoint I’m happy.”

          Sometimes to have a long tournament run you have to be able to win games that maybe your play doesn’t dictate you win.  Sheldon hopes that is the case with the Rough Riders.  “I hope we ain’t going to play that bad again.  Hopefully we have got it out of our system.  You talk all year with the kids about playing the possession you are on, playing in the moment, playing in the now.  You do that not only because of the regular season, but that is really way happens come tournament time.  Hopefully that is another confidence builder for us to be able to win even though you are not at your best.  Hopefully, we got that out our system and we can play with much more ease and efficiency on both ends of the floor,” said Sheldon.

          Western now faces Millbury Lake (19-3) in the sectional final on Friday night at Sandusky.  Sheldon says Lake is very good and it is mostly because of their point guard.  “It all starts with the coach’s son, the starting point guard.  He is only a sophomore, but he has started every game since he stepped on the floor as a freshman.  He has a very good skill set for his age and he is very good.  He can put the ball in the lane and score and he is a very good shooter and a tremendous passer.  If you take him away he makes his teammates better off the pass.  If you don’t clamp down on him he makes you pay on his own.  It starts with how well we can defend him, slow him down and keep his penetration out of the lane.  They have three other players.  A shooting guard that can really shoot it well and two big 6’4” kids that can score in the low post and do some damage down there.  They are just a very well balanced basketball team.  They play very unselfishly.  They do a lot of things well.  That is what has made them have such a great season so far,” said Sheldon

          In order to advance in the tournament Sheldon says to keep Lake out of the lane, contain their transition and play aggressively on offense.  “We have talked about our success hinging on keep them out of the paint whether it be penetration or post touches.  We have to hold them to one and out and we have to stop them in transition.  Offensively I think if we play aggressive at that end we can do what we want to do down there.  It is just a matter of us finishing plays,” he said.   

 

 

 
   

Western Riding its Defense

 

          For the second straight year it is Western Reserve versus Wynford in the division three district tournament.

          Western won last year in overtime (49-47) and this year the rematch is Thursday night at Buckeye Central High School.

          The Lady Rough Riders (21-2), #4 in the final Swankonsports.com girls’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, defeated Margaretta (55-32) in last Saturday’s sectional final at Willard.  Veteran coach Brenda Friend says defense has been the difference for then and that was evident again last week.  “The biggest thing that I am happy about is the fact that defensively we have been holding our opponents under 40 points.  Going into tournament time we had one our best rebounding nights in our sectional game.  Those are probably two of the most important things when you are going into a battle like this, so feeling pretty good about that,” she said.

          It is a senior laden team at Western Reserve this year, and even though there are some negatives associated with that, Friend will take it.  “I would rather be in that situation rather than having all green people.  Having seven seniors there is sense of urgency.  There is more of a pressure thing in your brain worrying about the fact that you are a senior and you can’t have a bad night at this point.  We have some pluses and minuses there.  The God’s honest truth as a basketball coach in the tournament you have to just got go out there and not even worry about the one and done kind of thing and just be on top of your game and just get ready to go play,” said Friend.

          The two coaches in this game both bring a lot of experience to the table and Friend says she had great respect for her counterpart.  “Amy Taylor-Sheldon is one the best and I have always respected her.  She has had a tone of success with that program.  You know you are going to get a team that is really fundamentally sound.  You are going to get a team that is going to work really hard and is going to be very scrappy and be all over the place.  They are not going to make a lot of mistakes.  They have some strength in the post and they can shoot from the outside.  I am really excited about the opportunity.  I really think in this game you throw the records out and flip a coin here because this game could go either way as you saw last year,” said Friend.

          Wynford (16-6) is a solid offensive team and Friend says they can score in a lot of ways.  “We have to defend especially Paige Brady.  She is just deceptive.  She is probably one of the best post players you are going to find.  She is a tough rebounder and also scores.  They are a little bit like us in that there just isn’t one person that carries that team,” she told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have a really solid inside post game.  They can pin you.  They can make you pay if you fall asleep a little.  They have also got two or three guards on the outside that can hit the three.  Their quickness concerns me a little bit.”

          To beat Wynford again this season and advance to the district final on Saturday, Friend says they have to be aggressive when they defend and get good shots on their end.  “We have to defend without getting into foul trouble.  The second thing for us is on our possessions get the best shot we can get because I know they are either going to pack it inside on us or they are going to try and get all over my point guard.  They don’t do just one thing and what they do they do very well,” said Friend.     

 

 
 

Western Wants to be Aggressive

 

          Aggressive with the basketball is what the Western Reserve Rough Riders want to be on Tuesday night.  They want to force the issue all of the time.  And yes although we don’t have any physical evidence, we at Swankonsports.com believe the word is probably on the locker room door at Western.

          That philosophy lead to a blowout win over Crestview (85-26) last Friday, which, along with Norwalk St. Paul’s win over New London, gave the Rough Riders (16-5) an outright Firelands Conference title.

          They face Woodmore (9-13) in the division three sectional semi-finals on Tuesday night at Sandusky Senior High School.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they have to be aggressive and they must be physical.  “We would like to bottle up a little of what we had Friday night and spread that out over the next couple of weeks.  That might help us continue down a path that we want to go down.  Tournament basketball really comes down to teams that are aggressive at the offensive end and teams that are going to be physical in the paint are going to get to the free three line the most.  Historically those are the teams that come out on top in tournament basketball because it’s a little bit more of a man’s game in the second season,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “That is something we have been talking about in the last couple of days.  We have been trying to preach that you have to have a mentality that you are going to go in there and not just compete, but compete on the physical side of it.”

          Sheldon believes they are going to be the most talented team on the floor on Tuesday night and they have to prove that by talking the upper hand.  “Why we were so successful Friday night is we were aggressive.  We thought over the couple of weeks in some close ball games that were possession by possession we thought we were a little more passive than what we should have been.  For us right now our success hinges on us sharing the basketball and being aggressive at the offensive end and attacking the paint and not just settling for jump shots,” said Sheldon.

          What is still the nature of Western Reserve is their ability to connect on perimeter shots.  Sheldon says they don’t want to completely go away from that.  “I’m sure we are going to get up enough threes because that is still what we do, but at the same time we have look to score in other ways and that is something we have really tried to focus on for the last week and half,” he said.

          Woodmore is a team that has suffered through some injuries, but Sheldon says when they are healthy, which they may be on Tuesday night, they are pretty good.   “They are a team that is just a little bit under .500.  Their best player is battling a lot of injuries all year long.  When he is healthy they are pretty healthy as a team.  They have a really good shooting guard that goes a long with him and a nice complement post player on the block.  When their best player is healthy it gives them three pretty good offensive players.  They traditionally like to play a slowdown and run their stuff.  They don’t really want to make it an up tempo ball game a whole lot.  They want to try and control the tempo.  We can’t get helter skelter by any means, but we have to be able to speed them up a little bit and really try to make them play uncomfortable and allow us to control that tempo,” said Sheldon.  

 

 

 
   

It is Now or Never For Western

 

          For the last couple of weeks we have been talking about what Western Reserve needs to do to win the Firelands Conference title, but they haven’t been able to do it, and now the may not win it at all.

          Last week, with two players suspended due to off the court conduct, they lost to Plymouth (54-44) to fall back into a share of first place with New London.  Now, they most win at Crestview on Friday night to assure themselves of no less than a share.

          The Rough Riders (15-5,11-2) held a double digit lead only to be outscored 17-4 in the fourth quarter by Plymouth.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they lost their aggressiveness and Plymouth’s Tyson Beebe, who finished with 25 points, carried his team in the final quarter.  “We had a 12 point lead in the third quarter.  They started slowly chipping away and you could see the momentum swinging and unfortunately we did not do a good job of really taking back the reins of that.  That is really what happened,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “All of the sudden we became a little more passive.  We were not really as aggressive as we were early on in the game, which built up our 12 point lead.  Beebe got hot and he got it going.  Sure enough he was able to put together enough buckets to carry them.  That combination was basically our demise.”

          The mental frame of mind of being the aggressor is something that Western need to get back and Sheldon says it has to be right now.  “One of the things that we have to do right now with not a whole lot of time left. We have to get our hunger back and really be aggressive and not playing back on our heels. That is tough to do and that’s a confidence thing more than anything.  Not that our guys don’t know what they should be doing and not that they aren’t skilled enough to do it.  It just a matter of right now just clearing the mind and getting back to the aggressive players that we were early on,” said Sheldon.

          Right now, Sheldon feels it is important for them to be the hunter and not the hunted.  “We call it the “Eye of the Tiger” going back to the “Rocky” days.  You have to have a mental determination that you are going to try and outdo your opponent whether it is individually or as a team each and every possession.  We are never going to be the ones that are back on our heels reacting to the.  We are going to make them react to us.  That is something that we have talked about here over the last two days.  Hopefully we can get it straightened out and turned around because we play a big one on Friday night,” he said.

          Western, #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, is at Crestview (7-12,4-9) for a Firelands Conference game.  Western won the first time they met (75-47), but Sheldon says the Cougars are far from a give me.  “There is nothing as a basketball coach that scares me more than going on the road and playing a young team that knows they have nothing to loose.  A team that in reality is preparing for a year form now.  We can’t take them lightly.  We have to have a great week of preparation.  More than anything we have to get back to Western Reserve playing Western Reserve basketball.  Just being aggressive and letting go of mistakes and not being afraid to make mistakes.  That has to be a big thing that we have to be able to do,” said Sheldon.    

 

 
   

Western Trying to Find Right Mental Approach

 

          Western Reserve is still just a couple of games away from clinching no less than a share of the Firelands Conference title, but their coach is very concerned about their mental approach to the game.

          Last week, New London edged Western Reserve (41-39) to close to within a game of the Rough Riders at the top of the conference standings.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they did not step up to the plate in the fourth quarter when the game was decided.  “In terms of the league title and so forth we still control our own destiny.  We still have a one game lead.  To be honest that is irrelevant at this point.  Right now, it is about guys finding within themselves what it is going to take to get it done night after night against good teams mentally more so than anything.  Not to discredit what New London did Friday night, but we had a lot of mental breakdowns that cost us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Multiple mental breakdowns in a two-point game can add up real quick.  You start second guessing and realizing that correcting just a handful of those might have changes the outcome of the basketball game.  If we don’t start correcting those things in close games with good teams our season is going to end in away we don’t want it to end.  We have got to turn it around here and we have got to turn it around starting between our ears.”

          The tournament starts in three weeks and the Rough Riders would be expected to do well.  Sheldon says not if they don’t starting handling pressure better.  “When you get into those games they get only tighter.  There is more on the line in those games.  You have to be able to relish those moments and feel free to play as a basketball player and not allow the moment to overwhelm you.  I thought on Friday night we had some guys that unfortunately the moment got the best of us.  We are trying to come up with different ways of putting ourselves in those positions in practice now more so then we ever have before with a lot different drills.  Hopefully we get a chance to play in some more tuff games before March gets here,” said Sheldon.

          He says right now they are having a little trouble having the confidence to take the shot when the game is on the line.  “I think right now a lot of ours is just stepping up and shooting the basketball and making basketball plays at the offensive end.  We had some breakdowns defensively, but you can correct those in practice.  How we are trying to do that right now is simulating some game situations scoring wise whether it be in shooting drills or live offensive things we are working on and put us in situations where we act like it’s the fourth quarter.  You say you play all four quarters, but the fourth quarter in a close ball game has a lot more on the line than they first quarter.  That is something our guys have to get back to feeling comfortable with really building upon,” said Sheldon.

          Western (13-4,10-1), #3 in the Swankonsports..com boys’ basketball coach’s poll will be at home Friday for the improving Mapleton Mounties (4-12,2-9), who have won their last two conference games against Plymouth (42-39) and Crestview (67-56) last Friday.  Sheldon says his team better be ready.  “They are a group of kids that right now is just working to get better and that is evident by their results of the last couple of weeks.  That says a lot about those young men and their coach.  It would have been easy to pack it in and get ready for baseball, but unfortunately for us they haven’t done that.  We have got to not overlook them.  We have to ready to step on the floor and really try to get after them defensively and use that to our advantage,” he said.       

 

 
   

A Win Over the Defending Champ Gives Western the Title

 

          Western Reserve wants back what was taken from them last year and they can complete step one of that process with a win at defending Firelands Conference champ New London on Friday night.

          The Rough Riders (13-3,10-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, enjoys a two game lead over the Wildcats with four games left on the conference schedule.

          Western coach Chris Sheldon is impressed with the progress his team has made this year, but he knows New London is better than when they beat them (52-45) a couple of days before Christmas.  “Obviously through the games we have made progress.  A lot of little things that we weren’t able to do early on, especially at the defensive end, I think have improved.  Offensively as of late we have really started to build on our low post scoring.  From that aspect we are definitely taking steps in the right direction.  So has New London when you look at what they have done in the last couple of weeks.  They only have two losses on the year and we have three.  It is going to be a heck of a basketball game.  The opportunity presents itself for us to punch a share of the league title from the defending champs on their floor.  As a basketball coach with that much on the line I don’t think there is much I have to say to our guys this week,” said Sheldon.

          And the Western Reserve coach also knows that they must continue to improve.  He points out two areas in particular.  “At times I don’t think we guard the dribble penetration as well as we should.  That seems to the one thing that continues to hurt us a little bit.  At the offensive end I’d like to see us give ourselves chances, more second chance opportunities for baskets.  I don’t know if we get enough offensive rebounds.  If I had to identify two areas that is really what I would highlight as areas if we could get better at those two things then I think this basketball team we could talk about them being pretty good,” he said.

          New London (12-2,8-2) is not a very big team, but Sheldon says they have number of players that can handle the ball and score from the perimeter or by getting to the basket.  “You start with Held, Smith, and they have some others, Hamilton, Shayes, that can really shoot the basketball and score the ball.  The other thing they do really well is they play pretty unselfishly.  Lastly they get up and down the floor in transition and also in their full court pressure can create a little bit of a problem as well.  They want to play at a pretty fast pace, and so do we at times, so it should be a pretty interesting match up.  It starts with Held and then containing their shooters and trying the best you can to limit them to one and out,” said Sheldon.

          Or order to secure a piece of the Firelands Conference title with a win, Sheldon knows they must be able to execute against the New London defense without giving the ball away.  “The one thing that coach Howell’s teams have always been known for is giving you different looks at the defensive end of the floor.  They change up defenses quite a bit.  The other thing that they have always been known for is to put pressure on the basketball whether that is in the full court or the half court,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “That is something that your lead guards have to be able to recognize, but at the same time the other four guys without the basketball have to identify what offensive attack mode we should be in and where we should be on the floor depending on what type of defensive front we are seeing.  That was critical for us in game one and that is going to be huge for us coming into (Friday) night.”   

 

 
   

Western Ready to Close Out

 

          Western Reserve has been waiting for this opportunity for more than a year.

          Last season, they let a Firelands Conference title slip away and this year they are not about to let that happen.  They hold a two-game lead on defending champion New London with five league games remaining.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they have been able to play some pretty consistent basketball so far this year.  “This thing is not a sprint it’s a marathon and typically the teams that are there around the end of the year are the teams that night in, night out have been the most consistent.  Right now at least in league play we have been able to uphold that.  We have been able to show up every night whether home or away and be able to some way or another put together enough good basketball to come away with victories.  I think a large part of that is having six letter winners back and starting five seniors.  That experience and that depth is really coming out at least for these first two months and hopefully we will be able to continue that as we finish this thing out,” said Sheldon.

          Western is a veteran team and Sheldon says they have had a couple of seniors really step up their game lately as their careers are coming to a close.  “We are really seeing that right now.  Right off the top of my head, Willie Roth.  He is a three year varsity basketball player.  He is a tremendous football player and he is pretty good on the track as well. We thought of Willie as always being just a facilitator and defender.  In the last five games all of the sudden offensively he has been more than just a facilitator.  He seems to have more spring his step,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “The same can be said for Nate Ash, a post guy of ours.  Most people would have thought at the beginning of the year that he was going to be no more than a role player.  All of the sudden he gets a little bit of confidence and he is giving us more at the offensive end then we probably anticipated getting from him.  I think a large part of that is due to the fact that they are seniors knowing that there time is coming to an end and they want to maximize what they have in front of them and get the most out if before there career is over,”

          The Rough Riders (12-3,9-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, is at home for the Monroeville Eagles (2-11,1-8) in Firelands Conference action on Friday night.  Sheldon says games against the Eagles always seem to be tough for them.  “The one thing about when we play Monroeville being a neighboring district where our kids know their kids and vice versa.  We know that we are their Super Bowl.  They get up to play us.  It doesn’t matter what their record is every time we step on the floor versus them they are pretty jacked and they are going to give us their best effort and their best basketball that night.  They did that game one versus us.  We are anticipating the same type of battle on Friday night.  We just have to make sure that we take the floor with the same focus for the first part of our league games and continue to keep in mind our number one goal is to get this win on this night and that keeps us in the driver’s seat,” said Sheldon.

          If they win Friday and a win next week Sheldon says they can start to celebrate.  “You want to be able to control your own destiny and we have a chance to do that.  With a two game lead with five to go.  We don’t want to look past Monroeville, but if we can get this one and get a two-game lead with four to going into New London it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that would be a huge clinching game next Friday night.  I know our kids have that on their mind.  They know what’s in front of them.  If we just take the floor with no regrets and do our job the outcome will take care of itself.  That is sort of the mentality that we are going to take into Friday night,” said Sheldon.  

 

 
   

Is Western Focused?

 

          So far Western Reserve has proven to be the dominate team in the Firelands Conference this season.

          They lead New London and Norwalk St. Paul by two games after the first half of the conference double round robin.  They play at St. Paul on Friday night.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they have played well early, but they haven’t won anything yet.  “You really want to get off to a good start.  We have been fortunate enough to do that going 7-0 in the first round and winning big basketball games.  Fortunately for ourselves some of the top tier teams have beat up on each other a couple of times and been able to give us a two game lead.  That is great heading into the second round.  That doesn’t guarantee anything there is still a ways to go to finish this thing off,” he said.

          Sheldon says he knows that St. Paul will be pumped up and ready to go on Friday night because it is pretty much a must win game for the Flyers.  “It starts Friday night at St. Paul, who is coming off a big win at New London.  They know that this is their league title on the line.  In order for them to stay in the hunt they have to win.  We know we are going to get their best shot, especially since we really played well and handled them the first time around.  I’m sure they are going to be fired up and try to make some adjustments to not let that happen again,” said Sheldon.

          With a two game lead this early in the conference schedule there might be some focus issues.  Sheldon says they will find out on Friday night.  “Friday is going to be a good test to tell us where our focus is at.  It’s going to determine weather or not our kids think this thing is over or whether we are going to show up with and attitude that we still have work to do.  It is tough to gauge right now because you are in that part of your schedule where you have to find out are your kids still hungry and still striving to get better and still ready to try and finish this thing off,” said Sheldon.

          Western (10-3,7-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, lost to Sandusky Perkins, #3 in the large school poll, (57-45) on Saturday night.  On the heels of a loss to #1 Norwalk the week before, Sheldon wants his kids to be more confident in those games.  “We have had two non-conference losses and those two losses have been to good teams, but what is disappointing is you want to win those and we haven’t been able to.  As a basketball coach you are trying to figure out if your kids are confident against good teams or are they just satisfied with status quo and that is just winning in your league.  Yes, you want to win your league title and hopefully we can continue to try and reach that goal,” Sheldon said.

          The Rough Riders handled St. Paul (9-3,5-2) in their first meeting of the season (65-41), but Sheldon knows the Flyers are much improved because they have found more scorers.  “They are starting to get more balanced scoring.  Early on when we played them they were really relying on one player to get a lot scoring done for them.  We were able to take Sal Sortino out of the ball game the first time around.  Now some of their other guys are really starting to get comfortable from their post guys to a couple of their perimeter players giving them more scoring options and making them more dangerous.  That is evident by their scores.  They are scoring in the 60’s now where the first time around we were able to hold them in the 40’s.  We definitely have to take them serious.  We recognize that they are getting better and we know it is going to be a good challenge for us.  It’s just a matter of how our kids respond and try and execute what we want to do at both ends of the floor,” said Sheldon.   

 

 
   

Same Thing For Western

 

          This week is kind of like a repeat for Firelands Conference leader Western Reserve.  They play an important conference game on Friday and meet one of the area’s best on Saturday.

          Last week, they downed Plymouth (53-49) in the conference game to maintain first place and then lost to Northern Ohio League leader Norwalk (60-36) on Saturday.  This week they play Crestview in the conference game and Sandusky Bay Conference leader Sandusky Perkins on Saturday.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says their concentration must be on the game with Crestview and he thinks it will be.  “We focused all week on our league game knowing in order to reach our first goal of a league title you have to take care of business within your own conference.  We knew that was going to be a tough one down there.  We weren’t bale to put together as good a four quarters of basketball as we hoped, but we were awful good in the last quarter and that was the most important one.  That was huge with us taking care of that and that has to be our approach this week.  Crestview is the team that is the reason why we aren’t defending champs because they were the difference in why we didn’t win a league title.  I don’t think our guys are going to over look this basketball team because of that history and go out with a little extra because of what unfolded a year ago,” said Sheldon.

          Western (9-2,6-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, is lead by six seniors and Sheldon says they have been good clutch players.  “The one thing that I have been pleased about in the last couple of weeks is we have played in two really close ball games where we were trailing in the fourth quarter.  The one thing that stood out is our kids did not have any sense of panic about them.  I thought their composer was extraordinary and second of all our ability to execute what we were asking them to do was as high a quality as we could ask for in terms of execution that allowed us to be successful at both ends of the floor in the most critical moments of a basketball game.  That combination is truly a great sign for us and is something that hopefully we can continue to build on and move forward,” said Sheldon.

          Crestview beat the Rough Riders twice during the regular season last year, costing Western the conference title.  This season the Cougars (5-5,3-3) are much younger, but Sheldon says they can still play.  “They are definitely a different make up from what we faced with them a year ago, but they still have some shooters.  They have some good size.  Sometimes young basketball teams can be a little dangerous because young is also dumb.  They don’t know any better that they are supposed to get beat.  The one thing that is scary about that is you don’t want to give them confidence.  You don’t want to allow them to hang around,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “You really want to be able to enforce your will on them early and hopefully then that youngness will come out and cave to that adversity.  That is sort of our game plan.  How much defensive pressure can we put on them?  How much can we make them feel us at the defensive end physically and allow our six seniors to really invoke their power on these young kids.”

          With the concentration on the Crestview game, the game with Sandusky Perkins (7-2), #3 in the large school poll, is still a good measuring stick.  Sheldon says these are the teams they want to play.  “They are ranked in the first AP poll in division two and we just got done playing Norwalk, who is number five in division one.  One of the things in terms of a small school program we have been able to establish is consistent winning.  One of the things you want to do once you develop consistent winning is you want to play the big dogs.  You want to play the best in your area.  Those are the two best in our area and among the best in the state in their division,” he said.

          To win this time, Sheldon says against Perkins they need to play their game and not the opponents.  “Last week was a great eye opener for us.  We were able to play and execute our game plan for the first half and make it a five point ball game.  Their athleticism and size really dictated the tempo in the second half.  The great thing for us is we got to see that and now we can learn from that.  It is something that we can utilize this weekend going into a game with a team that has more size than us, has more athleticism than us.  Those are the type of teams that if we are ever going to win a district championship or get to a regional tournament those are the type of teams that we are going to run up against,” he told Swankonsports.com, “That is our ultimate goal to play that far into March.  The only way to prepare is to play teams like Perkins.  We will try to attack them very similar to what we did on Saturday night against Norwalk.  We are going to be able to see if we learned from our mistakes of a week ago,”

 

 
   

Western Faces Another Contender

 

          Western Reserve is all alone in first place in the Firelands Conference as they continue to pick off contenders one by one.  This week it is a visit to Plymouth to play the Big Red.

          Last week, the Rough Riders (8-1,5-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, belted the Mapleton Mounties (62-39) in a conference game.  Coach Chris Sheldon felt his team kept its focus.  “I thought that we had a solid week of preparation with it being over the holiday break and so forth.  Friday night, I though our kids did a great job of just coming out ready to play and not allowing Mapleton to hang around and pushing it out to a 20-point game by half.  We continued to stay focused in the second half,” he said.

          In their second game of the weekend the Rough Riders edged Wellington (56-53) in overtime.  Sheldon says they found ways to win the game.  “Saturday night we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well.  A year ago when we didn’t shoot it very well we would have lost that game.  We found ways to score basketball and still did a lot of things right that allowed us to stay in the ball game with probably our worst performance from the perimeter all year.  We continued to battle back and were able to take the lead with 40 seconds to go in regulation.  We still had a good look to win it at the end of regulation.  We capped it off in overtime in what I thought was a gut check thing for our basketball team.  That is something to really build on heading into another tough weekend.  We are making progress, but there are definitely things that we really need to clean up,” said Sheldon.

          Plymouth (5-3,4-1) plays host to Western on Friday night. Sheldon says the Big Red is a team that is really concentrating on getting better.  “Their back is against the wall in all reality.  They already have one loss and it’s at their place and they have to protect their home court.  It is also a big basketball game for us to go on the road at Plymouth with as well as they have been playing.  They are the one team that has really come on and played well.  You really see them growing with each game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It starts with their big two in Edmiston and Beebe.  They have a nice supporting cast around them that plays within themselves and not trying to do too much.  It’s going to be a challenge on how well we guard their big two and how well we execute at the offensive end.”

          Sheldon knows that Plymouth is a tough team to guard because they can score inside and outside.  “The one thing about Edmiston that has been impressive so far is a lot of teams try to double team him and get the ball out of his hands, but he is actually a very good passer for a post player.  He really makes his other teammates better even though they are double teaming him and he is still averaging a double-double.  Beebe is obviously a good shooter, but what he is starting to do is expand his game and put the ball on the deck and create off the bounce for himself.  That is a tough combination to guard.  How well do we defend those two is really going to dictate how successful we are,” said Sheldon.

          Western plays at Norwalk (9-0), #1 in the our poll’s large school division, on Saturday night in what Sheldon says will be a fun game for them.  “To be honest with you it’s great for us because its one of the few games on the schedule when we get to be underdogs.  The pressure is not on us and at the same time we get to play a top 15 team in the state of Ohio.  Obviously we are going to have our hands full and everything has to go right for us to be in the basketball game because we are out matched at every position on the floor.  It is something that I know our kids will enjoy and they aren’t going to back down.  We are supposed to get beat by 20 and if we can hang around and make it a ball game then maybe we can get them to panic a little bit,” said Sheldon. 

 

 
   

Western Not taking Night Off

 

          A win last week over defending conference champion New London gave Western Reserve a one game lead in the Firelands Conference and now they must keep the foot on the accelerator.

          Friday night, the play at Mapleton, who is yet to win a conference game this year.

          Western (6-1,4-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, coach Chris Sheldon says he wants his kids focused on Mapleton and not what lies ahead in 2013.  “The biggest thing is when you are going into a game where you are playing a team that is not off to a real good start.  On paper you are supposed to win pretty handily, but you can’t take that for granted.  You have to go in focused and ready to make sure you get batter as a basketball team regardless of who you are playing.  That is stuff we have been talking about and we have to come out (Friday) to take care of business early,” he said.

          Mapleton (2-6,0-4) has a new coach in former player J.R. Keener, who graduated from Mapleton in 2007.  Sheldon says he has the Mounties pointed in the right direction.  “I don’t know if it’s a sign of me getting older or they just change that many coaches, but this actual coach was a guy I coached against when he played at Mapleton.  J.R. (Keener) I think is doing some nice things.  He is trying to do things the right way,” Sheldon told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “For him it is a little bit of a building process.  We can’t just step on the floor and show up.  We have to come out in the first quarter, the first quarter and a half and really set the tone in the basketball game and allow our strengths to overcome their weaknesses so we can dictate the tempo, the pressure, and the attitude of the game.”

          Last season, Western beat New London in their first go around, but two losses to Crestview and a loss to the Wildcats in the second meeting cost them the conference title.  Sheldon knows they have to be goal oriented.  “This is always a tough week, especially after a big win, but also being Christmas break.  Your routine is a little different.  We have kind of spiced that up a little bit with a few of our better alumni coning in and banging on us a little bit.  That’s helped because needless to say we get our eyes widened up a little wider when we get to play them every year.  We need to get back into maybe basketball playing shape after a couple of extra days off due to the break.  Hopefully after a shoot around on (Friday) we will be ready to go,” said Sheldon.

 

 
   

Defense the Key for Western

 

          Last year, Western Reserve battled with New London for the Firelands Conference title with New London coming out on top and then the Wildcats beat Western in the division three district tournament.  Western owes them something and the plan to start collecting on Friday night.

          The two teams are tied for the conference lead with 3-0 records.

          Western (5-1,3-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, survived a scare from Monroeville last Saturday edging (69-63) the upset mined Eagles to maintain their share.  Coach Chris Sheldon says Monroeville has been a difficult place for them to play over the years.  “In a double weekend in the league we have always struggled to get wins, but to go over to Monroeville has been a place that we have never been able to just go over and play with a lot of ease and take care of business.  That has always been a tough place to get wins.  We have been able to win, but it has never been easy and pretty and at times it has been down right ugly and that was sort of how it was on Saturday night.  I thought our kids continued to battle through the struggles.  Two “W’s” in the league is what you want and know that sets up the big one on Friday night with New London,” said Sheldon.

          Dating back to when they were starting school sponsored competitive basketball, Sheldon says it has always been these two schools that have been competing for the trophies.  “The have Smith and Held back from a year ago.  We had three great battles with them last year.  The one thing about New London and us is this has been pretty historically the two teams that really compete year in and year out for the league title.  This senior class of ours and Held and Smith and their senior class have battled each other for league championship all of the way back to their seventh grade year, so there is no secret.  I am sure that our kids and their kids and coach Howell and myself expected that this we going to unfold like it looks like it’s starting to unfold,” he said.

          Western won the first meeting last year, before losing the next two to New London (5-0,3-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com coach’s poll.  Sheldon admits they have a score to settle.  “They are very guard oriented.  All three guards that start for them, including the sophomore Hamilton, can put the ball on the deck and shoot the basketball.  I have been impressed with their ability to knock down a three point shot here early on.  I think they are playing with a lot of confidence right now.  They were able to get us in the district semis.  Smith had a lot to do with that success in the district semis and I’m sure that they are coming over Friday night with the idea to keep rolling.  I think our guys have something in store for them.  We are exited, but that the same time we have some business to take care of that we didn’t finish off a year ago,” said Sheldon.

          Both teams have played some pretty good defense this year and that has been what has led them to their success.  Sheldon thinks that is going to be the biggest factor on Friday night.  “That is sort of the mentality that we are going to take.  We have done some different things, but we have just decided that if we are going to beat this basketball team and their guards, our guards have to be able to dominate things on both ends of the floor.  That is going to start with how do we defend, how well we defend them off the dribble and much we can contest their jump shots,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “I think with our off ball pressure.  It’s going to come down to how well do we implement what we are trying to do with our man-to-man defense on their guards.  If we don’t get into a stance and have the will power and be determined that we are going to stop them and they have a heyday on us it’s going to be advantage them, but if we can set in a stance and make it tough on them then it is probably going to be more in our favor.”

          Guards have done most the scoring for both teams and Sheldon agrees that the team that gets the most out of their posts might win.  “When both teams are a little bit more guard oriented I think sometimes in big games that “X” factor can become the things that sways the tide.  We have Nate Ash that is coming off 14 big points against Monroeville for us and was probably the key point in our ability to push ahead and maintain the lead in the second half.  They have Dillard that is just a tremendous athlete and has some natural skills that maybe gives him an advantage in the paint.  We are going to try and establish the block and if our big guys are active and aggressive in the paint that could be a plus for us.  At them same time we can’t forget about their big kid either,” said Sheldon.

 

 
   

Western Wants to Get the Ball to the Post

 

          Western Reserve looks better each time they hit the floor and they have a chance to establish early control in the Firelands Conference with a couple of wins this weekend.

          Last week, the Rough Riders (3-1,1-0) beat Norwalk St. Paul (65-41) in the Firelands Conference opener and then beat LaGrange Keystone (64-49) in a non-conference game on Saturday.  Coach Chris Sheldon was pretty pleased with what he saw.  “I was definitely the start you want to get off to, especially in league play, and against a team that was coming off a big win the weekend before.  They were coming in with a lot of confidence.  Then we carried that over to a good win on Saturday against a big, strong, and athletic Keystone basketball team at home again.  I think we are getting better at some things that we have identified as weaknesses, but still have some things to do and ways to go,” said Sheldon.

          Yes, the Riders can certainly get better and Sheldon says he wants the team to get the ball in the post a little bit more.  “We still haven’t gotten enough balanced scoring from our low posts.  We know our best players are our guards probably, but we are still very confident in our low post guys.  We know we have to make them an indicial part of our offense in order for us to win a league title and hopefully do a little damage come March,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You have to be balanced and right now we are still too one dimensional from our perimeter play.  We are starting to utilize them in practice now it’s a matter of carrying over what you are doing in practice into game situations.”

          It’s a double weekend this weekend in the Firelands Conference.  Western Reserve, #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the small school division, is at home for South Central (1-1,0-1) and visit Monroeville (0-3,0-1) on Saturday night.  Sheldon says they still must play to their potential.  “When you talk about South Central and Monroeville I think you can group them in the same category.  They aren’t off to great starts.  I don’t know what the expectation is for them.  They are both fairly inexperienced ball clubs, but like we have talked about with our guys this week we opened up with an inexperienced ball club, we got up 10 points and didn’t put them away.  When you allow teams like that to hang around they can nip you in the butt like we experienced on opening night.  I would say we are the favorites going into both games.  They are teams we should beat.  We have to jump on them and jump on them early and not let up until the fourth quarter horn goes off,” said Sheldon.

          And the Western coach says they must play a complete game each to time they hit the floor.  “You can play great for one quarter, but if you don’t play them all you tend to find yourself on the losing side of things.  Maybe that is the best message that we have learned so far in this early season.  We are going to get a chance to continue to grow and see if our guys truly understand what it means to compete each and every possession,” he said.

 

 
   

Western Reserve Making the Right Move

 

          Western Reserve is the favorite in the girls’ basketball race in the Firelands Conference and they got the league race started in the right way with two wins last week.

          The Lady Rough Riders beat Norwalk St. Paul (56-36) and South Central (65-36) last week and they stand in first place in the conference standings. They also beat defending “NOL” champion Bellevue (62-47) last week.  Coach Brenda Friend says they played some excellent basketball last week.  “Definitely I think we have improved every single game.  Obviously we had a big stumble in our first game, but it was probably the best worst thing that could happen to us against a very inspired Norwalk team,” she told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It was a good wake up call for us in terms if another team comes out and shoots like that we have to be ready.  I really feel like last week we really put it together.  We started the week out with Bellevue in a really hard fought game on Tuesday at home and we were able to come away with a win.  We travel over to St. Paul on Thursday and got a little better.  Saturday I thought we were crazy good.”

          There is a 22-game schedule this year as the “OHSAA” has allowed for two more games over the same 12 to 13 week regular season.  Friend says they were able put together a testing schedule by adding Shelby and LaGrange Keystone.  “I was really for it because we were able to pick up two more non-conference teams that were very strong.  We just played those three games last week.  Now we go one game this week, a week later we have one more game, and the third week we get to play two games.  You want to keep playing, but at the same time we still have a long way to go.  We are looking to improve in quite a few areas, we’ve got big goals.  It kind of stretches it out a little bit, but I also got to put some real good competition in the middle of there, so it’s a good thing,” said Friend.

          She has been coaching girls’ basketball since the early 80’s, so she knows the game, and Friend says they have to become more consistent rebounders.  “We have a lot of length.  I’m a midget among my team.  I have been disappointed in our rebounding, but in three games last week we rebounded the ball tremendously against Bellevue, limiting them to one shot.  Went against St. Paul and got off to a big lead and they out rebounded us 41 to 30-something.  I just think every night out if you are going to talk about being a champion that has to be there.  Secondary was our defense, but that made the most difference last week.  Against both St. Paul and South Central they had to work so hard to just get a shot off and fortunately for us neither team shot it very well early.  Those are two areas that we have really concentrated on this year and last week proved to me that we are taking strides,” said Friend.

          Monroeville (1-4,1-1) plays Western on Thursday night in conference play.  Friend describes them as an up and coming team.  “Unfortunately for them they lost a heartbreaker (Tuesday) night.  They lead the whole entire game and then lost it with a shot at the buzzer to Fremont St. Joe.  They have some good young players and a few veterans.  I saw them this summer quite a bit and could see that program is headed in the right direction.  We are kind of looking forward to having them over to our place (Thursday) night,” she said.   

 

 
   

Western Reserve Must Stick to Game Plan

 

          Western Reserve split the two games they played in the Vermilion tournament as they lost to Margaretta and beat Lorain Clearview last weekend.

          They open up Firelands Conference play on Friday night against Norwalk St. Paul.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they got out of their game plan against Margaretta in their first game and that cost them a chance to win.  “I really think that opening night we really had a let down and it was all self inflicted.  We got out to a ten point lead midway through the second quarter.  We quit doing what we had done for a quarter and a half to establish the lead.  Margaretta then started to gain momentum at the offensive end and we couldn’t get a defensive stop and that carried over to our offense when all of the sudden we stopped making the extra pass.  We started settling for jump shots and we didn’t really make them guard us.  It kind spiraled out of control,” said Sheldon.

          However, against Clearview they were able to return to their strengths and win the game and they must remember what got them the win.  “The second night we got back to guarding on the defensive end of the floor and taking away the opponent’s first and second option.  Then allowing that defensive momentum to carry us at the offensive end and setting up teammates and making the extra pass to get us easy looks.  If one thing came out of that opening weekend is the hope that that lesson we learned Friday night pays dividends as we move forward so we don’t have to revisit that again and we can continue to make progress,” he said.

          Sheldon says the results of those first two games gave them some teaching points for practice this week.  “We have been able to pin point three or four things that we have to get better at from the opening weekend.  That is something that we emphasized during practice.  You just don’t go through practice because the coach is putting you through certain drills as you are working through different offensive and defensive schemes.  You really have to go through practice and challenge yourself mentally to really execute those things at a high level in practice,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “If we don’t step on the practice floor mentally trying to correct ourselves and improve then those corrections are not going to be seen on Friday and Saturday night.  That is really where we have challenged are kids the most right now.”

          Many were surprised by St. Paul’s win (54-52) over Huron last week, but Sheldon reminds that they return some pretty good players that are learning how to win.  “They have a lot back.  They bring back as many guys as we bring back.  We are probably the two teams that bring back the most varsity experience.  You can see evidence on the film that their kids are hungry.  They are ready to turn that ship around and start winning more ballgames than maybe they have over the last couple of years.  They have a tremendous lead guard in Sal Sortino, who had a coming out party against Huron and Huron didn’t have any answer for him.  We have to start by limiting that young man’s touches and making sure we know where he is at all times.  They have some other role players that are doing some nice things and playing with a lot of energy,” said Sheldon.

          Defense is the key and Sheldon says they especially must keep the Flyers out of the painted area of the floor.  “Stopping Sal and keeping them out of the paint.  They really scored a lot of points in the paint whether that was from dribble penetration or offensive rebounds.  That is something that we are focusing on against them.  We have to do our job at the defensive end and hope that we can slow them down and limit some of those easy baskets that they were able to get in their opening win,” he said.

 

 
   

Western Still Working

 

          Western Reserve begins its season with the Vermilion Invitation Tournament this weekend and they are counting on their defense.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says he feels his team is getting better just in time for the regular season.  “I think anytime you get a late start due to football you are never really comfortable for that opening night regardless of the circumstances.  Having six returning letter winners helps.  We feel comfortable right now that at least tree or four of those guys are really starting to show some progression and showing they are getting their basketball legs under them.  We feel pretty good just because of that, but we are still looking to clean up our execution especially at the offensive end of the floor,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Early in the year the defense tends to be a little ahead of the offense and that is really where we are at right now.  Secondly we are still trying to add some depth and trying to find out what newcomers can give us some support at the varsity level.  They are just getting their feet wet and that is an experiment in and of itself.”

          Relying a lot on perimeter shooting last year it led to some inconsistency.  Sheldon says they continue to build on their post game.  “We are still trying to emphasize that.  With us being predominately guard heavy back we now feel we have a stable of post players for the first time in a while.  Still getting that balance at the offensive end of the floor is definitely a need that we need to improve on.  Those guys are working hard every day, but it seems like right now we are still off just a little bit.  That is an area that we will continue to look at and find ways to look better and hopefully with a couple of games under our belt that will start to transition much more smoothly,” said Sheldon.

          He says right now he believes their defense is ahead of their offense, but that needs to be sharpened too.  “If you have seen our offense I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing that is just how bad our offense is right now.  Defensively I think we are making a lot of the right reads it is still a matter of what we are trying to do mentally catching up to what we can do physically.  Right now that is the big hurdle on the defensive end of the floor.  Physically we just seem to be a step late whether it be rotations on the pass or the dribble.  I think we are a little bit ahead there to where we are offensively,” he said.

          Margaretta will be the Rough Riders first opponent this year on Friday night.  Sheldon says they will be tested by the Polar Bears.  “They have one of, if not the best, post player in the area back in Austin Moore.  He is a senior now, 6’4” and can jump out of the gym and can step out on the perimeter and shoot jump shots.  He was really big for them in our sectional final game with them a year ago.  He had a big game against us.  We expect for him to try and simulate the exact same thing.  They lost a lot on the perimeter, but they do bring in a steady stable of young guards that they have a lot high hopes for.  The big thing for us is going to be can our veteran guards maybe put a little more pressure on their young guards and our experience gives us the upper hand.  The second biggest key is limiting Austin Moores’s touches,” said Sheldon.        

 

 
   

Western Reserve Ready to Excel

 

          Western Reserve was Firelands Conference champion and a regional qualifier last year and this year might be even better for the Lady Rough Riders.

          Veteran coach Brenda Friend says they have a lot of players back and they have some lofty goals for the season.  “We return five starters and seven seniors.  When your season ends with a loss you always have bigger goals.  These kids have been anxious from that start and we had a pretty good summer.  It is pretty clear what it is we are trying to achieve,” she said.

          Friend believes they have a nice mix of players and the team has the ability to do a lot of things with the ball and play defense too.  “We have a little bit of inside-outside.  Every year we have been better at getting shooting from the perimeter.  I have two pretty outstanding post players in there and all of my guards have good size.  Karli Patrick is a good defensive player and sometimes a great offensive player,” she told Swankonsports.com, “TJ at the point, each year she has gotten a little bit better at being a point guard and is just a phenomenal player.  Brigitte, my other wing, is more of a defensive player.  Each one of those players got better over the summer.  I’d like to think that we have developed a little bit of depth.  I think, maybe, this year we are going to be able to add just a little bit more to our playbook.”

          With 22 games now on regular season schedules all the schools in the state could add two games.  Friend is excited with what they have been able to do.  “We are really, really excited that we got to add Shelby to our list of teams to our schedule and Keystone was just in the state a couple of years ago.  I would challenge anybody on our schedule.  It’s about as good as it can get for a division three school from a small conference.  Quite honestly to be the best you have to play the best.  We did the same thing with our scrimmages this fall, so we are looking forward to the test,” said Friend.

          The season begins for Western Reserve on Saturday night when they play Norwalk.  Friend says the Lady Truckers will be a good opener for them.  “Coach Manlet has done a great job.  They have six, seven returners coming back.  They are going to scrap all over the floor.  He really has them playing some awesome defense.  They may have been in the past just been down and down, but I do think they are on the right track.  I think this is going to be their year.  I thought last year they tuned the corner a little bit.  So, it will be a good team on a big floor.  They may not match up size wise, but I’m telling you they will scrap all over the floor.  We know we are in for a good opener,” said Friend.    

 

 
   

Western With More Floor Balance

 

          Western Reserve again will be a factor on the boys’ basketball race in the Firelands Conference.

          They will try to regain the conference title they lost last year to the New London Wildcats.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they are working hard this month to get their offense and defense established before the season begins in a couple of weeks.  “It’s the one time a year that you really get to spend extra time on just the fundamentals of your offensive and defensive scheme.  You can build that foundation that you can hopefully add pieces to throughout the season.  In reality if you are going to make any headway throughout the season you have to really utilize these four weeks.  With us getting a little bit of a late start because of first week playoffs we are behind the eight ball a little bit.  We are definitely not ready for any games anytime soon.  We are trying to wear off the rust of football season and get the basketball legs on us.  At this point and time we are just trying to make it one day at a time and make progression each day,” said Sheldon.

          Last year, the Rough Riders relied so much on their three point shooting that their production would vary wildly from night to night.  With some added inside presence this year Sheldon believes that will be less of a problem.  “We really think with our personnel and bringing six letter winners back, but also bringing back two junior 6’4” post players into the mix that we think are finally able to contribute at the varsity level we hope we are going to be a more balanced offensive package.  Back to the way we used to play for so many years with inside out,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We know that we still have perimeter players that are pretty good and had proven themselves throughout the year last year.  Now it’s just a matter of getting them on the same page with our post game and really playing off of one another to hopefully to make defenses have to work that much harder to take away our inside scoring and our perimeter play.  We think that if we can do that our chances of being much more consistent on the offensive end is only going to get better.”

          Another big thing this year for Western is how well they are going to be able to defend the other team.  Sheldon believes they have pretty good depth this year.  “We would like to believe that could be a strength for us this year.  We feel we are pretty athletic, pretty quick and added some nice strength in the off season.  That definitely has to be a staple of ours.  We still have a long ways to go with that right now.  We feel like we have nine or 10 guys that can play this year, which would make it one our deeper teams that we have ever had.  If that’s the case we have to be able to wear teams down.  The way you do that is at the defensive end with the way you pressure the basketball because we can run more bodies in and out,” he said.

          Sheldon says New London will not be easy to unseat at the top of the Firelands Conference, but he thinks it shapes up as a pretty good race.  “First off you have to begin with the defending champs (New London) and they bring back probably the best duo in guard play in Held and Smith.  How they replace the post guys that they lost is going to be a key ingredient for them.  When you look at it Plymouth brings back a nice core of young players that were really vital for them last year in making their district finals appearance.  They have the best returning post player in the league.  When you look on paper St. Paul brings everybody back.  Then there is us that brings quite a bit back.  I don’t think Monroeville is that far away either with as much as they bring back.  It’s just a matter of how much head way they made at the offensive end.  I think it’s a three team race this year, but you really can’t count out who has really made gains over the last six months,” said Sheldon.

 

 
   

Interior Defense Critical For Western

 

          It’s the third go around for Western Reserve and New London and to the winner this time goes a berth in the district final.

          They spilt there regular season meetings with each winning the opponent’s home floor.  Western won at New London (67-57) just before Christmas and New London went to the Rough Riders’ gym and won (54-45) on February 4.

          Thursday night they meet in the division three district semi-finals at Norwalk High School.

          Typically in the tournament, especially, in third meetings between league rivals, the scores tend to be lower.  Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon says that’s because there aren’t any surprises when it comes to strategy.  “Especially when you are that familiar with one another you do seem to see more defensive battles rather than offensive explosions.  By this point we have a good idea of what each other is trying to do to one another.  It will be interesting to see who can take away the other’s strengths.  The first time we were able to do that.  The last time they were able to do that.  Now we get a third crack at it with one another.  It ought to be a dandy,” he said.

          Western plays a lineup that amounts to five guards and no traditional post players.  Sheldon says a slower paced game plays into New London’s hands.  “I tend to think that teams that can score in the low post would have an advantage in lower scoring basketball games.  Obviously, I would give them the edge in that category,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “But, as we proved last week we only had 22 points in more than 20 minutes of a basketball game and then we were able to go the next 10 minutes scoring 40 some points.  We have the ability to score quickly even if it is a low scoring game.  If it is low scoring as long as it’s somewhat close we are always a threat because of the three ball to make a big splash in a hurry.”

          In the two previous games with New London Sheldon says they have been hurt mostly by the play of the Wildcats inside players, who have been tough for the Rough Riders to defend.  “They really hurt us with their two post players Andrew Hopkins and Clay Hall.  They have combined for over 30 points and 20 rebounds in both games against us.  They have been able to exploit us in the paint.  For us it starts with them and how we are going to control those two and not allow them to dictate what goes on in the basketball game.  That’s probably going to be the number one trend setter for us if we can be successful on those two it’s going to increase our chances of being a better basketball team against them,” said Sheldon.

          New London’s leading scorer this year has been Dane Held, an all-district selection, and Sheldon says they can’t forget about him and the other guards.  “They have really good perimeter play as well.  We can’t just forget about those guys because they do have the ability to be affective and dangerous at the same time,” he said.

          Being able to play strong defense and a number of different defenses will be key in this game according to Sheldon.  “We try to bring pressure and double teams from different areas.  That is just something that comes with basketball I.Q. by recognizing where their post guys are catching it and recognizing who we are moving off of to give help and provide some assistance with.  You know, also mixing up some defenses.  When we have an opportunity to mix in some defenses is when we have been more successful on the defensive end and that’s what we are going to try and do early and often,” said Sheldon.   

 

 
   

Western Reserve Has to Move the Ball

 

          It’s a battle between outright conference champions on Wednesday night in the division three regional semi-finals at Lexington High School as Western Reserve locks horns with Centerburg.

          Western (21-3) is from the far northern part of the Swankonsports.com coverage area, while Centerburg (20-4) is about as far south as we go.  The Lady Rough Riders won the Firelands Conference, while the Lady Trojans claimed the Mid-Buckeye Conference.

          It’s Western’s second appearance in the regional tournament in three years.  They lost to Liberty-Benton in the regional final two years ago.  Coach Brenda Friend believes the group she has now is tested.  “With the added pressure that comes from the one and done thought we feel we are experienced in playing sort of intense championship style sort of basketball.  We are definitely feeling pretty good on that note going in,” she said.  They beat Wynford (49-47) in overtime and Edison (54-48) in the district tournament.

          Friend says they got a chance to watch Centerburg live when they beat North Union, the red division champion of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference (50-47), in their district final last Saturday.  “Fortunately they played the early game on Saturday so my JV coach and her dad went down and scouted them for us on Saturday.  I also got some film on them.  I have been on the phone with a number of other coaches that have competed against them.  What it looks like here is they aren’t a real flashy team,” she told Swankonsports.com, “They start four seniors and a junior and both of their subs that come off of the bench are juniors.  They go pretty much 10 deep.  They have a lot of role players, but they are real patient well seasoned basketball team.  In most of the games that I have looked at teams have played a zone against them.  They pass the ball around pretty good.  They get a lot of touches.  They have a real athletic point guard that is pretty close to six-foot tall.  They like to put up the threes.  So, it looks like we have our work cut out for us.”

          Western Reserve improved the strength of their schedule this season and played the likes of Sandusky Perkins and Bellevue, among others.  However, Friend says Centerburg will be a different kind of challenge.  “After watching several films I wasn’t getting a real good feel for them.  I think the one thing is we really haven’t seen any teams with length.  The one thing that stands out to me they have some size at every position.  A little more size than what we have seen recently.  They are very familiar to me in that like most of the teams we have been playing here as of late they have been playing a zone as opposed to a man-to-man.  They are athletic and they are very aggressive.  It looks to me like they have a little bit of the “SBC” or “NOL” style when it comes to defense and physical play.  They really don’t run a patterned set break, but they do push the ball up the floor.  There isn’t a team that comes to mind to me because they are just a little bit different,” said Friend.

          One of the secrets to beating Centerburg, according to Friend is being able to attack the flowing and collapsing zones that the Lady Trojans play.  “That is one thing that I noticed on film they do move very well in their zone.  They move like a machine.  They also like to trap a little bit out of it.  You have to be smart and not hang onto the ball when you see two people coming at you.  You have to dribble and attack and not stand around and telegraph your passes.  It’s no secret we like to get the ball inside, but we also can shoot for the outside.  It’s a matter of we have to be patient with it as we have been.  We need to make sure we are getting a lot of touches on the basketball and attack their seams where we find them and finish our shots off,” said Friend. 

 

 
   

Western Reserve Has to Make the Hustle Plays

 

          Western Reserve, the number one seed, faces Margaretta in the division three sectional final on Friday night at Sandusky Senior High School.

          Western (14-6) beat Margaretta (12-9) on the opening night of the season (57-48), but Rough Riders coach Chris Sheldon believes that result really doesn’t tell us much about what might happen on Friday.  “Well, you know, opening night between where they were then and where we were then and where we both stand today is a major difference in our basketball teams.  So, I don’t a lot stock in that.  However, it does give you some nice familiarity with their personnel and what they are trying to do,” he said.

          Margaretta has proven this year they can beat just able anybody on their schedule because they are athletic and Sheldon says they have two very good players.  “The biggest thing right now is they have a heck of a one-two combination in their perimeter player in Galindo and their post player in Austin Moore.  They are both very, very athletic and can guard and can score, whether it be out on the perimeter or off the dribble or posting you up,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We played a very similar type of combination in our last game in Jake Hill and Tyler George.  They were able to have the better half of us on that night.  It’s going to come down to how well we shut those two down.  If we can stop those two basketball players I like out chances if we don’t then we are going to be in trouble.”  Crestview beat Western Reserve (50-40) last Friday and knocked them from a share of the Firelands Conference title.

          Once again Western will be at size disadvantage in the game and Sheldon says not only do they have to play great defense, but they have to be smart on offense.  “When you look like you are part of the Smurfs when you take the floor compared to the players you are playing against your defense is probably going to be inconsistent.  Sometimes for us our offense has to be our best defense.  We have to be able to use a little bit more patience on the offensive end and make them guard us a little bit longer.  It keeps the ball out of their hands,” said Sheldon.

          They have beaten good teams this year like Sandusky and New London, to name two, and Sheldon says to win tough games they have to out hustle the other guys.  “When you are that tiny you have to win the battle of the little things.  If that’s loose balls, tipped balls, and long rebounds.  All of those type of plays add up and especially when you are under sized those are the plays you have to win.  We call those 50-50 balls.  There is a 50-50 chance you can win it or they can win it.  That is something we stat and something that has to be on the positive side for us if we want a chance at winning this,” said Sheldon.

          Because of the nature of their team, sometimes the Rough Riders are going to do everything right on defense and the other guys will still score.  Sheldon says they can’t let that bother them.  “Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to your opponent and say they got us on that one.  We have to forget about it and move on and play the next play.  I think if we can do that and come up with some of those 50-50 plays and be a little more efficient at the offensive end.  Those three things could go a long way in helping us win a sectional championship,” said Sheldon.

 

 
   

Two Solid Programs Meet

 

          Brenda Friend has built Western Reserve into a winner year after year and on Thursday night they play one of the other more consistent programs in North Central Ohio when they challenge Wynford in the division three district semi-finals at Norwalk High School.

          Western (19-3) was the outright champion of the Firelands Conference this season.  Their only losses coming to Bellevue, the Northern Ohio League co-champ, and two Sandusky Bay Conference powers in Edison and Sandusky Perkins.

          Wynford (15-6) shared the black division title in the North Central Conference with Bucyrus, who plays Edison in the other semi-final.  The Lady Royals defeated conference rival Upper Sandusky (59-51) in the sectional finals.

          It was an easier time for Western Reserve in the sectionals as they drilled fellow Firelands Conference member New London (70-34) to advance to the districts.

          Friend says Wynford is good year in and year out and it is because of their coach.  “Their program is deep in tradition.  I think Amy Taylor-Sheldon is one of the best girls’ basketball coaches in our area.  They are used to being in this position.  They moved up from division four.  They are team we see in the summer at our team camp that we go to.  I believe that we usually scrimmage them as we did early this season.  I think we have kind of a flip the coin sort of game coming up here and we are looking forward to it,” said Friend.

          Wynford point guard Cierra Brady is the district six coaches association player of the year.  She averages almost 20 points a game for Wynford.  Friend says they have to contain her if they are going to slow down the Lady Royals.  “We have scouted them three times and looked at them on film a little bit.  It is no secret their offense goes through her.  She is one of those kind of players, she doesn’t do anything fancy she is just very active, moves well without the ball and finds a way to score points,” she told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday. “I think she can do it from the outside, I think she can do it off the dribble and she is kind of a slasher too.  She is not the only person they have going on that team, but I know their offense starts and runs through her, so we are certainly going to have to pay attention to her.”

          Western Reserve is one of the tallest division three schools in this area across the front line and Friend says they have to be able to get the ball into the paint and make Wynford defend them close to the basket.  “Number one, they run multiple defenses so we definitely have to recognize when we come down the floor what kind of defense they are in.  Number two, it’s no secret our inside game we have a little bit more length than they have.  We have to take advantage of that on the inside.  I definitely think that defensive and offensive rebounding is going to be a key in this game for both teams.  When you get to this point in the season there is not going to be any secrets between us.  They scouted us multiple times and we have scouted them.  We have an advantage inside with size and we have to take advantage of it,” said Friend.

 

 
   

Win or go Home for Western

 

          Western Reserve has been the most consistent boys’ basketball team in the Firelands Conference over the last decade and they have a chance to win at least a piece of another title on Friday night.

          The Rough Riders (14-5,11-2) play host to Crestview (10-9,8-5) in a conference game on Friday night with everything riding on the outcome.  Right now, Western shares first place in the conference with New London, who travels to Norwalk St. Paul.

          This is a game they must win, according to coach Chris Sheldon, to have a chance at earning a share of the title.  “We can’t count on New London losing.  I told our kids at the beginning of the week in practice, I said fellows I don’t think you could ask for a better tune up when it comes to tournament basketball.  It’s going to be a great atmosphere and it’s a great ball club that we have to beat and it’s a win or go home situation.  It’s like tournament style basketball if we don’t win we probably aren’t going to win a league title.  That adds that extra pressure, but that’s good pressure.  It’s pressure that should get us ready for tournament basketball.  I couldn’t picture it or asked it to come down to this any better than it has,” said Sheldon.

          Crestview is one of two teams in the conference to beat Western this season (55-45) January 14, New London is the other.  Sheldon says the Cougars have the talent to pretty much beat anybody they play.  “They are a scary basketball team because they are very talented.  I think they have had a tendency this year to probably play more so to the level of the team they are playing.  When I watched them play Ontario earlier in the year they played a great basketball game.  You know they played us very well.  New London they played very well and got beat with a heartbreaker at the buzzer,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have proven they can play with anybody.  Unfortunately they have come up on the short end of the stick too many times.  We are going to get their best shot.  You know they would love to do nothing better than to end their regular season knowing that they held us from a league title.  It’s going to be a great test and a great opportunity for our young men.”

          Crestview forward Tyler George is one of the better players in the Firelands Conference.  Sheldon says in the first meeting they did a pretty good job on him and they will have to do it again.  “Tyler George is one of the best players in out league, probably the best post player.  He can do so many things.  What scares me as well as they played the first time to beat us we held Tyler George to single digits.  That scares me because I would have told you going into that one if we hold Tyler George to single digits we win the basketball game.  We are going to have to match that performance from the first time of making it hard for him to catch the basketball.  If he does catch it well surround him and keeping him off the glass.  We hope we can hold some of their shooters at bay that we weren’t able to do the first time around,” said Sheldon.

          In the first meeting with Crestview, Western Reserve made just 2 of 41 three point attempts, the Rough Riders bread and butter.  Sheldon believes if they can get the same shots they will make more of them this time.  “As a basketball coach you analyze are the right guys shooting the right shots at the right time and we did that in game one.  We only took one or two shots that were ill advised.  I’m pretty confident that our players are good enough shooters and that we will respond better.  In the confines of your own home you tend to knock down a few more from long range as it is.  Our kids will come out with some energy and the confidence to make some shots.  It’s going to be interesting,” said Sheldon.

 

 
   

Western Reserve Facing Red Hot Big Red

 

          If Western Reserve is going to win back to back Firelands Conference boys’ basketball titles they are going to have to earn it with wins over two of the better small school teams in the area.

          They play Plymouth this week and Crestview next.

          After downing Mapleton (54-46) in a conference game last Friday, the Rough Riders came up with one of their biggest wins of the season over Sandusky Bay Conference champion Sandusky Perkins (64-57), a division two school.  Western coach Chris Sheldon says they have been waiting for a performance like this pretty much all year.  “It couldn’t come at a better time.  We really hadn’t beaten a good basketball team since we beat New London there after Christmas at their place.  Since then we have lost to Crestview and New London again, we lost to Norwalk, you know, we lost to Wellington,” he told Swankonsports.com, “It’s not an in justice to anyone we have beaten.  When I’m talking about good basketball teams I’m talking about teams that are seven, eight, nine games over .500.  Those are typically signs in high school of good basketball teams.  So, it was a great win at a much needed time.  You talk all of the time that you want to be playing well late.  We are just going to try and carry that over to this week’s game.”

          Plymouth (13-5,8-4) comes to Western Reserve (12-5,10-2) for a huge conference game on Friday night.  The Big Red has won its last seven games.  Sheldon says they feature one of the best freshmen in the area.  “They have won nine of 10.  They’ve really got it rolling pretty well right now.  The only loss there coming to New London at New London.  I think its starts with the freshman.  Tyrell Edimston if you look at the numbers he has been putting up as of late.  I think last weekend he had 28 points and 20 rebounds (in wins over Crestview and South Central) and he did something similar to that the week before.  The young man is gifted with some athleticism and some tools.  It really looks like he is putting it together down the home stretch here and figuring out what it takes and how hard you have to play at the varsity level.  We have got to find a way to contain him not only in the paint with his scoring, but on the glass.  If we don’t do that we are in for a long night,” said Sheldon.

          Sheldon says Plymouth has some pretty good veteran players too.  He says the Rough Riders must find ways to compete with Plymouth inside.  “Then you talk about the other Freshmen Beebe, but also Ryan Benfer and Craig Miller, two veterans guards that are seniors and also athletic.  It’s a tough match-up for us.  I think at the end of the night it’s going to be determined by points in the paint and who controls the glass.  Those are going to be two key areas if we want to win this basketball game, stay in the hunt for a league title, these are musts for us,” he said.

          Western Reserve really doesn’t play anything but guards and they are going to be at a pretty big size disadvantage on Friday night.  Sheldon says they are going to have to be very good on defense.  “We are going to have to find ways to run guys at them all night long whether that is going to be from the backside, the top or ball side I think the key for that is keeping them off balance and that is something we are really going to have to work on.  We have to communicate when we are on the floor, so we are on the same page, and we don’t break down,” said Sheldon.

          The Western Reserve coach believes both teams are going to try and push the pace of the game, but for them it might be more important.  “If you look at it they are right up there with us as far as points per game in our league.  That means that anybody that wants to come out and pay six bucks is going to see a pretty up tempo basketball game.  We still have to control tempo and that is going to be a key ingredient for us and hopefully that is something we can do with our guard play,” said Sheldon.   

 

 
   

Western Reserve Has to Figure Some Things Out

 

          Western Reserve is in a share of first place in the Firelands Conference with three games left to play on the conference schedule.

          The Rough Riders (10-5,9-2) were alone in first place until a loss last Friday to New London (54-45) in a league game.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they jut couldn’t make shots and they couldn’t put any runs together.  “A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that New London had a very nice game plan against us and they executed theirs very well and we didn’t execute ours.  When you have two good basketball teams it usually comes down to the team that does those little things to win each little possessions that matters.  It just seemed like all night long we just couldn’t find a rhythm at the offensive end,” Sheldon told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Even in the two spurts where we sort of did they were able to capitalize on it and put it to end real quick and turn the momentum back in their favor.  We had it to a four point game and three possessions in a row in the fourth quarter we missed two front ends of one and ones and get caught with a travel on a lay up.  We had our chances, but we continued to shoot ourselves in the foot.  They then went down to the other end and capitalized on it.”

          Western and New London lead Crestview by a game with three weeks left in the regular season.  Western is at Mapleton (2-12,0-10) for a conference game on Friday night.  Sheldon says they have to be ready to play.  “Our league is so balanced this year that on any night most teams can knock somebody off.  We have lost to two of the best teams in the league and we are still in a situation where we control our own destiny.  That doesn’t mean we can overlook a Mapleton.  At the same time we have to get better,” he said.

          Western Reserve plays with what amounts to five guards on the floor at one time and they have been relying on making outside shots to score and on some nights they haven’t been there.  Sheldon says they have to create more offense with their defense.  “We have to become more consistent and that’s tough because we are one dimensional.  We are strictly a perimeter team.  The two league games we have lost we have shot it poorly from the perimeter.  We have to find a way to create some easy buckets for us with our defense and we just aren’t doing that right now.  In games where we struggled that has got to be a must for us,” said Sheldon.

          Saturday night, the Rough Riders host Sandusky Bay Conference winner Sandusky Perkins (14-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com basketball power poll in the larger school division, for a non-conference game.  Sheldon says they have to prove they can beat some of these heavyweights they are playing.  “We have taken it upon ourselves that we want to play the best that we can play in our area and that’s good.  At the same time we need to have a signature win.  This would be a great opportunity for us to try and do that because we haven’t done that.  You know, it’s one thing to play really good teams, but if your not beating them I don’t know are you getting better?  That is question we are asking ourselves right now.  Sooner or later we have to step up to the challenge and win a game that maybe we are an underdog in.  We feel we are capable of being a good team.  This will be an opportunity for us to right the ship and add that signature win,” said Sheldon.    

 

 
   

Western Reserve Can Claim Trophy

 

          Western Reserve is unbeaten in the Firelands Conference and the Lady Rough Riders can have the conference title to themselves with a win at home over Plymouth on Thursday night.

          With the kids they had returning from last season, Western Reserve coach Brenda Friend says they knew there was some potential there, but they also had to refine some things, most notably their ball handling skills. “Well, I think for one we have toughened up our schedule and we played some really close, tight games early on in the season.  A coach evaluates at the end of the season what you have coming back and we knew one of our weaknesses was going to be able to handle full court pressure.  So, this summer we really focused on putting ourselves in some situations that were able to work on that.  I have some very talented athletes that have really committed themselves to this program.  We weren’t sure coming in, but I really thought at the beginning of the season we really worked through some bugs,” said Friend.

          This season Western Reserve played Bellevue and Willard out of the Northern Ohio League and two tough Sandusky Bay Conference teams in Sandusky Perkins and Edison.  Friend says they want to be challenged.  “In our conference with four division three and four division fours.  I think we have some pretty talented basketball programs in the area.  There are quite a few more I wish I could get in and get on my schedule because that’s how you get better is to play solid programs that are good year in and year out.  You don’t get better playing against yourself,” she said.

          Friend says they are still a team with room for growth and she knows they can get better as a team.  She wants her team to be better at executing those end of the game situations and like most coaches she wants her team to defend and rebound better.  “We are 15-3 and in our three losses we lost to Bellevue by three and had a possession at the end of the game.  Perkins we had a possession at the end of the game, lost by two.  Edison we had a possession at the end of the game and lost by one.  The things we have really focused on you know is understanding what the situation is and executing those plays at the end.  Day in and day out you better defend and you better rebound because your shooting is going to come and go and at this point making free throws.  We don’t necessarily have a true point guard here, so that has to be by team.  The team has to recognize that when we get in situations where somebody is in trouble with the ball.  Our press break has really improved from beginning to end,” said Friend.

          Western Reserve really hasn’t been pushed very hard in conference games this season for the most part.  Friend says the many of the other teams in the conference are in a transition stage.  “You had graduations hit some programs last year.  We knew coming back, we weren’t sure about St. Paul, we knew they had some talented athletes back.  South Central quite obviously with the talented freshmen class coming in and with Taylor Tackett and some good teammates coming back with her.  We knew what those two programs had, but the rest of the league was somewhat of a question,” she told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Without a doubt the biggest difference in our league this year is we just have so much length.  The rest of the teams in our league just don’t have the one, two or three decent sized post players, so that’s a big strength for us.  Mapleton and Plymouth have suffered some injuries throughout this season.  New London, we struggled our first game with them, it was a one-point game at halftime.  I guess when you are a team that has to rely on outside shooting that’s going to come and go.  I have been disappointed that we haven’t been pushed harder, but we have some really terrific coaches in this league.  There are a lot of great coaches out there. But you have to have talent, I just happen to have a boatload of it.”

          Plymouth (9-8,8-4) will be at Western on Thursday night.  A win gives the Lady Rough Riders the outright conference title.  Friend says they will have to play good defense.  “I have a feeling they are going to be scrappy just like they always are.  I also know they have some good, young freshmen.  How about that?  When you get a chance to get some varsity experience with no pressure on you as a freshman you can just be free to play.  We are going to have to defend the three point line.  We are going to have to defend transition,” said Friend.    

 

 
   

Western Can Take Command

 

          With wins over New London and South Central this weekend the Western Reserve Rough Riders will put themselves in excellent position to defend the Firelands Conference boys’ basketball title.

          However, a slip up in either game, especially against New London, and the race is on for the rest of the season.  Right now, the Rough Riders (9-4,8-1) hold a one game lead on New London and a two game advantage on South Central and Crestview.

          Last week, they took care of business against Monroeville (66-52) and coach Chris Sheldon says they have some kids that are beginning to mature into pretty good basketball players.  “We have some guys that were young and inexperienced and pretty green behind the ears that are really, I guess you could say, getting comfortable understanding what it going to take night in and night out at this level.  They are definitely starting to play a little more consistently.  What you got to do and what you want to be doing is continuing to take stapes in the right direction, especially as the calendar turns to February,” said Sheldon.

          New London (8-3,7-2) has really put some good games together as of late, including a win (48-46) at home against Crestview last Friday.  Sheldon says the Wildcats are a team that can do a lot of things well on both ends of the court.  “I think the thing that probably impresses me the most is they have the ability to play a lot of different styles.  They have five very good athletes in their starting lineup.  I think they play very unselfishly together, you know, they really share the basketball well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Defensively they are going to give every type of defensive look and front you can possibly see in a season and they are going to give you in one game.  Adjusting to that and still allowing our offensive tempo to dictate what we want to do will be just a key, key piece to this basketball game.”

          When you see so many looks form a team, Sheldon says the players have to do a good job of recognizing what New London is doing and then adapting to what will work best.  “You know you would like to think that you have five guys out there, but typically in high school basketball you are just happy if you’ve got one that can recognize.  You know, for us that one has got to be our point guard.  We talk all week long and practice against the different styles that we see.  Hopefully for one or two of them there will be a Jesus moment and they recognize it in a game and be able to get the rest of their teammates in the right spots and the right offenses to combat that.  That was a key for us in game one as we did fairly well with that.  You never know what’s going to happen in game two obviously with everything on the line it’s a great opportunity for both teams to see who steps us and makes the right plays at the right time,” said Sheldon.

          South Central (8-5,5-3) stayed in the race with an overtime win against Norwalk St. Paul (73-66) last Friday.  Sheldon says with Austin Hintz and Jerrod Hawkins they have the ability to beat anyone on their schedule.  The Rough Riders needed overtime to win in Greenwich earlier this year.  “They have two really good players and when you have two really good players and some athletes to go along with them.  They continue to gain confidence with that and they are becoming a much, much tougher basketball team to play as evidenced by what they have done over the last month.  They are not out of this by any stretch.  They are only two games out.  They know that this weekend for them is a must win,” said Sheldon.

          With two wins the Rough Riders don’t clinch anything, but they put themselves in great position to take the flag at the end of the season.  “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that would give us a two game lead with three games to go.  One of those games being at Mapleton and the other two being at home.  That really puts the odds in our favor.  We can’t get caught looking at the numbers or what the possibilities may be,” he said, “We just have to focus on the Wildcats and how we are going to attack them and how we are going to handle them and what we could possibly do to win that game.  If we win that game then we will worry able the Trojans on Saturday morning.  It comes down to this is where you want to be.  When it comes February and our kids are going to get the opportunity to do that.  Will see what our young men are made of.”    

 

 
   

Western Reserve Has to Take Advantage

 

          Western Reserve got a little helper on Monday night when South Central upset the Crestview Cougars and dropped them from a share of the Firelands Conference lead with Western.

          Jerrod Hawkins drove the length of the floor in four seconds to give the Trojans the win (56-55) over Crestview.  The Cougars are now a half game behind Western Reserve, a full game in the loss column.

          After a loss to Crestview the week before, Western responded to beat a good Norwalk St. Paul team (69-42) last Friday night.  Rough Riders coach Chris Sheldon says they played unselfish basketball and the played some pretty good defense in the half and full court against the Flyers.  “The more I watched it on film the more it was evident that when we share the basketball, when we make the extra pass to our teammates, just how much more efficient we are at the offensive end.  You combined that we our effort and execution of our defensive game plan.  It really created some easy opportunities with turnovers to start our transition.  Those two phases coming together made it look like we actually know how to play this game a little bit,” said Sheldon.

          Western Reserve has a lineup that amounts to five guards and Sheldon says they have to do a good job of running the floor and making decisions with the basketball.  He says they did a good job of that of that against St. Paul.  “Good basketball teams are tremendous in transition offensively.  The change over from defense to offense and how fast you can do that, how good you can get in your spacing, how well you throw the ball ahead of the floor and all of those things,” Sheldon told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “At the same time it takes a lot of decision making to be able to understand when is the right time to look for a quick bucket and when is the wrong time.  What is good shot selection and what isn’t.  A strength of ours is we are actually showing signs of having some solid basketball I.Q.  When you do that it puts immediate pressure on the defense.  Whenever you can be the aggressor offensively and it puts the pressure on the defense it’s going to give you an advantage.”

          Western Reserve (8-4,7-1) crosses Norwalk to face the Monroeville Eagles (1-11,0-8) on Friday night in conference action.  Monroeville stayed in the game into the second half in losses to Plymouth (59-52) and Crestview (54-39) last week.  Sheldon knows they can not go into the game just figuring they are going to win.  “I definitely think their young kids have gained some experience now.  They are feeling a little more comfortable with it.  I also think as a good basketball team your mental psyche going into a game has to be sound.  If you don’t respect a basketball team you have the tendency to come out and play a little flat and be a little sloppy.  It allows them to gain a little confidence against you.  That’s a dangerous combination.  We have to walk into that gym come Friday night with a mindset that this is the only team we are playing and we are going to need to be at our best,” said Sheldon.      

 

 
   

Western Reserve Needs to Fight Back

 

          Western Reserve probably played its worst game of the season last week against Crestview, but the Rough Riders are still in a share of first place with the Cougars in the Firelands Conference standings.

          Last Saturday night, the Rough Riders (7-4,6-1), #3 in Swankonsports.com basketball power poll in the small school division, lost (55-45) to Crestview in a game where they made just 2-41 three pointers.  Coach Chris Sheldon says the stars just didn’t line up for them.  “Yeah, I think if we tried punting the ball into the rim better than we actually shot the ball into the rim.  I think our chances would have been better.  Unfortunately when you are a guard oriented basketball team and you shoot that many three pointers sooner or later maybe you are going to have one or two nights where you just don’t shoot it well.  Unfortunately for us with our six perimeter players all six decided to have a night like that on the same night,” said Sheldon.

          However, after the loss Sheldon says the players have come back this week focused on the task at hand, which is win Friday night at Norwalk St. Paul.  “Our kids have responded with a good week of practice.  We said at the end of the day we are still in first place.  We have to move on and move to our next challenge which is still to compete and go on the road to St. Paul this week to stay in first place,” he said.

          It’s the start of the second round of league play and Western beat St. Paul (55-42) in the first game they played in December.  But, Sheldon says the St. Paul (3-7,3-3) lineup, dominated by juniors and sophomores, has a lot more game experience.  “At the beginning of the year they were a lot of young and inexperienced varsity basketball players.  This is the time of year when you start to see kids gain a little more confidence.  The game is a lot more comfortable to them.  The speed they are getting used to,” Sheldon told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have some kids that can really shoot the basketball.  That is a dangerous combination. At their place we are really going to have to go out and guard the three point shot and really make it hard for them to get comfortable.  We have to do our job on the defensive end making their kids put the basketball on the floor and try to put them in some situations where maybe in plays into our favor and not into their strengths.  We have a tough challenge at hand.  It is something where we have to concentrate on shutting down their perimeter game.”

          After the disappointing effort on Saturday night, Sheldon believes they need to play well early in the game, especially on defense, which hopefully leads to some offense too.  “I think we definitely need to get off to a good start, especially when we are coming of the kind of performance we had.  In the same essence because we are coming off a loss our kids understand that there is no giving up right now.  There is no letting off the gas pedal.  We have talked all week long that a lot of it is going to start with our intensity at the defensive end of the floor and the offense will take care of itself.  It is going to be critical about how well we execute early on and maybe getting an opportunity to get some easy baskets through our defense to get us going at the offensive end,’ said Sheldon.

          Coming off a poor performance against Crestview last week, Sheldon thinks hey need to show mental toughness and he is confident they will do just that.  “We need to play well and we are going to find out what our mental make-up is and how we handle defeat and how we respond to it more importantly.  I think by being led by Nolan (Todd) and his senior leadership and the competitiveness of our juniors and how much they want to win.  You know, I’m not concerned with that, it’s just a matter of us executing our game plan,” said Sheldon.  

 

 
   

Western in Position to Take Control

 

          If Western Reserve wins on Friday night at Crestview the Rough Riders take a two game lead in the Firelands Conference after the first half of league play.

          Last week, Western (7-3,6-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com basketball power poll for small schools, rallied to beat Plymouth (62-55) and hold on to a one game lead over Crestview. Who beat Norwalk St. Paul (60-47) in their league game.

          Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon says they were able to adapt to what Plymouth showed them on offense and be able to stretch out the lead in the second half.  “Well, you know, Plymouth came out and tried to slow our guards down with a very soft perimeter and falling back into a zone trying to limit our penetration and help them get to our three point shooters a little quicker.  They were affective with that in the first half because we really didn’t make a lot of shots,” he told Swankonsports.com, “But, then in the second half we really got it going from the perimeter.  Once we were able to do that we were able to spread them out and make them come guard us.  With our caliber of guards that we put out on the floor that really became difficult and allowed us to extend the lead.  It was just another big step, you know, when you are able to win on the road like we have so far at New London and Plymouth that goes a long, long way in winning a league title.”

          With the trip to Crestview on Friday night the last game in the first round of league play, Sheldon knows how important a win will be.  “It’s like this is the last main obstacle going into Crestview.  If we can win that one it would complete the first half and put us up two games in the win column.  It’s going to take a lot of work and effort and execution from our part to do that, but that would be a big, big win as far as this league title,” he said.

          Crestview (7-4,5-1) is a team with a number of experienced players on the its roster.  Sheldon believes they play a lot like his club does.  “They are the one team that really mimics us in a lot ways.  They have a lot of guys they can put out on the floor.  They spread you out and love to take you off the dribble to score.  At the same time they can really shoot the basketball.  I really think the winner of this game is going to be the team that really plays their style of basketball the best,” he said, “You know, knocks down jump shots and gets to the lane and creates mismatches off the dribble and gets to the foul line.  If both of us play well it could be a very high scoring affair.  At the same time it could be a very fun game to watch because of the skill set and the ability to put the ball in the hole.”

          The one advantage in the game for Crestview could be the presence of senior Tyler George, one of the most athletic players in the area.  Sheldon admits George is a tough match-up for them.  “Tyler is such a tough match-up and he is a great athlete because he has the ability to do it all.  He is 6-3, 6-4 and is a strong athletic kid.  There are some things that we have really preached hard this week in practice.  He is probably the best offensive rebounder in the league.  When you think you have him boxed out if you really don’t move him out he just out jumps you.  He out jumps you without going over your back.  He does it quite simply with pretty good easy and without ever pushing off.  He gets a lot of buckets that way.  He also gets them out of their offense with dribble penetration.  He is probably and even tougher guard for us because he is 6-4.  He has that capability and that height that we just don’t have.  It’s going to be a big match-up for us in limiting him and Hill.  If we can do that I think we have a chance to be successful,” said Sheldon.

          It will likely be a game of a lot of momentum changes and Sheldon says they have to have the mental focus to forget what happened last.  “When you are playing in big basketball games we talk about that mentality all of the time.  You have to play the possession you are on.  You can’t focus on what happened the play before.  You can’t look ahead and what might happen at the other end of the floor.  You have to focus on the play you are on and whatever happens you move on to the next play.  You move on no matter if it was a good thing or a bad thing.  Teams that can do that and win the possession they are on are typically the teams that are going to be successful and have a chance to win at the end of the night,” said Sheldon.      

 

 
   

Western Reserve Has to Play Smart

 

          Western Reserve is in first place in the Firelands Conference standings, but their lead is only one and they face a tough game at Plymouth in conference play on Friday night.

          Last week, the Rough Riders, #1 in the small school division of the Swankonsports.com basketball power poll, lost just their second game to Wellington (61-57) in non-conference play on Wednesday before taking apart Mapleton (81-34) in a conference game last Friday.  “We weren’t really happy with how we responded to the challenge in a non-conference game against Wellington on Wednesday night.  Needless to say Thursday and Friday was a lot of preparation more about us and what we have to do from a mentality standpoint.  Our kids answered the bell.  However, that was against a team that was young and rebuilding and not in the hunt for this league title.  Yeah, it was great to see our kids respond the way we did, but we have been challenging them all week that anybody can do that against a team with a lesser skill set, but how are you going to do against a team of the caliper of Plymouth that has two great players and a lot of good athletes.  We are going to see just how much we have learned from the loss a week and half ago and see it carries into Friday’s big game,” said Western coach Chris Sheldon.

          Western is not a very big team this season with their tallest players just over six-feet.  Sheldon says they face a big test trying to defend Plymouth (4-2,3-2) down on and near the block.  “This is the first basketball team that we have probably played that their strength is out weakness.  It’s going to be a great match-up to see how we combat that and at the same token how they try to exploit that with the their post play,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They have the freshman Edmiston, Hicks and 6-3 kid that plays well in the lane in Benfer.  We have to work all night long in making it very hard with our ball pressure and also our ability to help each other out in the low post and defend them.  At the same time we have to use some of our quickness on the perimeter to exploit some of their size on the other end.  I think that contrast of styles is going to dictate.  Whoever plays to their performance and their tempo and their style the best is going to come up victorious.”

          Certainly the Rough Riders (6-2,5-0) would like to come up with the win at Plymouth, but Sheldon feels the pressure in this game falls squarely in the shoulders of Plymouth, not them.  “We were able to do that when we went into New London.  We talk about going on the road is a test of your toughness, it’s a test of your focus, and it speaks volumes about the makeup of your basketball team.  We know that this going to be a big time challenge on Friday night.  We are aware that this is a back against the wall for Plymouth.  It’s a must win for them if they want to stay in the hunt in this league race.  When it comes to league titles, yeah, you want to get steals on the road, but at the same time you win league titles by protecting you home floor.  There is still no pressure because at the end of the night, win or lose, we are still going to be in first place,” said Sheldon.

          On Saturday night, it’s a battle between the two #1’s in the Swankonsports.com basketball power poll as Norwalk (8-0) will be at Western Reserve in non-conference play.  Sheldon says they have to play smart and slow the game down a little bit to have a chance.  “I think that a stiff challenge would probably be an understatement.  Steve’s Gray’s basketball team is as talented a group you can put on the basketball floor in our area.  It’s going to be a great challenge for us, but we schedule these no conference games to get better.  It’s only eight miles to Norwalk and there is definitely a rivalry between us.  We went to their place last year and knocked them off and I am sure that is still fresh in their mind.  More than anything against that kind of basketball team, we have to control tempo.  If we control temp we think we can stick around, but if we get too fast and too selfish they are the kind of basketball team that can make it ugly in a hurry,” said Sheldon.

 

 
   

Western Reserve Must Continue to Improve

 

          Western Reserve, the defending champion, now owns first place in the Firelands Conference, after big win over New London last week, but they can’t stand still.

          Coach Chris Sheldon says they are happy with their position, but they can’t become complacent and lose that intensity that has got them to this point.  “You can’t ever complain.  Obviously being about a month into it and being in first place and sitting there all alone.  That is definitely a nice feeling, however, our basketball team can’t get comfortable with that feeling.  We still have approach each and every day like we have a long road ahead of us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It’s January and February when you win league basketball titles.  We can only go one day at a time and getting better because there are a lot of things that still need cleaned up, especially at the defense end of the floor.  If our basketball team continues to show that sense of urgency and desire to improve on our weaknesses then we are going to be able to hang around this thing for a while.”

          Western Reserve (5-1) plays host to Wellington, of the Lorain County League, in a non-conference game on Wednesday night.  Sheldon says Wellington is just the kind of team that can give them fits because of their size.  “Right now, they are in first place in their league.  They only have one loss, just like us, and they lost to a division one team out of the Lorain area.  They are a very well experienced basketball team with a lot of players back from a year ago.  They have a tremendous height and athleticism that is going to create some problems for us.  They go about 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on their front line and they bring another 6-4 off the bench.  All of them can jump and run,” he said, “It’s going to be our ability to hold them to one and out and rebound the basketball.  We also have to be able to guard them off the dribble.  They depend on their athleticism to beat you and get to the front of the rim and try and score and make it a volleyball game.  We can’t do that with our lack of size.  They are going to have us out manned at every position.  It’s just a matter of us being in the right place at the right time.  We have to pick each other up and help cover up for some of our weaknesses.”

          Since becoming the Western Reserve coach a decade ago, Sheldon has not been afraid to schedule tough non-conference opponents.  He believes that makes them better as a team.  “It’s going to be a great non-conference game for us.  That’s what we do with our non-conference games.  Right now in our non-conference games four of our six opponents are in first place.  This is just another test.  It’s a test to show where we are at compared to other teams in the area and help us get better for our league,” said Sheldon.

          Regarding rebounding against bigger teams, Sheldon says they have worked hard at rebounding as a team and making sure that they get a body on their opponents.  “What we have sort of bought into early on is with our lack of size is we have to work together.  We have to have five guys working in unison helping to cover each other up.  We do you a variety of different frontals and traps in the low post and rotations to make them try and pitch the ball back out and beat us that way.  It still comes down to basic fundamentals at that end.  Plus using the size of our heart to dictate whether that we are eventually going to get stops and come up with the rebounds we need to.  That’s really all you can do when you don’t have size.  You can either sit there and say they are bigger, faster and stronger than us or you can try and use some willpower to overcome those obstacles and that is what we have been able to do,” said Sheldon.

          On Friday night, Western Reserve will play host to the Mapleton Mounties (1-6,0-4) in a Firelands Conference game.  Sheldon wants to go into the game and play hard and get control early in the game.  “You know with Mapleton you know they are young right now.  Young kids are scary even if they aren’t having a lot of success they are usually still pretty hungry.  They are going to be coming over to our place not afraid of us by any means.  They are going to come out and compete for 32 minutes.  When you are playing teams like that you worry about the type of intensity that you step on the floor with.  If you let a basketball team hang around they become dangerous.  It will be a key for us to take care of business early.  We have to respect them as an opponent and match their intensity.  If we do that I would like to believe our skill set being a little better than theirs and our experience being better than theirs will allow us to take care of business like we should,” said Sheldon.

 

 
   

Co-Leaders in the Firelands Meet

 

          Western Reserve and New London, the two co-leaders in the Firelands Conference, square off in a key early season battle on Friday night in New London.

          The Rough Riders (4-1) had a tough time in winning last Friday when they visited Greenwich to take on the South Central Trojans.  They were able to come out with a hard earned 66-61 overtime win.  Coach Chris Sheldon says they put together a gutsy performance.  “Well, it is always a tough place to play down there.  We knew going in that they had a nice basketball team that lost their only game the week before in an overtime loss to Crestview.  We continued to allow them to hang around.  We broke down at the end of regulation when we were trying to foul them with under ten seconds to go with a three point lead.  We left Hintz open for the only time in the game at the wrong time and he buried a 25-footer at the buzzer to send it to OT,” he told Swankonsports.com, “I think what that game did for us as a team more than anything was it showed a toughness and resiliency in our basketball team that I wasn’t sure we had.  Sometimes when you let a game like that get away at the end of regulation it is difficult for young men at that age to come back and play hard in the overtime.  We need to clean up some of the mistakes we are making late in ball games that are allowing teams to stick around and not put them away.”

          New London was the only team to beat Western Reserve in a conference game last year and Sheldon understands that the Wildcats are very talented at all of the positions.  “The one thing that Tommy’s got is he’s got basketball players and they play very well together.  I think they are unselfish.  They have guys that can handle the basketball and shoot the basketball.  The intensity and the passion they play with shows just how much they really want to win.  They were impressive last weekend in playing the two other teams that are right up there with us for a league championship.  The won on the road at Plymouth and then put a really good beating on a good Crestview basketball team in their own gym,” said Sheldon.

          New London beat Plymouth (65-64 n overtime) and then crushed Crestview (66-40) on Saturday night.  Sheldon knows that New London is at the top of their game right now.  “It’s scary because it looks like we are catching them at a point and time when they are playing well.  We are going to have to find ways to slow them down at the offensive end because they are scoring in bunches right now.  When a team is playing that well the thing you have got to do is get them out of rhythm and we have to find a way to do that,” he said.  New London has offensive weapons, but Sheldon adds they do a very good job on defense too.  “At the same time his team changes defenses very, very well.  They are going to give you multiple looks to try and disrupt your timing.  A lot of that is going to be our ability to recognize what they are in.  Our kids need to be a little more savvy mentally in what we are facing and attack it,” he said.

          New London’s gym can be a tough place to play and Sheldon understands they must play with intensity, but they can’t get too emotional and forget what the game plan is supposed to be.  “There is going to be a lot of energy and intensity in the building.  Tommy and I aren’t going to have to say much to get our kids up.  There is going to be emotion, that’s a given, especially since it has been such a rivalry through the years.  More than anything we have to slow ourselves down.  We have to be able to process after that ball goes up in the air and move from one play to the next to try and maintain an even keel mentally and emotionally.  I am confident our kids are going to do that because we are used to this,” said Sheldon. 

 

 
   

Western Reserve Concentrating on South Central

 

          It may not be a scientific theorem, but usually the team that does the best on double weekends in their league ends up winning the conference title in the end.

          This week is a Friday-Saturday doubleheader in the Firelands Conference.  For Western Reserve they travel South Central (2-1) on Friday night and host the Monroeville Eagles (1-2) on Saturday.

          Western, the defending conference champion, won its opening conference game last week downing Norwalk St. Paul 55-42.  Rough Riders coach Chris Sheldon says they were able to make a difference in the second half of that game with some adjustments they made.  “You definitely want to start out on the right foot when you are trying to compete for a league title.  We were able to do that in large part due to what we were able to do in the second half with some of the adjustments we made defensively and just our effort and intensity alone took a step up compared to the first half,” Sheldon told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Now, this weekend is a double weekend in the league and those are always just so big because you get back to back league night.  Fortunately we are home for one of those.  The big thing is we can only focus right now on Friday night at South Central and how we are going to stop those guys down their, in particular Mr. Hintz.”

          Friday night, Western Reserve (2-1) will be in Greenwich to face the South Central Trojans, who return just one starter from a district qualifier from a year ago in senior Austin Hintz.  Sheldon says they have to find some ways to keep the ball out of his hands.  “I think you start by just approaching it defensively with how much can you limit Hintz’s touches.  If he gets opportunities when he is guarded one on one that’s where we are going to have our hands full and he is probably going to have the advantage.  What types of defenses we use to surround him, I think that is something we are still trying to work out what combination we think is going to work.  As far as his surrounding cast I think it is very similar to ours in the fact that they have one returning player that is a very good player and a bunch of unknowns.  The Hawkins kids looks to be a kid that has really stepped up for them as well as the Montgomery kid.  I think they have enough nice pieces around him, but we have got to make those other pieces beat us other than Hintz,” said Sheldon.

          Of course, Hintz has to play defense too, but Sheldon says they will not pay particular attention to Hintz by feeding whoever he may be guarding the ball a lot.  “How we do that will be determined based on how they match-up.  Me and Brett are typically man-to-man type coaches.  I am sure that both teams are going to see man-to-man for much of the night.  If we think we can exploit that we will.  We are going to run our offense as we see fit and not worry so much about trying to wear him down at that end of the floor.”

          Although the goal is to win both games they play on the weekend, Sheldon says that most of his attention in practice this week will be dedicated to making sure they are prepared for the Friday night game against the Trojans.  “My philosophy is you play the game you have got to play and you do what you have to do to try and win that game.  You worry about the next day, the next day.  It’s no different than the baseball playoffs.  Sometimes you see a manager bring in a pitcher for game six that could be the pitcher for game seven.  Without game six and getting that win, then game seven really doesn’t matter.  It’s sort of the same thing in double weekend league play.  If you don’t win Friday night, then Saturday night becomes pretty irrelevant or it’s going to make it that much more difficult,” he said.       

 

 
   

Western Begins Defense

 

          Western Reserve won the Firelands Conference boys’ basketball title last year and with a very different make up they begin defense of that title at home Friday night against Norwalk St. Paul.

          Over the years the Rough Riders have had a lot of size, but not this year.  However, coach Chris Sheldon says they were able to shoot the ball very well against Margaretta in an opening night win.  “We thought going into the game for us to be able to stick around and have a chance to win the game we knew were going to have to play with a lot of intensity and effort at the defensive end.  We were going to have to rebounds with all five guys on the floor.  I thought we really did that for 32 minutes.  We know we can shoot it pretty good and we did shoot it fairly well on that night.  Then Nolan Todd, our All-Ohio player, really took over in the second half when we needed some big plays to give us some separation,” said Sheldon.

          Western will need to have Todd carry them at times this year, especially early in the season and Sheldon says he is just the kind of kid to do that.  “You are really only as good as your talent.  The other thing that is so important is when you have talent that they have a pretty good feel for the game and understand what needs to be done.  We have been pretty blessed to have a kid that has been like that in Nolan Todd.  He is also a kid that listens and wants to get better,” he said.

          Although in a different way Norwalk St, Paul is presenting opponents with a different look than they have in the past as well.  “They are a different look than what we have ever had to play against with them.  Mike has really adjusted to his personnel.  I think when his kids start to get comfortable in it they are going to have some success because they have a number of very good shooters,” Sheldon told Swankonsports.com, “They have a nice young post player that is really progressing for them.  We have to make sure that our defense knows what our game plan is to try to negate some of those shooters in that dribble drive.  Being able to guard the dribble one on one is going to be a critical piece to how successful we can be.”

          Western has had a lot of success since Sheldon became its coach, but he says they never bank on the past.  “In all of the times that we have won a championship we don’t really talk about what’s happened in the past because this is a new group and a different team.  Every year you add kids and replace kids.  We haven’t won anything yet.  We do talk about goals and one goal is a league title and if you are going to do that you have to protect your home floor,” said Sheldon.

 

 
   

Western Reserve Has to Know Itself

 

          Western Reserve won the Firelands Conference boys’ basketball title last year and even though they may have a different sort of team this year they have a chance to be just as good.

          They start the season on Friday night with trip to Margeratta to face the Polar Bears of the Sandusky Bay Conference. 

          With a lot of new faces in the lineup for the Polar Bears coach Chris Sheldon says they are going to try and limit mistakes the best they can and hope that will be good enough to win the game.  “I don’t know if you are every where you want to be going into the opener.  We still have a lot of work to do and not enough time to do it.  We have a pretty good idea in game plan in what we want to try and do.  It’s a matter of how much can you really limit mistakes on opening night.  Most basketball teams on opening night can’t come out and play their best game.  It’s which team can limit those mistakes the most have a better chance of coming away with a victory,” said Sheldon.

          It has been a work in progress for the Rough Riders, who likely have the best player in the Firelands Conference in point guard Nolan Todd.  Sheldon thinks they need to be a good defensive team if they are going to be able to win games.  “The players have done the work to this point whether it be in the preseason or the off season, whether it’s in the gym or in the weight room, but at the same time so has everybody else,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It’s going to come down to how well we execute and how much we bond together with the five guys out on the floor and how willing we are to get defensive stops.  I guess that’s what we find out on Friday night.  It will be our first real test of where we stand and what we need to do to get better.”

          Margaretta is expected to be towards the top of what should be a pretty good Sandusky Bay Conference this season and the Bears are going to be one of the more athletic teams Western will see this season.  “They are picked to be a top two-three team in the “SBC.”  They have four returning starters, two of which are all district level players.  A wing and post player they have and a solid two-year player they have at the point guard position.  They have a lot of experience coming back and they have three or four guys that can really score the ball.  They do have some athleticism and length to give us some fits, especially with our lack of size.  That’s going to be the biggest challenge of the night how well are we going to guard their three scorers off the dribble and the offensive glass, plus the defensive glass, is going to determine how long we stay in it and have a chance to win in the end,” said Sheldon. 

          The Rough Riders aren’t nearly has tall as they were last season and that might necessitate pushing the basketball down the floor a little more, but Sheldon says this can’t become Northern Ohio’s version of “Showtime” either.  “We just can’t make it a track meet because we aren’t deep enough for that.  Typically small teams, yeah you hear they want to do that, but you have to be pretty talented to do that.  I think we’re going to pick and choose our moments, but at the same time we have to make sure we value the basketball.  At times we have to make the other team work as well.  If we come down and take quick shot after quick shot, we aren’t making them defend very long,” Sheldon said.

 

 
 

 

Western Reserve Has the Talent to Repeat

 

          Western Reserve was the best team in the Firelands Conference in boys’ basketball a year ago and they have a real opportunity to make it two titles in a row with the quality of the team they are going to put on the floor this year.

          They will have less height, but with the best guard, if not the best player in the conference.  Coach Chris Sheldon knows they have the building blocks of a very good team.  “We lost six seniors from a year ago.  That was a team that won the league and won 18 games.  I think the biggest discrepancy that people are going to see between this year and last year is last year we went 6-8, 6-4, 6-4 on the front line and this year we are going to go 6-3, 6-0, 6-0, so needless to say we are going to be a different ball club than we have been in the past.  It’s going to start with our All-Ohio point guard in Nolan Todd.  He is a three-year veteran at the varsity level.  He was the best player in the league from a year ago and I expect him to do that and more this year,” said Sheldon.

          There are going to be a number of quality players promoted from last year’s junior varsity team that will make Western just about as tough as they were last winter.  “We had a JV team that won 18 games and we have a really talented junior class that we believe is a tremendous supporting cast for Nolan.  We have two of those guys that got varsity experience a year ago in Willie Roth and Kevin Boose,” Sheldon told Swankonsports.com, “We think they are going to provide us with some stability early on, especially because they do have some varsity experience.  If some of our other guys get rid of some of those jitters that usually come early on as a first year varsity player we have the chance to be pretty good.”

          Without the height they had a year ago the Rough Riders will need to play the game differently and play to their strengths.  “We are going to have to be a little different offensively with four guards on the floor most nights.  We think we can take advantage of some of that quickness and shooting ability to create some mismatches for other teams.  More than anything it is going to come down to how this team finds a way to guard the paint and rebound the basketball,” said Sheldon.

          Like most coaches with good teams before the season Sheldon is saying that the league is really balanced with strong teams at Plymouth, Crestview and New London.  He believes they are being chosen as the favorite based on reputation.  “I think we are being picked as a favorite in large part because we have the best player in the league, but more than anything just based on tradition.  I told our guys that being picked as the favorite at the beginning of the season doesn’t mean a whole lot,” said Sheldon.

 

 
   

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