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Ontario Spoils Clear Fork’s Title Hopes

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Joe Balogh

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Steven Bechtel

Tuesday night’s game is what makes a rivalry or in this case intensifies one.

Ontario spoiled Clear Fork’s attempt to share the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference title by downing the Colts (70-60) at Les Hauenstein Gym in the valley.

Marion Pleasant wins it outright.

Colts coach Steven Bechtel thought it was important to get a good start and Clear Fork did that building its biggest lead at (24-9) with 6:21 left in the second quarter on A.J. Blubaugh’s bank shot. They led by five at the half (32-27) and by six (53-47) after three quarters.

Ontario scored 43 points in the second half, one its biggest halves of the season. Coach Joe Balogh says they got better ball movement and they were able to get the ball in the post more. “Offensively one of the things that makes us successful is when we move the ball. Not so much in player movement, we need to move the ball from side to side to get the defense to move. We weren’t doing that, it was a lot of head down and dribble and attack. Any defense is going to be good when it is just sitting there and that is what it was. What kind of turned it for us a little bit was when we started using our post guys inside. Logan Jones was really huge. We made a run in the first half and then we forgot about him for a couple of minutes. The big emphasis at half was, one, we needed to move the ball. I wasn’t concerned so much with players moving, I was just concerned about moving the ball and making the defense move. We had to let Jones and some of the post guys get touches and we did a better job of that. The problem we had in the second half was we couldn’t get stops. We were scoring, they were scoring. Fortunately, we were able to ramp up our defense a little bit and strung together a couple of stops and with our scores were able to get an advantage. We were good down the stretch taking care of the basketball. That has been a problem for us since the first of the year in crucial games. We did a good job against Shelby on Saturday. We did a good job (Tuesday) night. We didn’t turn it over and we got to the foul line and converted free throws,” said Balogh.

With the lead the Warriors cashed in on 6-6 free throws in the final :30 of the game Griffin Shaver was 4-4, both one and ones.

Clear Fork held a six point lead going to the final quarter, but they could only score seven points. Colts coach Steven Bechtel says Ontario was able to capture the momentum and they were never able to get it back. “We didn’t start off that fourth quarter very well. I think I just looked at the possession chart. We gave up four offensive rebounds. They finished the game and we didn’t. So, that fourth quarter was big and the momentum really shifted and we could just never rebound from that,” he said.

Clear Fork went almost four minutes with only two points in the fourth quarter, going from leading by one to trailing by eight.

Ontario took the lead with 4:33 to play in the game on Chance Mott’s 3 pointer from the left corner and the Warriors never trailed again. Ontario led conference champion Marion Pleasant in the fourth quarter last week, but this time Balogh says they made the plays down the stretch. “You have to have kids that are willing to step up and make plays. We ran a couple of sets and we executed really well. Chance (Mott) hit a big three on a set that we ran that. We looked at the options and that was the option that was open. That execution is crucial at this time of year,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We told our kids as we started the second half that we could defend, that is kind of what we have hung our hat on all year is our defense. Giving up 32 points in a half is probably not going to do it. Our goal is always to get them under 55 and I thought we were better in the second half, especially getting matched in transition because we lost them a couple of times early in the game in transition and lost some guys on the perimeter. I thought we did a pretty good job with Barnett, although he is a really tough cover. He tried to take over and did for a little bit, but then we did a better job of getting help to him a lot earlier.”

Clear Fork’s Chance Barnett is the “MOAC’s” leading scorer at more than 18 points per game. He was held to 15 by the Warriors, six in the second half and two in the pivotal fourth quarter.

Bechtel says they knew Chance we going to get double teamed a lot. “Based on what happened last time we knew they were going to be a little bit different with him. He has been able to step up all year long for us. We did have other guys Brady (Tedrow) had a nice game (Tuesday) night and Brennen (South) stepped up. It just wasn’t enough they made more plays than we did,” he said.

Tredrow and South both had 12 for the Colts.

Balogh says they also wanted to know where South was at all times too and he thought they did a better job containing him down the stretch, he especially credits the play of guard Travion Harris. “Our emphasis was we wanted to make things difficult for Barnett because he killed us the first time we played them down the stretch. So, we were trying to double him. He split a couple of doubles and then we tried to make sure we didn’t leave South. I think early in the first half he threw it in the post, we went in the post off of him and he hit a three. Kind of going unrecognized a little bit if our pressure on the point guard. I thought Travion Harris again did a great job of just keeping constant pressure. If you were able to keep that constant pressure for 32 minutes in wears on them a little bit and I thought maybe it wore on South a little bit as the game got down the stretch,” said Balogh.

Senior Logan Jones led Ontario with 19, Logan Houle scored six of his 14 in the fourth and freshman Shaver added 14 as well for the Warriors.

Published 2/21/18

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Colonel Crawford and Upper Sandusky for All the Marbles

Click here to listen to an interview with coach David Sheldon

Colonel Crawford and Upper Sandusky are tied for first place in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference going into their game in North Robinson on Friday night.

That means the winner gets the pennant and the loser gets nothing.

Crawford (18-3,14-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, kept its share of the lead by holding off Buckeye Central (38-36) on Saturday night.

Coach David Sheldon says they had to work hard for that win. “We were very fortunate to get out of there with a win. You give Buckeye credit they have been playing well. They played Upper to a four point game at Upper and they beat Carey at Buckeye. Offensively it was a game where we weren’t really efficient. We didn’t shoot it real well. Defensively we hung in there. I was worried about trying to press because they did a good job against Carey’s press and Upper’s as well and it turned into a grind out game. I give our kids a lot of credit they never panicked. We played one possession at a time and we found a way to win. That is what you have to do it is a long four month season. To be able to compete for a league championship sometimes on the road you have to win some like that and we did that. Now, we give ourselves the opportunity to play for a league championship Friday night,” said Sheldon.

Upper Sandusky (18-3,14-1), #4 in our poll, had two wins last weekend, both in close games, beating Mohawk (59-57) on Friday and Wynford (66-61) on Saturday.

Sheldon says they do an excellent job running their stuff even with some personnel changes. “They are playing really well. You give Upper kids credit as well. They have had some close games over the last three or four weeks and they have found a way to win them as well. They have put themselves in position just like our kids have done. They have inserted a couple of new kids and they are used to playing in their system. The one thing they are doing a little bit more that the first time is they are trapping a little more because of the Holley kid being off the floor it gives them more guards on the floor. They are looking to trap a little more like (coach) Jeff (Winslow) had done in the past. Earlier in the season they didn’t do that as much it was mostly full court man to man, so that is one difference. Defensively for us, they are still running Jeff’s motion offense with a few sets here and there. They do a great job they are very efficient. They move the ball and reverse it. Like I have always said with Upper Sandusky you have got to get back in transition defense. They do a great job of pushing the ball make or miss and you know what you are going to see defensively. Hopefully, we have a great week of preparation that gives ourselves to be in position to win that ballgame Friday night,” said Sheldon.

Upper won the first meeting on their home floor (68-54) on January 6. Sheldon says they have to be more solid running their offense and getting better rotations on defense than they did the first time. “We came out and played a great first quarter and had the lead. I felt the second quarter is where we really took a step back. We only scored six points and we weren’t efficient offensively. I think against great basketball teams you have to take great shots. You can’t force shots and panic. You have to get ball reversals as well. Offensively I felt that was some of the problem. In the second quarter we only scored six points and we just weren’t very efficient offensively,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “On the defensive in the second quarter like 14 of the 15 possessions they scored. We have to do a better job of playing one on one defense and having quicker rotations as well as to contain the shooters. Those are some of the things that really stood out the first time. It was a night we were on the road and we didn’t shoot it real well from the outside. We are going to have to make shots. In games like this this is fun. Their kids have worked their tails off. Upper kids put time in in the off season. Crawford kids put in time in the off season. Not many times on game 22 do you get a chance to play for a league title. I know both sides will lay it on the line and we are looking forward to the opportunity Friday night and the good thing is it is at Colonel Crawford.”

Published 2/21/18

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Shelby Looking for Momentum

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Troy Schwemley

For the Shelby Whippets it is hard to hide the disappointment that this season could have been better, but also that there are games to play that provide a chance to prove how good they are capable of being.

The Whippets (13-8,7-4) plays at Sandusky Perkins (12-9,6-5) in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference on Friday night.

Shelby beat Tiffin Columbian (64-35) in a division game on Friday night, but their chance to move into a share of first place was dashed when Sandusky beat Norwalk (50-39) in another division game to claim the title.

Coach Troy Schwemley says it’s really simple they lost too many games to give themselves a real chance to win the title. “We have talked about some things this week. There have been some good things that we have done this year, but I think we are kind of disappointed where we are at. We would liked to have had a shot at the league title. When it comes down to you are not really going to have much of a chance losing that many,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We kind of had a chance, but we didn’t control our own destiny and we needed help and didn’t do enough things against teams we needed to beat. That goal of winning the league title has fallen through. Saturday night against Ontario we didn’t take care of business. It was a chance to win a quality game against a good local opponent. There have been some good things but, there have been some disappointing things.”

Ontario beat the Whippets (55-52) on Saturday night.

Perkins has also been part of the Lake Division race as was everybody really with the exception of Tiffin. Schwemley says they want to build some momentum. “With the Perkins game it is about finishing the season, finishing the season strong and controlling what we can because the next step is tournament play. We have to focus on not just looking ahead at the tournament. We want to finish the season strong so we have some momentum going into the tournament,” he said.

In fact, Schwemley says the Whippets and Pirates have really had comparable seasons including a close game won by Shelby (54-53) on January 15 on a last second shot by Uriah Schwemley, son of the coach. “I would say they are kind of similar to us as far as they have had a good season. Maybe lost some games they could’ve, should’ve won. We beat them on a buzzer beater, they lost a game in overtime against Sandusky. Their season could be different in terms of this game could have been a game deciding the league. I think both of us are approaching this game the same as far as a chance to finish the season on a good note then move on to the next step. It is a very quality, good team that we are playing at their place,” said Schwemley.

Published 2/21/18

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Northmor Still Building

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Zach Ruth

Northmor has accomplished quite a lot this season on the basketball floor and they have more to do.

It begins with winning at Fredericktown on Wednesday night, which would give the Golden Knights and unbeaten record in the Know Morrow Athletic Conference.

Last Friday, the Golden Knights (20-1,13-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat Highland (56-52).

Coach Zach Ruth says he likes competitive games. “I think teams need games like that especially when you are having a successful season it kind of puts things back in perspective ands gets you back in focus mode. We have a couple of things happen in that game with an injury and foul trouble. Those are things that could happen in any game. You just have to be ready for it, next man up. That’s what happened and we were able to finish it off,” he said.

Northmor beat Fredericktown (81-51) on December 8. The game being played Wednesday is rescheduled for early January.

Ruth says the Freddies (8-12,5-8) have some explosiveness. “We played them early in the season and the first half was just a beautiful basketball game for both teams. The second half, their inexperience, our height, really took over. We knew they would be a team to watch out for as things got started rolling. Earlier they had Clear Fork, probably about a month ago and they have had a couple of games like that. They shoot the ball so well. They have the green light to shoot it. In this game the way kids can knock down threes they can shoot you into the lead or shoot you out of the lead. We have to definitely prepare to defend the perimeter and control the boards and defend and we should be in a pretty good spot,” said Ruth.

When it comes to improvement there are definitely some elements of the game of which the Golden Knights can improve. Ruth says it begins with understanding each game and how to apply their skills. “We have to get back to being who we really are and that is a number of things. We can be several different styles, but we have got to buy into what we need to do for this night. That was a part of the problem down at Highland on Friday we were in the first half and then in the second half we couldn’t get the reins pulled in on them tight enough to get them settled in with exactly what we wanted,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “That is one thing that has been challenging with this group we are capable of playing fast, we are capable of playing half court, we are capable of pounding it inside. They just have to understand what we need from them that night. Some things we are going to be trying (Wednesday) with Fredericktown are some things for the tournament run that we have been working on and see if we can do in a game.”

Published 2/21/18

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Improved Clear Fork Faces Crestview in Tournament

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Chuck Schmitt

Clear Fork has worked hard this season at improving and they have realized that goal heading into the tournament.

They play Crestview is the division three sectional semi-finals on Wednesday night at Lexington High School.

The Lady Colts are (7-15) and coach Chuck Schmitt feels they have steadily gotten better as the year has progressed, really in all areas. “I think overall all of our girls are better individually and as a team. If you break down individual skills we are better. Our post girls are better. They are more comfortable with their moves inside and our perimeter girls are learning to value the ball more, learning pass a little bit better, so all of that helps us to be a better team. Defensively, we are learning how to play defense now. We settled on a 1-2-2. It took some time to learn the slides and how to shift and so forth, but overall in every area we are a better basketball team,” said Schmitt.

Clear Fork finished seventh in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, which featured some very good teams in River Valley, Buckeye Valley, Ontario, and North Union.

Schmitt says they are prepared as they can be for the postseason. “We look at as we had 22 games to get better. The last third of the season we were better, we were in games. Instead of experiencing a loss by 15 or 20 we were in it to the end. Some of those games we won and a few we lost by two or four or five. We lost to our league champion (River Valley) by two points at the buzzer by foul shots. So, the girls have gained confidence. Really, we are at the point now where this is our second season and we feel we have a nice match up with Crestview,” he said.

Crestview (15-7) out of the Firelands Conference comes in with a five game winning streak, having beaten New London (48-37) in their last game last Thursday. In terms of common opponents, Crestview played Mapleton twice in league games winning (60-33) and (71-38) at home on February 8. Clear Fork beat Mapleton (56-23) in their second game of the season.

Schmitt things this game will be a battle to see who controls the tempo. “They are very aggressive. They are going to play man to man baseline to baseline. They will try and double up the ball as soon as it is thrown in. They want to speed the game up. They want to shoot the ball once they have possession and cross half court, they want to shoot it in 10 seconds. They are going to drive to the basket, they are going to shoot threes, so we will be challenged defensively,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We feel we have a little bit of an advantage height wise on them. They want to speed it up and we want to control the pace of the game and slow the game down a little. Force them to play defense for a long time and limit them to one shot.”

Published 2/21/18

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Shooting Problems at New London

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Tom Howell

Over the last couple of weeks, the New London Wildcats haven’t been able to throw the ball in Lake Erie if they were standing on the beach and that has to change.

After losses to Lucas (51-46) on Tuesday, Plymouth (60-58) in overtime on Friday, and Hillsdale (54-46) on Saturday the Wildcats have lost four straight.

Coach Tom Howell says it is because they can’t get the ball in the basket. “I wish I had that answer. Right now, it is more mental than anything I guess. They kids are still working hard, we are playing hard. We are just not shooting the ball very well. In our last three games we are back in the 40’s. We were in the 50’s or upper 50’s when we were playing well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We just aren’t making shots and it is coming back to haunt us. Defensively we are only giving up low 50’s. Right now, I am just trying to keep them focused and sometimes that is hard when you are playing like this are this point and time.”

Howell says they are running their offense well, it just seems they can’t get the ball to fall in the basket and it is a little frustrating. “We are getting good shots they are just not going in. We have shots that our kids should be taking and they just aren’t going in. It is going in and out or they are going off the rim. It has just been one of those stretches here,” he said.

New London (10-11,8-5) plays at Crestview (6-15,5-8) on Friday night in Firelands Conference action. They beat the Cougars (68-56) on January 18 in their first meeting.

Howell says they have to get back on track. “They are very athletic. It is going to be a tough matchup for us. They have won some games here lately. It is not going to be easy for us, especially if we can’t figure out a way top put the ball in the basket a little bit. I expect a tough, hard fought game,” he said.

Published 2/21/18

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Energy Important for Clear Fork

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Steven Bechtel

Clear Fork hasn’t won a boys’ basketball conference title since 2002, but they have a chance to earn a share of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference title with a victory over arch rival Ontario on Tuesday night.

They would share the title with Marion Pleasant.

Coach Steven Bechtel says the team knows what a win will do for them and they have to come out with their feet on fire. “Obviously we know what’s at stake. It’s senior night, so hopefully our guys are going to be amped up,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We had an opportunity earlier this year if would have beaten Pleasant we would have guaranteed ourselves a share. So, hopefully we come out and are a little more energized in the first quarter. Hopefully, we can play like we have been playing all year.”

It has been an outstanding season for the Colts in which they have won more regular season games that any season since when they won the division three state title in 2002.

Bechtel says when they have struggled this year it often has been because they have gotten behind in the first quarter and they need to come out and play well in the first eight minutes. “For whatever reason, situations, matchups or just not ready to play. We have to find some energy right from the start. When we come out energized that is when we feel we are at our best. That will be something we really concentrate on coming out in the first part of that game,” he said.

Clear Fork (17-4,12-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Ontario (53-48) in overtime on February 3. The Warriors led Pleasant in the fourth quarter last Thursday before falling (58-46) and then beat Shelby (55-52) on Saturday.

Balogh knows the Warriors (12-8,9-4) are peaking. “There is no doubt they are improving and it is not a surprise. Obviously, Joe (Balogh) has been around a long time and he does a great job over there. It is no surprise that they are playing their best basketball at the end of the year,” he said.

Will there be anything different from the Warriors? Maybe. Bechtel says they have to be ready for basically everything. “They have their constants, but they will show some different things. They probably will have a few wrinkles in. We just have to be prepared for everything in those few days leading up to the game. We just have to be ready. We have to be ready to play great defense and execute on offense and whatever they throw at us we are ready for,” he said.

When there is a big game like this, and there hasn’t been a regular season game of this magnitude for the Colts in years, Bechtel says that is what gets your juices flowing. “I think growing up you always want to be challenged and obviously every time you play an Ontario team whether it is at the beginning of the year, middle of the year or end of the year or even in the tournament you are going to be challenged,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “This is going to be something where both sides are obviously looking forward to the game. This is what people want to see as well so. I think both teams just have to ready to come out and put on a good show.”

Published 2/20/18

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Ontario Has to be Good in Big Moments

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Joe Balogh

Ontario has the talent and they are becoming a better basketball team at the right time of the year.

They visit Clear Fork (17-4,12-1) #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Tuesday night to play the Colts. A Clear Fork win gives them a share of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference title with Marion Pleasant. Ontario is going to finish third in the league.

Ontario led Pleasant in fourth quarter before losing (58-46) on Thursday and then beat Shelby (55-52) on Saturday in what coach Joe Balogh says was a big win for them. “The win on Saturday was big just from the standpoint that we were able to kind of complete the deal. We have talked over the last three weeks about how close we have been and then we have had three, four minute stretch where we don’t score and we turn if over. We did a good job in the fourth quarter against Shelby where we only turned it over once and really executed at both ends of the floor and that was the difference. We hope we can build on that success and try and carry it over here to tonight versus Clear Fork,” he said.

Clear Fork edged Ontario (12-8,9-4) 53-48 in overtime February 3. Balogh says Chance Barnett, the leading scorer in the league (18.3 ppg) is really good and he has been a big factor in big situations for the Colts this year. “Chance Barnett has had a tremendous season for them. He is probably they player of the year in our league. He has just been outstanding at crucial times in the games. When we made runs at them or took the lead against them here he was the guys that made plays for them. He has been that guy all year for them. They surround him with guys,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They have the potential that they have offense at every position. It seems like they kind of depend on Barnett and South, but their role players are different guys that have stepped up at different times. That has really made them affective. We know it is going to be really a tough task. We will be down there when they have a chance to tie for the league, last home game of the year, senior night. It will be a tough atmosphere for us to play in.”

When it comes to the Colts and how they are going to win this time, Balogh says they have to guard Barnett much better and if they get the lead they have to able to put away like they did against Shelby. “We have to do a better job defending Barnett, that is one of the big keys. He made a lot of big crucial baskets. We are going to have to try and get the ball out of his hands, especially in the post when they need baskets. We lost some shooters in transition early in the game. The other part of it is like I mentioned earlier that we did against Shelby that we didn’t do against Clear Fork we have to execute when the game is on the line, that is going to be important, so we hope we are able to put ourselves in a position where we can win the game down the stretch and hopefully we can kind of turn the table and do it,” said Balogh.

Published 2/20/18

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Shelby Meets Willard for Third Time

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Natalie Lantz

Shelby plays Willard in the division two sectional semi finals at Monroeville High School on Tuesday night. It is their third meeting and second in just over a week.

The Lady Flashes (18-5), #4 in the Swankonsports.com girls’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, won last Monday (62-46) at Willard.

Lady Whippets (7-15) coach Natalie Lantz says there shouldn’t be any surprises. “We are old rivals. We have played each other twice now, including last week. We do know each other. You never know they might have some tricks up their sleeve. We have had a couple of games in between. We haven’t had a whole lot of time to spend on them, but hopefully we are prepared enough to put ourselves in the game and have a chance,” she said.

In regard to last week, Lantz says more than anything they have to be more consistent and everything they do. “Watching the game film back it was definitely not one of our best games. There are some things we did well and things we need to work on. We just weren’t consistent in the things we did well in executing our offense and boxing out and a lot of the little things I think can make a difference in a game like this. We talked about those things. Hopefully, we can step out and perform a little bit better consistently for four quarters (Tuesday) night,” said Lantz.

Willard also beat Shelby (52-47) on December 2, just a couple of weeks into the season.

Lantz says is very familiar with the Willard personnel and she says they have talent across the board beginning with point guard Madie Secor. “She is a nice quick guard. She has a great outside shot. She handles to the ball well. They have Cassie Crawford, who is very athletic. She can play guard and forward. You are Wiers that is extremely tall and gets up and down the floor. You have Feltner inside and Vipperman that can shoot,” she told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They have two off the bench with starting experience as well. They have a lot of depth, they have a lot of experience, which is something our girls don’t have. We lost basically 50 points a game from last year. I think we have come a long way this year. If we come out and play confident. We have seen Willard twice and I think that will help us going into (Tuesday) night’s game.”

Published 2/20/18

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Lady Tygers Ready for Tournament

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Todd Krill

Mansfield Senior struggled to find itself early in the season, but they have consistently improved as they second half has unfolded.

The Lady Tygers (5-17) play Vermilion is a first round tournament game in division two on Tuesday night at Monroeville High School.

Four of their five wins have come in the last month of the season, including a (69-38) win over Sandusky in their final regular season game last Thursday.

Coach Todd Krill says they have really been much better than they were before Christmas. “We have improved probably 100 percent from the first half of the season to the second half of the season. We are running offense a lot better. We are playing defense a lot better,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We are kind of doing all of the little things we need to do offensively and defensively to make us a better team. I think going into the tournament I am pretty happy where we are at right now. I think we can compete with any team in the tournament.”

Krill says he has been telling him kids that the tournament is where they can have success. He says they have been building to this point for a long time. “I keep telling my team that the season is in three parts. You have the first half, the second half and then you have got the tournament. Tournament is when you really want to be ready. At tournament time when you get beat there is no coming back, you are done. That is what you try and tell your girls. We played the first half and the second half basically to get ready for this tournament,” said Krill.

Vermilion, of the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, runs an offense that features guards. Krill feels they can give them some problems. “The biggest thing about Vermilion is that they are a motion team. They can be four out and one in. They can be a five out motion team. They have a couple of big girls that are not bad size. A couple of good guards. We are looking at the game if we check out well, get up and down the floor and keep are pressure on we can be very, very competitive with them (Tuesday) night,” he said.

Published 2/20/18

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Bucks Following Through

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Phil Loy

Phil Loy likes to refer to other teams they play as dangerous, well his Buckeye Central Bucks are pretty dangerous too… just ask Colonel Crawford.

The Bucks (6-14,6-9) nearly upset the “N10” co-leading Eagles last Saturday before falling (38-36) in an intense game.

Loy says they did everything to win that game. “I thought we did play well. I was very happy with the way we played. We wanted to make sure we controlled the tempo going into that game because Colonel Crawford is a team that wants to score in the upper 60’s and 70’s and for us to be successful we had to keep that game in the 40’s or low 50’s and we did a lot better job. The game was 38-36. It wasn’t like we held the ball, but we were very patient,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “The kids are buying into if we can get something in transition great and if not then we need to be patient. We needed to make Colonel Crawford play defense. We felt like we could get a good shot if that happens and we did. We put ourselves in position at the end to win that game. It was a close game throughout and I was very proud of how they played.”

Buckeye hosts Crestview on Tuesday night in a non conference game and then travels to Wynford to close the regular season in Northern 10 Athletic Conference action on Friday.

Crestview (6-14) has won four its last five games, including a (46-43) win over Monroeville in Firelands Conference action last Friday.

Loy says the Cougars are an athletic group. “They are a dangerous team. They have some good athletes. Their record is similar to ours. They are probably feeling pretty decent about themselves here as of late. They have won four of their last five. They had a really nice overtime win at home against Western Reserve. They won a close one against Bucyrus and won a couple of late against Monroeville. They have some good athletes and some decent post players inside. It is a game where it is senior night for us, a big night for our six seniors in their last home game. We just have to make sure we are focused and ready to play,” he said.

Wynford (7-13,5-10) pushed the other co-leader in Upper Sandusky hard last Saturday before they lost (66-61) to the Rams.

Loy says they always play hard and their gym is a tough place to play. “They lost their post player, which hurts them quite a bit. They have been playing pretty decent and still competing with teams. Down the stretch here they had a really close loss at Upper Sandusky, which is impressive. We were in that same situation. You go to Upper Sandusky and that is a tough place to play. For Wynford to be there and only lose by five. I think they had a chance to tie there with about 30 seconds to go. They have one of the top scorers in the league in Josh Crall and they surround him with good athletes. They are well coached. You have to go to Wynford and it is always tough to play there. It would great to get a win there going into tournament,” said Loy.

Published 2/20/18

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Willard Shows some Bright Spots

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Joe Bedingfield

Willard almost won as many games last week as they had all season up until then and with some young players getting a lot of minutes it’s a good sign.

The Flashes beat Hopewell-Loudon (58-51) last Tuesday and Huron (53-46) on Saturday and held the lead in the fourth quarter Friday night against Edison before falling (55-40) to the Chargers.

Coach Joe Bedingfield says they did a lot of good things with some younger kids seeing a lot of time. “It was an improvement anytime you can get wins. At this time of year it kind helps the kids confidence. We are kind rotating in some young kids. We looked at film and tape (Monday) and at one time we had four freshmen and a sophomore on the floor. For those guys to get a win on the road when we were down 13 in the fourth quarter. For them to keep on believing and fighting it’s and improvement,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We beat a good Hopewell team on Tuesday. I think they have won 14 games. Huron had knocked off Vermilion the night before. It was a good sign that our kids are still trying to improve and come to practice every day to get better and still have kids that want to get in the gym and do the right things. So, it was a good week for us.”

With the youth they are playing, Bedingfield says that should also be a plus for the future. “We are playing some young kids and we are getting a lot of production out of a junior Brevon Polachek, who is playing a lot better. He controls the offense. He has experience as a sophomore he played. He started as a point guard. We bring eight of our top 10 back next year, so for those guys to get a couple of wins here. They won three games last year, and have won five so far. Playing some young kids that does look good for the future, so we are excited,” he said.

Willard (5-16,3-8) will play Huron (6-12,4-7) for the second time in six days on Friday night in a Bay Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference, this time at home.

Bedingfield says they almost played them again next week in the division three tournament. “It was actually kind of funny because going into the draw. We had a chance, Huron was before us and we could have played Huron and then played Upper Sandusky or we could have played a blank, which would have been a lower seed that us, and then Oak Harbor. Instead of playing Huron three times in a row like an NBA schedule we decided to go with trying to play somebody that had a lower seed and then play Oak Harbor, who is also a familiar opponent. So, we didn’t want to make it three times in a row. It makes scouring a little bit easier this week since we just went through it last week. It is interesting how it worked out with all of the snow days,” said Bedingfield.

Published 2/20/18

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Mohawk Wants to Finish Strong

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Paul Dunn

Mohawk is not going to win the Northern 10 Athletic Conference title this season, buy they hare going to finish third and they have a chance to win 16 games this year.

They play a couple of non-conference games at home this week, hosting a pair of teams out of the River Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, Fremont St. Joe on Tuesday and Kansas Lakota (2-18) on Friday.

Mohawk chased conference co-leader Upper Sandusky very hard last Friday before falling (59-57) to the Rams.

Coach Paul Dunn says his kids really battled. “Our kids never stopped fighting on Friday. We were down 10 three times and we cam back three times. Really all three times we had different kids in there. Towards the end there we were playing five guards on the floor. I was proud of the guys that stepped up. We had a senior that has hardly played any minutes this year and he played pretty much the entire fourth quarter,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We came out and were a little flat Saturday against Ridgedale. I kind of challenged the kids to take ownership of making sure they are ready to go. We were able to turn it on in the second and third quarter and pull away. I was happy that we did show up and get that win on Saturday.”

They beat Ridgedale (66-35) on Saturday.

Fremont St. Joe (9-11) comes to town on Tuesday night. The Crimson Streaks lost five of their last six, but Dunn says they are big and athletic. “They are very tall and they are very long. I was talking to coach Will yesterday and he said they didn’t shoot the ball very well over the weekend against Danbury. Watching their films, they have a lot of good athletes. They have guys that attack and penetrate and they start a 6’5” and two 6’4” guys. So, we are really focused making sure we are really physical with them and box them out and limit their second chances with that type of size. We haven’t seen anybody that big since we saw Crawford or Carey, so we really have to work on the rebounding,” said Dunn.

Mohawk has a chance to do some damage in the division four tournament. Dunn says they want to take some momentum into the postseason. “We definitely want to win these two games. Then we are going to have a week layover until we play again next Friday. Our kids right now they are going for some different accolades in terms of the most wins that we can possibly get in the regular season at Mohawk. We are going to do what we can to finish out strong here and send our seniors out the right way on our home floor with these last two games being at Mohawk,” said Dunn.

Published 2/20/18

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Tygers With a Chance

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Marquis Sykes

Mansfield Senior and Lexington are intense rivals, except for this week.

The Tygers need Lex to beat Mt. Vernon in order to have a chance at sharing the Ohio Cardinal Conference title. Mansfield Senior must also win at Madison on Friday night.

Tuesday night, the Tygers made a spectacular comeback in beating Sandusky (79-76) by scoring 40 points in the fourth quarter of a non-conference game.

Coach Marquis Sykes can hardly believe what happened and he was on the bench to watch it. “It is still kind of hard to believe. We have had games this year when we didn’t score 40 the entire game, so for us to go out and get 40 in one quarter is crazy. We had a lot of things go our way, but our guys certainly didn’t give in and continued to try and play hard and continue to execute,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Then we got a few calls, they missed a few free throws, some balls bounced our way, DaQuan Hilory got hot, Angelo Gross got hot, and before you know it we were up six points after being down 21. It was a pretty big swing. It was pretty fun. I have never been part of one of those. Had some comeback wins, but certainly not down 20-plus. It was fun.”

Senior High (13-6,8-3), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, put itself in position to have a chance at the share when they beat Ashland (70-47) in a conference game last Friday. The Tygers beat Madison (62-47) on January 13.

Madison (11-8,4-7) has won three of its last four, including a (53-47) win over West Holmes in “OCC” play last Friday and beating a solid Shelby team (57-47) on Saturday.

Sykes looks for a very tough game on the road. “This is Mansfield Senior-Madison. Records generally go out of the window in these games. The past several years I think we have split. Usually each team wins on their home court, that is how it has been going. We are trying to break the routine a little bit this year and see if we can steal one over there. Even though their record isn’t as good as some people would have thought they still have a quality team. Still well coached and possibly surprise some people in the tournament. I am ready for a big battle on Friday night,” said Sykes.

Mason Campbell has seemed to mesh a lot better with his teammates and the Rams have played better as a team lately. Sykes says they must expect the Rams best game. “The more they play with each other the better they should get and we know we are going to get their best effort on Friday night. We know they have guys that aren’t necessarily shooting the ball well right now will probably shoot it well on Friday. We are going to have to come out with one of our best efforts of the year. We want to come out of there with a victory. We wouldn’t have it any other way with the Senior High-Madison game also with the opportunity the possibly of having a share of the conference title. It should be fun and I expect a hard fought battle from both sides,” said Sykes.

Published 2/16/18

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Madison Wants to Play Spoiler

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Tim Mergel

Madison has had a good season, but not a great one. It gets a lot better if they beat rival Mansfield Senior on Friday night and ruin the Tygers chances of winning a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title.

The Rams (11-8,4-7) are coming off wins over West Holmes (53-47) last Friday in “OCC” action and (57-47) over Shelby in non-conference play.

Coach Tim Mergel says Friday night will be different. “We had a pretty good weekend, but with Senior High it is just a different in defensive styles than we saw last weekend. They are going to bring a lot more pressure on the basketball. They are going to hit the glass a little bit harder. Overall, they are a little bit more athletic and it is a different challenge for us this weekend,” he said.

Mansfield Senior (13-6,8-3), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, rallied to beat Sandusky (79-76) in a non-conference game on Tuesday, scoring 40 points in the fourth quarter.

Mergel says the Tygers were very aggressive when they were behind. “They are obviously explosive when it comes to athletic ability. They kind of showed that a little bit against Sandusky. In watching that film, they just put their head down and go. They were in desperation mode. They cranked up the defensive pressure,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Offensively, they continued with that pressure with the ball in their hands and attacked the rim. Unfortunately, for Sandusky they didn’t provide much resistance at the rim. That is something that we are going to have to put a point of emphasis on to clog that lane up and make them hurt us from the outside with contested shots.”

Mansfield Senior beat Madison (62-47) on January 13. Mergel says they have to convert baskets when they get open looks. “To credit Senior High, they hit some big shots in the third quarter, they hit three threes. On the flip side of that we didn’t convert on the offensive end. We had some empty possessions where we had some turnovers and then we got some looks at the rim that we didn’t quite convert and we missed some open shots. When it came down to it rebounding we were fine, we probably didn’t handle the pressure the best. We got some looks we just have to start converting those opportunities,” said Mergel.

Mergel admits that a win on Friday night, stopping any chance of Mansfield Senior of getting part of the “OCC” title, would make their regular season. “That is kind of where we are at with this. If you are not in the conference title hunt, if you are not in contention, you look for other ways to motivate your kids and stay motivated. You really don’t need a whole lot when Mansfield Senior comes up on your schedule. We are playing petty good basketball and we want to continue that trend with these next couple of games heading into that tournament,” he said.

Published 2/16/18

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Upper Sandusky Faces Mohawk, Wynford

Upper Sandusky has only lost one game in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference over almost three years, that’s pretty good.

Right now, they share first place in the conference with Colonel Crawford and face two tests in the conference this weekend as they play at Mohawk on Friday and host Wynford on the Saturday.

The Rams have had some injury problems of late, but coach Jeff Winslow says they have had younger players step into roles. “We have had some younger guys that were JV players early on really step up and they are playing really well with a lot of confidence. The nice thing about those two is they have always been really good shooters. When you can shoot the basketball it no doubt helps. They have done a really nice job at both ends of the floor. They fit right in,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We are playing pretty well, jelling, and if we can get a couple of these guys back that have been out, it will just add to it and make us a deeper team. With the way we play it helps you out to be able to play more guys. I have like how the younger guys have stepped in and hopefully we get these other guys back and keep things rolling.”

Upper (16-3,12-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at Mohawk (13-5,11-3) on Friday night. The Warriors had wins over Wynford (66-55) and Seneca East (60-54) last week. Upper won the first meeting between these two (66-52) on December 30.

Winslow says this is a really good team they are playing. “They are good, they are 13-5. They have only lost three times in the league, once to us and twice to Crawford. In all three of those games they played really well and had their chance in those games. Going over there is going to be a really challenge for us. The Hayman kid is just a load. He gets to the rim at will and then they have some other nice players around him. It should be a really good basketball game. The schools are only about 10 miles apart, so we have a little bit of a rivalry there. They are playing real well, we are playing real well. It should be a good basketball game over there,” said Winslow.

The show down with Colonel Crawford is next week, but Winslow says their eyes need to be on a very good Mohawk team. “Ever since we saw them at the beginning of the year we knew this team was the real deal. They have some athletes, they are physical. They are very well coached he does a really good job putting them in positions to win basketball games. If we go over there and are not playing at the top of our game it is going to be tough to beat them. We are definitely not looking down the line. Friday is a huge game and it going to be a battle going over there,” he said.

Wynford (7-11,5-8) has lost its last five games, but Winslow says they have to have even more focus on Saturday night. “It is after Mohawk and before Crawford. They have been up and down a little bit. We can’t overlook anybody and they are good basketball team. They have the leading scorer in Crall in the league and he is a tough kid to stop. It is tough for them that they lost their big kid, that is kind of what has set them back. It could be a trap game with a big game Friday night and a big game the next Friday night. Hopefully, we can turn around Saturday morning after Friday night’s game and refocus our energy toward Wynford. Anytime you have a Friday-Saturday we just focus on the Friday game. We haven’t focused on Wynford at all, hopefully we can make that quick turnaround on Saturday morning,” said Winslow.

Published 2/16/18

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Lucas Prepping for the Tournament

Lucas wants to do some damage in the postseason tournament and if they are going to do that they are going to have to get better.

They are going to play their way into the tournament with four games remaining on their schedule, including two this weekend, hosting Loudonville in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game and Friday and Plymouth (9-10) in non-league play on Saturday.

The Cubs are coming off a (51-45) win at New London on Tuesday night.

After a four game losing streak, coach Taylor Iceman says it was nice to win again, especially on the road. “New London is a pretty solid team. We were up 16-2 or something like that and had them burn a couple of time out early, 20-10 at the end of the first. We didn’t play real great for a stretch. We got a good win over there, it is always good to win on the road. New London is a solid team, coach Howell does a good job. It was good to get back in the win column after those tuff ones we had last week,” he said.

Lucas (11-7,4-5) plays host to Loudonville (10-9,4-4) on Friday night in an “MBC” game. The Redbirds have won two in a row beating Hillsdale (53-41) on Saturday and East Knox (65-58) on Tuesday.

Loudonville also beat the Cubs the first time they played (70-66) on February 3 and Iceman says they didn’t play very well in that game. “They are a solid team. Coach Seboe does a great job. Coach Seboe was my high school coach my senior year here at Lucas, so it is always cool to go up against him. We went over there and I don’t think we were quite ready to play. They came out and played a good game and we kind of slept walked through it and lost one at the end of the game. We have a little bit of revenge on our mind. We came out and weren’t ready play, so we had the loss there,” said Iceman.

Iceman says the Redbirds have some talent that they will need to defend in order to win this time. “They have some talent with Garrett Fry, Hunter Martin, and Logan Fisher, had a good game against us last time we played. We better be awake this time. I think after those three games last week even though we didn’t win any we are a different team. It was tough losing games, but I think we also leaned a lot. We want to finish season strong and then get into the tournament rolling with some wins here at the end of the season,” he said.

Lucas dropped games to Northmor (72-65) St. Peter’s (73-56) and Clear Fork (71-61) last week.

Lucas also has Smithville and Crestline to play next week and Iceman says they want to play their way into the tournament, in which they chose the bracket of conference foe, and unbeaten, Mansfield St. Peter’s. “Having a lot of games left, most teams are either done or finishing up this weekend. We still have four games left our schedule. That little run we had last week with those teams and that would have not been a good way to end the season. Playing pretty good, but losing three games is not how you want to end things. I said it wasn’t all bad. Would got to see where we were are at. We got to see a lot of good things,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “My message to the boys has been let’s take what we have learned there and apply it is some games that we probably should win. Let’s do that and go out and improve and get rolling heading into the tournament. I think it is going to work out. We still have to show up every night and play like we are capable and get to that point. Plymouth is a team we could play that first night, so we definitely want to send a message and it is nice getting to see them.”

Published 2/16/18

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Bellevue Feeling Better

Bellevue have found itself again and put together three straight wins last week heading into a big game at Clyde on Friday night in Lake Division play in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

Clyde is one three schools, Shelby and Norwalk are the others, that trail Sandusky by a game in the division standings. Norwalk plays Sandusky on Friday night and if the Truckers win we could have a four way tie. Bellevue would like to throw a further monkey wrench into it.

Bellevue (10-8,4-6) beat Ontario (64-59) Tiffin Columbian (61-46) and Plymouth (64-53) last week.

Coach Ed Rich says they have kind of got back in their rhythm again. “It started last week at Ontario was a nice win, we picked up a league win on Friday night against Tiffin and a non-league win against Plymouth on Saturday, so we are happy with the three wins,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We played some good basketball on Tuesday, played about three good quarters on Friday, and got the win on Saturday, so that’s all that matters.”

Clyde (13-6,6-4) beat Bellevue (83-56) the first time they played and Rich says the Fliers really dominated them. “We found that out they hard way the first time. I thought we were prepared the first time we played them and they came out and basically just ran all over us. They hurt us in every phase of the game the first time. I have to believe we are a little more prepared this time and ready for the challenge,” he said.

Clyde is one of those teams that will just press you for 32 minutes all over the floor. Rich says they must hold their turnovers down, something they didn’t do the first time. “They are very emotional. They play off of Cam Farrar. He is one of their starters and he is a good emotional leader. He gets them going they get some steals and he hits some shots. He really gets them going and everybody gets going. I know we are going to have our turnovers. As crazy as it may sound we are going to try and limit it to between 12 and 15 turnovers and I think we will be in good shape if we can do that,” said Rich.

Bellevue and Clyde are rivals and Rich says they would like nothing better than to ruin the Fliers title hopes. “I am confident going in. I know they took it to us the first time, but I believe we still have good basketball left. We started a good trend last week with those three wins in a row and hopefully we come in with some confidence,” he said.

Published 2/16/18

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St. Paul has to be Better at Closing

Norwalk St. Paul has been in position to win games, but they haven’t been able to close the door in the fourth quarter.

They get two more chances this weekend with home games with Mapleton in a Firelands Conference game on Friday and Sandusky Perkins in non-conference play on Saturday.

They lost to Western Reserve (59-45) last Friday in a league game and then lost to Sandusky St. Mary’s (69-60) on Saturday night.

Coach Mike Smith says they were in both games late. “The game at Western obviously Western is a really good team and they really shot it well in the first quarter. They were 10-15 and 7-8 from three. It wasn’t like we weren’t guarding them. They got off to a good start. I give our kids a lot of credit, especially on the road, we whittled that thing down to five and there was like six minutes to go and they spread the floor toward the end of the third quarter. We had a little bit of a rougher time trying to guard them because of their guards. They were able to make some big shots and make some free throws that really sealed them game. The game was a lot closer than the score indicated,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “The same Saturday night, we had a two-point lead with like six minutes left and we called time out and talked about we need big stops, we need good possessions, and they came down and dribble penetrated and kicked to a kid that knocked down a three and they are up one and now we playing from behind. Again, at the end we had to foul. So, our effort is there, but we have to be a little tougher on the ball. We need to have maybe some go to people that are going to step to the plate and make plays for us and so far we haven’t done that down the stretch. We continue to work on those things in practice. We have four games left that will prepare us for tournament.”

St, Paul (9-9,6-6) hosts Mapleton (4-15,2-10) in a Firelands Conference game on Friday. The Mounties have won two of their last three, including a (50-48) win over Firelands in a non-conference game on Tuesday.

Smith says Mapleton, who challenged Western pretty hard a couple of weeks ago, is much better than when they beat them (46-40) in mid-January. “They won a game Tuesday night versus Firelands. If you look their games are a lot closer. They do have some decent size, the Sanders kid is a nice kid inside. Henzel is a really good perimeter player. Some of their younger kids are stepping to the plate. They are playing good basketball right now. We are looking forward to getting back home again. It seems like we have been on the road an awful lot. Our next three games are at home and then we have a big road game at South Central to finish out the season,” said Smith.

Perkins (10-9) will offer a big challenge to the Flyers in Saturday, according to Smith. “They are a big D-2 school that is very well coached. Coach McVeigh does a great job. They have good size, good guard play. They always played hard and always one of the teams at the top of the “SBC.” It isn’t like football, we want to play up, we don’t want to play down. They are a good non-league game. They are close to home. I have a lot of respect for their staff and what they do. We are looking forward to that as well on Saturday,” he said.

Published 2/16/18

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Northwestern With Revenge on its Mind

Northwestern continues to play good basketball as we close the regular season. They have won six of their last seven.

The loss came to Norwalk (54-39) in non-conference play on Saturday.

Coach Mark Alberts Jr, says they are going to kind of file and forget that one. “We have tried to just put the Norwalk game out of our minds. They are a very good basketball team. After a huge emotional win on Friday and we expended a lot of energy and also the next morning. Three of our players, two starters and our sixth man took the “ACT” and they played like it on Saturday night. We are looking forward to getting back on line with a full week of practice and have the energy that we had on Friday and bring it to the table against Dalton on Friday night,” he said.

Last Friday, Northwestern beat Waynedalle (77-73) knocking the Golden Bears back into a tie for first place with Rittman in the Wayne County Athletic League. The Huskies may play them again in the upcoming division three tournament.

Alberts says the players are alright with that. “There are pros and cons to it. I was very happy that our players were excited about our tournament draw. I was worried they were going to be we really wanted to play this team or this team. A lot of them are excited about playing Norwayne again. We know what we have to get done at home and then possibly playing Waynedale they were excited,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “In their minds they said, coach, we didn’t play our best ball, we won, but they don’t want to play us again. They have that kind of mentality. Our guys are excited to see where the tournament takes us, but they definitely want to finish 9-5 and 6-1 in the second half of league and that is what they can do (Friday) night.”

Northwestern (10-10,8-5) plays Dalton (7-12, 5-8) on the road on Friday night. The Bulldogs won the first game (73-61) on January 13.

Alberts says they want to continue to prove they are a better team in the second half of the season. “They have good seniors. Dominic Dalessandro played on my “AAU” team when my son was in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade. I know some of the boys on that team. They have a great group of seniors with Andrew Kandel and then Alex Alger, guys that have played for three years it seems like, and then Joey Dalessandro. They are a little up and down, sometimes play to the level of their competition or you think they will and they come out and don’t play well. They played really well against us the first time, give them a lot credit, it was in our gym. We are looking to prove people wrong a little bit going over there,” said Alberts.

Published 2/16/18

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Clear Fork Can’t Forget About Harding

Clear Fork shares the lead in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference lead with Marion Pleasant and they play at Marion Harding on Thursday night in conference play.

It is simple, a win is a must.

Pleasant plays its last conference game at home on Thursday night against Ontario. The Colts host those same Warriors next Tuesday.

Pleasant moved into a share of first place when they beat the Colts (67-65) in overtime last Friday.

Coach Steven Bechtel says they weren’t ready to play when the game started. “The first quarter was a huge disappointment with the way we came out energy wise. Dealing with young high school kids you never know how they going to react in those situations. Unfortunately, we didn’t handle it the greatest. It is a situation that we have to learn from that when that happens again. I was proud of the way we did battle back. We did put ourselves in position to win the basketball game. Pleasant just made one more play than we did,” said Bechtel.

Clear Fork (16-4,11-1) beat Marion Harding (58-48) on January 30. Last week, the Presidents (6-13,4-9) beat River Valley (73-62) on Friday in league action. Bechtel says it can be difficult to figure out what you are going to get from Harding. “We know that they are very athletic. The offenses that they run, they run them very well. They play hard defensively. When you do those things you are going to put yourself in position to be in games,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Last weekend, they might have scored 73 on Friday and only scored 25 on Saturday. We are not really sure which Marion Harding team we are going to get, so we have to control what we do. We have to come out with a lot more energy and be ready to go.”

It seems more people in the valley are talking about the game next week against Ontario, but Bechtel says their focus must be on Thursday night. “As long as the people in the locker room continue to think that. I know everybody outside, you see it in every sport, they are always looking, hey, down the road this is when we have to play this team. As long as the guys in the locker room and on the coaching staff we are looking at it as one game at a time. Those are the things we can control. That is the way we have to continue to go. This team has been pretty good at doing that we just have to continue that,” said Bechtel.

When it comes to doing things better against Harding, Bechtel says they have to finish their shots in the lane and play better defense. “I just think finish. Watching the film there were a lot of possessions that we didn’t finish at the rim. We had some open easy baskets and just missed them. I felt that we had some open looks, so we executed pretty well we just weren’t hitting our shots from the perimeter and you can’t control that part. Defensively, not allowing them to have too many open shots,” he said.

Published 2/15/18

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A Win Means Outright Title for Mt. Vernon

A win on Friday night at Lexington and the Mt. Vernon Yellow Jackets are the outright winners of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title, if they lose they will share it with the Minutemen and maybe Mansfield Senior.

Mt. Vernon comes in carrying a nine game winning streak.

Coach Nick Coon says he believes his team is continuing to get better. “It is an exciting time of the year and we talk to our kids all of time that this time of the year teams are doing one of two things they are either getting better or they are getting worse and trying to get on to their next sport or next activity. We believe our kids are still trying to get better each day in practice and going about our business the right way and staying focused on our task. We have a big task in front of us with Lexington at Lexington. We know that, we know it is a big challenge, but we are excited for it,” said Coon.

Lexington (16-5,8-3), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Wooster (60-55) in a league game last Friday and then handed Ottawa-Glandorf (54-53) their first loss of the season on Saturday. “Since we played them, which wasn’t that long ago, they have won four in a row. That Ottawa-Glandorf game kind of raises your eyebrows when you see that game. That was great for Lexington and coach Hamilton, but great for our conference as well for that recognition,” Coon said.

Coon says junior forward Cade Stover is very good, but you can not neglect the other Minutemen. “Cade Stover, obviously, is their guy, he attracts so much attention and rightfully so. It is the other guys and their maturity that has rounded out their team and made them really affective, especially here in the second half of the year. Their junior class getting that exposure around Cade Stover has been big for them,” he said.

Mt. Vernon (15-5,9-2), #1 in our poll, won the first game (67-57) on January 30 at their place.

The perimeter shooting the Minutemen have been getting makes them more difficult to defend, according to Coon. “We had some trouble the first time around guarding all of their guys and Stover was able to get some easy buckets against us. Fortunately, in the second half we made it a little more difficult on him and did a little bit of a better job of forcing contested shots from the other guys,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It is a tough task they are a very talented team and we are going to have to be alert about who were are guarding and where we guarding them on the floor at all times to make it tough on them.”

Another key for the Yellow Jackets, says Coon, is they have to keep Lexington off the offensive glass. “If not the best, they are definitely one of the best offensive rebounding teams we have seen this year. I think they average about 12 and half offensive rebounds a game, which is a really big number. For us, we have to do a good job of blocking out and rebounding the basketball because that can lead us into transition offense and transition offense is big for us to pick up some easy buckets here and there, so it is not a slug fest in the half court the whole entire game,” said Coon.

 

Published 2/15/18

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Western Reserve Must Play Well on Both Ends

Western Reserve knows what it has do.

The Roughriders must beat first place South Central at home Friday night in order to move into a first place tie with the Trojans.

Coach Chris Sheldon says these are the games kids want to play in because they are competitors. “When you start back in the summer and move into the fall than obviously when you really get going there from the beginning of November every team has aspirations of coming down the wire playing in for a league title. We are fortunate enough to put ourselves in a position where we get a chance to do that. We control our own destiny and we know it literally comes down to this Friday night, which is going to be another tremendous basketball game against a really good basketball team,” he said.

South Central (13-6,11-1) beat Western Reserve (63-57) on December 30 and Sheldon says defense, especially in the fourth quarter, is going to be the key for them. “I think the biggest thing is their two best players combined for 38 points on us the first time we played them and they were a focal point of ours and we know we not going to shut them down because they are both really good players, but 38 is just too much, especially when you are trying to win a game. The other things is when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter as great as it was from a fan perspective to sit there and watch shot after shot and each team matching the other we have to be able to get stops with the game on the line,” he told Swankonports.com on Wednesday, “We know this is going to come down to a four quarter basketball game again. More than anything with a little more willpower and a little more execution on some defensive assignments is probably the biggest adjustment we have to be able to make. We want to win a league title and we know it is going to come down to the defensive end on Friday night.”

The Roughriders (12-5,10-2) has a number of very good perimeter shooters. Sheldon says they are confident they can make shots. “We shot it well for the most part the first time we played them with the exception of maybe one player we really did shoot it pretty well. Offense is definitely going to be a key part simply because they do play so well and we are two very explosive basketball teams at the offensive end. If you don’t make shots it is going to make life that much harder on Friday night. The one thing I know is our kids are confident in their offensive abilities. Anybody that has watched us play anytime we step in the gym we feel like we are open. We feel like we have a shot to make it, we don’t care where it is from and that just has to be our mindset. That is something we have to not just believe, but go out and execute on Friday night,” said Sheldon.

Published 2/15/18

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Bellevue and Norwalk in Title Game

Bellevue hosts Norwalk in a showdown in the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference on Thursday night.

If Bellevue (20-1,11-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com girls’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, wins they take the girls’ basketball title outright. If Norwalk (18-3,10-1), #3 in our poll, wins the two will share the title.

Bellevue coach Kory Santoro says they look forward to games like this. “(Thursday) night is going to be a big atmosphere, a big environment, a playoff time game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “If we win we win a league title outright and if we get beat we share it. We want to play well (Thursday) night.”

The goal at the beginning of the season was to win the Lake Division title and not share it with anyone, according to Santoro. “The ultimate goal is to win the league title outright,” he said.

Bellevue beat Norwalk (51-35) when they played at Norwalk on January 9. Santoro says the Lady Truckers are athletic and they play an aggressive game. “It starts with their head coach. I think they are well coached. They are very well prepared. They have great athletes. Their defense creates their offense. They like to press the ball and that is what they are good at. So, that is something we have to be able to do, we have to handle the ball, be smart with it,” said Santoro.

Published 2/15/18

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Crawford Must Beat Rival Buckeye

In order to make next week’s game against Upper Sandusky for an outright league title, Colonel Crawford has to beat rival Buckeye Central on the road on Saturday night in Northern 10 Athletic Conference play and the Bucks are starting to play better.

The Eagles took care business last week with wins over Bucyrus (65-39) and Ridgedale (76-56) to keep their share of first place in the conference.

Coach David Sheldon says it was a positive weekend. “We got two wins. It is always tough playing teams the second time when you beat them the first time with a good margin. Our guys came out and took care of business to keep us in this league race. Saturday night, we were fortunate to put five guys in double figures, which is a great way to finish up that game Saturday night to spread the wealth amongst our offense,” he said.

Buckeye Central (5-13,5-8) is playing its best basketball of the season right now with a win over Carey (54-47) last Saturday night. Colonel Crawford (17-3,13-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, won the first meeting (69-53) on January 5.

Sheldon says they have very good guards and Buckeye understands what it has to do to win. “They are playing very well, not just the Carey win, they took Upper Sandusky the week before down to the wire. So, they have gotten better. Phil does and excellent job and the are playing within his system with what they want to offensively and defensively. We have to have great, great focus going over there, on the road, on Saturday night. Both the Carey and Upper games were at Buckeye. We have done a good job so far is this league race taking care of business for the most part. We have to have great focus,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have three very good guards when you talk about Loy, Wurm and Sheaffer and now their roll players are playing well and making baskets when needed as well. We are looking forward to the opportunity in this game the 15 of the 16 game league journey. We have done a good job in the second half of the season and we are still competing for a league championship.”

Tempo of the game is likely going to be important. Colonel Crawford wants a faster pace, but Sheldon says they have to be smart about it. “We are a team that likes to play fast, look at how many points we are scoring, but I don’t think you can gamble too much. In the Buckeye-Carey game, Carey tried to get out deny Buckeye and tried to trap. They find ways, they have got good guard play. You have to be smart and pick your places where you are going to try and attack them. It is difficult to do that for 32 minutes against a team like Buckeye because they will pick you apart and they are very smart with the basketball and their guard play is good. We have to pick and choose opportunities where we want to push the tempo from the defensive end, but it can’t be 32 minutes of the same defense I don’t feel with our style of play,” said Sheldon.

Published 2/15/18

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Pleasant With a Chance to Share

Marion Pleasant has the opportunity to share the boys’ basketball title in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference. They need a win over Ontario on Thursday night to do it.

Pleasant (17-3,12-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat Clear Fork (67-65) in overtime last Friday to move into a share of first place with the Colts.

Coach Ben Snively says they have to gut out the win. “Nick Kimmell came out and I believe and made four threes in the first quarter. That was real big for us I think at one point we led 20-5, we led by as many as 16 maybe. We talked at the end of one that Clear Fork is a good basketball team and we were on their floor. We knew they were going to make a comeback. Anytime when you are up or down the other team is more than likely going to make a run at sometime. As good as they are we knew they would be making a run and they cut it to seven I believe at halftime. Right out of the gates in the second half they cut it to three or four and we kind of maintained that for the most part. It got down to about 1:30 when they took their first lead. Of course, that is when I got a little nervous. You watch a lot of basketball games where somebody is behind the whole game and in the last minute they take the lead. We were fortunate our point guard Williams got a tip on a play at the end of the game and that kind of forced overtime. We got down by four in overtime, but the kids they kept battling. We knew out backs were against the wall. We were fortunate to come out with a win there,” said Snively.

Pleasant beat Ontario (11-7,9-3) in their first meeting (53-48) back on January 27. Snively believes the Warriors are improved and he says they are going to have to find a way. “They are coached by a hall of famer. They have great basketball players. They do have some young kids and any time you have young kids they are going to improve over the course of the year. They have a 6’7” player in the middle. Their point guard didn’t play against us the last time. The freshmen they have #23 (Griffin Shaver,) he is a heck of a ballplayer. It is going to be big challenge for us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “There are seven teams beside us in the league and there are five others I rather see come to our gym on Thursday than Ontario. It is a home game for us. We had another good week of practice and I think the kids are focused and ready to do. It is our home floor and we have to be ready to defend and we are just going to do everything we can to score one more point than they do.”

Snively says they can’t rely on anyone else. They have to go out and secure at least a piece of that title on Thursday night. “I would imagine our students are going to show up. We are going to have a nice crowd and I am sure Ontario will travel well. Minus the “BV” loss they are right there with us. I am sure coach Balogh has talked to his kids about you have the two teams in first place right now and at the very least let’s go prove to them that we belong. Us three teams have been at the top all year. I think we are in good position. We have talked about we can’t depend on anybody else. Clear Fork does have two games left they travel to Harding (Thursday) and they have Ontario coming in as well. The nice thing is it is an opportunity to share the title if things would not go our way. We are not focused with what is going on with the other games we are focused on taking care of business and coming out and getting a win,” said Snively.

Published 2/15/18

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Shelby Has to Take Care of Business

Shelby is one game back of Sandusky in the Lake Division standings in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

They are in a must win situation at Tiffin Columbian (3-16,0-10) on Friday night.

Norwalk, who is tied with Shelby for second, plays Sandusky this week.

Shelby coach Troy Schwemley says it doesn’t matter what happens in that game if they don’t beat Tiffin. “We have to take care of our game first. We certainly need some help, but it doesn’t matter if we don’t take care of Tiffin. They are a team that has played some close games lately. They are getting better. They are getting a little more healthy as the season went on. They have been missing some players do to injury that are playing now. They are a team that is trying to get things right at the end of the year and we are kind of in the same boat. Everybody is in that boat right now where you have a couple of games left before the tournament and you are trying to finish the season strong,” he said.

Shelby (12-7,6-4) beat Columbian (59-32) on January 6 and Schwemley says they were able to force a lot of turnovers. “When you think back to our first game we really turned them over pretty good. Our defense got some steals and really created some offense for us. In a game like that you have to be careful to not overlook what we did well in that game and that was really pressure the guards and turn them over and doing things like that are what helped to propel us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Going on the road we need to play with great intensity and not overlook them because of their record. They have Todd Simmons back, who is an important player for them. They have guys that can hit threes. Watching a recent game against Bellevue I think they hit three or four threes in a row. They have got guys that are capable scorers and they have a big guy inside with Smith. It is one of those things where we have to do what we do to get out to a good start and take care of business.”

The Whippets have won four of their last five and Schwemley says their execution of the elements of the game has been pretty good. “I think we have been doing a lot of little things well. Moving the ball better offensively, keeping the ball moving and being aggressive with that. It seems like when you are playing good defense and rebounding and when you are moving the ball on offense that is what we need to do to be successful. We have shown signs of that and we need to keep that going we have a double weekend again at Tiffin on Friday and then our last home game with Ontario on Saturday night and we want to finish strong and keep playing well,” said Schwemley.

Ontario (11-7) pays a visit to Shelby in Saturday night. Schwemley says that will be another pretty good test. “They are a team that has had some success. It is a little unique with them making the move into the “MOAC” because normally by now I have seen more the them whether it is on film or things like that. It is awkward not seeing Ontario is some our league games that I am scouting. Ontario-Shelby has been a great rivalry. They are kind of in a similar situation to what we are they are trying to keep themselves playing strong and finish the season well going into the tournament,” he said.

Published 2/15/18

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Northmor Keeping Pedal to Metal

Northmor is already an outright conference champion, but they are continuing to play very good basketball as we near the end of the regular season.

They play at rival Highland in a Knox Morrow Athletic Conference game on Friday night.

They beat Grandview Heights (61-48) in a non-conference game on Tuesday night. Coach Zach Ruth calls it a big win for his program. “That ranks right up there, you can’t put a number on it, but that definitely ranks right up there with one of the better wins that I have had as a coach and my players have had as players. That is why we schedule those games. Pleasant is a game away from being a conference champ, we beat them, Colonel Crawford is a game away from being a conference champ, we beat them, St. Pete’s is undefeated, we lost to them by six, they are conference champions, and Grandview plays Friday to be conference champs,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We set that non-league schedule up like that. I am just so proud of the kids to go and represent the “KMAC” and represent the area and go down to Columbus and take one of these schools on and beat them at their place.”

Northmor (19-1,12-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at Highland (14-7,10-3) on Friday night. Ruth says there is a sense of rivalry here. “They have a couple of seniors that remember last year, I can’t just say seniors, all of the kids that are on the team this year, it was the last game of the year last year, at their place, scored tied, two seconds to go, and we win. Of course, that was Northmor’s first ever league title. Some people may have been upset, but we crashed the floor, we flooded the floor, kind of like you see in college games. I know that didn’t set too well with the Highland players and they are using that for momentum. We have the conference title already wrapped up, but this is the last time they get to see us and we are undefeated in the league. That “X” on the back is bigger than ever. They are going to be coming after us,” said Ruth,

Northmor beat Highland (70-43) on January 10. Ruth says the Scotts have a different approach to the game and they must react to it like they did the first time. “Coach Powell does a nice job down there. It is kind of hard to prepare for them because they run their offensive sets so high. It doesn’t seem as high when you are on a smaller floor, but Highland having a big floor and us having a big floor. They set their offense up basically when they cross half court and they do the same on the defensive end. They pick you up very high. Basically, it is using the same approach to beat what they are throwing at you. It is getting the guys in the right position, but moving them up the floor six or seven feet and moving them in three or four feet. We did a phenomenal job of that the first time we played them. We have some good momentum going right now and we are treating every game from here on out like it is a tournament game. It’s survive and advance, we don’t care how we do it, how many overtimes it takes, it is just about surviving and advancing,” said Ruth.

Published 2/15/18

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Buckeye Central Starting to Peak?

Coaches always want their teams to peak at the end of the season and Buckeye Central just might be doing just that.

They play two games in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference this weekend at Bucyrus on Friday at home with conference co-leader Colonel Crawford on Saturday.

Last Saturday, they beat a very good Carey team (53-47) in league play.

Coach Phil Loy says they were able to make the plays down the stretch that in the past they were not able to make. “First of all, Carey is a really good ballclub. They are very athletic and have some size and good shooters. This was a game that of all of the close games that we have had we finally got to finish one. I thought we executed well down the stretch and we made free throws. In the past we lost seven games that were within five points and we were right there and we just couldn’t finish it off in the last couple minutes of the game. Give our kids credit I think they are getting better. This was definitely a good win for us to beat Carey,” he said.

Buckeye Central (5-13,5-8) plays at Bucyrus (2-16,1-12) on Friday night. Bucyrus lost to the league co-leaders last week in Colonel Crawford (65-39) om Thursday and Upper Sandusky (72-40) on Saturday.

Loy says the Redmen have potential because they have shooters. “Bucyrus is a dangerous team, especially playing them at their place. We throw out the records. I never pay much attention to records and it is all about matchups. Bucyrus has very good guard play. They are very similar to us as far as the athleticism and the size. I think they have some kids that are good shooters. To me it is a dangerous game for us if we don’t go over there and be focused. Again, we have to play well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The first time we played them we only beat them by 12 and we could never stretch it out to the vey end. Every time we would try and stretch it out they came right back and made threes on us. They have that capability. We definitely have to have focus this week and make sure we guard the perimeter with their good guards.”

When it comes to Colonel Crawford (17-3,13-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, Loy knows it is going to be a huge task. He says they must get off to a better start that when they played the first time in North Robinson when the Eagles won (69-53) and they have to slow down the tempo. “The first quarter when we played them the last time they jumped on us and we were down 23-6 after the first quarter. They got a lot of stuff in transition. We didn’t do a good job defensively in our defensive transition and we were not matching up with shooters. The thing with Crawford is you can’t really help off of anybody because of if you do there is always someone else there that is going to hurt you. They execute their stuff very well. They are very well coached. We are going to have to do a better job of trying to control that tempo. After the first quarter when we played them we played right with them. The second, third, fourth quarter we played right with them, so we have to make sure we are ready to go right at the tip,” said Loy.

Published 2/15/18

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Lexington Playing for Title

Lexington has played a lot of big games over the last decade and Friday night will be another example as they host Mt. Vernon with a chance to earn a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title.

Going into Friday, Mt. Vernon leads Lexington and Mansfield Senior by a game in the conference standings. Friday night is the final night of conference play.

Lexington is coming into the game Friday on a high. They beat Wooster (60-55) in an “OCC” game they had to have last Friday and then handed Ottawa-Glandorf their first loss of the season (54-53) on Saturday night. “We really had a good weekend. It started with Wooster on Friday and had Ottawa-Glandorf coming to town. We had a lot of respect for Ottawa Glandorf and Tyson McGlaughlin, their head coach, who just has an outstanding program over there. We have seen them the last three years, first in the regionals and then we put them on our schedule when we lost to them in regional up at “BG.” We knew coming in they were really good and ranked number two in the state. The guys just buckled down and did what they needed to do and at the end of the night we had an opportunity to win and that is all you can ask for. We were able to hit the last shot and things went well for us,” said Hamilton.

Lexington (16-5,8-3), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays host to Mt. Vernon (15-5,9-2), #1 in our poll, on Friday night.

Mt. Vernon earned its share with a (56-48) win over Ashland last Tuesday.

The Yellow Jackets beat Lexington (67-57) January 30 at their place. Hamilton says they have to be better decision makers this time around. “I think we need to take care of the ball a little bit better. We went back, myself and the coaches and the players, we watched some film from our previous game. We pointed out a couple of opportunities that we gave them when it should have been our time to have the ball I guess. We turned it over. We kind of had a few learning moments of just situations that maybe we should have handled better,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Not that we did anything wrong or they did anything right, but just maybe we would handle differently. It was a fairly tight game. We put them on the line quite a bit at the end of the game trying to stop the clock and they are an extremely good free throw shooting team and extremely well coached. We have a very, very tall task ahead of us, but at the same time we are very, very excited to have the opportunity.”

Mt. Vernon has won its last nine games. They haven’t lost since the first week the first week of January. Hamilton says they are playing like a confident basketball team. “You look at Mt. Vernon and they are on a roll right now. They have been playing some very, very good basketball. When you look at who they have played and they just found a way in the fourth quarter to win the ball game. They are very confident, not cocky at all, but very confident. They just always feel they are in position to score and to win the game, get an extra possession. Sometimes a very confident team is very hard to deal with. We have to go into the game ready and prepared and it going to take 32 minutes of basketball. We have to be able to handle a couple of runs they are going to make. Hopefully, at the end of the night we are in position to where we have a chance to win the game,” said Hamilton.

Mansfield Senior also has a chance to share the title if they can beat rival Madison on Friday night and, of course, Lexington wins.

Hamilton says this been a good year for the “OCC” this winter. “When you have a conference title that is decided in January it is just not what you really want to see. Here we are coming down to the last game of the season and there is a potential, a possibility if you will, that three teams could share the conference title or someone could win it outright. To me that is the sign of a well balanced, good, conference and just is exciting basketball,” he said.

Published 2/14/18

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It’s a Chance for an Outright Title for South Central

The mathematics are simple, if South Central wins at Western Reserve on Friday night they are outright Firelands Conference champions, if the Roughriders win the schools will be tied for first place with one game to play.

South Central put itself in position by beating Crestview (73-47) last Friday in a conference game,

Coach Brett Seidel says he told his kids they have a rare opportunity and they need to be ready. “At practice the other day we talked about the fact that there are a lot people who are practicing right now for the tournament and we are practicing right now or the opportunity to win a championship. So, that is our focus right now, it’s one game. I have a lot of people asking who did you draw? It is really not a concern right now, not right yet,” he said.

South Central won the first meeting (63-57) on January 30 outside of Greenwich. They outscored the Roughriders (8-0) over the final 1:23 of the game.

Point guard Simon Blair has 21 points, including a big three pointer and very good assist in the last minute of that game. Seidel believes Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon will have some different defensive plans they will have to handle. “I am expecting him to do something different this time around. Do something different with Simon (Blair.) I expect probably some doubling. A little bit more of trying to take the ball out of his hands,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I expect them to do a few things different and we have a few things that we have added that we are going to be trying to do as well. Either way I believe it is going to be a great ball game. Just like before it is going to come down to the last moments of the fourth quarter.”

Ben Lamoreaux had 19 in that first game against Western and has had a big second half of the season for South Central. Seidel believes he has other players ready to step up if Blair can’t get his hands on the ball. “Well, early on in the season I felt like we were pretty one dimensional. We had some kids playing without a whole lot of confidence. Some kids that still needed to grow up a little bit and mature a little bit. I feel like that has happened as the result of our process throughout the season. I do think we do have some kids that are able to step up and also willing now to step up,” said Seidel.

These are the kinds of the games that people will talk about for years and Seidel says they have put the time in and now it is time to go out and grab that title. “This is why we worked all summer. This is why both teams go to Eastern Ohio Basketball Camp. That’s why we put that time in. I have a lot of kids that put a lot of time in on their own when no one is looking. That is why they do that is to play and have the opportunities to play in games like this,” he said.

Published 2/14/18

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Ontario Can be a Factor in “MOAC” Race

Ontario is not going to win the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference title this year, but they can play a big part in who does.

They play the co-leaders Marion Pleasant and Clear Fork over the next week. They are at Marion Pleasant on Thursday and at Clear Fork next Tuesday.

The Warriors (11-7,9-3) beat Galion (79-45) in conference play on Friday and then downed Mansfield Christian (53-43) in a non-conference game play at “The Furnace” on Saturday night.

Coach Joe Balogh says they did what was needed. “We were happy with the weekend. We were able to score a lot on Friday and then play in a really tough environment against a team that had really two solid guards and be able to come out of there with a 10-point victory. We were happy with what happened,” he said.

Marion Pleasant (17-3,12-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat Ontario (53-48) on January 27 at the “O-Rena” or the “House that Joe Built” in the first game between the two.

Balogh says they have to cut down on their turnovers. “They are pretty efficient with what they do. They are not real fancy, but they are efficient. Offensively, they are pretty good decision makers with the basketball. They get guys shots that they want to get shots. They do a good job of getting them shots. We are going to have to make sure we take care of the basketball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think last lime we had 19 turnovers and they had seven, so when you have that 12 difference turnover margin that is huge. We only lost by five. So, we have to do a better job taking care of the basketball and making good decisions with it. We are going to have to do a really good job of defending also.”

Balogh believes wins against Pleasant and Clear Fork would be very important to them. “I think the thing that we have told our kids on paper we may not be able to win the league, but you are going to play the two best teams on the road in the league in the last two weeks. So, if you come out with victories there you feel like without that hiccup against Buckeye Valley that you would be a team that should have won that league. We are kind of approaching it that way and also approaching it that we kind what to continue to work to improve to ultimately be playing our best basketball as we approach tournament play,” said Balogh.

Ontario also plays at Shelby (12-7) in a non-conference game on Saturday night. Balogh says that is always a fun challenge. “Shelby has always been a rivalry game for us. We played them non-league for years and then played them in the “NOL” for the past four years. There is always going to be a good atmosphere. Our kids usually get excited about playing them and hopefully that will be the case on Saturday,” he said.

Published 2/14/18

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Lady Flashes a Win Away from Title

In their first year in the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, the Willard Lady Flashes are on the verge of winning an outright girls’ basketball title.

All the need is a win at home against Huron on Thursday night.

Coach Jon Dawson says they have put themselves in a very good spot. “It is a journey from beginning to end. We had some tough games early. I thought our non-league games and our scrimmages were going to get us ready for that. I think the kids did a good job of going though the preseason and making it through the league schedule,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have been fortunate enough to lead from beginning to end this year and we have put ourselves in a great spot and that’s what we asked for.”

Willard (16-5,10-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com girls’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays host to Huron on Thursday night. Dawson says Huron has a lot of inexperienced players on the floor this year. “I know Patrick is doing all he can. They don’t have a ton of athletes out. He is working with the kids and they are trying. They have had tough season, but they have some young kids and I know he is going to do a great job of getting things turned around up there,” he said.

Willard beat Huron (84-20) on January 9. However, Dawson says their focus has to be on how well they are going to play on Thursday night and not about Huron. “That is what we talk about all of time. We have standards and we have to play up to those standards each and every day. We talk about that in practice, not having bad practices. It doesn’t matter who we are playing as far as opponents. We have to do what we are taught to do. I think this group of kids has done that. They have done what we have ask. They have played to our standards and not what everybody else is doing and they have done a great job of that all year long really,” said Dawson.

Published 2/14/18

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Perkins Trying to Get Ready for Tournament

Sandusky Perkins is now out of the Lake Division race in the Sandusky Bay Conference, so their focus is on the tough division two district, which starts in a couple of weeks.

They play Norwalk in a first round game.

The Pirates play a pair of non-conference games at home against Margaretta on Friday and at Norwalk St. Paul on Saturday.

Last Friday, Lake Division leader Sandusky pounded them (75-53) to put them two games back.

Coach Scott McVeigh says, first, Sandusky is good and second they were far too inconsistent. “We went over to Sandusky and boy they played well. We did some nice things early on in the game, first quarter, third quarter, it was those second and fourth quarters that really did us in. First quarter I thought defensively we did a nice job. In the third quarter we made a run at them. We had it down to a three possession game going into the fourth. They shot it well, they shot 69 percent and we shot it awful, when you add those two things in and the fact that they are good. They did us in that’s for sure,” said McVeigh.

Perkins (10-9) plays at home against Margaretta (8-10) on Friday night. The Bears beat Port Clinton (64-40) on Tuesday night. McVeigh says the Polar Bears have a nice mix of players and they play good defense. “They do a nice job defensively. They have held some good teams down in the 30’s this year. They are solid, they have some size to them, they have some nice guard play, some nice shooters. The Kimberlin kid is probably one of the best players in the Bay Division. They are solid. Steve (Keller) does a nice job with them. They have been battle tested. They have played a lot of close ones. It is a cross over game, it is not a league game anymore, but these kids all know each other and it should be an interesting matchup on Friday night,” he said.

McVeigh says their goal is to use the remaining regular season games they have to get ready for the tournament. “It is a weird week for us looking at Friday and Saturday and not playing a league game. It becomes prepping for the tournament. We are in the middle of February and it becomes that grind and trying to get better every day. That is what we continue to do. You look at our district and it is unbelievable. There really isn’t and easy game out there. There are only three teams with losing records. Just the competition, our whole Lake Division is in there, that in itself is tough,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It is going to be tough. We have Norwalk, who is playing a lot better than they were earlier in the year and we split with them regular season. Anytime you play somebody three times you are very familiar with them. It is going to come down to a couple of possessions.”

Published 2/14/18

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Royals Working at Things

Wynford is in the mist of a five game losing streak and they have three games to figure things out before the tournament starts.

Two of them are this weekend at home against Seneca East on Friday and at Upper Sandusky on Saturday, both in Northern 10 Athletic Conference games.

The lost to Mohawk (66-55) in an “N10” game on Friday and (60-54) to River Valley in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Coach Jason Engel is concerned about their mental approach to the game. “We are still not playing four quarters. Played well against Mohawk for the first three and kind of fell apart mentally in the fourth quarter, they took the lead, and our guys just kind of panicked too much. Saturday, playing River Valley we weren’t ready to play mentally. We were trying to climb out of a 26-14 hole right off the bat. We fought back and took the lead in the fourth quarter. They just hit a couple more shots that we did at the end game. They banked a three late. They banked right at the end of the third quarter a buzzer beater that was a big shot,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “The reason we didn’t win that game Saturday was because we weren’t ready to play mentally. Looking forward to Seneca East and Upper. Trying to get some wins and trying to get our guys to stay positive and keep working as we gets ready for the tournament.”

Wynford (7-11,5-8) hosts Seneca East (10-8,6-8) in conference play on Friday night. The Tigers won the first matchup (64-49) on December 30.

Engle says they have to clean up their ballhandling. “It was a two-point game at halftime and we had a lot of turnovers and mistakes in the second half. They are very well coached. Coach Aichholz does a really good job with those guys. They don’t try to do too many things. They are pretty simple in terms of preparation and getting his kids good at what they want to do. They have been throwing the ball inside a lot. The Tuerk kid has played really well, their post player. They have some good guards around him. They don’t try and do too much and they are a fundamentally sound basketball team,” he said.

Upper Sandusky (16-3,12-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com basketball coaches poll in the small school division, is one of the elite teams in the area.

Engel says they can’t try and run with the Rams and they must make sure they are getting good shots. “We have to take care of the ball. They are banged up a little bit I think. They have smaller, quicker, faster, lineups on the floor now. They are trying to turn you over in the full court and the half court. If you turn it over on them they are going to score really good in transition. You can’t really try to outscore them if they are trapping you all over the place. We have to shoot good shots. It is tough to do that if you are open you have to take it to the rim against a team like that. They are really playing well right now. We have two big games this weekend and it’s a chance for our guys to get better,” said Engel.

Published 2/14/18

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Christian Looking for Upset

There would be nothing sweeter for Mansfield Christian that to hand rival Mansfield St. Peter’s a loss in their final game of the regular season, it would be the Spartans first loss of the year.

Obviously, that is going to be very difficult for the Flames.

Coach John Kurtz says they did play well in their two games last week, a win in Mid-Buckeye Conference play over Crestline (63-53) on Friday and a loss to Ontario (53-43) in non-conference play on Saturday. He says he especially liked the effort his kids played with. “Crestline is not the Crestline of old they are very big and they are physical. It was a good game. I think we led pretty much throughout. It was a good win for us. We had lost at their place, so it was a good win,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Playing Ontario right after that our kids played maybe the hardest I have seen them play this year. Our kids played extremely hard in that game. We were up some late in the third quarter and made a couple of mistakes in the fourth that they turned into immediate points and you have to give them credit for that. Our kids were very disappointed in that loss, which I think us a good sign. We were really pleased with the effort our kids put forth.”

Mansfield Christian (13-8,3-6) might see St. Peter’s again in the division four tournament and Kurtz says the end of the season has been great preparation for them. “It is a great game for us. Actually, we told our kids that we played Crestline, Ontario and St. Peter’s all at the end of the season and if you are looking for competition to get ready for the tournament those teams will give it to you. St. Pete’s at home really has not been challenged very much at home. I know the Northmor game ended up being close, but I think really they haven’t been challenged. They are very good at home. They are very comfortable there. Our goal going in would be to take them out of that comfort zone a little bit if we can and play our best basketball for our last regular season game,” he said.

Mansfield St. Peter’s (21-0,9-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat the Flames (57-50) in their first meeting on January 30.

Kurtz say they need be more consistent this time and they have to be able to do some of the same things on offense they did at home on the road and that won’t be easy. “We thought we did some things pretty well against them at home. We thought we were able to push the ball a lot. We thought we are able to put the ball on the floor a lot in that game. I think we had a couple point lead at halftime. They scored on eight straight possessions coming out in the third quarter, which we were a little disappointed in. Our kids fought all of the way back to make it completive at the end. They are just really good. They are ranked number one for a reason and we certainly respect that, but we would love nothing better than to go in there and play a great game Friday,” said Kurtz.

Published 2/13/18

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Norwalk to Play for First Place

A two-point loss to Shelby last Friday nocked Norwalk out of a share of first place, but they can get it right back if they can if they can beat the current leaders Sandusky at home on Friday night.

Shelby’s Brady Hill made two free throws with :08 left to give Shelby the lead (50-48) last Friday. After a timeout Norwalk point guard Brandon Haraway took the ball into the lane, but Shelby’s Hunter Hoffman blocked his last second shot. “It was a good game. Both teams played extremely hard. It came down to Brandon Haraway getting to the basket with about a second to go and unfortunately for us they had a big block at the rim,” said Norwalk coach Steve Gray.

On the next night, Norwalk beat Northwestern (54-39) in non-conference play. Gray says they had good balance on offense and played very good defense and that was the key. “We were really good defensively. They have a really good point guard that is averaging about 21 a game. Haraway did a pretty good job of just shutting him down. The good thing about Northwestern was we had some other people step up and score. Our balance was so much better,” said Gray.

Sandusky (13-6,8-3) lead Norwalk (11-8,6-4) and Shelby and Clyde by a game with two to play in the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division. The Blue Streaks beat Norwalk (71-60) on January 6. After that Norwalk put together seven wins in a row until last Friday.

Gray says Sandusky guards Keith Williams, Tahj Staveskie and Dylan Jones killed them the first time they played. “Williams is their big gun, but the other two are very capable. Those three just killed us the first time. I think in the first half between them they made about seven threes and scored all but about four of their points,” he said.

Defense is the key for the Truckers, according to Gray, he says they have to get up in the Streaks and be physical and make them take tough shots. “They have to feel us defensively and by that I mean we just have to put more pressure on them. We were close to them the first time we played, but close isn’t good enough you have to get up in them,’ he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “You have to get your hands up and contest their shots. I just thought we were a little bit passive. Obviously, I think we are a lot better now and Brandon and Eric Hall and Roth and Neuberger, those four have to come and bring it defensively.”

Published 2/13/18

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Buckeye Central Wants to Close it Out

Buckeye Central has a chance to do something that their girls’ basketball team hasn’t done since Jacobs Field was just two years old and that is win outright conference championship,

They can do that with a win at Wynford on Tuesday night.

Coach Greg Moore says he told the players that is it time for them to be selfish and claim that title to themselves. “That is what we told the girls (Monday) night after practice. Listen, you have worked so hard to get here. It has been 21 years since Buckeye has won a league championship,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Every now and then you have to get a little bit selfish and you have to take care of business, take care of Buckeye Central and yourself and go out there and do what needs to be done. I think we have a pretty focused group. We have a group of girls that understand that and what means to win a championship.”

Buckeye Central (20-1,14-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com girls’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat Colonel Crawford (50-15) to wrap up a share of the title on Friday.

Moore says these are the kinds of games you want to play. “It is a lot of fun for the kids. It’s a rivalry and it means something. We told the kids the other day that there were a lot of schools in the State of Ohio that were playing basketball games on Friday night that didn’t mean anything and we had a chance to at least clinch a share and that is a privilege and that is an honor. It means that you have really done your homework and did the work during the course of the year and the summer. Our kids have bought into that,” said Moore.

Wynford (5-16,3-12) lost to Buckeye Central (54-21) on January 9. They have collected three their wins over the last three weeks. They did lose to Upper Sandusky (81-39) on Friday night.

However, Moore knows that Wynford will be inspired to play them and they have play just as hard. “That is what we told the kids. It is their senior night. We have to go over there and it is their home floor. There is nothing they would like better than to upset us. It would be their Super Bowl,” he said.

Published 2/13/18

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Ashland Still Playing Hard

Ashland has not had as many wins as they were hoping for this season, but they have not quit playing hard.

They have three games this week as they host Massillon Perry on Tuesday in a non-conference game, travel to West Holmes for an “OCC” game on Friday night and to Norwalk for another non-league game on Saturday night.

They also played three games last week over five days and coach Jason Hess says that can become tiresome. “We just had one last week. Back to back three game weeks is kind of grueling. At this time of the year there is a lot of just fatigue and wearing down. It has been a long year. A team like us that really doesn’t have a lot of depth. We have not had a lot of good fortune this year. We have not played one single game with a full healthy roster. We have always had one guy out in one part of the season or the other with one thing or another. We have been a little bit short handed. We really have done a nice job with focus and putting out effort, but does take a toll on you,” said Hess.

The Ashland coach says that Perry is sort of the line them in a lot of ways. For one thing they play a tough schedule. “They have a really good point guard that does a lot for them. He really controls the tempo of the game. They are a younger team though, they play a couple of sophomores and a freshman. They are not a real deep team either, but they play good competition, they same as we do, with the Federal League. They are playing the Jacksons and the Hoovers and the McKinleys. Their schedule is no cakewalk. Record wise they don’t have as good a record as some of the teams we have played earlier, but yet they have definitely played a challenging schedule and they are a younger team and they have gotten better as the season has progressed,” he said.

Ashland (2-17,1-10) plays at West Holmes (5-13,1-9) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

Hess says he is proud of how his players are working to get better this deep into a season that has been short on wins. “We have talked to our guys all year about effort and energy and we have gotten better at it. Even though we have had some letdowns most games a couple minutes here and a couple minutes there we have had some lapses, but our effort and our energy has been pretty good lately. Give our kids a lot of credit I had a coach tell me last week that they were impressed with how hard our kids play considering our record.” He told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “At this point in the season and the record we have it is easy to hang your head and pout and feel sorry for yourself or get ready for baseball or track or whatever is coming next, but our kids haven’t done that. Give our kids a lot of credit for hanging in there and having a good attitude about themselves and being a positive group of guys to be around.”

Published 2/13/18

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Vermilion Gets Top Seed; Seeks to be Unbeaten in Bay Division

Vermilion earned the number one seed in the very tough division two district and Friday they are seeking to complete the Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division unbeaten.

Veteran coach Kurt Habermehl says the district in division two is a meatgrinder. “I am not sure anybody has a clear path to even the districts right now. If you are any of the top four seeds you have at least one really, really tough game to get to districts,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Unfortunately, I think we have two tough games. So, we are going to have to be playing well come tournament time.”

Vermilion plays at Clearview in a non-conference game on Tuesday night. Habermehl says it should be a solid test. “They are currently 15-3 right now I think. They are very athletic, very fast, very quick. Playing at their place you have to play on a pretty small floor and a pretty small gym. It is definitely going to be a challenge for us, but I think if we play well we will be alright,” said Habermehl.

Vermilion is a lot like Clearview in terms of personnel and Habermehl says it should be an entertaining game between two good teams. “We have very similar styles. A lot of good guard play and some complementary bigs to go along with it. So, it has always been a good game in years past. I expect nothing different (Tuesday) night,” he said.

Vermilion (16-3,11-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Huron on Friday night in their final Bay Division game.

Huron (5-11,3-6) has lost four of its last five games, including (55-54) to Clyde last Friday in a cross over game.

Habermehl says they want to finish play in the division on an up note. “That is a goal. Since we clinched a couple of weeks ago that has been one of our main goals to remain perfect in the “SBC” Bay. Up to this point we have managed to accomplish that. Obviously, with Friday being senior night for us and a chance to do that is going to be a fun night,” he said.

Published 2/13/18

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Mohawk Has to be Aggressive, but Under Control

Mohawk is in third place in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference and they have a chance to share the conference title, yes, they need to a lot of help, but it begins with them beating co-leader Upper Sandusky on Friday night.

They also would need Colonel Crawford to lose to Buckeye Central and Upper and the Rams to lose to Wynford.

Mohawk kept their hopes alive with wins over Wynford (66-55) and Seneca East (60-54) last weekend to keep their hopes alive.

Coach Paul Dunn says both games came down to them executing in the fourth quarter. “Our kids hung on and fought. We didn’t come out and play our best basketball early in the game. We were able to hang on and really just start to find a little rhythm there in the mid third quarter. We got into the fourth quarter in both games and we started to play like we are able to play,” he said.

Mohawk (13-5,11-3) plays host to Upper Sandusky (16-3,12-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Friday night. The Rams are coming off dominating wins over Seneca East (88-59) on Friday and Bucyrus (72-40) in league games.

The Rams won the first match up with Mohawk (66-52) on December 30.

Dunn says the Rams defense takes you out of your comfort a zone. “The two years I have been at Mohawk we have tried to do some different things to kind of prepare for their pressure, but it is hard to replicate what they do on the basketball floor. They try to get you to play completely out of your comfort zone. We are a team that likes to play up and down, but they put so much pressure on you for all 94 feet,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “So, we are really trying to make sure we execute the opportunities that we are going to get around the basket and finish those. That is going to be key in try to stay with them.”

One of the big things when you play Upper is shot selection because if you handle the ball there will be some open shots, but Dunn says you have to know what shots to take. “We are doing some different drills to try and get the kids to play out of there comfort zone, but still to understand how to finish it and that kind of stressful situation and how to try and control that situation, make another pass, try and find another guy that might have a better look at the basket. That is definitely going to be our focus here the next three or four days of practice,” he said.

Published 2/13/18

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New London Looking to Continue to Get Better

New London has won five of its last six games heading into a three game week this week for the Wildcats.

They play host to Lucas on Tuesday night, Plymouth in a Firelands Conference game on Friday night, and Hillsdale on Saturday in their second non-league game of the week.

The one blip on the screen lately was a (65-57) loss to Black River on Saturday night.

New London coach Tom Howell gives a lot of the credit to how well the Pirates played. “We had a little I guess you would call it a hiccup on Saturday, but you have to give the Black River kids some credit. They came out and they played well. They played really well” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “The shot 58 percent from the floor. You are going to run into game like that. I felt like we scored enough points, but we didn’t get it done on the defensive end.”

New London (10-8) plays at home against Lucas (10-7) on Tuesday night in non-conference action. The Cubs were seeded third in the up coming division four tournament, but they had a murderous schedule last week in losing to Northmor (72-67) Mansfield St. Peter’s (73-56) and Clear Fork (71-61) in games against three very good teams.

Howell says the Cubs are good, especially at the guard spots. “Lucas is a really good basketball team. They have some kids at the guard position that have been playing since they have been freshmen and sophomores. They have good senior leadership. I know it is not going to be easy, our kids know it is not going to be easy. It is going to be a tough game for us,’ said Howell.

Plymouth (9-10,7-5) has played some good ball too. They beat New London (56-50) in their first game on January 15. The Big Red beat Monroeville (69-43) in a conference game last Friday, but lost to Bellevue (64-53) on Saturday.

Howell says they Big Red always plays well against them. “Plymouth is a good basketball team, especially the second half of the season. They beat us over at their place. It is not going to be easy, we have some tough games this week,” he said.

Published 2/13/18

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Some Surprises in Tournament Matchups

Sunday was a workday for boys’ basketball coaches across the State of Ohio as seed meetings were held to determine tournament games in all four divisions. The tournament starts in a couple of weeks.

In division one there are two schools that we cover that are part of a 21 team district in the northwest part of the state, Mansfield Madison and Ashland.

Ashland (2-17) plays the top seed in the district in Toledo St. John’s on March 2 at Genoa High School.

Madison (11-8) takes on Perrysburg on February 28 at Toledo Start High School. “I feel pretty good about the draw and where we ended up. I like the way we matchup with Perrysburg and Northview if we get past Perrysburg,” said Madison coach Tim Mergel.

Wooster (11-6) is the fourth seed in their division one district in the NE district. They will host Youngstown Boardman on February 28 in their first tournament game.

For Mt. Vernon (15-5,) the Ohio Cardinal Conference leader, will take on Dublin Scioto on Saturday, February 24, at home. The Yellow Jackets with only five losses gets just the number 16 seed.

“We are pleased to get a home game for our first round tournament game,” said Mt. Vernon coach Nick Coon, “We feel our players have earned it. Dublin Scioto is a good program. They have a tough, physical team. It will be a challenge for our team, but we are excited for it.”

In a very deep division two district “SBC” Bay Division champion Vermilion is the top seed, Mansfield Senior number two, Lexington is number three and Sandusky the fourth seed

Sectionals are going to be held at Bucyrus and Willard High Schools this year.

At Bucyrus on February 27, Mansfield Senior (12-6) will face Port Clinton (2-15) of the “SBC” Bay. The winner of that game plays “MOAC” co-leader Clear Fork (16-4) on March 2.

“I think we are a seeded a little higher than what I thought we would be. Very tough district where the talent from each team’s not that far apart. I’m sure there will be a lot of close games,” said Mansfield Senior coach Marquis Sykes.

Location was a factor for Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel. “We know going in that if there was an opportunity to take a bye we were going to take the bye. We had an opportunity to play at Willard or Bucyrus we were going to choose Bucyrus because it is a little bit closer,” he said.

In the lower bracket there are two semi finals to be played at Bucyrus on February 28. Norwalk (11-8) faces Sandusky Perkins (10-9) for what will be the third time. Tiffin Columbian (3-16) meets Sandusky (13-6) in the nightcap. Both are also members of the “SBC” Lake. Winners play March 2.

“I don’t think anybody was happy with our draw. There will be some really good teams who will be one and done,” said Norwalk coach Steve Gray.

“We play Norwalk, who we beat by five and lost to by three. They are probably the hottest team in the league and playing with a purpose. Coach Gray does a great job with them and it should have a sectional final atmosphere to it,” said Perkins coach Scott McVeigh.

Up at Willard there is also an upper bracket semi final on February 27 and features Bellevue, (10-8,) the number 11 seed, against top seeded Vermilion (16-3) with the winner advancing to play Shelby (12-7) on March 2.

“The deciding factor for us was the opportunity to take a bye. Our district is loaded and all the other options would have required us to play two tough opponents to win the sectional instead of one,” said Shelby coach Troy Schwemley.

“We thought we deserved the 10 seed, considering we beat Ontario two days before the draw, but we ended up the 11, so seeding didn’t have an effect on our pick. We chose Vermilion because we think we match up best with them,” said Bellevue’s Ed Rich.

“It is a meat grinder of a tournament, so we knew there would be no easy games. We feel like we’re playing pretty well right now and I have the utmost confidence in this team,” said Vermilion coach Kurt Habermehl.

The semis on February 28 at Willard are Ontario (11-7) meets Clyde (13-6) in the first game and Galion (7-13) takes on Lexington (16-5) in the second game. The winners play March 2.

“Eleven of the 14 teams have winning records. It will be a tough out for all,” said veteran Ontario coach Joe Balogh.

“This year’s bracket was difficult to predict and it turned out with some matchups I didn’t expect, but I think it will be an exciting district tournament,” said Lexington’s Scott Hamilton.

The district games in division two will be played at Mansfield Madison Middle School.

The NW division three schools will cover play a sectionals at Hopewell-Loudon and Shelby with the district semi finals and final at Norwalk High School.

The top four seeds are Upper Sandusky, Oak Harbor, Carey and Edison in that order.

At Hopewell-Loudon High School in the upper bracket semi-final on February 28 it is Willard (3-15) against the Crestview Cougars (5-14) of the Firelands Conference. Oak Harbor (14-4) awaits the winner on March 2.

“It worked out about as well as it could have for us. You don’t have much of a choice when you are the 10 seed,” said Willard coach Joe Bedingfield.

In lower bracket semis at Hopewell on February 28 Western Reserve (12-5) plays Bucyrus (2-16) and Carey (12-6) and Wynford (7-11) of the “N10” will play for a third time. Those who advance play March 2.

“We like the draw we got (Sunday.) We get to be the guest team in a miniature “N10” tournament bracket. Hopefully, we can be the guest that crashes the part and never gets invited back again,” said Western Reserve’s Chris Sheldon.

“Our district is really strong. We were the number 9 seed, so we knew whoever we played would be really good. Carey is a very good team and in our league. We look forward to the opportunity. No easy games in our district. Very good teams,” said Wynford coach Jason Engel.

Games at Willard look this way.

On February 27, it is Huron (5-11) against Fostoria with the winner playing Upper Sandusky (16-3) on March 2.

There are two semis on February 28 at Willard it is Margaretta (7-10) playing New London (10-8) followed by Edison (13-6) and Kansas Lakota (2-16) in the nightcap.

“We were going to have to play a good team in our first game no matter who we played. There are some good teams in our district. It should be fun and some good basketball,” said New London coach Tom Howell.

In the Central District in Division III, Northmor (18-1) earned the fifth seed behind Harvest Prep, Columbus Africentric, Columbus Bishop Ready, and the Wellington School.

Northmor will play host to Worthington Christian Monday, February 26. If they win they will play West Jefferson at home on March 3.

“MOAC” co-leader Marion Pleasant (16-3) is the eighth seed and will entertain Amanda Clearcreek on February 26. A win and the Spartans will play 14 seed Newark Catholic on March 3.”

“Not bad we got a five seed out of 25 teams. That goes to show how brutal the Central District is,” said Northmor coach Zach Ruth.

“Amanda Clearcreek was a division two school last year. They play a tough schedule, so it will be a tough game. If we win we play Newark Catholic. We get two home games. I don’t know much about either team,” said Pleasant coach Ben Snivley.

Other schools we cover in the Central District DIII include North Union at Columbus Academy on February 26. East Knox plays either Africentric or Columbus Horizon Science, Fredericktown plays either the Wellington School or Heath, and Mt. Gilead meets Ready or Liberty Union, all on March 3.

In a division three district where the district final is at Wooster High School Wellington is the top seed followed by Wooster Triway, Waynedale, and Manchester.

Loudonville is at Chippewa February 27 with the winner playing Wellington. Black River is at Smithville on the 27 th, the winner gets Manchester. Orrville is at Massillon Tuslaw February 27 with the winner playing Triway. The fourth first round game on the 27 th has Northwestern hosting Norwayne with that winner playing Waynedale. Second round games are all March 2.

“I like who we get to play. We are in a good spot with a home game to start. The thing I do not like is not getting to have a draw to pick where you go,” said Northwestern coach Mark Alberts, Jr.

The NE district has NCAA seeding.

In one of the NW district’s division four districts where sectionals at Galion and Lexington High Schools and the district action at Willard.

The top four seeds are Mansfield St. Peter’s, Colonel Crawford, Lucas, and South Central.

First at Galion High School the semi-finals in both brackets are February 27. In the upper bracket Sandusky St. Mary’s plays Buckeye Central (5-13) with winner getting (17-3) Colonel Crawford. In the lower bracket it is Norwalk St. Paul (9-9) against Crestline (7-11) and the winner plays South Central (13-6) in the final. The finals are March 2.

“We took a bye like we have in past years, which has been successful over the years. Then we waited to see who would come our way. The number eight seed St Mary’s and the number 10 seed Buckeye Central came in our bracket. We will prepare all week to play one of them in the sectional final,” said Colonel Crawford coach David Sheldon.

“I would definitely see St. Peter’s and Colonel Crawford as the clear cut favorites and the definitive top two seeds. After those two it is fairly even across the bracket. We will prepare the best we can and see what happens,” said South Central coach Brett Seidel.

“It went pretty much as expected. As the 10 seed I figured we would have to play either St. Mary’s, St. Paul or Crestline in Colonel Crawford’s bracket. Should be a lot of good games,” said Buckeye Central coach Phil Loy.

“We now have a better understanding who, when, and where will be playing. We will do our best to find out as much information on Crestline in the next couple of weeks to be ready to play on February 27 and then put ourselves in the best position to win and advance,” said Norwalk St. Paul coach Mike Smith.

At Lexington, the semis are also February 27 and the finals March 2. Mansfield St. Peter’s (21-0) chose not to take the bye and will play Danbury Lakeside in a semi final and the winner play Monroeville (1-18) in the final. In the lower bracket, Mansfield Christian (13-8) plays Plymouth (9-10) in the semi with the winner playing Lucas (10-7.)

“We’ll play the winner of a game between a team we have beaten twice and somebody we know very well in Mansfield Christian and a team we play Saturday night in Plymouth. We have five games to get rolling and play for a sectional title,” said Lucas coach Taylor Iceman.

“Everything went about as I thought it would other than I thought Lucas would probably go to the Colonel Crawford side of the bracket,” said Mansfield Christian coach John Kurtz.

In a division IV district with finals at Fostoria High School and sectionals at Carey and Fremont Ross High Schools there are also schools we cover.

At Carey semis in each bracket are February 27 with the finals March 2. In the upper bracket Seneca East (10-8) plays Tiffin Calvert with the winner playing Mohawk (13-5.) In the lower bracket, it’s New Riegel (10-8) against Riverdale with the winner getting Hopewell-Loudon.

At Fremont Ross, there is an upper bracket semi final with Fremont St. Joe (9-10) playing Vanlue. The winner of that game plays Old Fort (10-8) on March 2. Only one game in the lower bracket and it has Arlington and Hardin Northern on March 2.

Published 2/11/18

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Madison Downs Whippets

Madison outscored Shelby (29-21) in the second half and pulled away to a (57-47) win in non-conference boys’ basketball game on Saturday night at Shelby High School.

Madison took an 11-point lead (44-33) with 1:16 to play in the third quarter as Kyle Jackson punctuated a six-point Ram run with a dunk. Shelby cut it to six twice in the fourth quarter, the last time at (49-43) with 5:41 to play in the game, but could get no closer.

There was a smile on the face of Madison coach Tim Mergel after the game. “It has taken some time, but the kids are starting to understand a little bit. I just see a lot more unity than I have seen in pervious parts of the season. This weekend was a good weekend, it was a fun weekend. The kids had fun and obviously when you win it is fun, but there was something different with the chemistry (Saturday) night. Our kids were a joy to watch,” said Mergel.

Madison shot 42 percent (19-40) for the game and Shelby coach Troy Schwemley his team did not do a very good job on defense. “Jackson’s are the easiest to remember because he finished them with a dunk. Our defensive rotation wasn’t real good. They shot the ball well from the perimeter. We still have to defend on our closeouts, breakdown, and then take away the drives. It seemed like either we didn’t close out hard or if they did drive we didn’t rotate like we needed to,” he said.

The Rams made 8-19 three point attempts, Shelby was just 4-19 on the night.

Mergel says they have guys that can stroke it, it has just been a matter of getting them the ball in the right spots and they were able to do that against Shelby. “We have some kids that can shoot it. Our struggle has been moving the basketball to those shooters and getting them in shooting spots and (Saturday) night we were able to that. (Friday) night we did it, we just didn’t shoot it at a very high percentage. When the ball moves good things happen and that was the case for us,” said Mergel.

Jackson led Madison with 16 points and three dunks, Mason Campbell added 15 and Shamir Brown 12. Brown made 4-7 three point attempts.

Madison (11-8) beat West Holmes (53-47) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Friday night. Mergel believes they took some leaps forward this weekend. “Every week I talk about we take little steps, this weekend we took pretty big steps defensively. We had guys that showed urgency defensively. We had guys that took up ownership of people they guarded and we were rewarded for it. We are past the little steps now, we have to start taking big steps and we did (Saturday) night,” he said.

Shelby (12-7) beat Norwalk (50-48) in a good Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference on Friday night. The Whippets scored only four points in the last five minutes of the game versus Madison. Schwemley says they were tired, but that is no excuse for their performance on the floor. “When the officials come over to you and say you have two tired teams out there playing that is pretty good indication that they sense the energy level or lack of. I think the disappointing part is Madison played (Friday) night too and you want to see some fight, you want to see some toughness out of your kids,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “It is going to be a grind of a game when you play back to back. We play about seven guys and we have played a lot of games in a few weeks. No excuses I felt like we needed to be a little more tuff (Saturday) night. Our team energy wasn’t what it needed to be to be successful.”

Madison is one of two schools we cover in the division one district in the Northwest District and Mergel says with a lower seed they have to be ready for almost anything. “With 21 teams up there in our district you don’t know what you are going to get. You might get an up tempo team that likes to pressure you. You might get a big, tall team that likes to set in the half court. You have to be prepared for anything, which our conference does a good job with and our non conference schedule,” he said.

Uriah Schwemley had 16 for the Whippets, Brady Hill added 13.

Published 2/10/18

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Lexington in Must Win Situation

Lexington has a chance to share the Ohio Cardinal Conference title with Mt. Vernon. They would have to beat the Yellow Jackets next week, but first they must beat Wooster on Friday night.

They downed West Holmes (60-50) on Tuesday night.

Coach Scott Hamilton says that was a good win against a good team. “I had seen a little bit of film of their last three or four games before we went down there and you could just see that they were improving. They are still playing hard regardless of their record. You have to give credit to the kids and coach Troyer. After walking off the court of that game Tuesday night there is no doubt in my mind that that team is continuing to improve. Talking to coach Troyer a little bit I can see them doing some damage in their sectional and district over there in eastern Ohio,” he said.

Wooster (10-5,7-3) comes to Lexington (14-5,7-3), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. The Generals have beat their last two “OCC” opponents in Mansfield Senior (65-56) and Madison (72-53) on Tuesday night and that is after taking a two week break.

Hamilton says they have been really good on offense since that break. “That is not something you would typically plan for to take two weeks off right in the middle of the season, but it looks like it has treated them well. Most recently against Madison they put 70 on the board. Against a good Madison team that is not easy to do. We are going to try and be ready for them the best that we can. We know they are a high powered offense. They can score a lot of points real quick. Hopefully, defensively we can be up and handle their pressure. We will see how it goes,” said Hamilton.

When it comes to slowing down the Wooster offense, Hamilton doesn’t know if that is possible. He says you must stop the runs they have. “You have to keep them under control. Slowing them down might be a strong way to put it. You can’t let two points, maybe a big three or a turnover all of the sudden turn in to eight or 10. Their defense just speeds you up so much,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “If you really try and attack it like you would in must cases with a trapping team they just continue to turn you over and get faster and faster. You have to kind of keep it under control realize that you are going to have a couple of turnovers, but not let a two point run or a four point run turn into 10 or 12.”

Hamilton says they have explained to the kids that a win of Friday is a must if they want and “OCC” title. “We told the kids (Wednesday) night that we have to take care of business on Friday. Whoever loses this game Friday is out of a shot for the “OCC.” We have three big games left to finish our season. Right now, we are going to attack them one game at a time like we have all year long and put our best foot forward. Luckily for us the last three games are at home, so we hope that provides us with a little bit of an advantage,” he said.

Published 2/09/18

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Pleasant and Clear Fork Square off in Huge Game in “MOAC”

Marion Pleasant trails Clear Fork by a game in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference standings heading into their game at Les Hauenstein Gym at Clear Fork on Friday night.

The Colts (15-3,11-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Pleasant (66-61) on January 23 to take first place in the league.

Pleasant coach Ben Snively says the Colts are a team that likes to push the tempo and they make good decisions. “They came into our gym earlier in the year and stole a game from us. They are a very good basketball team. We have been preparing all week for them. We had Highland on Tuesday, but our focus has still been on this game. They are just very fundamental. They push the basketball. One quote that always comes to my mind is what John Wooden used to say play fast, but don’t be in a hurry and they kind of reminds me of them. They really look to push the ball, but they just play smart basketball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “As far as Friday it is going to be very difficult for us to go up there and get a win. It has been a good week of practice. We played pretty well against Highland on Tuesday night. We had a 20 point lead or so, but we did let is slip a bit. We were able to hang in there and win buy 10 or 12. It is going to be a big one. I think the kids are excited. I’m excited. It is a Friday night, so hopefully the fans come out. Hopefully, we play a good basketball game.”

Snively says both teams bring pressure, but they do it different ways. “They have been improving all year and that is exactly what good teams do this time of year. You can’t stay stagnate you have to continue to get better. We talked in the first matchup we pick people up, we don’t really trap that much. They do a little more trapping than we do and they are sneaky about it. It is not all of the time. They are smart about it, you don’t know exactly when they are going to do it. They have good smart basketball players that know when to do that. Ironically, in the first matchup I think we had nine turnovers and they had eight or nine, both I think under 10,” he said.

Sometimes games like this that have some hype don’t live up to it. However, Snively believes this one will. “It is two good basketball teams. A couple of years ago we made that run to regionals and we often talk about how the deeper you get into the tournament the more clean the games become. I think that is what you will see Friday night two good basketball teams playing a pretty clean game. At the very end it is going to come down to who can make more shots. The last time they came into our gym and hit 7 out of 9 threes in the first half and then didn’t shoot one the second half. Clear Fork is a very smart team and it is going to be a good match up for us,” he said.

Of course, the football title in the “MOAC” boiled down to these two teams as well. Snively believes these are similar schools that are developing a rivalry. “Pleasant we have always kind of been a football school. I think Clear Fork might kind of be in the same boat. Our football game this year came down to they beat us in overtime and that was a real good football game. We had a chance. We missed a field goal by a couple of yards there at the end of the game. We might be forming a little bit of a rivalry here early in this. I told the kids (Thursday) the hay is in the barn at this point. They are going to go out there and play. We have given them tools to use. We are just going to go out there and give them all we can and see how we fair at the end of the night,” said Snively.

 

 
     
 

Mt. Vernon Excited

A win Tuesday night over Ashland gave a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference boys’ basketball title and they have a chance to have it to themselves next week.

They beat Ashland (56-48) and lead Lexington, Wooster and Mansfield Senior by a game. Wooster is at Lexington on Friday, while Mansfield Senior hosts Ashland.

Mt. Vernon coach Nick Coon says it feels good. “Our program has come a long way in the last three years from where we were when our coaching staff took over. It is no accident to be in a position to win a championship. Ultimately, we got that done because our kids put in time. They have bought in to what we have tried to put in place and they have been committed to it and committed to each other. It is great to see for our kids now and also for our program moving forward,” he said.

They do not play on Friday, their final “OCC” game of the season is at Lexington next Friday. Coon says it is kind of good to have this little break. “I think we are fortunate that we were able to clinch at least a share on Tuesday and this week we don’t have another league game, so we have our focus on our senior day to honor our seniors, a tremendous group of kids. Then we can have some time to come off this little high we have and get refocused and go into Lexington with the mindset to focus on that game and make sure we play those guys as tough as we can because it is going to be a heck of a challenge,’ he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We know Lexington is in a position to where if they take care of business Friday they would be gunning for a share of that league championship as well. We know it is going to be a challenge as it has been every game for us this year. We have to continue to prepare the right way and get ready to compete at a high level.”

Mt. Vernon (14-5), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, winners of eight in a row and 11 of their last 12, plays at home against New Albany in non-league play on Saturday. Coon says that is not a game they can look past. “New Albany has a good basketball tradition. Their coach Sam Davis has done a tremendous job of building that program from when they were a small division three school to now a prominent member of the Ohio Capital Conference. They are a little down record wise this year, but there is still talent there. They have some big kids, some athletic kids, some guards that can shoot the ball, so it is going to be a challenge for us on Saturday, but we are looking forward to honoring our seniors and hopefully sending them out the right way in their last regular season home game.”

Published 2/09/18

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Ontario Must Handle the Ball Better

Ontario does a lot of good things as a basketball team, but one thing they haven’t done very well is handle the ball and that has to change.

The Warriors play at Galion in a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game on Friday night and they visit “The Furnace” to play Mansfield Christian in a non-league game on Saturday night.

They have lost their last two games. Clear Fork beat them (53-48) in overtime in an “MOAC” game last Saturday and Bellevue downed them (64-59) in non-conference play on Tuesday night.

Coach Joe Balogh says they have had a chance to win most every game they have lost, but they keep having too many turnovers. “We have had games tied or even had the lead late with three minutes to go in the game and then we haven’t been able to get the defensive stop that we needed to get or take care of the basketball and get a good look. As a coaching staff we just have to find a way to help our players get it done. It hasn’t been because of lack of effort or lack of preparation. It is just we have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball really throughout 32 minutes,” he told Swankonports.com on Thursday. “Sometimes it comes down to that last three minutes, but we have wasted some possessions in the first half that has not been necessarily due to our opponent’s defense, but our own doing. We are just trying to get our kids to understand the importance of making good decisions with the basketball. You have got to do that throughout 32 minutes. It can’t just be for 16 minutes or 24 minutes or 30 minutes, you have to do it for 32 minutes. That is the priority we have to put on it. We think if we can do that we can cut our turnovers down. That has been a thing we have struggled with all year. We can be really good, but we haven’t found that yet and hopefully we can find in the next three weeks.”

Ontario (9-7,8-3) plays at Galion (7-12,4-8) in league play on Friday night. They beat the Tigers (71-61) on January 6.

Balogh says the Tigers can catch fire on offense and you have to defend the three point line. “They really led the game throughout that they played Clear Fork at home, they ended up losing by seven, Marion Harding beat them by 10, but it was a close game. They beat Buckeye Central by three and really had Northmor on the ropes in a game. They are a team that really has some offensive firepower. I think they made 10 threes against us the first game when we played them here. You have to do a good job of defending the three and they have a guy in Alsip who can score at a high volume. You can’t let him just get going because when he gets going I think everybody else just plays that much better,” he said.

Mansfield Christian (12-7) hosts the Warriors on Saturday night.

Balogh says the Flames have great guard play and they always play good defense. “John (Kurtz) has always done a great job when he was at Crestview and now that he has been at Christian for a long time. Defensively they are not really complicated in what they do. They are just going to get up and guard you and be really fundamentally sound and make it difficult for you to reverse the basketball by getting in passing lanes. They do a good job taking care of the basketball. Their strength is their guard play. With McPeak and Kurtz they have two really good guards that could play anywhere in this area. When you have good guard play that kind of hides some other things for you because you have guys that take care of the basketball and don’t turn it over a lot. That means you are going to get shots every possession and that is what they have been able to do when they have had success,” said Balogh.

Published 2/09/18

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Western Reserve Has to be Ready

Western Reserve kind of mailed it in last week and it cost them.

A loss to Crestview in overtime dropped the Roughriders from a share of first place in the Firelands Conference. They know trail South Central by a game.

They host Norwalk St. Paul in a critical conference game on Friday night.

Coach Chris Sheldon says they had their chances in the (68-63) loss to Crestview and they didn’t take advantage. “Unfortunately, our young mean are going to learn a lesson hopefully that you have to show up every night. We didn’t show up and it was evident the entire game from our body language to our energy level to how we executed in the second half and down the stretch. There were plenty of opportunities to seek the moment and we failed to capitalize on that. If our guys aren’t ready to play that starts with me,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Needless to say we are trying to address that this week. We know that mistake is huge right now. How we move forward this weekend in our league the last three weeks into tournament time maybe we will be able to look back on it and say it was a great wakeup call.”

Western Reserve (11-5,9-2) hosts Norwalk St. Paul (9-7,6-5) on Friday night in Firelands Conference play. St. Paul lost to New London (60-38) in a conference game last Saturday, but they responded with a (47-45) win at Margaretta on Tuesday night. In the first meeting between the Roughriders and the Flyers, Western won (56-54) on January 5.

Sheldon says Friday night is going to be a big challenge. “They had a big win on Tuesday night beating Margaretta, especially coming off not playing that well against New London on Saturday night. They obviously have a great mix of guard play and post play. We had a tremendous battle the first time around. It being a rivalry always brings a whole other angle to it that can be fun. Our guys have had a good week of practice in preparation. They know they have a big challenge ahead of them and they know they have put themselves with their backs against the wall. We are going to find our just how much we have grown in the last six days,” said Sheldon.

Sheldon says it terms of the league they know they have their backs against the wall and we wants his kids to come out fighting. “That is my hope. Anytime you coach 16, 17, 18-year-old kids you never quite know what you are going to get from day to day. Everybody says that with teenagers. Last week, you watch Duke get beat by a St. John’s team that hadn’t won a game in the Big East and then St. John’s turned around and beat Villanova. Anything can happen on any given night and I think if our kids take anything away is the understanding we have to show up each and every time we step on the floor,” he said.

Published 2/09/18

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Bay Division Champs Play Willard

Vermilion has the Bay Division title of the Sandusky Bay Conference in hand, but they still have five games to play to close the regular season play and get ready for the tournament.

They blew a big lead Tuesday night and lost (72-71) to Elyria Catholic in a non conference game.

Coach Kurt Habermehl says they kind of got tentative and it cost them the game. “We had a big lead on Elyria Catholic. We were up 17 points at one time. Obviously, they have some really good players. They are really big. I thought we kind of got on our heels a little bit and started to play a little tentative and when you do that I don’t care who you are playing you are going to let them back in the game and hopefully that is something we can learn from,” said Habermehl.

The Sailors will be challenged over these final three weeks and Habermehl it will be a variety of different challenges too. “With Willard’s size and Bay’s athleticism, we also have Sandusky and Clearview and a couple of other teams coming up it is certainly going to be a test. Sometimes it is just about surviving those tests and it may be a loss here and there, but it will certainly get you ready for tournament as long as the team keeps the right mindset and understand why you are playing these teams,” he said.

Vermilion (14-3,10-0), #3 on the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Willard (3-14,2-6,) the Flashes have lost 10 in a row, in a Bay Division game on Friday night.

Habermehl is concerned with the Willard’s size. “Compared to us they are really huge. I think they lost one player, but they are still going to be 6’5”, 6’5” and we don’t have anybody close to that. It is a situation where we have to make sure we play our game and get the game going fast and try to make it as difficult as possible for their guards because if we let it be a half court game we will be probably be in trouble,” he said.

Published 2/09/18

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Buckeye Needs to Slow Down Carey

Buckeye Central almost upset “N10” co-leader Upper Sandusky last Saturday and they need to do a lot of the same things if they are going to beat Carey on Saturday night.

Last Saturday, Buckeye pushed Upper very hard before losing (43-39) in the end. Coach Phil Loy says they did almost everything they had to do. “I am proud of our kids. I thought they played really well. We missed some shots that we normally make, especially early. A lot of that give Upper Sandusky credit for that. The way they play defense they make you rush things a little bit. We are right there the whole game. We are tied at halftime. They make a little run on us and get up by maybe 10 points in the fourth quarter, but we fought right back. We had a chance to tie it with :03 seconds to go. We got a wide open look for three and hit it off the rim. That would have tied it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They got the rebound and unfortunately we had to foul and they made one of two free throws. We were right there. I am proud of our efforts, but we have had a lot of games like that. Hopefully, we can eventually get over the hump.”

Buckeye Central (4-13,4-8) hosts Carey (12-5,7-5) on Saturday night in Northern 10 Athletic Conference play. Carey won the first game (75-57) on December 28.

Loy says Saturday’s game can not by played with that much tempo if they are going to win it, it needs to be more like the Upper game. “Carey wants to play an up tempo style too. They like to shoot a lot of threes. They want the game to be in the mid to upper 60’s. We want to make sure we keep the game in the 50’s or low 50’s. They are really dangerous because they have good guard play and then you throw a 6’7”, 6’8” kid in the middle and it makes it really hard to defend,” he said.

The boys’ tournament draw in division four the top two teams are very good, but Loy says he thinks they can make some noise. “In the tournament we are going to be down towards the bottom, so we won’t get a whole lot of choice. I think we can play with just about anybody in our sectional. Our record doesn’t show that we are very good, but I really think we can compete with anybody. You have St. Pete’s and Colonel Crawford who are probably going to be the one and two in our sectional then I think three through 10 is very balanced. It is going to be interesting to see how that turns out,” he said.

Published 2/09/18

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Colts Can Grab A Share

Clear Fork can clinch no less than a share of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference boys’ basketball title on Friday night with a win at home against second place Marion Pleasant.

They put themselves in that position by beating arch rival Ontario (53-48) in overtime on Saturday night.

They were able to force the Warriors into 19 turnovers on Saturday and coach Steven Bechtel says they have been improving in the way they play defense. “We are getting better on that side of the ball. Obviously, our offense gets most of the headlines, but we are slowly getting better on that side, especially in a game where we really had to grind it out in the half court. That was really a big step in the right direction for us,” he said.

Clear Fork (15-3,11-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball poll in the large school division, has won its last 10 games. They have not lost since Mansfield Madison beat them (77-73) on December 29.

They beat Pleasant (66-61) on January 23, rallying for a 10-point third quarter deficit. Bechtel says the Spartans (15-3,10-1) do a lot of good things at both ends of the court. “They are really good. They are a real good basketball team. They have a lot of guys that can score. They have a lot of guys that can score in different ways,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “So, they are very, very dangerous every time they have the ball. Then defensively they are just solid as well. They do a great job in what they want to do on both sides of the ball. We are going to have to really be ready to go on Friday night.”

In that first game between the two there seemed to be a lot of streaks and Bechtel says both teams want to push the pace of the game. “I think we both relied on really getting out and trying to run and get easy baskets. We were fortunate enough in the first game to have a longer streak and that is what both teams have go to try and do is limit those streaks on both sides, so that we can have success,” he said.

It has been 15 years since the Colts have won a conference title and Bechtel says his players are aware of the opportunity they have come Friday night against Pleasant. “We know kind of what is at stake and that kind of thing. I think the guys are just kind of figuring out today that we have won 10 in a row and the 11 th one is a huge one. We just have to continue the same thing we have done all year. It is the biggest game on the schedule because it is the next one. So, we just have to continue with that mindset and be ready to go mentally and physically on Friday,” he said.

Published 2/08/17

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Shelby With Opportunity Against Norwalk

Shelby stands a game behind “SBC” Lake Division co-leaders Norwalk and Sandusky and they host the Truckers on Friday night in a critical league game for both sides.

After losing four in a row, the Whippets have now won their last three, one of those being a (69-62) win over Bellevue last Saturday in a Lake Division game. They beat longtime rival Willard (76-58) in a rescheduled game on Monday.

Coach Troy Schwemley says he likes what he sees. “We have won three in a row. We had that little four game stretch where we lost four games, but we were battling in them and playing hard. I think we have done some good things lately and hopefully we can keep that going,” he said.

Shelby (11-6,5-4) plays at home against Norwalk (10-7,6-3) on Friday night. The Truckers own a seven game winning streak, including a (54-41) win over Bellevue in a league game last Thursday.

Schwemley believes Norwalk point game Brandon Haraway is the engine that makes the Truckers go. “He is a guy that just makes everybody better around him. He does a lot of things. He handles the ball. He distributes the ball. He has a good sense of the game knowing when he needs to score and who has the hot hand. He is one of those guys that just seems to make everybody better around him,” he said.

Shelby beat Norwalk (42-31) on January 4 and the Truckers have only lost once since then and that was two days later to Sandusky (71-60) in division play.

Schwemley says they played great defense that night and they have to do that again Friday and more. “They do a lot of good things. Brandon, obviously, can push the tempo and attack and create in free lancing sorts of things. Like all coach Gray coached teams they do a great job of executing when they need to run certain things or counter certain things. I think there are certain things he has been running for a long time and they do them really well. We need to do a good job defensively,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The first time we played them we really defended well. It was a really low scoring game. We defended well and took care of the ball. In that game we got off to a nice start, which allowed us to kind of dictate the tempo and now playing into their hands. I think us getting off to a good start is important, but we have to play four quarters and 32 minutes.”

After Friday night, the Whippets have two division games left, Tiffin Columbian and Sandusky Perkins, and Schwemley says if they want a piece of the title they must win on Friday night. “We can’t afford to lose another game. We are game behind Norwalk and Sandusky. If we are able to beat Norwalk then everybody is chasing Sandusky. I think Norwalk turns around and plays Sandusky here in a week or two. From our standpoint we have got to take care of the Norwalk game. We can’t afford to lose another game, but there are enough games left that if we do our part and get a little help then we will have a shot at the end of the season,” he said.

Published 2/08/18

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Wooster Has to Win This One

Mt. Vernon has already clinched a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title and if Wooster, the defending champion, wants any part of it they have to win at Lexington on Friday night.

The Minutemen have the same opportunity, so it is kind of an elimination game if you will.

Wooster (10-5,7-3) beat Madison (72-53) on Tuesday night in an “OCC” game.

Coach Michael Snowbarger says it was defense that turned the trick for them on Tuesday. “We played very well against Madison. We came out with a little bit of a slow start. We let them have 20 points in the first quarter. Tip your hat to Madison, they made some open shots there. In the second quarter we held them to six points and that is more what we need to do. That is what we pride ourselves on. That game (Tuesday) night we played very well. Friday is an extremely important game for us not only for the league, but it is tournament time and you want to continue to play your best, you can’t have any setbacks,” said Stover.

Lexington (14-5,7-3), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, won the first meeting (53-46) on January 9. Snowbarger says this time to have a chance at winning they have to convert the shots they get close to the basket. “We have to make shots. The first time over here I think we ended up being like 31 or 32 percent from inside the paint. You can’t beat a good team like Lexington that does a lot of things good and shoot 32 percent from inside the paint and expect to win. I think we did a good job on the boards. I think that game we had 20 offensive rebounds we just have to convert on that stuff and finish,” he said.

When it comes to defense, Snowbarger says he is concerned with the Minutemen making outside shots. “You have to get a hand up on Ben Vore, the Johnston kid off the bench. If they come in and make shots then they are extremely hard to guard because then you have Cade Stover inside and you have to have a lot of attention there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They are at their best when the Vore kid is shooting it, I think earlier in the year against Madison he made four or five threes in a quarter. Johnston when he comes out hot. When they start making shots then that opens up things for Stover inside and that is really hard to guard as a high school team.”

Published 2/08/18

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Firelands Conference Leaders Play Crestview

After a very good week last week when they won three conference games, South Central has taken over first place in the Firelands Conference.

They beat Western Reserve (63-57) on Tuesday, Mapleton (72-48) on Friday and Plymouth (52-43) on Saturday. Overall, they have won eight of their last nine games.

Coach Brett Seidel is happy, but not satisfied. “I think we are getting better offensively. We kind went back to a few things on Saturday night. Overall offensively I think we are getting there. Defensively, we are still not there yet. I feel like our effort is, but still communication and concepts are still lacking. We still have lots of areas to be better,” he said.

South Central (12-5,10-1) plays at home against Crestview (4-13,3-7) on Friday night in a conference game. The Trojans won the first meeting (77-51) on January 5.

However, Crestview just upset Western Reserve (68-63) in overtime on Saturday night. They followed that up with a win over Bucyrus (68-65) on Monday in non-league action. “Sometimes it is a process. They added a lot of new players to their system. There were a lot of kids who graduated last year and it took them a little while to get going. The last few games they have been playing well. They beat a really good Western team and then beat Bucyrus on Monday,” said Seidel.

Crestview is aggressive on defense and will try and force the action. Seidel says they have to keep their poise. “The film I have seen they are still playing extremely hard and flying around all over the floor and making things a little uncomfortable for you. We have to make sure we are ball tough and keep your poise and take what the defense gives us,” he said.

There and just three games left in the conference for the Trojans. They play at Western Reserve on February 16 and host Norwalk St. Paul on February 23. Seidel says they know what they have to do. “We have talked about it. We have a bull’s eye on our back now. With three games to play in the league every game is important. Every game is a championship game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “If you lose you take that position away from yourself. So, every game is a championship game and that is how we are approaching it.”

The Trojans have an interesting non-conference game on Saturday night as they travel to Edison (11-6) of the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference. Seidel says they Chargers are big and that has been a problem for them. “They have back to back regional appearances. They are having another good year this year. They play a really good schedule. They have two four year big men. Obviously, we don’t match up well with bigs. It is going to be a very big challenge for us to be able to defend them,” he said.

Published 2/08/18

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Mansfield Senior Looking for Revenge Against Ashland

Mansfield Senior trails Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Mt. Vernon by a game and one of their league losses came in overtime last month to Ashland, a team that has won just twice this year.

The rematch comes Friday night at Pete Henry Gym.

After losing to Wooster (65-56) in a league game last Friday night, the Tygers (11-6,7-3), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, were able to bounce back and beat Toledo Scott (54-47) on Saturday afternoon.

Coach Marquis Sykes says this has also been an upbeat week when it comes to practice too. “It wasn’t pretty, but we did come out with the win on Saturday afternoon. It was good to get back on the winning track. It certainly helps with your confidence moving forward. So far this week I have been fairly pleased with out effort in practice and our level of focus. I am expecting our guys to come out this entire weekend ready to play and ready to get rolling into the tournament,” he said.

Ashland (2-15,1-9) beat the Tygers (65-55) in overtime on January 9 at Arrow Arena. Sykes says the Arrows always give them fits whatever their record is at the time. “I really feel like Ashland is better than their record actually shows. You have that sometimes where teams just can’t quite get over the hump and get in that winning column. They are certainly better than their record shows. They always play us tough no matter what their record is. I certainly wouldn’t expect anything less on Friday night. On top of them having success against us earlier in the year I am thinking out guys will come out ready to play and I am sure theirs will as well,” he said.

The Arrows are coming off a (56-48) loss to Mt. Vernon on Tuesday night in conference play.

Ashland has one of the bigger teams in the area this year and Sykes says that gave them problems in the first meeting. He says they have to do a better job of countering that with their speed and quickness. “Their size caused us problems when we played down there and caused a lot of missed shots and forced some turnovers. Certainly, their size affected us. I think we have to use our advantage which is our quickness versus their size,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “This is a bit of a chess match. I think our guys are focused. I think they are looking to kind of avenge what happened earlier, so we will see when we come out Friday.”

Published 2/08/18

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Defense the Difference for Mohawk

Mohawk has had an excellent basketball season. They stand third in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference standings, two games behind co-leaders Colonel Crawford and Upper Sandusky.

They play Upper for a second time next week.

On Thursday night, they play at Wynford and Saturday night they host Seneca East.

Coach Paul Dunn thinks defense and their ability to play fast have been keys to their success this year. “Right now, we are second in the league in defense. We have a lot of guys that have really committed to that side of the basketball. We are getting a lot of deflections, a lot of steals and it is leading to a lot of fast break opportunities. We are definitely at our best when we are in transition. We are lead by some guys that are very active on defense. Zach Haymond in leading the “N10” right now in steals and that has transitioned into about 17 points a game for him. Defense has definitely been a key to our success,” said Dunn.

Mohawk (11-5,9-3) plays at Wynford (7-9,5-7) on Thursday night. The Royals have lost their last three, including a (76-61) setback to Carey on Saturday night. The first time the teams played Mohawk won (49-43) on December 23.

Dunn would like to see this game be played a little bit faster. “I think they did a really good job of dictating the tempo of the game the first time we played. We want to definitely get that game in the 50’s or 60’s. They have some really good players. Josh Crall is leading the “N10” right now in scoring. That has to be our main focus in trying to limit him,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Keep him as under wraps as we can and try to contain their other guys like Cole Heinlen. It was sad to hear that their big guy is going to be out for a while. Hopefully, it can be our advantage to get the ball inside to some of our bigger guys.”

Seneca East (10-6,6-6) nearly upset Colonel Crawford last Saturday, losing (54-50) at their place. Mohawk beat then (57-47) on December 28.

Dunn says they Tigers are big. “They are definitely one of the scarier teams in the league at this time of year. They start 6’4”, 6’4”, 6’5”. When they put it together and are clicking they are one of the tougher teams to defend. Defensively, they are difficult when you have those big guys down there playing they can really cause some problems. It is going to be a big matchup for us. They are in our district for the tournament as well. That is something else we have to look forward to. Hopefully, we won’t have to play those guys three times,” said Dunn.

Published 2/08/18

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Northwestern Plays League Leaders

Northwestern gets a second chance against Wayne County Athletic League leader Waynedale on Friday night and the Huskies are playing a lot better than they were when they played them the first time.

Waynedale belted Northwestern (83-63) on January 6. Huskies coach Mark Alberts Jr. says that was kind of a low point of the season for them. “The first time we just weren’t playing well at that time. I felt like we were just grinding and shooting ourselves in the foot too many times. I think that we made some adjustments, made some changes. I am hoping we are a little more prepared this time to play them. We have a little bit more of an idea of what to expect, definitely. So, hopefully we can be a little better here on Friday night,” said Alberts.

Waynedale (13-5,9-2) is the conference leader by a game over Rittman and Smithville. They did lose to Dalton (62-59) in overtime their last time out on Saturday.

Alberts says they have a lot of skill. “They are very tall. They have some size at different spots in the floor. They have a 6’4” kid that plays everywhere in Derek Reber. He is a talented player. They play really, really fast, they press, they have three or four guys that can shoot from the three point line. I am very impressed with their style and how they have attacked and kind of changed themselves from last year,” he said.

Northwestern (9-9,7-5) has really turned its fortunes around over the last couple of weeks. They beat Hillsdale (64-32) on Friday and Norwayne (72-62) in conference games last week.

The Huskies play at Norwalk (10-7) of the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference on Saturday night. Alberts says when you play a Steve Gray coached team you have to be ready for a lot. “Coach Gray always has them going well. It doesn’t matter what time of the year, he is a heck of a coach. Not just because he won a state title (2014) he has been doing that a lot longer than just winning the state,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday. “You have to be prepared to play them. Haraway is really good. He can score from anywhere. He is a really good defender. They have good size inside. They have some shooters and they run good sets. They play in a good league. They do a lot of different things. It is definitely a fun challenge as you are getting close to tournament time.”

Published 2/08/18

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Norwalk on top in Lake Division; Plays Shelby

Norwalk has fought its way to the top of the Lake Division standings in the Sandusky Bay Conference and they face Shelby on the road Friday and the Whippets are just a game behind.

Actually, Norwalk shares first with Sandusky and Shelby is among three teams, Clyde and Perkins are the others, just a game back.

Norwalk handled Bellevue (54-41) in a Lake Division game last Thursday, but they struggled beat Port Clinton, who has won just once, (52-51) on Saturday.

Coach Steve Gray says they were kind of lucky to win. “Not playing the way we wanted is the understatement of the decade. We jumped out to a 12-3 lead then we coasted and unfortunately our kids could never turn that switch back on,’ he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “If you let a team that is struggling get on a roll he basket seems to get a lot bigger and the ball bounced their way and we were very, vey fortunate to get a win on Saturday.”

Norwalk (10-7,6-3) is at Shelby (11-6,5-4) on Friday night. The Whippets have won three in a row, including a division game (69-62) over Bellevue on Saturday. They had lost four in a row at the end of January. “The big problem with Shelby in January was the teams they were playing. Their schedule was just brutal with Sandusky and St. Pete’s. When you play teams like that you have to be at your best. Shelby had two games in a week, three games in a week. Football kind of put them behind the eight ball a little bit,” said Gray.

It was Shelby that won the first game between the two (42-31) on January 4.

Shelby is athletic, but they have kind a shot bench. Gray says the kids they do play have a lot of skill. “I think Troy (Schwemley) is comfortable with the seven kids that he plays. These kids are 15, 16, 17-years-old, how can they get tired playing just 32 minutes? They have done a great job they are tall, they are athletic, they are talented. It is going to be a great challenge for us on Friday night,” said Gray.

Gray says the Truckers certainly understand the importance of this game and they look forward to that trip to Shelby. “It is the biggest game of the season so far. We just need to play well. We are excited to be in the “SBC” Lake race with a chance to win a championship. If we were able to do it I think it would be just an incredible experience for our kids,” he said.

Norwalk plays host to Northwestern (9-9,) of the Wayne County Athletic League, in a non-conference game on Saturday night. Gray says the Huskies have some great shooters. “Well, they are going to play hard. I saw them play last week and the thing they do really, really well is shoot the ball. They probably made 13, 14 threes last week. They were just unbelievable. If you are not willing to play hard and grind it out for 32 minutes you are in for a whooping,” said Gray.

Published 2/07/18

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Focus Week for Colonel Crawford

Colonel Crawford is tied with Upper Sandusky for the lead in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference standings, but they still have three league games to play before they play Upper Sandusky again, and two of them are this week.

They host Bucyrus on Thursday and Ridgedale on Saturday. These are two teams that have combined for four wins this season, two each, but the Eagles still have to have focus.

They had to rally to beat Seneca East (54-50) last Saturday and coach David Sheldon says they did it with defense. “Credit Seneca East they have gotten a lot better. They are 10-6 overall and they have been playing very well. It was a night when we came out and just didn’t shoot it very well. We were 0-11 on threes in the first half and we were down five. Our guys faced adversity and they did a great job battling back. We hung our hat on our defense giving us a chance. We were able to get a lead in the fourth and spread the floor and got out of there with a win. When you are chasing a league championship you are going to have to grind some games on the road and that was one of those games on Saturday night and our guys found a way to win. We move on and have two league games this week,” said Sheldon.

With Bucyrus and Ridgedale this week it might be easy to look ahead, but Sheldon says their eyes are on the target. “Our focus right now is on Bucyrus on Thursday. They haven’t had a lot of wins, but it is a dangerous team. We went over there the first time and they got off to a great start. We were able to pull away then. It’s a team that shoots the three very well. You are going to have to contain their three point shooters and their drivers in the dribble drive offense. When you are playing for a league championship there is a target on your back. We are going to get their best shot on Thursday night,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They are going to be jacked up coming over here because this is a game that can make their season and we have to come out focused playing one possession at a time. We have to come out with a sense of urgency to begin the game.”

Colonel Crawford (15-3,11-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat Bucyrus (89-64) on January 2. They beat Ridgedale (78-32) on December 29.

With what lies ahead in the regular season and the division four tournament for them, Sheldon says they have to start to pour it on now. “We are fortunate that it is February and we are competing for a league championship and that is where you want to be. This is the first time this group has been there in February. So, that is what we talked about. We have to put the pedal to the metal and come out with urgency every night. We only have four games left and you have to be able to take advantage of being able to play the games. Before you know it, you are going to be done and hopefully our guys have that and they are excited to be playing for a league championship every night coming down the stretch,” said Sheldon.

Published 2/07/18

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New London Starting to Find Some Things

New London has won its last four games and they are showing more depth as they head for the final three weeks of the regular season.

They play at Mapleton in a Firelands Conference game on Friday night and at Black River in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

They had their way with Norwalk St. Paul (60-38) in a conference game on Saturday night.

Coach Tom Howell says they executed their defensive game plan pretty well against the Flyers. “Yeah, we played pretty well. We did a lot of good things. Our game plan going in against St. Paul, coach Smith does a really good job with their big guys, if they were going to beat us they were going to make threes. We were fortunate enough that they didn’t make any threes and we were able to come up with the victory,” said Howell.

In this winning streak they are on, Howell says they have gotten more consistent contributions from their bench and that has made them a better team. “Yeah, we are getting better. We started out 0-3 and since then we are 9-4. I think the biggest thing right now for us is, and it has taken a long time for this this to happen, a lot longer than I thought, we are getting a lot of good play out of our three or four guys coming off the bench,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think the game is starting the slow down for them. They don’t have any varsity experience. It has just taken longer than I thought it would.”

New London (9-7,7-4) plays at Mapleton (3-14,2-9) on Friday night in conference action. The Mounties have won two of their last three, a non-conference win over Hillsdale (58-53) and they beat Monroeville (49-23) in a Firelands Conference game last Saturday. New London won the first meeting between the two (63-46) on January 5.

Howell says they have to go on the road with the right attitude. “I going to tell you something they are playing pretty well. They are pretty athletic kids. They play hard. If you go over there with mindset of looking at their record you are going to get beat,” he said.

Published 2/07/18

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Flames Playing Better on Both Ends

Mansfield Christian has won two of its last three games heading into matchups with Crestline in Mid-Buckeye Conference play on Friday night and Ontario in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Last week, the Flames (12-7,2-6) beat Loudonville (67-63) in overtime in an “MBC” game on Friday and outscored Heritage Christian (83-69) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Coach John Kurtz says they are starting to defend better and that has led to good results. “We are playing a lot better right now. It has been some strange conference games for us this year. We are starting to play a lot better defensively. I thought we have shot the ball better lately. It produced two good wins last weekend. We scored a lot points there on Saturday. So, I think we are headed in the right direction,” he said.

The last time they played Crestline, the Bulldogs won (66-56) on January 5. Crestline (6-10,2-5) also beat Lucas (66-62) a couple of weeks ago. Last Friday, unbeaten Mansfield St. Peter’s drilled them (74-39) in a conference game.

This time, Kurtz says they have got to play better defense. “We have got to defend. We just did not do a good job defensively. We got beat off the dribble, which put us in some bad situations in that game. We got in some foul trouble because of it,’ he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Mainly when we look back on that game we did not think we defended at a high enough level and Crestline took advantage of it rightfully so, that’s what they should do. I hope we can get that shored up and play better defensively.”

Ontario (9-7) comes calling on Saturday night. They lost (64-59) to Bellevue on Tuesday night. Kurtz says this is a very good defensive team they will be facing. “They are really good on ball. I think that is probably what we have seen that they really do a great job of. Their on ball defense is phenomenal. They are big, they still big with Jones inside. So, they present problems for us. They may have lost a few more games this year than in the past, that is still Ontario and that is still a really good team that is very, very well coached. A great program. It is the kind of game that we like before tournament. It is a good challenge for us before we get ready for tournament,” said Kurtz.

Published 2/07/18

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Perkins Tangles With Sandusky

It’s a huge game for both as Sandusky Perkins travels down the street to face Sandusky in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference on Friday night.

Right now, Sandusky and Norwalk lead Shelby, Perkins and Clyde by a game in the boys’ basketball standings.

“I think it is everything everybody thought it would be at the beginning of the year. It is always good to play in very meaningful games towards the end of the season going into the tournament. Just about everybody in the league has a shot at the league title still,” said Perkins coach Scott McVeigh.

Keith Williams is a tremendous guard for the Blue Streaks, and one of the leading scorers in the league, but McVeigh says Sandusky has a couple of other perimeter players that are talented. “Obviously, Keith leads them and he does a nice job on both sides of the ball, but you look at their point guard Staveskie and he does a nice job. He is quick, he can shoot it, he is just a tough guard. He takes care of the basketball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “You look at the Jones kid, another sophomore, probably one of the better shooters in the league. He can drain it. He can put it on the floor a little bit. He is athletic. When you look at Sandusky those three guys are the key. They work well off of each other. They have gotten better as the year has gone on. They are very athletic, very quick, and they like to get up and down.”

McVeigh says normally you don’t get a lot of full court pressure our of the Streaks, but they are all over you in the half court. “They are not so much a get up in your face, full court pressing team when we have played them or anytime I have seen them live or on tape. In the half court they really extend. They will put a lot of ball pressure on your guards and extend on the wings. They do a nice job of getting offense from their defense because of how athletic they are. They get you playing fast. Looking back at the first time we played them we have to take care of the ball. We played an awful first half. We turned it over 24 times and still had a chance to win it baring a tip in. That is the biggest thing we just have to take care of the ball against them,” said McVeigh.

Sandusky beat Perkins (60-59) in overtime in the first game between the two back on January 4 with a tip in at the horn.

McVeigh says they have to be disciplined and make those little plays in order to win. “These kids know each other. We are so close to each other. In the first game they played really well in the first half and we played really well in the second half and overtime. You can’t give many teams three shots at the basket like we did them at the end of overtime. We just have to be disciplined and do the little things better and it should be a heck of a game,” he said.

Published 2/07/18

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Improvement the Key For Wynford

Wynford has been a very streaky team this season and that is somewhat based on their schedule.

They have three and four game winning streaks this season, but they also have a six game losing streak and are currently are on a three game slide.

Coach Jason Engel says they have to keep working. “We just want to keep plugging away and get some wins before heading into the tournament. Try to get a little momentum going forward. We have played some good teams lately. We are going to just have to keep getting better,” he said.

Wynford (7-9,5-7) plays host to Mohawk (11-5,9-3,) the third place team in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference in a conference game on Thursday night. Mohawk is coming off a (69-57) win over Bucyrus. Their only losses in the conference this year come to Colonel Crawford twice and Upper Sandusky.

Engel says they are hard to score against. “They run a really, really good 2-3 zone. It is very affective, that’s their main defense. They have ran it all year and they ran it last year quite a bit. They are good at it. They have some good athletes. They have very active hands and get deflections. They are physical and they play very hard. The Hayman kid has really been playing well for them. Their post player Klopp inside has had a lot of rebounds and some solid games. They have shooters around him, Hammer and Jenkins and they bring Tusing off the bench,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Lacey is probably one of the best three points shooters in our league statistically. So, we have to know where those guys are at and figure out ways to score against their 2-3 zone because that has been a mystery for a lot of teams this year. They have held teams to very low points.”

The tournament draw is Sunday and Engel says a win over Mohawk would be nice to have in their pocket. “They are a good team. We would love to have a big win at home for our seniors. We only have four home games left. We definitely want to gain some speed here and keep working at it and getting better and try and peak here before the tournament. Being in division three in that Norwalk district now. Wow! There are some really good teams in there. We are going to have to improve and take care of ourselves and figure out how to get better,” said Engel.

Published 2/07/18

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Madison has to Attack Wooster Pressure

Madison is at home for the Wooster Generals in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Tuesday night.

The Generals are a team that likes to press and bring a lot of pressure and the Rams must handle that and attack it.

Madison is coming off a (75-51) win over Willard is a non-conference game on Saturday night.

Coach Tim Mergel says they were unselfish with the basketball on Saturday night. “We put up 75 points and out of our 30 some field goals we had 26 assists, so we shared the ball pretty well. It always helps when you shoot well. We had 18 or 19 steals, which led to some transition buckets, which kind of puts kids in an easy kind of mind. All in all, it was a pretty good night for us,” he said.

Mergel adds when you make the extra pass and get everybody involved in the game it makes everybody feel better. “When we make that one extra pass, obviously the shooting percentage is a little bit higher. A night like Saturday where everyone contributed the offense was pretty free flowing. It is a good feeling for a coach, especially going into a tough match up with Wooster,” he said.

Madison (9-7,3-6) plays at home against Wooster (9-5,6-3) on Tuesday night. The Generals are a game behind league leading Mt. Vernon. They beat Mansfield Senior (65-56) last Friday.

Mergel says the Generals are a team than can score in bunches. “You look at the Mansfield Senior game the Blair kid came out on fire and I think he ended up with 27 on the night. If you let him get going it could be a long night for you. For us we kind of held him in check for the first three quarters and then he went on a little run against us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Unfortunately for us we didn’t have enough cushion to hold onto the lead and we didn’t execute down the stretch. It is a team that can come out in spurts on you. You just have to react and kind of punch back when they throw that punch at you.”

In the first game between the two, Wooster didn’t lead until the final minute of the game, but beat the Rams (62-57) on January 5.

Mergel says they have to both handle the ball and make Wooster pay for pressing them. “In the first matchup we had 26 turnovers against them and on the year we are averaging around 12, 13. They are going to amp up the pressure. One thing they do very well is anticipate where the ball is going off the shot and they sneak their hands in and get a rebound and they trap the rebounder as well. So, you have to play strong with the basketball. If the you can play strong with the basketball, there are opportunities that can be had. It is easier said than done. You have to protect the basketball, get your head up the floor and make a strong pass. If you can do those things success is going to find us,” said Mergel.

Published 2/06/18

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Ashland With Three More Tough Ones

Ashland has played as tough a regular season schedule as about anyone in North Central Ohio and that continues this week as they are home for “OCC” leader Mt. Vernon on Tuesday and at Mansfield Senior on Friday, and oh yeah, at unbeaten Mansfield St. Peter’s on Saturday.

One good thing is, the Arrows have tended to play their best against good teams.

Coach Jason Hess says they have been far too inconsistent though. “We have talked about that as a staff. We play to the level of our competition to a certain extent. We can’t quite put a finger on it. We just have really struggled with consistency this year as a whole and individually during games,” he said.

Mt. Vernon (13-5,8-2), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is coming off wins last week over Lexington (67-57) and West Holmes (52-46) in league play.

Hess says they are playing with a lot of confidence right now. “They are playing eight seniors along with a couple of other underclassmen. They brought several talented players back from last year. They got a lot of experience last year. They were a team that finished in the top half of the conference a year ago. They kind of went under the radar a year ago, but they did have some big wins,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They really competed, especially late in the season. They are playing really well right now. They have won 10 out of their last 11. They are definitely playing with a lot of confidence and they are peaking at the right time.”

Hess says the Yellow Jackets will be patient and they play smart too. “They can score in multiple ways. They can score inside and they also shoot the ball exceptionally well. I think the key is try and disrupt them, but that is a lot easier said than done. They do a good job controlling the tempo of the game. They run their offense and they don’t take bad shots. They don’t beat themselves and that is very unusual for a high school basketball team,” he said.

Ashland (2-14,1-8) has one win in the league so far and that was in overtime (65-55) against Mansfield Senior on January 9.

However, Hess knows the assignment on the road on Friday night is going to be tougher. “Mansfield, especially this year, number one is take care of the basketball. They are not a team that is prolific offensively. They have had their offensive struggles as well. When you turn the ball over and it allows them to get easy baskets it makes them a lot more dangerous. The second thing you have to do is you have to rebound. Those are two things we did a decent job of the first time around and we were able to come out on top. I know going over to Pete Henry is a different story than us playing at home,” said Hess.

Published 2/06/18

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Northmor Has Plans

Northmor has the opportunity Friday to win an outright championship in the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference, it would be the first ever for the Golden Knights, but first them must play a very good Lucas team first on Tuesday night.

The Golden Knights put themselves in position with a (67-45) win over Mt. Gilead on Friday night. They also beat East Knox (72-42) last Tuesday.

Coach Zach Ruth says they put their only loss of the season to Mansfield St. Peter’s (67-61) to good use. “We got back on track last week and it started Monday with practice. I took full advantage of that loss against St. Pete’s of getting the kids attention and get back to what we need to do and who we really are. As good as that practice was last Monday, (Monday) you could definitely tell there was a Super Bowl (Sunday) night and no school (Monday.) We kind of struggled to get in a good rhythm at practice and that is kind of not good for me going into a tough Lucas team at their place (Tuesday) night. We will see what we are made of when (Tuesday) rolls around,” said Ruth.

Lucas (10-4) has lost two of its last three, including a (70-66) setback to Loudonville last Saturday.

Ruth says the Cubs have excellent guard play and they have a hardnosed team. “They play basically five guards. They will run kind of a dribble drive. A dribble drive variation of three out and two in or a four out, one in, and sometimes it is five out and zero in. We definitely have the size advantage, but they are not going to be afraid of us. They are going to be bring the ball right at us and driving hard. They all shoot the ball very well too. Lucas just has things rolling up there with last couple of years with the success of football. These kids are winners and they believe they can win and I know they are believing they can knock us off, so we have to be ready for them,” he said.

Northmor (16-1,11-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at Centerburg (4-13,4-8) on Friday night. They beat the Trojans (73-33) on January 5.

Ruth says they want to be greedy on Friday night. “We won our first ever league title last year. We really didn’t care how it happened. Ultimately we did, but we had to share it with Cardington. We felt if we didn’t have some key injuries last year we could have got that outright as well too. That is definitely the goal this year. It is a short term goal winning this thing outright,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We are in position to do that Friday. That puts a little emphasis on that game Friday. I know we beat them by 30-plus the first time we played them, but they are improving and we are playing at their place. We are playing for something. Trust me, we want that to be for us and us only.”

Published 2/06/18

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Three Tough Games For Cubs

Lucas plays three games at home at the “Cub Cave” this week and total losses among those three teams is four, that’s right four.

Northmor (16-1) is there Tuesday, Mansfield St. Peter’s (19-0) on Friday for a Mid-Buckeye Conference game and Clear Fork (14-3) on Saturday.

Coach Taylor Iceman says this is going to be a true test for the Cubs. “We have our hands full this week. We play three really good teams. We just finished up with practice and I told our guys it is a great opportunity for us to see where we are at. We have eight games left, we are kind of behind as far as games go at this point. So, it is a great measuring stick and it is not a horrible time. We are not playing real great right now, but like I said we have eight games left to kind of get right and get ready for the tournament. We will have our draw this Sunday and we have three really good teams. We are just going to try and prepare as well as we can see where we are at,” said Iceman.

Northmor, #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, comes calling on Tuesday night. The Golden Knights clinched no less than a share of the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference title on Friday night with a (67-45) win over Mt. Gilead.

They are three players over 6’5” plus a very athletic point guard. Iceman says they are more concerned about executing well. “Their size is concerning. They are pretty deep. They have a lot of returning starters. A lot of kids we know as we have played them the last few years. We know what we bring. We have to deal with their size and then Demetrious (Johnson) is quick and as good an athlete as there is around. We know them and it is just about going out and executing and not worrying about who we are playing and just kind of worry about us. If we play like we are capable we are capable of beating anybody on any given night. We have also shown we are capable of losing to anybody as well,” he said.

Lucas (10-4,4-4) hosts Mansfield St. Peter’s (19-0,8-0), #1 in our small school poll, on Friday night. In the first meeting, the Spartans won (68-44) on January 5.

Iceman says they have already proven they can compete with the unbeaten Spartans. “That game was kind of deceiving. We came out slow and they jumped on us. We played pretty well for a quarter and a half. Two quarters and we fought back. It was a three point game in the third quarter and we got stagnate and we didn’t play real well. Our offense wasn’t real great and then we let two pretty good players kill us. We have been preaching to our kids that we can play with St. Pete’s. Obviously, they are a very good team. We have been telling them that and then they got to actually go out and see it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “At halftime, we were down I think only five there. We let them get a bucket right at the buzzer. It was big for our kids to come out and see these guys are good. We can compete and we can play with them. That was a while ago. We need to come out and play well against Northmor and be ready to go and just go out and play well. I don’t mind losing, but if we just go out and play hard and play our game we will be in the game.”

Published 2/06/18

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Upper With Two League Games

Upper Sandusky edged Buckeye Central last Saturday (43-39) to keep a share of the Northern 10 Athletic Conference lead. They play Seneca East on Thursday and Bucyrus on Saturday in conference games.

Going in it seemed like a tempo game last Saturday and it was, but not like you would expect. Upper coach Jeff Winslow says they were able to run the floor, but they didn’t make a good percentage of shots and that was due in large part to the play of Buckeye Central. “We actually got it going in our tempo, but we just didn’t put the ball in the basket. One thing they did a really good job of when we were playing fast is they did a good job with their transition defense of not allowing us to get to the rim and get easy ones. I think they didn’t send as many guys to the offensive glass and were really focused on getting guys back and made it a little rough on us. They did a good job of that. I was actually very pleased with the tempo. We were out trapping and got to play fast. We got them to take some quick shots and make turnovers, but we were unable to capitalize on that. A lot of that had to do with them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We were missing two starters going in, we had two starters get hurt, and another starter that was in foul trouble. Our rotation was cut down to about five guys for a couple of quarters. So, that made life rough for us too. We had a lot going against us as well as Buckeye Central doing a very nice job defensively.”

Seneca East (10-6,6-6) plays at Upper on Thursday night. The Tigers nearly pulled an upset of their own against the other co-leader last Saturday, losing the Colonel Crawford (54-50) in conference game.

It was (74-50) Rams the first time the two teams played, but Winslow says the Tigers have really matured since they first played on December 23. “They played really well against Crawford. I watched the film of that. They had their chances to win that and they were up five at halftime. They did some nice things. They have some young kids that have played varsity basketball for over half a season, so they are comfortable. They are 10-6 on the year. They are figuring out how to win with those young kids. We definitely can’t take a team like that lightly they are pretty good. Hopefully, Thursday we are ready to play for that game because I think they will bring their best,” said Winslow.

Upper Sandusky (14-3,10-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at home against Bucyrus (2-14,1-10) on Saturday night. Upper won the first (81-51) on December 28.

Like Seneca East, Winslow believes the Redmen have improved. “They have gotten better from just watching them a few times. It just seems like they aren’t consistent, but they will play well in spurts. They have not been able to put together many games when they play four quarters of basketball. They play really good for a while and they have spurts that will kill them. They have been in a lot of games and played well at times, so as soon as they can learn to put four quarters together they will be pretty tough to beat,” he said.

Published 2/06/18

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More Consistency for St. Paul

Norwalk St. Paul has shown they can be a good team, but they haven’t shown that every night out.

Case and point last week in Firelands Conference play when they beat Crestview (63-46) on Friday and lost to New London (60-38) on Saturday.

Coach Mike Smith says it has been all about offensive execution. “We played very well Friday night, especially in the second half. We shot the ball really well in the third and fourth quarter at Crestview. That just makes a big difference. We are down six at halftime versus New London and we come out in the third quarter and go 2 for 11. We just struggled putting the ball in the basket. I liked their shot selection and when they do that there is only so much they can do defensively and you have to extend pressure and they were able to handle that and they were super from the line, 12 of 14. Credit coach Howell and their kids. Right now, I think we have to get better offensively. We have been solid defensively. I think we have given up 46 points a game, which is pretty good. We get an opportunity to not let that taste last in our mouths all week and get a chance to play a pretty good basketball team right now in Margaretta,’ said Smith.

St. Paul pays a visit to Margaretta of the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference on Tuesday night. The Bears (7-8) had a four game winning streak until a (68-63) loss to division leader Vermilion last Thursday.

Smith says the Polar Bears have some pretty good pieces. “Some of their issues were their best player I not sure there isn’t an agreement for him to not remain on the team. Another one of their key players was not eligible to play. Going into the year they lost two key pieces and along the way that has been a big adjustment for them. I think they have adjusted nicely. They games I have seen, which are the recent games they are very physical. They have got good size. Their games are kind of grind it out types of games. That is kind of how we play a little bit,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They played a good Vermilion team to a five point game on Thursday night and they had won four straight. They are playing with a lot of confidence and they do have some veterans back. They have a really good guard in Nick Liebacher and Bailey Kimberlin, they have been playing since their freshmen year. They have a nice sized post player, a 6’7” freshmen, in the Raifsnider kid and coach Keller does a good job.”

Smith says games like this are going to prepare them for the postseason. “Down the stretch we have quite a few games here to try and make us better and get us tournament tested and that is kind of what we are looking for. These games are hopefully going to be prepare us for the upcoming sectional/district,” he said.

The Flyers (8-7,6-5) play at Western Reserve (11-5,9-2) on Friday night in a conference game. Western is coming off an upset loss to Crestview (68-63) in overtime last Saturday to fall out of a share of first place.

This a game the Roughriders have to win and Smith says they would like nothing more than to play spoiler. “I think it will be a fun game and a good atmosphere. It seems like when we get together there is always a pretty good atmosphere, especially in their place. They are probably feeling the pressure a little bit. There is nothing more that we would like to do than become spoilers. We have both of the league leaders left on our schedule and those games will help us prepare for the tournament. I am looking forward to the challenge of this week and the rest of the season to get better and nothing better than going against good competition. Western has a really nice team and they are always well coached, so we are looking forward to going over there,” said Smith.

Published 2/06/18

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Bellevue Has to Play with More Effort

Bellevue has some good talent on the basketball floor, but in order to produce more wins they have to have more of a consistent effort and they aren’t getting that right now.

They lost (69-62) to Shelby in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference on Saturday night.

However, coach Ed Rich says it was really kind of a blowout. “The score showed that is was pretty close, but to be honest the score doesn’t really tell the whole story. They took it to us. We ended up making a decent run to make it close. I went away from that game feeling like we lost by 20, 25 points. We just didn’t have the effort. We didn’t play very hard and when we did it was just one of those times when it was too late to make up for how we played early. So, it was a rough one for us,” said Rich,

Bellevue has lost six of its last seven, that was after winning six of its first eight. Rich says their woes have been tied to a variety of things as of late. “Unfortunately, every night it is something different. We were really bad defensively on Saturday. Offensively when we score in the 60’s that’s what I like. When we score in the 60’s I believe we should win,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “X’s and O’s wise I don’t think we need to change anything in what we do, it is how hard we play at times. Sometimes we play like we should, hard, talking, moving, and other times we are kind of lackadaisical. When we are in that situation it gets us in trouble.”

Bellevue (7-8) plays at Ontario (9-6) in a non-conference game on Tuesday night. Ontario is coming off a tough loss to Clear Fork (53-48) in overtime in a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game on Saturday night.

Rich says Ontario is always a very good team on defense and this year is no different for the Warriors. “They get up in their normal diamond press and try and get you into some turnovers. In the half court, I am sure they are going to get up on the ball and pressure you and pack it in the paint a little bit. They are tough to score on, especially if you are not running your stuff at game speed they are going to make you pay for it,” he said.

Published 2/06/18

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Sectional Assignments Determined

Sunday, was not just Super Bowl Sunday, but also the stepping off point for the girls’ basketball tournament in Ohio with sectional draw meetings across the state and here is what we know.

Of the schools covered by Swankonsports.com only four of them are division one in Wooster, Ashland and Mt. Vernon and Marion Harding.

Two of the them play each of other as Harding plays at Mt. Vernon on February 17. Ashland takes on Anthony Wayne on February 22 at Oak Harbor High School.

In a couple division two districts with finals at Galion High School and Anthony Wayne High School.

In the Galion district, sectional tournaments are at Bucyrus and Monroeville.

At Bucyrus, Tiffin Columbian plays Mansfield Madison on February 21 with the winner meeting Norwalk, the second seed in the district on February 24. The second game on the 24 features Lexington and Upper Sandusky.

“It is a very talented district. We are happy with our draw,” said Lexington co-coach Heidi Roush.

Up at Monroeville there are two semi finals on February 20 with Vermilion playing Mansfield Senior, the winner plays top seeded Bellevue on February 24, and rivals Willard and Shelby play the second game on the 20 and the winner gets Ontario in the sectional final.

“I thought the sectional/district draw was a pretty traditional draw. Really no surprises this year,” said Bellevue coach Kory Santoro,

“It went as I thought it would,” said Willard coach Jon Dawson, “A lot of good teams. Going to be some very interesting matchups in the sectional. Whoever makes it to Galion will have to earn it for sure.”

“We have a very tough district again this year,” said Shelby coach Natalie Lantz, “There are teams that have had really solid seasons and other capable of peaking at the right time. We play a tough game right off the bat, but is we get a win we have a solid chance at a sectional title and moving on.”

As far as the Anthony Wayne district the sectionals are at Genoa and Toledo Bowsher.

At Bowsher, Wauseon and Toledo Rogers and Clyde and Maumee play semi finals on February 20. The Wauseon-Rogers winner gets Toledo Woodward, meanwhile the Clyde-Maumee winner plays Oak Harbor. The finals are February 24.

In games at Genoa, Sandusky Perkins plays Sandusky in a matchup between “SBC” Lake division teams on February 20. The winner will play Millbury Lake on February 24. In the lower bracket, it’s Port Clinton and Toledo Scott on the 20 with the winner advancing to play Toledo Central Catholic.

Shelby High School is the site of the division three district for the Northwest District schools we cover. The sectionals are at Willard and Lexington High Schools.

At Willard, Bucyrus plays Fostoria on February 20 with winner taking on Seneca East on the 24. The lower bracket semi has Western Reserve meeting Huron and the winner facing off with Galion,

Games at Lexington have Colonel Crawford against Wynford on February 20 with the winner playing Margaretta on the 24 th. The lower bracket at Lexington has two semi finals with Edison playing New London and Crestview facing Clear Fork. Those games are February 21 with the winners playing on February 24.

In the Central District in division three, East Knox plays at Amanda Clearcreek, Northmor at North Union, Fairbanks is Marion Pleasant in first round games. Cardington hosts either Johnstown Northridge and Fredericktown plays the winner of the East Knox-Amanda Clearcreek game.

In division four, at Willard and Liberty-Benton High Schools.

In the Willard districts, the sectionals are at Shelby and Norwalk High Schools.

Semi finals are February 20 and the finals are February 24. The dates are the same for the Norwalk sectional.

At Shelby, Lucas plays Sandusky St. Mary’s in the a upper bracket semi final. The winner of that game plays Norwalk St. Paul in the final. There is no semi final in the lower bracket with South Central and Danbury Lake meet in the final.

In games at Norwalk, Crestline plays Mansfield Christian in the upper bracket semi final with the winner playing the top seed Buckeye Central in the final. In the lower bracket, Mansfield St. Peter’s plays Plymouth and the winner gets Monroeville in the final.

“It was sort of like we thought it would be. Kids worked hard for the number one seed. We have to take care of business with two games left for league championship,” said Buckeye Central coach Greg Moore.

In the Liberty-Benton district, the sectionals are at Hopewell Loudon and Findlay High Schools.

At Hopewell-Loudon, in the upper bracket, New Riegel plays Mohawk on February 21with the winner getting Leipsic. In the lower bracket, Arlington plays Riverdale for the sectional title with no semi final. Finals are on February 24.

At Findlay, semi finals in both brackets are on February 20 with the finals on 24. In the upper bracket, North Baltimore plays Cory-Rawson in the semi with the winner playing Carey. In the lower bracket, it is Vanlue and McComb with the winner advancing to play Arcadia.

 
     
 

Clear Fork Upends Ontario in Overtime

Clear Fork scored the final five points of the game and beat Ontario (53-48) in overtime in a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game on Saturday night at the O-Rena.

The win kept the Colts (15-3,11-0) a game in front of Marion Pleasant, who beat River Valley (73-66) on Saturday night, in the conference race. They play at Les Hauenstein Gym on Friday night. Ontario drops three games back.

It was a high pressure game as both teams played aggressive defense. Clear Fork had 20 turnovers and Ontario had 19.

Clear Fork coach Steve Bechtel says the Warriors play so well on defense it is had to execute against them, but they did okay considering the magnitude of the situation. “The full court pressure we did a pretty good job with it. We had trouble getting the ball inbounds occasionally and that is something that we are really going to have to make sure we do a better job the next time we see them,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “Their defensive pressure just in the half court is really good. I mean they are solid. We had to work for every possession. I am proud of the guys with the way they persevered the tough times. We had a lead and blew the lead and had to battle back.

Jayden Jacobs tied the game (48-48) with a twisting layup off the left block with :44 seconds to go in overtime, but the Colts took it right down the floor and Chance Barnett scored the go ahead basket from the right baseline with :32 seconds left. “He had quite a few big shots (Saturday) night. We were fortunate that when we missed a couple of free throws down the stretch that it didn’t come back and bite us. Chance really stepped up big on the offensive end. He did a great job on Logan Jones as well,” said Bechtel.

Ryan South sealed the game by bagging three of four free three throws in the final 13 seconds.

Ontario took its first lead since it was (4-2) on Griffin Shaver’s driving layup (46-45) with 1:20 left in regulation. South tied the game by making one of the two free throws with 26 seconds left in regulation.

“We just didn’t get the one or two plays that we needed to win the game. Give Clear Fork a lot of credit that they hung in and were able to make the play and we didn’t. We are in a situation where you have to keep fighting,” said Ontario coach Joe Balogh.

Ontario mad just 35 percent of its field goal attempts. Offensive execution is something that has plagued the Warriors this year.

Clear Fork lead (26-17) at halftime. Barnett scored the first three field goals of the third quarter for the Colts, but Bechtel says it was not their plan coming out of halftime to try and get him the ball specifically. “We just wanted to move the basketball. We wanted to find the open guy and he just happened to be there in the second half. We were able to get it to Chance and they were able to get it to Logan trying the get the foul on the other big guy, that would have been a huge advantage. It was fortunate the ball ended up in Chance’s hands and he was able to score it,” said Bechtel.

Barnett led Clear Fork with 20 points, South had 12. Shaver had 13 for Ontario, Logan Jones added 11.

The loss drops Ontario (9-6,8-3) three games back in the league race with three games to play. “It will be difficult for us to get back in the league championship race, but I think we are a team that can help decide who is going to win it. That is kind of where we are,” said Balogh.

They play at Pleasant February 15 and at Clear Fork February 20.

Clear Fork and Ontario have played every year since the early 60’s and Bechtel knows anytime you beat Ontario it’s a big win. “It is huge just because it was Ontario. They have set the standard so high here in the area with Joe and all the success that he has had. We look forward to the challenge every time we play them. Hopefully, it is going to be a great rivalry,” he said.

Published 2/03/18

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Tygers Have to Handle Pressure

Mansfield Senior shares the Ohio Cardinal Conference lead with Mt. Vernon entering play on Friday night.

The Tygers (10-5,7-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, play at Wooster (8-5,5-3) in the “OCC” on Friday night. The Generals are just a game back. Mt. Vernon, who is tied with Mansfield Senior, plays at West Holmes.

Last Friday, Mt. Vernon beat Mansfield Senior (50-48) and Tygers coach Marquis Sykes says its came down to making plays at the end and the Yellow Jackets just made more. “That is part of the game. It was a few plays down at the end. A flukey missed box out that we had, an over the back call, turnover here, turnover here, a missed free throw here, missed layup, and before you know it the Tygers lose. I do think we learned something when we watched the film. We kind of saw some of our mistakes down the stretch. Hopefully, we will grow from it,” he said.

Mansfield Senior beat Dublin Jerome in a non-conference game (68-66) in overtime on Tuesday night. Sykes says it was a win they needed. “We are really excited about that win. I think it was a quality opponent in Dublin Jerome. They had some really solid ballplayers. It was a well coached team. They are actually pretty big. A 6’8” in the starting lineup, a couple of 6’6” kids coming off the bench. We were able to kind of speed them up and get them out of some things that they traditionally do and we were able to come out with a win,” said Sykes.

Wooster is coming off a rare week off in the middle of the season. They lost to Mansfield Senior (55-47) on December 29 in their first game.

The Generals are shooting less than 25 percent from the three point line. Both teams force a lot of turnovers. Sykes says which team handles that pressure best is going to come out on top. “They usually shoot it a little better at home. We are hoping that obviously they don’t come out and shoot the lights out. We know that they are going to play extremely hard. We know they are going to try and force some turnovers,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It will be a major emphasis on us kind of handing their pressure, valuing each possession, and also us being able to cause some turnovers and come right back with of our pressure and at the same time make some baskets. It seems like we kind of mirror each other with some of the same struggles this year as far as being able to score the basketball. I expect nothing, but a dogfight.”

Published 2/02/18

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Northmor Going for Title

Northmor is a step away from claiming no less than a share of the boys’ basketball title in the “KMAC.” They need a win at home against Mt. Gilead on Friday night.

After losing their first game of the season to unbeaten Mansfield St. Peter’s (67-61) on Saturday, the Golden Knights came back to beat East Knox (72-42) in a conference game on Tuesday night.

Coach Zach Ruth says their execution was a solid against East Knox. “We had been riding a 22 game straight regular season winning streak, four of my starters have been. We have talked about when you do something like that you are in an elite group. You always talk about when something is not broke don’t try and fix it. I always feel that us as coaches when things are going good for you sometimes it is hard to coach in those situations, but when you lose us can use that okay this is what we need to work on. That is all we did Monday. Some of our weaknesses got exposed. Some of my weaknesses got exposed as a coach. We just sat down and hatched everything out. This is like perfect timing. We put it all together down at East Knox on Tuesday night and jumped right back to who we are and what we do,” said Ruth.

Ruth says they have been working on making sure the kids understand what has gotten them to this point. “When you go 6’8”, 6’7” and the colleges are really excited about some of my boys and what their potential is. The conversation you have with some of them is I know that is what they are wanting from you, but this is what we need from you while you are here,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It has been exciting, nothing major, but just getting back to who we are. Running our half court sets, pounding into the paint and that opens everything up. It is just like football. The runs sets up the pass. We feel like if we can get paint touches that is when our three balls start falling and when we are playing defense that is when our transition kicks in.”

Northmor (15-1,10-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, play host to Mt. Gilead (8-9,6-5) on Friday night. The Golden Knights won (66-51) on December 22.

Ruth says this is an important game for them in a couple of ways. “There is a lot at stake, Northmor and Mt. Gilead used to be a big rivalry, and it still kind of is. We will be playing in front of a sold out gym. We are probably the only team in the area that (Friday) in senior night. (Friday) is our last home game of the year. Of course, we are blessed with the central district that if we continue to hold our ground we should be able to host one and hopefully two tournament games, but (Friday) is the last scheduled game. If we win that game we are guaranteed at least a share of the first “KMACK” title. Last year, we won the school’s first ever league title and to be able to back it up. So, Mt. Gilead is setting there saying we could take all of this away from them and that is good locker room material right there to get kids fired up,” said Ruth.

Published 2/02/18

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Wooster Has to Make Shots

Wooster has had a couple of weeks to prepare for their home game against Ohio Cardinal Conference co-leader Mansfield Senior on Friday night, we will see how well that works.

Due to a quirk in the schedule Wooster did not play a game last week.

Coach Michael Snowbarger says he feels they have done a good job working on things that are going to make them better. “This week we have had a very good practice. A lot of times what you see in practice, you see a little bit differently on game night. I like where our kids are with their excitement, their enthusiasm in practice. They are excited to get after it and play somebody else. We will see (Friday) night against a very talented Mansfield Senior team,” he said.

Wooster (8-5,5-3) entertains Mansfield Senior (10-5,7-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, in an “OCC” game. The Tygers lost to (50-48) to Mt. Vernon last week, giving up sole possession of the conference lead. However, the Tygers beat Dublin Jerome (68-66) in overtime on Tuesday night in a non-conference game.

Snowbarger says they must keep Mansfield Senior out of the lane or it is going to be a long night. “They are very athletic, they are very quick. They have some great athletes. When we went over there they actually had a couple kids come off the bench and knock down some perimeter shots. When you have that athleticism, that speed, that quickness, and then you combined it with making outside shots that is a tough team to matchup against in high school basketball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “So, we have to limit their open looks, but that the same time we have to prevent them from getting to the paint. If they live in the paint, we are going to struggle.”

Mansfield Senior beat Wooster (55-47) on January 29 in their first meeting at Pete Henry Gym.

Wooster’s biggest concern this season has been shooting. Snowbarger says they have to make some jump shots and they have to be better free throw shooters too. “We are going to have to shoot it. Against Mansfield Senior the first time around wasn’t the only game we have struggled shooting. I think right now we are at 24 percent from three. I think we are 57 percent from the line as a team. Not great, but we have to find it. I think over the last couple of weeks our kids have been making some shots in practice, but again you have to translate to the game,” said Snowbarger.

Published 2/02/18

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Upper Has to Play it Faster

Upper Sandusky shares first place in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference with Colonel Crawford and the showdown is in three weeks, but there is a lot of basketball to be played yet.

Saturday night, the Rams (13-3,9-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, play at Buckeye Central against the improving Bucks.

Buckeye beat Ridgedale (80-50) last Saturday and Upper coach Jeff Winslow says they know the Bucks will be ready for them. “This is going to be a huge test. Phil Loy does such a good job with his group. He also makes whether he is undermaned or he is the better team he is going to keep his team in the game. He does a good job against us slowing the pace down. We know when we go over the Buckeye Central we are going to have a battle. This is a huge game we have to take one game at a time,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You can’t look down the road too many games or to the tournament. You have to do it one at a time. This a grind now that you are playing teams a second time and they know you so well. We have been in the league together for a while, so Phil knows us so well. It will be a test for us.”

Max Loy scored 45 points in the win against Ridgedale last Friday and Winslow says they are going to be very fundamental on defense if the they are going to contain him. “He is playing really well. He got 25 the game before against Galion, so he is playing really good basketball. He is playing with confidence. He is shooting it well. The thing about him is he is a taller kid that can post up, he can take you off the bounce, he can shoot the three, he is super unselfish with it. He finds the open guy. There is no easy way to guard him. You have to be sound defensively to guard him. The way he is playing right now we are going to have our hands full. It will be a nice test for us Saturday when we go over to Buckeye.” He said.

Upper won the first meeting between the two (68-63) in December.

Tempo is going to likely be a factor in this game because Buckeye Central (4-12,4-7) doesn’t like to run much. Winslow says they want to play faster and they have make that tempo become a reality. “It is no secret that we like to play at a fast pace and in the recent past they have done a good job of slowing us down a little bit. We have some things in mind here to try and speed the game up a little bit. If they get in a slow down game they are really good at it. They make you sit and guard and what that does is limit your fast break opportunities. Hopefully, we can speed them up a little bit and go at our pace. The last game that we played them the game was at their pace too much. We have to make sure to put that is our favor this time,” said Winslow.

Published 2/02/18

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Ashland Building Toward the End

Ashland is still finding it hard to win games, but its execution has started to be a lot better.

They play at Lexington is an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

Over the last week, the Arrows beat Orrville (56-47) and lost close games to West Holmes (64-63) and Massillon (61-59) on Tuesday.

Coach Jason Hess says they were able to take those games down to the final plays. “We did pick up the win at Orrville, which was nice, a little boost for our guys. Saturday was one of those games when we didn’t play our best and had a couple of spells defensively where we kind of were noncommitted I would say. I didn’t feel like the effort was really strong defensively for stretches of the game, but yet we made a lot of plays down the stretch and had a one-point lead with 2.1 seconds left, however, the ball didn’t bounce our way and West Holmes was able to make a shot at the buzzer and get the victory. I liked the way our kids executed down the stretch. It was a similar situation Tuesday night. I thought we did a nice job with Massillon. I thought Tuesday might have been our best overall game of the season, however, they had the ball last and hit a shot with two seconds left. That is the way the game goes. Unfortunately for us we have nothing to show for our effort Tuesday, but I thought we really play a nice ballgame,” said Hess.

The wins might not be as plentiful as they, but Hess likes what he sees in terms of execution, especially when it comes to ballhandling. “We have shown great improvement, especially recently, again I thought Tuesday was our best overall game of the year. Offensively, we executed really well against a tough Massillon team. We are right there battling back and forth. It was a good game basketball wise with lots of lead changes. It was clean basketball with very few turnovers, so that is another area that we have really improved this year. I know early on in a couple of games we had 25 plus turnovers. Tuesday night with Massillon we had seven and that is a team that pressures, is athletic, and is all over the floor,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have got a lot of things that we have to be proud about and the improvement that was have made, but we aren’t getting victories just yet. There is still a lot of basketball yet to play. The kids have been tremendous attitude wise and continuing to work to get better each day. Good things are still ahead of us I think.”

Ashland (2-13,1-7) plays at Lexington (12-5,5-3) on Friday night. The Minutemen fell out of a share of the “OCC” lead with a (67-57) loss at Mt. Vernon on Tuesday night.

Hess says Lexington makes you execute on offense in order to score. “They are very good at half court defense and making those games just grind them out games. There are no easy points. I think points are definitely going to be at a premium and it is one of those things we have kind of been emphasizing the last few weeks is taking care of the basketball. I think our kids are starting to realize, especially with the two tough losses here lately that every possession matters, even if it is a first quarter possession, it may not get quite the attention that the last minute of the game possessions get, but in two point basketball games or one point basketball games every possession matters, every free throw matters and we are starting to realize how important each of those are,” he said.

Published 2/02/18

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First Place Clear Fork Takes Act to Galion and Ontario

Clear Fork continues to be unbeaten in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference this season and they lead Pleasant by a game and Ontario by two in the standings.

They play at Galion in an “MOAC” game on Thursday night and at new arch rival Ontario on Saturday night, it will be the first meeting of the season between the Colts and Warriors.

Clear Fork beat Marion Harding (58-48) on Tuesday night to maintain that lead. Coach Steven Bechtel says it wasn’t their best performance of the season, but it was good enough for a win. “We survived. We didn’t play our greatest and we knew it. We were a little tired, a little sluggish. You have to give Marion Harding credit they came in and were fired up and they gave us everything that they had. We had to really scratch and claw there for a while to maintain that 10-point victory,” said Bechtel.

Chance Barnett is the second leading scorer in the “MOAC,” but Bechtel says when they get other players stepping up and making in plays is when they are really good. “When we get that second or even third scorer to really step up and that has been really key for us this year and it has been a different guy on a lot of different nights. We are not sure every night what guy is going to step up. We really like that support and it takes a little load of Chance too,” he said.

Clear Fork (13-3,9-0) plays at Galion (6-10,3-7) on Thursday night. Galion took once beaten Northmor to end last week before losing (69-65) by four in a non-conference game.

It was a (67-47) Clear Fork win in the first meeting December 21 when the Tigers were plagued by turnovers. Bechtel says they are clearly a better team now. “They are a solid basketball team. Obviously, the Alsip kid he can score with the best of them. They are athletic. They have got some size. They are doing a lot of different things. They are pressing more now, so we are going to have to make sure we are steady and sharp and focused when we go over there (Thursday) night,” he said.

Clear Fork and Ontario have played every year since the early 60’s and were in the Johnny Appleseed Conference together for nearly 20 years.

Ontario lost both of its league games last week to Buckeye Valley (46-42) and Pleasant (53-48) to fall out of a share of first with the Colts. However, Bechtel feels they are still a very good team. “They continue to just be solid. They don’t do anything flashy or anything that way, but they are solid offensively. They move the basketball well. They find the open guy,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Defensively, they are just very, very good. We are going to have to be sharp on Saturday when we have to go over there and execute against their solid defense.”

Published 2/01/18

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Norwalk Faces Rival Bellevue

Norwalk has won its last five games and six of its last eight and that has put the Truckers in second place in the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division, just a game behind Sandusky.

Norwalk (8-7,5-3) plays at Bellevue in a Lake Division game on Thursday night.

There has been a lot of talk about guard Brandon Haraway and with good reason, but coach Steve Gray says there are a lot of other reasons they have been playing well lately. “For the most part they have done a great job. We have a freshman Garrett Chapain that is about 6’3” that just seems to be getting better and better. He didn’t play very well Saturday, for an example, against Huron, but he gets nine of 10 rebounds and blocks a couple of shots. Kyler Lacey, 6’5” sophomore, defensively he is getting really good and his offense is catching up every week. We have a nice inside game with two young players,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Then we have Andrew Ehrenberg and he is shooting 53 percent from the three and is leading the “SBC” and he is doing a great job. Eric Hall guards everybody from 5’8” to 6’5”, he is our defensive stopper and he is a good rebounder and he is finishing inside. Then Matt Neuberger sort of makes our team go in terms of the pressure he puts on the opposing team’s point guard and the pace that he plays with. I think we have a really good seven man rotation and Brandon (Haraway) in the ring leader.”

Bellevue (7-6,3-4) maybe without its leading scorer Trey Ruhlman on Thursday night and if they are Gray says they will miss him. “He is a really good player. He plays the game the right way. He is quick off the bounce. He can elevate over smaller defenders. If you are averaging 20 points a game and everybody is gearing their defense toward you, you have to be pretty special,” he said.

Sandusky leads the Lake Division standings, but six of the seven teams are very good this year. Gray says there is a lot of depth in this division this year and you have to play well to win. “I think our league this year is really good. I think Sandusky right now is a little better than everybody else. We have Clyde that is fifth I think in our division and they are a really, really good team as Shelby found out last week. They have a post that can step out and make threes. They pressure, they are physical, they are athletic. We are talking about the fifth place team in our league right now. Great balance and individually we have some great players and I think we have really good coaching,” said Gray.

Published 2/01/18

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Eagles Intend to Hold onto First Place

Colonel Crawford is tied with Upper Sandusky for first place in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference and they play in three weeks, but there is business take care of first for the Eagles.

They play their final non-league game of the year at home Thursday against Sandusky Bay Conference River Division Leader New Riegel and they travel to Seneca East for a league game Saturday.

Last Saturday, they beat Wynford (65-46) on Saturday and coach David Sheldon says they were able to break things open in the second half with defense and their transition offense. “It is always tough playing people the second time around when you win easy the first time. Just credit Wynford, they hung around early and then we were able to get out in transition and get some easy baskets and steals off our press and were able to turn up the heat a little bit. It was a good win to win by 19. Now, it is time to turn the page and move onto this week,” he said.

New Riegel (10-4) took the River Division lead with a (56-53) win over Fremont St. Joe on Tuesday night.

Sheldon says the Blue Jackets have a tough guard in the post and they always play with intensity. “They are in first place in that River Division. They are 10-4 overall. This is always a great game year in and year out. They have the Dryfuse kid, who is a really nice player, 6’5”, can go inside, can go outside, he is a very good player. The thing about New Riegel kids in they always play so hard. We know this is going to be a tough game, a great non-league game. It is the last non-league game of the year and then we close out with all league games. “The thing about this big guy is he can go out on the perimeter and he can put it on the floor too” said Sheldon.

Sheldon is also the athletic director at Colonel Crawford and he says their schedule is set up this way for a reason. “You look at some of our non-league games. You have Mansfield Christian and they have double figure wins, Northmor, the season they are having, Lexington, double figure wins, Northwestern, and this is another of the non-league games on our schedule that I think helps you come tournament time. It will be a great test for us Thursday night,” he said.

Colonel Crawford (13-3,10-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at Seneca East (10-5,6-5) on Saturday night. The Tigers have won four in a row, including a (41-36) over Tiffin Calvert on Tuesday.

Sheldon says the Tigers will be inspired to play them. “With one day of prep on Friday. Seneca East is 10-5 and they have won four in a row. They are playing a lot better than they were at the beginning of the year and we have to go on the road to Seneca East. When you get to February where we are at now we are still playing for a league championship and some teams aren’t. A win versus us can make some people’s seasons,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We have to make sure we bring it because there is a target on our backs and we are still in the hunt for a league championship. That is where you want to be come February.”

Published 2/01/18

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Pleasant With Business to do

Pleasant is right in the middle of the race in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference race, a game behind Clear Fork, and they have two tests this week.

The Spartans play at Buckeye Valley on Thursday and home against rival River Valley on Saturday.

They hung onto second place with a (53-48) win at Ontario on Saturday night.

Coach Ben Snively thought they were able to handle the Warriors pressure defense pretty well. “It was a very good win for us anytime you can go on the road against a program like that and come away with a win it is a very key win for us. Their point guard was out that night and that hurt them a little bit. He hit his head the last play against Buckeye Valley the night before. Both of us were coming off games on Friday night and the kids might have been a little fatigued and things. They ran a diamond press against us all night and we only ended up with seven or eight turnovers. I think that was the key even with our point guard getting into some four trouble there our other guards were able to handle that a little bit. We got some easy baskets off of it. It was just a back and forth game the entire night and in the end, we were able to make a few more plays than them and we got the victory,” said Snively.

Pleasant (13-3,9-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at Buckeye Valley (4-12,3-7) on Thursday night. The Barons beat Ontario (46-42) last weekend too and Heath (52-40) in a non conference game on Tuesday.

Snively hopes their experience pays off on Thursday night. “This is a team we have been in the league with since the beginning of the “MOAC” back in the early 90’s. It has always been a tough game for us. You have the Ontario and Clear Fork games and we still have both of them left and they are going to be big games, bit without these games against “BV” and River Valley it could really set us back,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They are playing better basketball now. They have some young kids. We went and watched them (Tuesday) night. They have three sophomores starting. Hopefully, our experience can help us out there. My first couple of years coaching was around the time coach (Andy) Gast was a player, so I know coach Gast really well. They always play hardnosed defense and they will shoot the threes. So, anytime they catch fire you could be in trouble.”

Pleasant and River Valley are longtime rivals. The Spartans won the first time (67-47,) but Snively says it likely will be a better game on Saturday. “River Valley is our biggest rivalry game. I feel better about that one just because it is at home. I think early in the year they were trying to do a little more pressing and giving up some easy layups. They have since become more disciplined with the ball. The first time we played them we were down one or two at halftime and their kids play extremely hard. I think coach (Barry) Eagan is doing a nice job getting them to play hard. Teams can go one way or another at the end of the year and they are still really competing. This is a throw the records out the window for us in this game no matter what your record is River Valley-Pleasant is always going to be a battle to the very end,” said Snively.

Published 2/01/18

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Shelby has to Learn From Mistakes

Shelby lost two more games last week that they could have won, something that has been consistent with the Whippets over the last couple of weeks.

Shelby plays at Wynford in a non-conference game on Thursday night and at Bellevue in a Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division on Saturday night.

They lost to Clyde (68-57) in a Lake Division game last Friday and (45-41) to Lexington on Saturday.

Coach Troy Schwemley says last week sounds like a broken record and they have to press some new groves. “I watched the film and sometimes you need a break. I know that there are times when you make your own breaks and you have to make things happen, but then there are times that you need a break. There were times in both games where we take the lead in the fourth quarter and battle back from deficit and on the next possession the other teams hit those shots that are maybe a 50 percent and they miss it then we have a chance at a rebound and maybe get the possession. When I am stating those games and watching them it seems every time right now when another team has a shot we are just not catching any breaks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “There are things we have to do better you just can’t set there and hope for other teams to make mistakes or things like that. We have to do some things better and take care of the ball and help ourselves out a little more. There have been sometimes when it seems we can’t catch a break.”

Shelby plays at Wynford (7-7) in a non-conference game on Thursday. The Royals had won four straight until a (65-46) loss to Colonel Crawford last Saturday. Schwemley says it is time to start winning. “It is two teams just trying to right the ship and find a way to win. We have lost four games in a row here where we battled and had the lead at some point in the fourth quarter and they are in the same situation just trying to find some success. We are a little above .500 and they are at .500. It is teams trying to play well at the right time of year. For us that is our approach right now respecting the talent they have. We know we are going to have to go over there and play hard and no one is just going to give us anything at this point, we have to take it and hopefully we can do that Thursday night,” he said.

Shelby (8-6,4-4) plays at Bellevue (7-6,3-4) on Saturday night in a Lake Division game. Bellevue beat Shelby (56-55) on December 29. Schwemley says that is the kind of game they have to start winning. “I look back at that game and that was kind of a game where I felt we let one get away. We had a six, seven point lead and some things all went wrong in the fourth quarter and those were mistakes that we made and they capitalized on it and made some shots down the stretch. We had some opportunities in that one. We made some mistakes that ended up biting us. Going there on Saturday night we realize we can’t fall back any more in the league. We know it is kind of an outside shot now. It has been a league where teams have been beating up on each other. The only thing we can control is how do we play. We have to go to Bellevue on Saturday night and fix some of those things we have talked about and learn how to win again. I think it is a game that we can do that, but we have to play for four quarters and the guys have to make plays down the stretch and learn from the mistakes that have cost us like in that Bellevue game,” said Schwemley.

Published 2/01/18

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Vermilion Keeps Moving

“SBC” Bay Division leader Vermilion plays Margaretta in a division game on Thursday night.

They play host to the Margaretta Polar Bears in a division game on Thursday night. They travel to Perkins of the Lake Division on Saturday night.

Tuesday night, they dismantled longtime rival Oberlin Firelands (70-32) in a non-conference game.

Coach Kurt Habermehl says their defense was very good. “They were outstanding (Tuesday) night. I was extremely happy with their defensive intensity. They forced them into a ton of turnovers and they created those turnovers into easy baskets. It is always nice to come out strong like that. After we were down 9-5 we went on a 36-4 run, which obviously you will take in any game,” he said.

Habermehl says they have the kind of team this year that can go on those long runs. “It kind like snowballed and it is hard to stop for the other team when something like that happens. I have been in those situations on the other end. It seems like every shot the other team is taking is going in,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It makes the team press a little harder and probably make a few more mistakes than they normally would. It was a situation (Tuesday) night when we happened to be on the good end of that. Credit my kids for turning a lot of those turnovers into points.”

Vermilion (12-2,9-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at home against Margaretta (7-7,4-4) on Thursday night. The Bears have won four in a row, including a division win over Willard (54-51) last Friday.

The Sailors won the first game between the two (63-47) on December 29.

Habermehl says the Polar Bears have become a good team again. “They have a ton of talent. Their starting five is probably as good as anybody in the conference. They just went through a couple of rough patches there. They are a really good basketball team. They have great size. They have a great little point guard that leads them. We are fully expecting a really good basketball game (Thursday) night,” he said.

Vermilion and Perkins were two of the schools that shared the Lake Division title last year before the reconfiguration, so Habermehl is well aware of the Pirates. He says they have players all over the floor. “It starts with Scott McVeigh, he is just a tremendous coach. He always gets a lot out of his kids. They have very good size in Hunter Wheeler and another 6’5”, 6’6” coming off the bench. They have a nice guard in the Grude kid and the Voight kid is a keck of a player too. We know that along with Bennett McCune they are going to be able to score some points and going to be able to do some really good things. Playing at their place is always a tough venue to play at. We expect it to be a very good basketball game on Saturday night,” said Habermehl.

Published 2/01/18

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New London Headed in the Right Direction

New London won a non-conference game on Tuesday night and they play a pair of Firelands Conference games this weekend, home against Monroeville on Friday and at Norwalk St. Paul on Saturday.

The Wildcats beat Lutheran West (62-52) on Tuesday night.

Coach Tom Howell says they played very well, especially in handling the press. “I thought it was a good win for us. They are a very athletic team. They press full court the whole game either man or a diamond, and we only had eight turnovers. We handled their press pretty well. We got some easy baskets,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We took our time getting it over half court, but once we got it over we did a good job of attacking. I thought that was the key.”

Howell hopes they can start to put some things together more consistently. “We are going through the fun part of the year down through the tail end of it getting ready for tournament time. I thought we played pretty well (Tuesday) night and hopefully we can build off that and get something going here,” he said.

New London (7-7,5-4) plays at home against Monroeville (1-14,0-8) on Friday night. The Eagles have not won since the first week of December. New London beat them (57-24) in their first meeting.

Howell says their focus has to be on how they are playing. “I am not saying the Firelands Conference is all said and done yet. We have a real outside chance. We are on the outside looking in so to speak. We want to get some momentum going. Beat some teams down the stretch and if we get some help you never know. Friday night is Monroeville and they have struggled. Not being ready to play you don’t want to put yourself in that situation,” said Howell.

They trail South Central and Western Reserve by three games with five to play.

On Saturday night, they play at Norwalk St. Paul (7-6,5-4) in a conference game. The Wildcats won the first game (55-53) in December. Howell says the Flyers might be the most athletic team in the conference. “St. Paul is scary. Their height is the main thing that concerns me and their athleticism. We are not very big. They are very big and they can move, they can run, they can jump, they can get up down the floor pretty well. It was a two point game the first time we played them and I expect another tough one,” he said.

Published 2/01/18

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South Central Moves into Share of First

 

South Central outscored Western Reserve (8-0) over the final 1:23 of the game and they beat the Roughriders (63-57) in a Firelands Conference game played at a packed South Central gym on Tuesday night.

The win moved South Central (10-5,8-1) into a share of first place in the conference with Western.

Down (57-55) South Central sophomore Simon Blair connected on a three pointer between the top of the circle and left wing to give the Trojans a (58-57) lead with 1:23 to play. Then South Central stripped the ball away and Blair came charging down the right side of the court and found a wide open Ben Lamoreaux streaking to the hoop with an excellent pass and Lamoreaux put it in, got fouled, and converted the free throw to put South Central a (61-57) lead with :53 seconds to play. Lamoreaux would add another basket with :17 seconds to provide the final margin.

There were seven lead changes and three ties in the deciding fourth quarter.

“They had kids hitting shots, we had kids hitting shots. We just responded back and forth. At the very end of the game I thought we were fortunate to find Ben down the floor for the and one and that closed it out. It speaks highly of our process and our progress right now,” said South Central coach Brett Seidel.

Western Reserve had as big as an eight point (30-22) with 1:45 left in the first half after a goal by Pierce Livermore.

However, coach Chris Sheldon says they couldn’t execute on offense when they needed to the most in the final couple of minutes. “They made (the plays) and we didn’t. “Hoodie” and “Smitty” tried to carry us. They just happened to make one or two more than we did and that was the difference in the game. You knew (Tuesday) night had a chance to be a special basketball game and it sure showed up to be one of those,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “It is just unfortunate in a couple of our last possessions offensively we didn’t execute down the stretch in even what we were trying to do. Those show up in a high school basketball game in a close ball game in a game like that and that magnitude.”

Blair had 21 for South Central and Lamoreaux added 19.

Brayden Hood led everybody with 26, including eight three pointers, for Western. Dale Smith added 12. Aiden Markley, one the Roughriders leading scorers was held to only two points and that came in the first 1:30 of the game.

After taking the lead late, Seidel says they got some big defensive stops too. “We got a block, we came up with two loose balls and didn’t give them a chance to get off another three. It was a total team effort. I’m grateful to be part of it, it was a fun ballgame,” he said.

The Trojans were a different team in the second half. Even Legg made some plays too, including eight points in the third quarter. He gave the Trojans there first lead of the second half with a three from the left wing with 4:42 to play in the quarter. “I thought Evan Legg stepped up. I the first half he looked really hesitant and almost scared, this we a pretty nice atmosphere. I thought in the second half Legg really stepped,” said Seidel.

Western took a (49-46) lead on Hood’s three with 6:39 left in the game, but gave it back (50-49) when Blair poured in a three with 5:52 remaining.

Sheldon says the Riders (10-4,8-1) still have part of the lead. “Without a doubt, we still control our own destiny …. You know…. There is nothing we can do to change (Tuesday) night’s outcome. The only thing we can do is get ready for another tough one on Friday and we have to really learn from this,” he said.

Western plays Plymouth on Friday and Crestview on Saturday in conference games.

South Central’s weekend has Mapleton Friday and Plymouth Saturday.

Seidel says, obviously, it was a big win for them. “It was to protect home court. It was officiated like a tournament game. It was a physical game. That’s what we like, and I know they would rather play that way as well. Just allow the kids to decide it and man where they were making plays. We are fortunate to be on top,” he said.

These two teams meet again at Western on February 16.

Published 1/30/18

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Ontario Must Turn the Corner

Ontario fell out of a share of first place in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference with losses last week to Buckeye Valley and Marion Pleasant and they need to get back on track.

They play at River Valley on Thursday and host “MOAC” leader Clear Fork on Saturday.

Buckeye Valley upset the Warriors (46-42) last Friday and Pleasant knocked them back into third place (53-48) on Saturday.

Coach Joe Balogh says they just had too many turnovers to win games. “We just turned the basketball over too much. We had 19 turnovers in both games. You are not going to beat good teams turning the ball over that many times. Saturday, we turned it over 19 and Pleasant turns it over only seven. That is a difference of 12 possessions there and we can’t afford to do that. The good thing is we were in both games right down to the wire. We made some critical mistakes. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make. Give credit to both Buckeye Valley and Pleasant because they made those plays,” said Balogh.

After Saturday, Balogh says he told him team he believes in them and that they very close to be a solid team. “I told our kids after the game on Saturday I don’t think we are very far away. But, in order to become a good team you have to be the team that makes those plays. You have to get those stops at the defensive end. You can’t have those mistakes so you are at least getting a shot at the offensive end. You can not just turn the basketball over. I think our team is really, really close, but you have to be able to make those plays. Hopefully, we can continue to be able to get better this week and be able to make those plays in close games down the stretch,” he said.

Balogh at Ontario for more than 30 years says they have to start doing to the things that good teams do. “We have to turn the corner, but our kids have had great attitudes. They came back and started this week if a good work ethic, which is what you have to do. The thing you can control everyday is you can control your effort and your energy and that’s been good. You can’t always control results, so what we have to do is we just have to try and get better results. We see a point when we look at film we point out mistakes so we can see them. You practice and you try and make sure you don’t make the same mistake. That is what we have to get better at, eliminating making some of the same mistakes that we have made in previous games and learn better from that. If we do that I think we are right there. In our wins we really haven’t blown anybody out, but it our losses, other than the Lexington game in the second half, we are a team that has really been in games until the very end. When you have a really good year you win tight games,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “When you kind of have an average year you win some of those and you lose some of them. We still have nine games to play over the schedule plus tournament. We are still in the race for the league title. We are going to have to take care of our business and maybe get a little bit of help. There are still a lot of games to be played in our league. A few weeks ago we talked about one of the lower teams coming up and biting one of the higher teams, unfortunately that came true for us. I think that can still happen. I don’t think you have seem in our league a lot of blow out wins by the top teams. We just have to get better and try make sure we take care of our business and see what happens.”

Ontario (8-5,7-2) plays at River Valley (3-10,2-7) on Thursday night in an “MOAC” game. Clear Fork beat the Vikings (66-47) last Friday.

In the first game, Ontario won (60-47) and Balogh says the Vikings have become a better and more dangerous team. “They have kind changed their style. When we played them in the first game prior to that in two games I think they had given up an average of 96 points because they were pressing and really trying to be up tempo. When we played them they kind of set in a 2-3 zone. I think we went into the fourth quarter up two and ended winning by 13. They have been much more efficient at both ends of the floor. Defensively, they have been a lot better. They play some 2-3 zone. They play some man to man, they show some 1-3-1. Offensively, they have done a better job of taking care of the basketball. When you allow them to get the ball reversed in the half court they have been patient enough that they get the shots they want to get. They are a dangerous basketball team. Going on the road to a place that we really aren’t familiar with because we haven’t played there it is going to be a difficult task, but we have to kind of right the ship and Thursday is our first chance and we going to see what we can do,” said Balogh.

This will be the first meeting this year between longtime rivals Clear Fork and Ontario. Balogh knows the Colts (13-3,9-0) and winners over Marion Harding (58-48) Tuesday night are in first place for a reason. “They have played really well. It was a tremendous win for them at Pleasant. They are a team now that I think is playing with a lot of confidence. When you go on the road at Pleasant and get a win like they did that builds your team. Saturday night is going to be a tremendous challenge for us. They have great balance offensively. We play really well together at the defensive end of the floor. Steve has them going and they are having a great year. We are hoping we can turn the tide and see what happens on Saturday,” he said.

Published 1/31/18

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Madison Working on Things

Madison does not play an Ohio Cardinal Conference game this week. They host Willard in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

Lexington beat them last Friday in an “OCC” game (56-48) and coach Tim Mergel knows they have some things to work on, but he feels they had a real chance to win the game. “You just have to continue to work on things in practice. For us it hasn’t worked out as far as wins and being consistent, but one thing that is improving is our effort level. I thought we played extremely hard Friday night. I felt we played well enough to win the basketball game. Lexington made some big shots and made the run when they had to, but overall I pleased with our performance,” he said.

With five practices this week, Mergel says they have the opportunity to refine and introduce. “We get that extended time. It is not just time to reiterate what we already have in, but you haven to try and expand a little bit as a basketball team and try and reach your limits of what the kids can kind of hold in and what they can’t. That is what we are trying to do this week. We are trying to expand when we have in already and try to get them to think a little bit. Hopefully, it will help us out in the end. Now is not a time to settle by any means. You have to expand your way of thinking and expand your basketball I.Q. Teams get better as the season goes on,” said Mergel.

This season they have pretty much exchanged places with rival Mansfield Senior when it comes to the tournament. The Tygers are division two and the Rams move up to division one.

Mergel says that makes things more difficult, including the travel, but they aren’t going to back down. “You look up there and you have the Sylvania teams with one loss a piece, obviously you have St. John’s with only two losses against some pretty good competition out of state. You have Toledo Whitmer with three losses. St. Francis with four or five losses. You have some teams up there that can really play the game of basketball. They beat up on each other. We are hoping to get a good draw,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We are going to be a team that is not going to be very well know up in that area. We want to go up there and surprise some people and see where it goes from there. It is going to a tough one moving up a division and being the smallest school in that division. Our kids we are not going to back down from anything we are going to play hard.”

Madison (8-7) plays host to Willard (3-11) on Saturday night. The Flashes are coming off a (54-51) setback to Margaretta in Bay Division play in the “SBC” last Friday.

Mergel says they give you a lot to prepare for. “Just watching them on film they play hard. They have some kids that can scrap. One thing that Joe (Bedingfield) does is he switches up some things and keeps them in some ballgames. We have been there before. He has “Hirsch” on the bench, which is a good guy that have beside you. They throw a lot of stuff at you. You are going to see some 2-3 zone. You are going to see some 1-3-1 zone. You are going to see some half court trap. He is doing a nice job with his kids. They have had some rough games. As the season has gone on you can tell his kids are starting to grasp what he is selling and the scores are reflecting that,” said Mergel.

Published 1/31/18

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Bellevue Without Ruhlman

Bellevue is going to play at least the next little bit without its best player in guard Trey Ruhlman.

In fact, that was a case last week in a loss to Upper Sandusky (85-64) on Thursday and a win (60-55) over Edison on Friday, both in non-conference play.

Coach Ed Rich thinks considering the circumstances they played pretty well last week. “It was a pretty good weekend for us to be honest. We lose Trey Ruhlman Wednesday night in practice and have to turn around and play Upper on Thursday. We go into that game losing 20 points a game and probably our best defender and best ball handler. I really thought we didn’t play too bad against them. Upper hit 13 threes and shot nearly 70 percent from three. It looks like a blow out, but played well, they just hit shots,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We are without one of our guys and we beat Edison. That was a huge win for us, especially if the guys were questioning if we could win without our best player.”

In regards to Ruhlman, Rich doesn’t know when he will be back with them, but he hopes it is soon. “He is slowly getting back into things. He is seeing some specialists and everything for his ankle. It is ankle that has been bothering him all year. He hadn’t missed any time, but now he has. We are hoping he can get back into it and we can get on a good run here,” he said.

Bellevue (7-6,3-4) is at home with Norwalk (8-7,5-3,) who has become one of the better big school teams here as of late. The Truckers beat Perkins (44-41) and Huron (52-47) last week.

Thursday night is the first meeting between the two teams and Rich know they are going to be in for a battle. “They have been really good. I think they have won four or five in a row and they have been good teams. They went into Clyde and beat Clyde, went to Perkins and beat Perkins, beat Huron last week. They have been playing some pretty good basketball. It really shows on film. They look like a complete team,” he said.

Bellevue beat Shelby (56-55) in December. Even though the Whippets (8-6,4-4) have lost their last four, including (68-57) to Clyde and (45-41) to Lexington last week, Rich says this is still a talented team. “They have a great roster. Right now they are kind of lacking just in the depth part. I think they only have seven guys that are playing regularly. They look at their last four games and they have played some really good teams. They lost to Sandusky, St. Peter’s, Lexington, and Clyde. That is four losses against four good teams and all of the games were close. It is not like they are getting blown out, they are right there. They are a really dangerous team,” said Rich.

Published 1/31/18

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Wynford Faces Athleticism

Wynford is going through a portion of their schedule where they are playing some athletic teams.

They lost to “N10” co-leader Colonel Crawford last week (65-46) and they play at home against Shelby of the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference on Thursday and at Carey in a conference game on Saturday.

Coach Jason Engel says he thought they played with great effort against Crawford, but they couldn’t make enough shots in the fourth quarter. “I thought we played extremely hard. Our kids battled the whole game. We were right there with them and they had a late run right before the fourth quarter and we just couldn’t make enough shots and plays to get back into the game in the fourth quarter,” he said.

Engel says they were able to play with a very good Colonel Crawford team for two and half quarters, but they weren’t good enough to compete in the end. “We started the game really well. We were up 13-6 in the first quarter and they ended that quarter on a 6-0 run. The second quarter and half of the third were back and forth, ties, but they are a good team and we made a couple of crucial mistakes at the wrong times and we couldn’t get back in the game in the fourth quarter. I was very proud of our kids in the way that they battled. I thought we played extremely hard and that is all I can really ask,” said Engel.

Shelby (8-6) comes to town on Thursday for a non-conference game. Engel says the Whippets bring tremendous athleticism to the table. “They are extremely athletic. They will be the most athletic team we play this year and they will be the most physical team we play this year. We are going to have to make sure we are boxing out. They have some very good shooters,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Coach Schwemley’s son (Uriah) is having a great year. The (Brady) Hill kid is really good, Carter Brooks is good, Hunter Hoffman is a 6’5” wing player, four guy for them. They have some extremely athletic kids and we going to have to take care of the ball and hold them to one possession, one shot, for us to have a chance. They are really, really athletic.”

Wynford (7-7,5-6) plays at Carey (10-5,6-5) on Saturday night. It the first meeting, the Blue Devils won (60-58) on December 21. Engel says it should be another close one. “They are really athletic as well. They move very well off the ball. The Stone kid inside is a really, really big kid. He is very athletic too for 6’7” or whatever he is. We played a really good first game, both teams. We came up short. That was a tough game for us to lose early on in the year. They are a team that is in every game, a couple of possessions away from winning those games too. They have pulled out some close games too,” he said.

Published 1/31/18

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Willard Battling to Find Wins

Willard has a reputation over the last 50 years of really playing hard and that has not changed this year even though the wins have been tough to come by.

They host Oak Harbor in a Bay Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference on Thursday night and travel to Madison for a non-league on Saturday.

Last Friday, Maragretta beat them (54-51) at the horn in a Bay Division game.

Coach Joe Bedingfield says they did all they could to win that one. “We had a tough game Friday against Margaretta. We were down six going into the fourth. Our kids battled back. We took a two-point lead with 48 seconds left with a little back door play. We came down and got a stop and went to the line and missed both free throws. They got the ball. We didn’t get a rebound. They got it and shot and got an and one and they were able to get up one. Luckily, we got another chance with about 15 seconds left. A kid comes down and we get fouled and we makes one of two. We had a chance to get a stop and go overtime, but with eight, nine seconds left their best player hit a 21-footer to win the game at the buzzer. I was extremely proud of what I saw Friday,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We did regather our team and regrouped a little bit. I saw a lot of emotion after the game. These kids still care, they are still fighting. In our practices kids are still trying to get better. We are rotating in more freshmen. We are a little younger than we were at the start of the season. I really like where our team is heading. We have some tough games and some tough challenges ahead of us. Our kids are going to back down they are going keep fighting and keep playing.”

Willard (3-11,2-5) hosts Oak Harbor (12-3,5-2) and in second place in the division on Thursday night. The Rockets lost (55-38) to first place Vermilion last Friday.

Oak Harbor downed Willard (70-39) in December. Bedingfield says they have a lot of good players. “They are well balanced and well coached. Coach Sweet does a nice job. They just fit really well together. They have a nice mix with a point guard who is young, but he gets them going in (Jac) Alexander. They have the Mactee kid that has some experience and can get to the basket. They put shooters like Schulte around him. They have a solid inside presence in Smith. They hurt us the last time we played over there. We were going through some transitions. I expect our kids to show some improvement come out and compete Thursday at home. We have not played a home game since December 21, so it will be nice to be back home in our own gym. It is kind of crazy how that worked out this year. Our kids are looking forward to playing a home game,” said Bedingfield.

When it comes to Madison (8-7) they are on the back burner right now with a league game up first, but Bedingfield knows the Rams are athletic. “We know that Saturday will be another challenge, another test. We are at Madison. We know they can get up and down the floor. They have a lot of scorers. We know they have the Campbell kid. They do a good job. We know we are going to have to take care of the basketball and we are going to have to stop them in transition and play very good team basketball,” he said.

Published 1/31/18

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It’s Another Big One in the “OCC” for Lexington

Lexington shares the Ohio Cardinal Conference lead with Mansfield Senior and Mt. Vernon as we head into the final month of the regular season.

They have lost twice to the Tygers.

They play Mt. Vernon for the first time on the road of Tuesday night.

Lexington (12-4,5-2), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Madison (56-48) in a league game on Friday night and got past Shelby (45-41) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Coach Scott Hamilton says, yeah, they are playing well, but they aren’t done getting better. “I think we are playing about as well as we have this season. It is kind of what you want to be doing as you start to get into the last half of the season, you want to be improving. You want to start reaching that point where you are peaking a little bit. I don’t think we are peaking right now, but we are definitely getting to that point where we are improving and getting better,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Going down to Mt. Vernon the way they have been playing it will be a really good test for us. I would have to say that they are probably the favorite right now the way everything in playing out in the “OCC.” It will be an exciting test.”

Some teams tend to be better road teams that others. Hamilton says he really doesn’t know if that has been a difference for this team. “I don’t know if they see it differently that way. Sometimes you really focus on protecting the home court or really get up for the road games trying to take someone else’s home court advantage away. I just haven’t got the feeling this team sees that as a difference. They kind of go into every game with the same amount of attitude. We laid an egg when we went up there to Clyde and lost there and then we traveled over to Mansfield Senior and played a tough conference opponent there and didn’t do so well. I guess it is just probably the night and hopefully we have a good night (Tuesday,) said Hamilton.

Lexington has also lost at to Mansfield Senior and to Olentangy Liberty at home this year.

Mt. Vernon (11-5,6-2), #2 in the large school poll, knocked off Mansfield Senior (50-48) last Friday create the logjam.

Hamilton says they have a number of good players. “They have a lot of guys that is you leave them open. I mean no disrespect in saying none of them are great, but they are all good. If you leave someone open, they are going to knock down shots. They have a couple of guys shooting 50 percent from behind the arc. Sometimes you have to pick your poison in who you leave open and who you are going to double team and defend. This is a tough match-up for us. We are trying to figure that out. I think we are just going to have to guard everybody the best we can,” said Hamilton.

The Lexington coach also says that the Yellow Jackets play solid man and zone defense. He says they really are a lot better in either. “Sometimes you can look at team and say they are a better man to man team or a better zone team. What coach Coon has them doing down there is they are shifting around playing some man early in the game. They switch to a zone latter in the game is typically their MO, but there is really no rime or reason for it they just do it to give you different looks. They are very good in both of those defenses, so defensively for them I think they are very solid no matter what they are playing. That comes from a mentality and I think they have a strong defensive mentality and it really doesn’t matter what type of defense they are in,” he said.

Published 1/30/18

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Mt. Vernon Meets Lexington

Mt. Vernon just moved in a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference lead with a win at Mansfield Senior last Friday, but there is no rest as the Yellow Jackets host Lexington, also in a share of first, on Tuesday night in another critical “OCC” game with league title ramifications.

The Yellow Jackets (11-5,6-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Mansfield Senior (50-48) last Friday and then followed that up with a nice non-conference win over Columbus DeSales (65-61) on Saturday.

Coach Nick Coon says they were able to play well late of both nights. “It was two similar type games where we got down a little bit early and had to keep fighting back and clawing back and our kids never gave in and kept battling and eventually for a way to take the lead late and somehow hold on to win the game. So, two good wins for our program and we are looking forward to a really good game against Lexington, a good program, well coached team and obviously one of the premier players in the area and our league with Cade Stover,” said Coon.

Lexington (12-4,5-2), #1 in our poll, are led by junior Cade Stover, who just scored his 1,000 point of his career 10 days ago. Coon says they must make Stover earn his points. “He is going to take a lot of shots. He is a big part of what they do. We know that. We just have to make it as difficult as we can and force him into tough shots and not give him easy buckets or allow him to get to the free throw line and get shots that we can’t defend,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “It is going to be big for us to keep him in front of us and make him shoot over and try and do our best to block out and rebound because he is an awful good rebounder as well.”

Lexington also has quality shooters like Ben Vore and Kyle Johnston. Coon says you can’t lose contact with those guys either. “Their junior class is really good. They have a lot of guys that can do some things playing off of Cade. He gets a lot of attention, but those other guys have really come along. They are playing some really good basketball. Obviously, Stover is a big reason why, but those guys are also a big reason why they have been successful and have won a lot of games already,” he said.

Defense might be a key to this game and Coon says they have to keep the Minutemen off the glass. “I think early in the year some teams were scoring on them. Coach Hamilton has righted the ship on the defensive end with their guys and I think it has been more of an emphasis. First of the all, they have good athletes and that helps as a base. Their focus looks to be better at the defensive end of the court. They have kids that can move. They clean up the glass. It is one of the best rebounding teams we have seen this year and definitely one of the best in our league. It is going to be big for us to get quality shots when we can and if we can pick up some offensive rebounds here there hopefully that can help us get some points on the board,” said Coon.

Published 1/30/18

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Finally Time For South Central and Western Reserve

Firelands Conference leader Western Reserve travels to South Central to face the second place Trojans, a game back, in a huge game Tuesday night.

It is a game that was rescheduled twice due to weather related concerns.

South Central coach Brett Seidel says his kids are excited with the opportunity that confronts them. “The kids are ready to play games now at this time of the year. So, having a game instead of practicing on a Tuesday night probably makes the kids day actually. They are tired of the grind and tired of the practicing and ready to play some games,” he said.

Western Reserve (10-3,8-0) escaped with a (54-48) win over upset mined Mapleton on Friday. They have players like Aiden Markley, Brayden Hood, and Dale Smith, who can lite it up.

Seidel says they can let them to get on a run. “It is hard to find them having a complete off night because they have so many shooters. They have so many kids that can make shots and can make threes. Containing them and not allowing them to score and scoring in bunches is a big thing. Where they hit a three turn you over and then hit another three. I think the key to somewhat containing them is not allowing them to do it in bunches,” said Seidel.

Seidel added this is a tough team to defend and is similar in a many ways to a Mansfield Christian team that beat team (71-70) on Saturday night. “I think transition defense and rebounding is going to be key. We were not particularly good in the second half defensively against Mansfield Christian at all and Mansfield Christian is pretty similar to Western,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They are guard oriented and very skilled with the basketball in their hands. We gave up 48 in the second half against Mansfield Christian. We are going to have to shore things up and be ready to guard.”

Defense has been the cornerstone of Western’s consistent success year to year and Seidel believes they are getting and better this year. He says they will have something different up their sleeve. “They are continuing to get better. Obviously, they are going to continue to play extremely hard. They are going to play in the passing lanes. I expect something different from them than just their regular man to man defense. I expect them to do something with Simon (Blair,) or trying to take Simon away either in the full or half and have help. We, hopefully, will be ready for whatever they throw at us,” said Seidel.

South Central (9-5,7-1) probably needs a win more because they are at home. Seidel calls it pretty much a must win for them. “You don’t want to get into must win situations, but this is as close to one as you can get. Don’t want to drop back two games and with this one being at home we would like to protect home court as much as possible. It goes without saying it is an important game,” he said.

Published 1/30/18

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It’s About Making Plays

Western Reserve takes a one game lead over South Central into a meeting outside of the Greenwich with the Trojans on Tuesday night in Firelands Conference action.

It’s the first meeting this season between the two because this game has been postponed twice due to the weather.

Western Reserve (10-3,8-0) battled back to stop Mapleton’s upset attempt (54-48) last Friday night remain unbeaten in the league. Meanwhile, South Central (9-5,7-1) revenged its only conference loss by topping New London (65-58) on Friday. The Trojans lost Saturday (71-70) to Mansfield Christian in non-conference play, breaking a five game winning streak.

Western coach Chris Sheldon says the Trojans are explosive. “When you look at how many points they are scoring on a nightly basis it is a defensive challenge to say the least on how we are going to be able to guard everybody, especially with Blair and Lamoreaux, that do so much. Then they have great complementary pieces that go around them. It creates some challenges on your help and recover and so on. The good thing is this is the first time around. We have some things that we are going to try and do and see what works and doesn’t work. We will still get to play them another time at our place,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “It is definitely a huge basketball game. It is something I know that both teams have probably been looking forward to for a while. I am glad to see it come out this way. Outside of their early loss they have been able to hold ground and really that makes for a great atmosphere and great high school basketball game with a lot on the line.”

Sheldon says the matchups are going to be pretty even size wise because really both teams play a lot guards, or players capable of playing away from the basket. “The one thing that has been a key for our success because we play so many guards we are a match up problem for most teams we play. The challenge of playing them with what they do defensively is their personnel matches up pretty well to ours. It doesn’t give us necessarily an advantage like we typically have night in and night out. So, with that being said we have to be aggressive and we have to really try and make plays for ourselves and others. That is what we have been preaching to our guys. I think that ultimately what it is going to come down to for both teams, which team is going to have guys that make more plays themselves and others. That is going to be a key to the basketball game,” said Sheldon.

Top two teams in the league? Likely. Maybe this comes down to the end and if does Sheldon says it will be determined not by strategy, but by players. “That is usually how it plays out in any big basketball game. The teams that makes more plays at the offensive and defensive end typically is the team that comes out on top. By the time it goes up in the air it is kind of out of Brett and I’s hands and it is going to be in our kid’s hands. I think both teams are playing with a lot of confidence right now. We have won six in a row and they have won five of six, something like that. Both teams are playing well and that sets it up for and even better basketball game,” he said.

On Friday night, Western goes to Plymouth (8-7,6-3) for a conference game. The Big Red has won four of its last six. Sheldon knows they will be ready for the Roughriders. “They have really played well as of late. When you go all of the way back they played Mansfield St. Peter’s pretty darn well. They have continued to carry that momentum. They have one of the best players in the league in the Adams kid. They have a great shooter right next to him in the Collins kid. Their role players are playing with much more confidence than there were the first time around. That is going to be a tremendous challenge for us, especially coming off the South Central game on the road at their place. We are going to have to regardless of what happens against South Central we have no time to celebrate or hang our heads we have to get right back at it and get ready for another tough ballgame come Friday night,” said Sheldon.

Published 1/30/18

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Mansfield Christian Must Play Harder

Mansfield Christian plays host to arch rival Mansfield St. Peter’s on Tuesday night in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game.

The Flames are going to be a huge underdog to the unbeaten Spartans and they going to have to give everything they have go to have a chance.

They rallied in the second half to beat South Central (71-70) last Saturday night in a non-conference game.

Coach John Kurtz says it was a win for them and hopefully a momentum builder. “We played really well in the game and the game we really entertaining. It was up and down the court, and that is kind of way we like to play. We had come off a tough loss on Friday. Our kids really responded. We had a walk through Saturday morning and we really challenged our kids in some areas and they responded well. South Central is just a really good team. They are talented and they are really well coached. We were really pleased with that win. We just felt like athletically they were very quick and we had to be careful with that. We tried to use numbers all night long to try and slow them down. Luckily, we made a lot of free throws and we were able to pull it out,” said Kurtz.

Kurtz wants to keep his kids on an even keel and he hopes they are better now than they were Saturday. “Anytime with these kids now a days they can be way up and way down, so a win like that is good for you. We have been trying to make this year a year of just gradually getting better. We just look to get a little bit better after that South Central win. Obviously, we have a real tough task coming up here (Tuesday) night,” he said.

Mansfield St. Peter’s (16-0,6-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, just beat the only other unbeaten team in the area in Northmor (67-61) on Saturday night.

Kurtz says the have two kids in Jared Jakubick and Elijah Cobb that can pretty much do anything and the other players know their roles. “I think there are a number of things they are good at. Obviously, Cobb and Jakubick are two really good offensive players. They are extremely smart. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and they present matchup problems for you. They are both guard type players. If you guard them small they get shots off over you because they are bigger than you. If you go big and you are not able to match their quickness they can beat you to the rim. Both of them shoot the three really well. It is a combination of those things,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I think the Remy kid is doing a nice job on the glass. He is being a better distributer of the ball. They have kids they have plugged in that are really doing their job and just taking care of their role. That is what makes them so tough.”

Talent wise they can’t match up with the Spartans. Kurtz says they are going to have to play harder, want it more, and play longer to have a chance. “We challenged out kids (Monday) night with how tough can we be? How long we sustain energy? You look at some the scores, especially in our conference, what they have done to people, Loudonville and Crestline, where they were able to get up and get up by a lot. You just have to guard against that. You have to be strong throughout. For a talent standpoint we are probably deficient in that area, but we can certainly make up for it in hustle. We have to do the little things maybe better than we have this year,” said Kurtz.

Published 1/30/18

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Ballhandling to be Big for Buckeye

Buckeye Central put together one of its better performances of the season last Friday and they want to take that momentum into another game this Saturday with “N10” co-leader Upper Sandusky.

After a tough loss to Galion (56-53) on Thursday, the Bucks smacked Ridgedale (73-52) in a “N10” game.

Coach Phil Loy says for one thing they were able to get off to a good start, which hasn’t happened much for them this year. He says he was concerned about what their energy would be after Thursday. “That was a big concern of mine, was how much energy we would have going down there after a tough loss with Galion. It is a long bus ride. There was no JV game, so we were going to go right in and going to play. We struggled with them at our place. We only beat them by 12 and then they added two more guards to their roster, one from injury and one had to set out the first half of the year. So, it was really concerned going down. Plus, at the end of Thursday night’s game against Galion I lose my second leading scorer with an ankle injury. That really put us behind the eight ball I thought. Fortunately, Max Loy came out and scored like 13 points in first minute and a half and kind of set the tome right there. We had a 10 point lead and kind of maintained that throughout the game. It was nice, the kids really responded and played well,” said Loy.

Phil’s son Max tied the school record for points in a single game with 45 against Ridgedale. Coach Loy says he was able to do it efficiently. “It was really fun to watch I don’t care who it is if they put up 45 it is fun to watch, but what it is your own son out there doing that is was really special. It wasn’t like he ever forced anything. Everything just kind of came natural to him. He got us off with an offensive rebound to start the game, he hit three quick threes, everything just kind of flowed. He hit 15 of 18 from the foul line. He made 4 of 6 threes and he made 9 of 13 twos and he did it a variety of ways like posting up, attacking the basket, hit pull ups, offensive rebounds, shooting threes, steals. It was really a special night for him and I am really proud of him,” said Phil.

He laughs when he says both of his sons, older son Grant is a quarterback for Bowling Green, are better players than he ever was. “Both of them have been special players. I was just a post player. This is what I like, both them can play inside and out. That’s what I think is really special and make players like that tough to guard,” he said.

Buckeye Central (4-12,4-7) hosts Upper Sandusky (13-3,9-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Saturday. Upper won the first time (68-63) at Upper on December 21.

Loy says they have to handle the ball if they are going to stay in this one. “We were fortunate enough the first time we played them that we handled that pressure. It is so key to be able to handle that pressure and try and control the tempo of the game when you play them. That’s not easy. It is easier said than done and you really have to work on it. You are also working with 16, 17-year-old kids and when the lights are on on a Saturday night it is a little more difficult. We were in a position at Upper earlier in the year to win that game. We are down two with a 1:30 to go. We were down 12 and we made a good run to start the second half and put ourselves in position to win that game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Max Loy, in that game, it is a tight first half and picks up his second foul in the middle of the first quarter and has to set out the rest of the half and that is how we got ourselves in trouble there and got down 12. So, hopefully, it is a game where we can stay out of foul trouble and we can keep our turnovers down. They are so dangerous and tough to guard because they push the ball very well and they always make that extra pass and they can shoot the three. They have got four guys that average double figures. It just becomes a tough matchup. We have our work cut out for this week in preparing for them, but we will see what happens.”

Published 1/30/18

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Northwestern Has Found a New Focus

Northwestern has won three of its last four games and their focus now is to get back to the division three district tournament, which they won last year.

Coach Mark Alberts Jr. says they have found a way to rise up. “We are trending upward as the now term says and I am very pleased how we have responded from a tough early January. We lost a senior starter who had surgery on his shoulder that was bothering him. He was a real important piece last year to our team. Guys have just kind of risen up and changed their attitude. We haven’t stopped playing hard, we have probably played harder,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I think we have taken it as a challenge to kind of prove to everybody that we are not what our record is. That is really what impresses me is the guys have a new focus and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Northwestern made a run to the regional final last year. Alberts says he wanted to know the players thoughts on this year. “I asked the guys what they wanted to do? I said can you tell me who the district champion was last year? They kind of looked at me funny and said we were. I said, right, and we haven’t been beaten in the tournament yet. We are still defending champs. I just challenged them and put yourself in position where host a sectional game and go on the road in the sectional final and maybe pull an upset and get yourself in the district again, which is very possible in our district. Right now, they are kind of responding to that challenge,” he said.

Northwestern (7-9,5-5) plays Hillsdale (3-11,2-8) on Friday and Norwayne (5-8,3-6) in Wayne County Athletic League games on Friday and Saturday.

Alberts says Hillsdale is improved. “They beat Mansfield Temple Christian on Saturday. They play Mapleton (Tuesday) night. Mapleton is struggling this year. Hillsdale is much improved from the beginning of the year. I think we have both gotten better since we have played the first time. Eric Nichols is a first year coach and he does a great job with his program. He did a good job at Rittman, where he was girls coach, he gets the kids to play hard. I felt like the first time we played them we didn’t play well for some stretches and that’s why we had to fight hard at the end to win. I’m hoping we play better this time,” said Alberts.

When it comes to Norwayne, Alberts says they are young and still getting better too. “They lost in overtime to Smithville on Saturday night and had beaten Dalton on Friday. They have a lot of young players and they are getting seasoned. They are playing with a little more confidence right now. That is kind of the way I look at Hillsdale, even though there are some veteran guys there. Their young guys are really not their main guys. Norwayne will be a tough match up. It takes us 15 minutes to get to each school, so it’s our two rival schools on the same weekend, at least in terms of proximity,” he said.

Published 1/30/18

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Tygers Want to Make Mt. Vernon Uncomfortable

Mansfield Senior for the second straight week faces a game when their lead in the Ohio Cardinal Conference lies in the balance. Last week, it was Lexington and Friday night it is Mt. Vernon as the Yellow Jackets come to Pete Henry Gym just a game behind in the league standings.

The Tygers beat Lexington (60-52) last Tuesday and West Holmes (49-38) on Friday in league games. They also lost to Whitehall (71-46) in a game that was played at Quicken Loans Arena.

Coach Marquis Sykes says it was nice to get back to some practice, which was well needed. “This week has actually been pretty fun as far as coaches. I am sure the kids didn’t have as much fun as us coaches did. We certainly got back to work. I thought we were able to get a little bit better this week. We worked on our defensive fundamentals and we were able to put a few things in new as far as some offensive sets and different things like that. So, much needed practice this week. I am glad we have a home game Friday. We are hoping that ball will go in a little bit more on (Friday) night and we will be ready to roll,” said Sykes.
Mt. Vernon has won three in a row and six of its last seven, including wins over Madison (64-48) and Wooster (59-56) last week.

Sykes says the Yellow Jackets are really good in the half court. “They have won a few in a row. They have been shooting the ball pretty well. They play good solid defense in the half court. We are definitely going to see if we can push the tempo a little bit and get some easy baskets. We are also going to see if we can take them out of things the like to do. If we can make them uncomfortable, kind of speed them up a little bit, get them out of their rhythm a little bit. If we can do those things and rebound the ball I think we will be okay. Coach Coon has them playing pretty well right now. I am sure it will be a tough one (Friday) night,” he said.

When they played the first time at Mt. Vernon on December 22, Mansfield Senior won (52-49) in a game that was up for grabs in the final minutes.

It would be to the Tygers benefit that the game be played at a faster tempo. Sykes says they would like to make the Jackets feel unconformable. “They shoot the ball well. Sometimes you look at their scores and you will see it is in the mid-60’s or 70’s the tempo of the game is still slow they are shooting the ball well they can put some points up on the board. We want to make it a little different we can get the game sped up and get them out of their rhythm, out of their norm,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Running their open motion in the half court, penetrating the basketball and looking to kick to open shooters. We want to make sure that we locate their shooters, keep their ballhandlers out of the paint and force them to score in other ways. If we can do that we keep their scoring down and we can get out in transition and maybe our scoring can go up a little bit.”

Published 1/26/18

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Lexington’s Focus is Madison

Lexington faces two good teams this weekend at home in Mansfield Madison in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday and the Shelby Whippets in a non-league game on Saturday.

They are coming off a solid win over “N10” co-leader Colonel Crawford (50-41) on Saturday night and coach Scott Hamilton hopes that gives them some momentum. “That is something us always look at I guess. You are only as good as your last game like a lot of people say. We felt like we put together a pretty good effort over at Colonel Crawford and came away with a really exciting win against a good team. Hopefully, that translated into preparing for a good conference opponent in Madison,” he said.

Madison beat Ashland (60-50) last week to break a streak where they had lost three of their last four league games. Lexington won the first game at Madison (54-46) on December 22.

Madison (8-6,3-5) features two very good scorers in Kyle Jackson and Mason Campbell, and while those kids are good, Hamilton says they can’t let other guys not be guarded. “That was the attitude we had the first time we played them they have two bigtime scorers, but then they have got some other players that start or come off the bench and they are very capable of putting some big numbers on the scoreboard. It is one of those things where you can’t give too much attention to Jackson and Campbell and forget about those other guys because they can really hurt you,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have seen that over the course of the season in a few different games. We have our work cut out for us going up against a division one rival that we have. Hopefully, when it is all said and done we will be in a good position.”

Lexington (10-4,4-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com basketball coaches poll in the large school division, shares second place with Mt. Vernon in the “OCC” standings a game behind Mansfield Senior. The Tygers host Mt. Vernon on Friday. That means the Minutemen could end the night in a share first place. Hamilton says their focus has to be beating Madison. “You always know what other games are going on in the conference and the area. You try and keep track of everybody else just for preparation purposes. First and foremost, when it comes time to tip off on Friday night we have to do the only thing we can and that’s to go out there and play Madison to the best of our ability,” he said.

Hamilton says they will tackle Shelby (8-4), #5 in our large school poll, on Saturday morning, but he says he knows it will be another challenge. “I have not seen much of them just yet because all of our focus has been on Madison. Typically, with coach Schwemley and what he does he relies heavily on certain things and sometimes it can cost you if you have a poor shooting night. He has a nice group of guys over there once again that score from the inside and the outside, they can transition, they can defend. He is capable of throwing a lot of different things at you. That is going to be another task for us to handle this weekend,” said Hamilton.

Published 1/26/18

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Ontario With Another Two Steps in League Race

Ontario, a co-leader in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, plays host to two conference foes this weekend in Buckeye Valley on Friday and Marion Pleasant on Saturday.

They share first place in the league with longtime rival Clear Fork, who they will play twice in February.

They earned wins over Marion Harding (66-55) last Thursday and North Union (59-49) on Saturday.

Coach Joe Balogh thinks they are improving, but they must keep their noses to the grindstone. “I think we are improving, but with high school kids it is just kind of a week to week battle with them. You hope that you continue to grow so you can get better each week. We feel like we have practiced pretty well this week. We hope those good practices turn into us playing very well in our games on the weekend,” he said.

Ontario handled Buckeye Valley (57-46) in their first meeting. Balogh says the Barons are team that is going to play hard for 32 minutes and they have to match that intensity. “The thing with Buckeye Valley is now I think they are starting three sophomores, so they are really young. The thing that impresses you the most about them is how hard they play and compete. What has happened in several of the games is they have dug themselves a hole early in the game or with Clear Fork it was in the second half, but they just continue to fight. The wins have not shown that as much, but the thing is they are just going to be ready to play,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “When I saw them play the first time when we scouted them early in the year the most impressive thing was just how hard they played. I think they were down 18 in the first quarter to Highland, but they fought their way back and actually took the lead and just weren’t able to finish plays. Hopefully, our kids don’t look by this at all. Every league game becomes important when it comes to being in the position we want to be in in the league and Friday night’s game is going to be a crucial game for us.”

Ontario (8-3,7-0) plays at home against Marion Pleasant (11-3,7-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Saturday night. The Spartans lost their first league game of the year to Clear Fork (66-61) on Tuesday night.

Balogh says the Spartans enter every game figuring the should win it and they play like it. “I think the thing with Pleasant when you go in their gym, it was the first time I had been in there in a long time, and you are just impressed with the number of banners of state championships in all of the sports. I think the thing that Pleasant has is they have that winning attitude. That has been on display when I have watched them on tape and when I have seen them in person and their kids just expect to win. For them coming off a crucial league loss Tuesday with Clear Fork sometimes that just refocuses you a little bit more and I think we are going to have to be a really focused basketball team on Saturday also because I think they are going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder and really ready to play,” said Balogh.

Published 1/26/18

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Northmor Ready to face the Naysayers

Northmor escaped Tuesday night against Galion and now they are ready to move forward with a conference game against Cardington on Friday and a meeting with another unbeaten in Mansfield St. Peter’s on Saturday.

Down three with a minute to play on Tuesday, the Golden Knights rallied to beat Galion (69-65) in a non-conference game.

Coach Zach Ruth says Galion played very well and he thought it was a good test for them. “That was much needed for us. Hats off to Galion they came out and they would not go away. We got them down nine and I think if we get a defensive stop and we could get then down in double digits they would maybe fold, but every time we would get them down nine they would hit a three or bank in a three and their kids just did not quit. I made a comment to coach Valentine that was the best I have ever seen Galion play since he has been there in these two years. We are down three with a minute to go and found a way to win by four. It was definitely a learning curve for us and was much needed and luckily we didn’t get the loss,” said Ruth.

After the narrow win over Galion there has been some talk about maybe the Golden Knights are overrated, but Ruth says what they have accomplished already is pretty impressive. “There are a lot of naysayers out there and stuff on social media saying we aren’t all of that, only beat Galion by four. You go back through and I think people forget that the New England Patriots lost three games this year, nobody is undefeated in the NBA. We are dealing with 16, 17, 18-year-old kids. We are on an exciting run right now. You date back to last year and we are on a 22-game regular season winning streak and that is impressive. I told the boys you have put yourself in a special group of elite people that hasn’t been in that situation, let’s live it up, but let’s not get caught in this moment. There is a lot business and a lot of games to play yet, let’s keep it going one game at a time,” said Ruth.

Northmor (13-0,8-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, hosts Cardington (2-14,0-9) on Friday night in a game in the “KMAC.” Cardington broke a 14-game losing streak with a (52-45) win over Ridgedale on Monday night.

Northmor won pretty easily (66-43) in their first meeting, but Ruth says it no way are they looking past the Pirates. “They have one of the best players in the area in Garrett Wagner. He still manages to get 17 points a night being faceguarded and double teamed and everything, so we have to find him. They have some young freshmen. Cardington is the youngest team in the area and they are gaining confidence. They are coming off a big win Monday against Ridgedale, it was the first time they have won in 14 games, so they are coming in with big confidence,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are at our place. They are thinking maybe we are looking past them. We are definitely not looking past them. It is one day at a time here at Northmor. They present a threat. Anytime you are playing a league game, anytime you are playing a game, anything can happen.”

When it comes to their game at Mansfield St. Peter’s (15-0), #1 in our small school poll, Ruth calls it a great opportunity for his kids. “The players perspective is it is all Cardington, but as coaches we do have to prepare. (Wednesday) night we went down and watched a couple of Columbus teams that we may see in the tournament. I look at both communities. I look at Northmor’s community and I look at the kids and the buildup to this game is monumental. It is a memory that both schools will remember forever, probably with a little more emphasis here at Northmor because they haven’t been in that situation before. I might have been the U.S. Hockey coach that said you can’t create memories without opportunities and man of man do we have an opportunity to create one hell of a memory,” said Ruth.

Published 1/26/18

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South Central Has to Get New London

Second place South Central only has one loss in the Firelands Conference so far and that came at home against New London last month.

They get a chance to make amends this Friday when they travel to New London to face the Wildcats.

South Central (8-4,6-1) have won its last four and five of its last six, but coach Brett Seidel says they still have a long way to go. “We still haven’t put four quarters together. We are showing improvement in areas, but we still have not played 32 minutes yet. That is the biggest thing. I don’t care what the scoreboard is, I just want to be playing well. That is what we are trying to get across to the kids no matter time, score, opponent, we need to try and play the game the right way,” he said.

New London (5-6,5-3) beat South Central (67-57) and coach Seidel says in order to win this time they have to play better defense. “Defensively, that the big thing, we let (Karson Howell) go for 26. We lost to him in transition, we lost him in the half court, and he got comfortable and made a bunch of shots. We also gave up 67 that night and that is just too many to give up and try and win a high school basketball game in this day and age. Defensively is what we have to shore up,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Simon (Blair) struggled that night, actually had more turnovers than points. I don’t expect him to play like that every again to be honest. You compile those things together and the result was what it was.”

Games on the road against good teams and tough no matter what the league and the Firelands Conference is no different. Seidel wants defense and effort at New London. “I think we have to go in and play with confidence, that’s for sure. Sometimes offense doesn’t travel and we have to make sure our defense and our effort does. We can take our effort along with us and the defensive intensity and hopefully we can find ways to stay in the game and have a chance in the end,” he said.

South Central plays at Mansfield Christian (9-5) in a non-conference game on Saturday night. They beat Plymouth, also of the Firelands Conference (60-58) in overtime on Tuesday.

Seidel says they will have to execute. “You are going to earn everything you get against John’s defensive game. He is one of the best pressure man to man teachers that I have seen. We are going to have to earn everything we get. They have numerous guys that can score starting with his son (Kyle) and McPeak, who are four year lettermen. They can create havoc at both ends of the floor. The Delaney kid has come along. He’s making shots. “The Furnace” is a tough place to play,” said Seidel.

Published 1/26/18

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It’s One Against Two in the Bay Division

First place Vermilion travels to Oak Harbor on Friday night in hopes of protecting a slim one game lead on the Rockets in the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference.

Vermilion lost for just the second time all year Tuesday night when Elyria beat them (65-63) in a non-conference game.

Coach Kurt Habermehl says they got a slow start, but had every chance in the world to win in the end. “It just happened to be one of those nights when the ball wasn’t going in the basket for us. Normally we are a very good shooting team. We had a hard time early on trying to make baskets. I was really proud of my kids, we were down 17 with four minutes to go against a good Elyria basketball team. We railed to tie the game up. Had the ball with 15 seconds left with a chance to win and got a 50/50 call against us and Elyria was able to knock down the game winner at the buzzer,” said Habermehl.

He adds it was a tough loss because that is certainly one they would have liked to have added to their resumé. “It is tough because of who we played. We always try to get quality wins against really good division one basketball teams. We unfortunately have two losses this year by a total of three points. Obviously, you can learn a lot from those games, but they are also tough to swallow at times because you know you were right there against a really good program,” he said.

Vermilion (10-2,8-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is at Oak Harbor (11-2,5-1) on Friday night. The Sailors won the first meeting (65-60) at their place on December 21.

Habermehl says this is a very god team that is led by its point guard Jac Alexander, who can do a lot of things. “If people don’t know about them they should get to know them because they are a very talented basketball team. I think it all starts with their point guard Jac Alexander. I think he does just a fantastic job of running that team. He is just a great athlete. He has a lot of guys that help him out. They are a big team. Tate Smith in the middle is 6’6” and their power forward goes about 6’4” and they are extremely athletic so they are always tough to deal with,” he said.

When it comes to what they have to do to win, Habermehl says it is all about defense. “I think we are going to have to rebound the ball. Their big guys do a great job of crashing the offensive glass and they run the floor really well. I think we are going to have to keep Alexander out of the lane. One thing that he does really well is finish in the paint,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They have a couple of shooters in the corners in Schulte and Gezo that do a really good job of shooting the basketball. They have weapons everywhere. We are just going to have to make sure we are pretty solid defensively.”

Published 1/26/18

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Buckeye Loses Another Close One

Buckeye Central took it right down to the end again, but they came up just a little shot in losing (56-53) to Galion in a non-league game on Thursday night. They play at Ridgedale in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference game on Friday night.

The Bucks had a couple of chances to tie the game up or go ahead in the final moments, but coach Phil Loy says they just couldn’t get over that final hump. “I would say I am very proud of the way we played, especially in the second half. In the first half I thought we played good defensively, but we missed so many shots in the first half and they really hurt us bad. Looking at our shot chart I think we missed 15 shots within six feet of the basket. Some of that is due to their size, they length. We just didn’t do a good job of finishing. We are still in check in the first half and then in the last couple of minutes they make a run and we go down 12 at halftime. The second half we wanted to continue to be aggressive and we put ourselves in position to win the game,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “Down the stretch we are down three. We shoot a three, we miss it, unfortunately Dalton Scheaffer stepped on somebody’s foot and rolls his ankle bad and has to come out of the game. We bring a guy off the bench (Derek Reed) that is cold and he makes the first two, but we get the offensive rebound and go back up, we didn’t get the call there, I thought there could have been some contact and then we have to foul. Even at that we still have a shot with a second to go. We turn them over and get the ball back with 1.3 seconds and we get a decent look, a little bit deeper than we wanted. We had a chance to win that game. Galion, I think is better than their record, they almost beat Northmor a couple of days ago. We knew it was going to be tough at Galion. It is another “L,” but I am proud of our effort and never quitting.”

Loy says there has been no quit in these kids all season and their goals now to get ready to be competitive in the division four tournament. “These kids don’t quit, but eventually we have to get some “W’s” to reward them. These kids have a great work effort, great attitude, continue to work hard every day in practice. We know we are not going to win the league. Our goal now to put ourselves in position to continue to get better and look to win a sectional championship. We have to hopefully learn from all of these close losses that we have had and just continue to fight,” he said.

Buckeye Central (3-12,3-7) plays at Ridgedale (2-13,0-10) in a boys and girls varsity doubleheader on Friday night. Buckeye won the first time (57-45) in New Washington.

Loy says this is going to be a game when they need focus. “There is no “JV” game so it is a different scenario. You go down there and (Friday) night we are going to play right away. We are going to treat this like it is a tournament game. We are on the road and we have to go in and play right away, there is no “JV” warm up game for us. The first time we played Ridgedale it was a dogfight. We struggled to score and it only a four point game going to the fourth quarter until we finally make some shots and get a run going and get ourselves up by 15. I challenged my kids with their attitude and the energy level when we walk on that floor it has to be just as good as it was (Thursday) night if not better because it is dangerous when you go down there. Seneca East can tell you that they almost lost just the other night. So, we have to have the right mindset going in there and play our game,” said Loy.

Published 1/26/18

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Upper Sandusky Concentrating on Getter Better

Upper Sandusky shares first place in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference with Colonel Crawford and they travel to Ridgedale on Saturday night.

But, first they host Bellevue of the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference in a non-conference game on Thursday night.

The Rams won a big one last Friday when they outlasted Carey (74-69) in overtime in a league game.

Coach Jeff Winslow believes they continue to get better. “They are a really good basketball team and playing well. They can really score the basketball. They have size and guards. They are a tough basketball team. They are 11-4 now and they have beaten some good teams. It was a real good win for us. We are finding ways to win. We are playing better and better each week. I still don’t think we have played our best game yet. We are playing better and better every week and improving. It is nice to see down the stretch in games that our kids believe they are going to win and they find a way to win it by making a few more plays than the other team,” said Winslow.

Bellevue (6-5) has lost its last three, including a (64-51) loss to Sandusky Perkins last week.

Winslow says they have good guard play with Trey Ruhlman and Jake Waskielis and they can do a lot of things. “The two guards are really good. They are 5’10”, a little on the short side. They are super quick and both can shoot the ball and take you off the dribble and they are both really good in transition whether they are pulling up from three or scoring the ball. They are unselfish too. They get the ball to their big 6’6” kid when they need it. They are going to be a really tough matchup for us. We like to pressure. We like to pressure full court and to play two guards that are that good with the ball is going to be a challenge for us. We are looking forward to playing them at our place,” he said.

There are likely going to be a lot of points scored in the game, or at least a lot of shots. Winslow thinks rebounding is going to be a big key. “They have a team that is athletic and with their guard play they and capable of playing really fast. I saw them quite a bit this summer. I just happened to be around when they were around and some of the games on film I have watched them play they like to get up tempo this year. It looks like it is going to make for a higher scoring game like the Carey game was both of us like to get up and down. It is not that defense won’t be played there is just going to be way more possessions because the teams like to get up and down the floor,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I told the kids the last few games this and I believe it again (Thursday) night whoever wins the rebound battle is going to win the game. We came out in top of that against Carey, we did not against Lexington and Lexington beat us and I just feel that is key stat in the game whoever is going to rebound the basketball on misses.”

Upper Sandusky (11-3,8-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at Ridgedale on Saturday in an “N10” game. Upper won the first game (106-51) in December.

Winlsow says they can’t look past this game. “Number one, we are not good enough to overlook anybody. They have been playing better as of late. They have been scoring closer. They are playing a lot better. They are playing a lot of young kids and they are feeling more comfortable. We are going to their place. The first time we played them they like to get up and down and shoot the basketball and we were down after the first quarter against them last time. We can’t take anybody lightly. We can’t waste any days. I tell the kids we gave to get better every day. You can’t waste a day by not getting better. We need to go into that game and get better and come out with a victory and keep pace with Colonel Crawford,” said Winslow.

Published 1/25/18

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Bellevue Needs to Find it Again

Bellevue has lost its last three games and they need to get back to where they were when they won six of their first eight. Their coach believes it is practice is going to be the difference.

They play at Upper Sandusky in a non-league on Thursday night and at home against Edison on Friday night in a cross over game in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

Coach Ed Rich says they have kind of lost their way a little. “We have been in a little slump here. We have played some really good teams and that had a lot of do with it, but also we just haven’t been very good either. I thought we played good in spurts against Sandusky. Not really against Perkins. The way to get out of it is getting after it in practice,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “That is something we have been preaching, especially this week we have tried to get back in a routine and get after it. I think we got a little complacent there for a while due to many things just like any other team. I thought we had three really good days of practice this week so hopefully we see some results this weekend.”

Rich believes when they had some games cancelled earlier this month it got them out of their rhythm. “It definitely had an affect on us, other teams in didn’t affect as much. I think that is where it starts with us. We got out of routine. We had a game scheduled on Friday and game scheduled on Saturday and both got canceled. Didn’t get into the gym either day. It got us out of routine and it just took us a while to get back to it. Hopefully, we are back to the team I saw earlier this year,” he said.

Bellevue (6-5) is at Upper Sandusky (11-3), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Thursday night. The Rams will be coming in off a high having beaten Carey (74-69) in overtime in an important league game.

Rich says the Rams are great at improvisation. “Their style hasn’t changed for a couple of years with coach Winslow. They get out and get after you on defense. They are very physical and very scrappy. On offense, they are really hard to scout. The start with some secondary breaks, some secondary sets. What they are really good at is they make great reads. Their screeners make great screens. They don’t have to call anything they can just play. They are a tough matchup all of the way around,” he said.

Edison (9-5) has lost its last three after winning nine of its first 11 games. They lost to Margaretta (37-26) and Vermilion (59-53) last week. Rich says the Chargers have some experienced big guys. “Especially two guys this is their fourth year as lettermen. So, they have two guys we really need to focus on. They have other athletes they mix in. They are a little bit different than Upper. They don’t get up and down like Upper. Sometimes they will set in a 2-3 zone. It will be two different game plans for Thursday and Friday,” he said.

Published 1/25/18

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Crawford Plays Rival Saturday

Colonel Crawford plays one of its most longstanding rivals on Saturday night as they host the Wynford Royals in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference game at Mac Morrison Gym.

Crawford (12-3,9-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, kept their part of the lead with a good (52-42) win at Mohawk last Friday. They lost to Lexington (50-41) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Coach David Sheldon says their focus was on the league game and he thought they played very well. “It was very good. It was a grind out game. We were able to extend it in the fourth. It was back and forth throughout the game. So, it was a great win to stay in this league race. That was Mohawk’s first loss at home this year. We knew going over there it was going to be a challenge. We put a lot of effort in to prepare and our kids responded and just played one possession at a time. It was a big win. The Lexington game our kids competed, but Stover was a load. Offensively we didn’t shoot it well. A lot of that had to due with Lexington’s good defense and physicalness and athleticism at all five positions. That was a good test and we had a great film session come early in the week to learn from that hopefully from the next time we are in games like that. So, it was a good overall weekend as we prepare to get back into the league this Saturday,” said Sheldon.

When it comes to the Lexington loss, Sheldon hopes they learned from that going forward. “You look at our three losses and Northmor is undefeated, you have Lexington with double figure wins and Upper Sandusky double figure wins and we are tied with them in the league race. The one thing we talked about after that Lexington game was we weren’t really efficient offensively. There were some wasted possessions where we didn’t take advantage and we didn’t take the best available opportunity. Some of that comes from the defense that we saw, but sometimes you have to reverse the basketball and get better opportunities. So, hopefully we learned from that for the next time we see that kind of defense,” he said.

Wynford (7-6,5-5) beat Ridgedale (65-34) last Friday in an “N10” game. Sheldon says his alma mater is putting some things together, especially inside. “They have won four in a row. The thing that stands out to me is the post play of the Roush kid is a lot better than early in the year. Crall is a really good guard for them. One of the leading scorers in our league, but the Roush kid has really picked it up in the post for them. They are definitely playing with a lot of confidence. Anytime it is Wynford-Crawford that is a big rivalry. It will be a packed house here at Mac Morrison Gymnasium on Saturday. We are looking forward to that environment,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “This will be the last time we play them this year with them being division three this is the last time we get to go against the blue and gray and we are looking forward to the opportunity and hope to stay on top in the league race with Upper. You have to make sure you take care of business it is the next game in line in the league and the most important one now is Wynford come Saturday night.”

People are already starting to talk about the second Upper Sandusky game, but Sheldon says they have to have focus. “We don’t talk about the games two, three, four in advance. We are talking about Wynford and that is it right now. That is the focus our kids have to have as we prepare. It changes when you play teams a second time the second time around, so you have to have great focus. I have said since the beginning of December it is a 16 game journey in the this league and this is game 11 of that 16 games. There are a lot of games still to be played,” he said.

Published 1/25/18

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Norwalk is a Player

Norwalk sits just a game behind Sandusky in the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division standings and they have a chance to be a real factor over the last month of the regular season.

They play at Perkins on Friday night.

The Truckers (6-7,4-3) won three games last week in beating Tiffin Columbian (67-32) and Clyde (65-61) in Lake Division games and Willard (56-35) in a cross over game.

Veteran coach Steve Gray says they are plying pretty well right now. “I think we are getting a lot better. The kids are understanding their roles. I think everybody is buying in at the defensive end and I think we are being very unselfish with the ball,” he said.

Point guard Brandon Haraway scored 11 straight point in the win over Clyde and Gray says he makes them a lot better when he is in there. “We have talked to Brandon and I have told him about every night you are going to be the best player on the floor and you have to ability to make everybody around you much better by getting them open shots, by helping cover up defensive mistakes. He can block shots, he can anticipate and steal. Yeah, he is pretty good,” said Gray.

Sandusky leads Norwalk, Shelby and Perkins by a game in the standings, Clyde and Bellevue are two back. Gray says this is going to be a fun race. “As coaches we were talking about an article Mark Hazelwood wrote in the Norwalk Reflector and in it he wrote six different scenarios with six different league champions,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We are one of the lucky few though that controls our destiny. If we take care of business and steal one this weekend at Perkins I think we are going to be right in the middle of it.”

The Truckers play at Sandusky Perkins (8-6,5-3) on Friday night. Perkins beat Bellevue (64-51) last Friday in a division game, breaking a three game losing streak in the division. They beat Norwalk (49-44) on December 21 in their first meeting.

Gray says defense is going to be the key to a Norwalk win. “Wheeler is really good inside and the last two or three games he is probably averaging 18, 19 points. We just have to find their shooters they have three kids shooting over 33, 34 percent from the three. We just have to be solid inside on Wheeler and on the perimeter on their shooters,” said Gray.

Published 1/25/18

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Western Reserve Must Play With Energy

Firelands Conference leader Western Reserve plays at Mapleton on Friday night in a game against the Mounties, who have only won once.

On Saturday night, they beat arch rival New London (67-54) to keep a one game lead on South Central, who they play on Tuesday.

Coach Chris Sheldon says they were able to battle some adversity on Saturday night and put the Wildcats away at the end. “The thing I think stuck out to me was the multitude of things that went on in that game. First, we got off to such a tremendous start. We got our lead up to 16 at some point in the first half before they cut it to maybe six going into halftime. We really dealt with a lot of adversity throughout the night from the standpoint of we got off to a great start, but we had three starters in serious foul trouble in the first half and had to play basically the last six minutes of the half with a lot of young players on the floor and especially our floor general Dale Smith not on the floor who really makes us go. We were able to hang on and keep it at a six point game going into half. We came out and played well in the second half, but so did they,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It was kind of a back and forth thing and they cut it all of the way to maybe three or four midway through the fourth and we went on a tremendous spurt. The thing that pleased me the most about that is we have talked about some close games and playing in close games and we were right there in a close game and we were able to be excellent at both ends of the floor to close it out for the last four minutes. That is really the first time we have put somebody away in the last four minutes of a game and that is a sign I always say of a good basketball team and our kids did that.”

Western Reserve (9-3,7-0) fields one of the best three point shooting lineups in the game and Sheldon says that gives them a lot of spurtabilty. “Our start and our finish were exactly that. We came out and hit something like four of our first six threes and to end of the game I think we hit three down the stretch to really put it out of touch for them. That is the thing about shooting a three of you shoot it at a high rate. I always tell our guys all of the time a nine point differential should never bother us because we can go on a nine point run in a matter of five possessions. All it takes is three scores and two stops. That is how quickly we can go on a run to open up a game and I tell our guys we can close the gap. That is sort of our philosophy right now because we shoot 30 threes a game and we are shooting it at 40 percent almost as a team, which is excellent. That has been one of the huge keys components to our success,” said Sheldon.

Western beat Mapleton (1-12,1-7) in December (77-42) in a conference game. Sheldon says they have to play with mental focus and energy on Friday night. “We talked about this a week or two ago when we played Monroeville. When you know you are going into a game that you are supposed to better than so much of that night is predicated on number one mentally you prepare and respect your opponent regardless of what their win-loss record is. Number two, the intensity in which you play at the defensive end, which sets the tone. It is those two things if they are in check good teams take care of business. If those two things aren’t in play early on then you give yourself a chance to be in a dogfight and you allow a team you are supposed to beat some momentum and that is going to be critical for us come Friday night,” said Sheldon.

Published 1/25/18

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Making more Shots a Key for Willard

Willard has not scored more than 50 points in any game since before Christmas and two of the last three they haven’t scored 40 and that is a recipe for not winning games.

They play at Margaretta, a team they beat in the first round (48-41,) on Friday night in a Bay Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

The Flashes lost on Tuesday night (55-45) to Norwalk St. Paul in a non-conference games.

Coach Joe Bedingfield says they are sort of searching right now. “We have to be more consistent. We have to try and find a rhythm and try and find some lineups and some kids on the floor that gives us a better chance to win. I think the effort is there at times. I think sometimes we are just making some of the same mistakes. It would help if we made some shots. Of course, we at not shooting a high percentage. We are searching right now, but I tell you what our kids we do have are giving a great effort in practice and we are just going to have to work to get better,” said Bedingfield.

Senior Broc Baldridge left the team last week.

When it comes to scoring, Bedingfield says sometimes they aren’t getting good looks and other times they just aren’t making open shots. “I think some of the shots we got against Port Clinton and (Tuesday) night against St. Paul we got some good looks and didn’t shoot it particularly well. Sometimes it is a credit to the other team, sometimes it is a lack of confidence maybe. We make a lot of shots at 2:30 sometimes, but we aren’t making a lot of shots at 7:30,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “To be honest, sometimes we don’t value the ball and we might not take the best shot and that comes with a little bit of experience and we are playing some guys that are a little young, but I feel like we are heading in the right direction.”

Willard (3-10,2-4) plays at Margaretta (5-7,3-4) in a Bay Division game on Friday night. The Polar Bears have won their last two in beating Edison (37-26) and Huron (36-28) in very low scoring games.

Bedingfield expects them to force them to make some outside shots. “Well, they have good size. I expect them to kind if pack it in a little bit on us and make us prove it from the outside. I also think they are an improved team. I think they went on a little lull themselves where they were losing some games. They went through some personnel changes as well and they have got some things rolling in the right direction. They have won a couple here lately. They are playing some good basketball, so I know we are going to have to be ready to compete. We are going to have to be ready to defend and rebound to make it a good game. So, hopefully we can do that Friday,” said Bedingfield.

Published 1/25/18

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Wooster Off this Week

Due to a quirt in the schedule the Wooster Generals do not have a game this week.

Their next game will be when they host Mansfield Senior on February 2.

Having lost last Friday to Mt. Vernon (59-56) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play, coach Michael Snowbarger says they have a lot to work on. “It is definitely not a bad thing. I was thinking two weeks, what are we going to do? To get back to the basics a little bit and to work on some of those things that you might have not gotten to because you are always getting ready for other teams has been kind of beneficial for us. Overall, we just kind of regrouped. Take a step back and look at the big picture,” he said.

Snowbarger says they need to work on their pressure defense and their zone offense, most notably. “Overall our defense has been pretty good we have just gotten away from a little bit of our defensive pressure. So far, this week in practice we have really been harping on defensive pressure and speeding teams up because I don’t think we have done a good job of forcing turnovers the last couple of weeks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday. “We have been letting offenses get some good shots. Offensively I thought this team has moved well without the ball against man, but against a zone sometimes we have been kind of stagnate. So, we have been really working against zone and moving and being hard to guard against a zone.”

When they play Mansfield Senior it is likely to be a big game for both. The Tygers currently lead the “OCC” standings and they beat Wooster in their first meeting (55-47) in December.

Snowbarger says it will be a great challenge. “It will be a big one. By that time we are going to be pretty excited of getting back on the court and going against somebody else. Our kids will be looking forward to it. Mansfield Senior is going to be a big one with conference ramifications, but also Mansfield Senior is a great basketball team is it is going to be a test to see where we are at at this time of the season,” he said.

Published 1/25/18

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Shelby to be Challenged by both Clyde and Lexington

After losses to two quality opponents last week, Shelby is looking at the same scenario this week with a league game at home against Clyde on Friday an a non conference game against “OCC” powerhouse Lexington on the road on Saturday.

Last week, they lost a tough one to Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division leader Sandusky (59-56) and to unbeaten Mansfield St. Peter’s (50-44) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Coach Troy Schwemley says they had a chance to win both games.

He says they rallied to take the lead against the Blue Streaks. “The hard part is there are a lot of plays you look back at and you kind of question decisions you make as a coach, should we have called a time out? Should we have ran that? The had part as I reflect on the Sandusky game. We battled back and we took the lead. We were down at halftime by double digits. I think we have the ball with under a minute to go only down one, which is the exact same situation we were in on Monday, but we turned the ball over. It is one of those situations where what worked on Monday it didn’t work on Friday. I think the disappointing thing is you want an opportunity to at least get a shot. We turned it over and had to foul and end up losing by three,” said Schwemley.

He says against St. Peter’s it was much the same thing. “Then the same with St. Peter’s. That game was a game where I think we were down one at halftime and then we tied it late. I think we scored five unanswered points to tie it and Elijah Cobb gets it out of bounds and races down the floor and hits a little foater in the lane to take the lead back. It is one of those where we had the momentum and he steps up and makes the big play to take it right back from us. It was little plays like that where we didn’t quite make that one more play when we really needed to,” he said.

Clyde (7-5,3-4) beat Shelby (8-4,4-3), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, (64-54) in a Lake Division game on December 21. They beat Perkins (74-51) last Friday and lost to Norwalk (65-51) on Saturday.

Schwemley says the Fliers play a different kind of style than just about anyone else. “They pressure and they have multiple guys that can score. They really are very explosive. They have a lot of guys that can shoot the three. When you look at the matchups we kind of knew going in with Sandusky and St. Peter’s who the scorers were. Clyde is a totally different animal. They have multiple guys that can shoot the three, many guys that score points,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Derek Harris averaging 15.5 is their leading scorer, but Seth Holman is averaging 13.7 and Cameron Farrer is averaging 12.5 and it us not just those guys. They have other guys that contribute and shoot and score. It is kind of a different game plan. We have to really take care of the ball and make sure we are kind of guarding everybody, but still limit their main scorers.”

Lexington (10-4), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is coming off a big win over talented Colonel Crawford (50-41) last Saturday.

Schwemley says you have to contain Cade Stover, who got 32 against Crawford, without leaving the other guys wide open. “There is no time for us to feel sorry for ourselves when you look at our matchups this week. We have Clyde at home. We really need to win that to keep a game behind Sandusky and then we have Lexington on Saturday. We are going to have to defend Stover, but it is not just him. They have other guys that can hurt you. They have other shooters that get hot and they really play good, physical team basketball. They are kind of another team that you really can’t focus on one guy, but Cade Stover draws a lot of attention, but they have other guys that can score. We are going to have to in that night defend and rebound and take care of the ball. Perimeter defense is something we didn’t do really well on Friday and Saturday. There were shots that were open looks, but we got a little careless sometimes and we are going to have to get high percentage shots on Saturday against Lexington,” said Schwemley.

Published 1/24/18

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Lucas Wins One; Has Two More

Lucas beat Danville (64-49) in a non conference game on Tuesday night and now they play a Mid-Buckeye Conference game on Friday night against Crestline and another non-conference game at Monroeville on Saturday night.

Coach Taylor Iceman says they played pretty good defense against a solid Danville team on Tuesday night. “They have some good shooters and post players and we don’t have a tone of size. They use what they have really well. They post up Skyler Durbin and Corbin Hazen inside. They have two shooters that you really can leave and it makes it a challenge, especially with our size. We had to double down on those two and get back to the shooters. We struggled a little bit in the first half, but we played a really good defense game (Tuesday) night. They are a good team and they do what they do pretty well. It was a good win for us,” said Iceman.

Mansfield St. Peter’s is the “MBC” leader and they get a lot of attention, but Iceman feel they are pretty good too. “St. Peter’s gets a lot of recognition, and deservedly so. They have kind of been the standard for our league and our area. When they beat a team like Shelby the other night it was kind of little guys against the big guys. They are a solid team. You can’t take anything away from them. We have got a solid group. We are winning games and we are doing well. When we have got guys playing well and we have guys playing defense we are a petty good team. We have Clear Fork left in our schedule, Clear Fork is having a great season down there, and St. Peter’s and Northmor. We still have our shot to go our and prove ourselves. We are having a great season and I am proud of my guys,” said Iceman.

Lucas (9-2,4-2,) in second in the “MBC” plays at home against Crestline (5-7,1-4) on Friday night. The Cubs beat the Bulldogs (70-61) on December 15. Iceman says they always expect a good game against Crestline. “We always seem to play pretty close with Crestline. When you look at their roster they have a little bit of everything. They have shooters. They have some size and they have ballhandlers. They are scary and it doesn’t seem to matter it is a good game at their place or our place every year. We have to come ready to play. We have three games this week. We started it off great (Tuesday) night with a win against a very good team,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night after the game, “I told our guys we have to come focused and ready to go against Crestline. Then you turn right around and have to play a non-league game and travel all of the way up to Monroeville. So, we have a busy week. We can only win one at a time. Crestline will not be easy. We never look past them. They beat a pretty good Mansfield Christian team there. They are capable of knocking anyone off. They have a little bit of everything it will be tough for us.”

Published 1/24/18

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Mt. Vernon Can Move into First Place

Mt. Vernon trails Mansfield Senior by just a game in the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings and they play at Pete Henry Gym on Friday night with a chance to move into a share of first place.

The Yellow Jackets (9-5,5-2) have won six of their last seven, including their last four league games.

Coach Nick Coon says the they have been better on both sides of the ball. “It has kind of been a combination of things. We kind of settled into some lineups. Offensively we have played with a little bit better pace and better spacing as we have gotten deeper into the year. Defensively, we have started to buckled down when we have needed to. Some of that is just playing harder and with more focus. It is amazing what will happen when you do those two things,” he said.

Mt. Vernon has a lot of seniors and Coon says they are playing like they don’t want their season to end. “We seem to have that going right now. Our seniors understand that it is winding down for them with a month and a half or so and it could be all done for them. We have talked to our group about having a lot seniors can be a really good thing of it could go the other way as well. We hit a rough stretch early in the year with a four game losing streak, but besides that little stretch and a blip on the radar for the most part our group has hung together. They are really good kids and it makes for an enjoyable year,” said Coon.

Mansfield Senior (9-4,7-1), #1 the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Mt. Vernon (52-49) on December 22. They beat Lexington (60-52) and West Holmes (48-39) in league games last week.

Coon says they are athletic and quick and they never stop coming after you. “Their relentless pressure defensively really jumps out. We saw that first hand early in the year. Their quickness and they have a lot of guys that can get to the rim or set up their teammates for easy scores. Their athleticism and their quickness and their effort against us in the first game and games I have seen in tape is just non stop,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Coach Sykes has done a really good job instilling that with them and instilling some discipline with them that they are playing with. They are having a really good year and it is going to be a tremendous challenge, especially at their place.”

Coon and his players know this is a great opportunity for them. “We are fortunate to be in this spot to that this game does mean something in the standings since we have picked up some wins, but we are still approaching it the same way we always do, which means we have to get better each day in practice before we even get to that game. We are sticking to kind of a process that we believe in and our kids know what it takes for us to be prepared. We are not a juggernaut by any means, so we have to be at our best to be able to compete and have a chance to win games,” said Coon.

Published 1/24/18

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Ashland Looking for Offense

Ashland has only one win this season, although it comes against “OCC” leader Mansfield Senior, and they continue to struggle to score of the ball consistently.

They lost “OCC” games to Wooster (73-54) and Mansfield Madison (60-50) last week and also lost Perrysburg (67-45) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Coach Jason Hess says he saw some good things last week, but not enough. “It seems a little bit like we are moving forward in right direction and there is a little of digression last week with the way the results were. The big picture results weren’t where we want them to be, but there were still lots of bright spots in those games. At times I thought we played pretty well, especially Saturday up at Perrysburg we did a lot of good things in some stretches there in the third quarter we just couldn’t find the basket. It is hard to stay in the game against good teams like that when you are struggling to score,” said Hess.

Ashland (1-11) plays at Orrville (5-8) in a non conference game on Friday night. Orrville lost to CVCA (39-17) in the “PAC” on Tuesday night. Hess says the Red Riders are versatile. “They are similar to us. I feel like they are playing some younger guys. They are playing a couple of sophomores and freshmen and they are a little more inexperienced than some of the teams we have been playing lately that are more senior laden teams. They are good athletes that really get out and pressure you defensively. They are almost two teams within one. They have one wave of guys that are bigger guys. They have some big bodies. They have a 6’8” sophomore and some other guys that can sore in the post. They have about three or four other guys that are smaller guards that are ball hawks that just pressure the ball all over the court, all over the place. So, it is kind of a situation where they can play a couple of different styles. They’ve have good depth. They run a lot of kids in and out and have a lot of kids contributing for them.”

They host West Holmes (4-8,0-6) in a make up game in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Saturday night. Hess says the Knights are not as bad as that record night indicate. “They can do some things. I thought they got off to a pretty good start this year, but then they got in the league and they hit kind of a little bit of a lull. Although, last Friday they played Mansfield and it was a single digit game, so it was definitely a tough one. Later on in the year when we go to West Holmes, playing down there is very difficult. Coach Troyer does a nice job. His kids always play hard. They have gotten better. I think they are in a similar situation to us in that they are getting better each week and doing some good things, but it is not always translating into wins,” he said.

Published 1/24/18

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Lexington Improving

Lexington stands in second pace in the Ohio Cardinal Conference girls’ basketball standings. They are three games behind first place Wooster with three games to play in the conference.

They have win on Thursday to stay alive in the league race.

They beat Mansfield Madison (52-44) last Thursday and then lost to Ashland (50-45) on Saturday in “OCC” games.

Co-coach Heidi Roush says they had trouble handling the Ashland guards last Saturday. “For the most part we have come out on top in the way we like to, but Ashland has two very, very good guards that don’t have a lot of weaknesses and we have a difficult challenge in guarding them. It is nice to be in some of those close games, that is good experience for the kids. Would we like to gout there and win by 15 or 20 every time? Sure, but I don’t think that is how we are geared,” she said.

Roush, who shares coaching duties with Connie Doutt feels they have been doing a good job improving as a basketball team. “I think their confidence has improved. I feel like they are finding each other well on the floor. I think position wise I think our posts have really improved their game. Our guards are doing a better job of finding people. So, there has definitely been some improvement, but I think everybody else has also improved. So, we have to keep working here. We have still got another seven games or so in the regular season,” said Roush,

Lexington (11-3,6-3) plays at West Holmes on Thursday night. The Lady Knights (1-14,1-6) are not what they once were in girls basketball and they lost to Mt. Vernon (47-33) on Saturday.

Roush says they still do some good things, especially on defense.

She says a win over West Holmes when she was the Clear Fork coach three years ago was likely the biggest of her career. “That was a fantastic win for the Clear Fork program. It was a great day for us. I remember telling the girls it was better than the day I got married, it was such a big win for us,” she told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It is a different West Holmes team, but they are the same. They still are fundamentally sound. They still play fantastic defense. That is something coach (Connie) Doutt told coach Snyder the first time we played you guys are going to sneak up in somebody with you defense. It makes us a little bit nervous that’s for sure going over there.”

Published 1/24/18

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Wynford Facing big game Against Colonel Crawford

Wynford takes a four winning streak into their meeting with Colonel Crawford on Saturday night in Northern 10 Athletic Conference play.

Thy brought a three game streak into the first meeting at Wynford and the Eagles buried them (76-47,) so they are going to have to play very well on Saturday night.

Coach Jason Engel says they have been playing very well against the teams they have been playing recently. “We are definitely improving and have come a long way. We are starting to do the little things that win basketball games. We are definitely going in the right direction and credit guys for sticking together and just continuing to go to practice and working on getting better,” he said.

Colonel Crawford (12-3,9-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, shares the lead in the conference with Upper Sandusky. They beat Mohawk (52-42) last Friday to stay there.

Engel says they have a number of very good outside shooters, but they are not all they have to worry about against the Eagles. “They are so good in transition. They are matchup problems. The have scorers and weapons and every position. Harley Shaum has really, really been playing well for them. McCreary see the floor very well. They just have really good basketball players and they are deep and they are tough to shop defensively,” said Engel.

Wynford (7-6,5-5) has to be able to defend the perimeter and the paint if they are going to have success against the Eagles. He says they can not forget about Shum if he will do the job and make it tough for them. “I don’t want to say he saved them against Mohawk. He was a big reason they were able to win a tough road game for them at Mohawk on Friday night. He had some really crucial plays. One time he shot a layup in a contest post move and missed and got his own rebound and missed again and got his own rebound again. There were three of four Mohawk defenders down there trying to box him out and he got the rebound and finally he scored off of it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It was plays like that he made that in a close game that were a big reason they beat Mohawk. We have to do a good job on him to keep him off the glass and defending him. That is not an easy challenge, but it is the second time we get to see him too.”

Published 1/24/18

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New London Needs to be Different

New London beat second place South Central on the road in December and they get another chance on Friday night, this time at home, in Firelands Conference action.

Last Saturday, the Wildcats (5-6,6-3) dropped a (67-54) decision to conference leading Western Reserve.

New London coach Tom Howell says the Roughriders were able to make some plays late to secure the win. “At times we played pretty well. We got off to a slow start and battled our way back to a four, six point deficit at halftime. It stayed about six, eight points the whole second half until the end when they made free throws and they hit some big threes at the end. You have to give Western a lot of credit. They are pretty good. We didn’t shoot the ball very well and it showed at the end,” said Howell.

They have lost three of their last four, but Howell felt it was a step in the right direction. “We played hard. We played right with them for most of the game. They had free throws. Coach Sheldon goes a good job with them. They made the plays at the end that they had to make,” he said.

South Central (8-4,6-1) has won its last four and five of its last six. Howell says the Trojans have a lot of kids that can score. “They are very explosive on the offensive end. They have about four guys that can shoot it. They are a hard guard for us because they don’t have a true post player that plays a lot,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have to come up with different ways to guard them a little bit. The first time we were lucky enough to get them and we are going to see if we can’t come up with something different this time.”

It was the Wildcats that won the first game (67-57) on December 15. That was their biggest offensive output of the season other than a (68-56) win last Thursday against Crestview. Howell though understands it won’t be exactly the same formula for a win. “It is not going to be the same game. It will be a different game. I am sure coach Seidel will come up with something different. We are going to come up with some adjustments, a few wrinkles here and there and hopefully they work. It is going to be a tough one, it is going to be a tough game. South Central is pretty good,” he said.

Published 1/24/18

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Two of the Leaders Meet in “MOAC”

Clear Fork and Marion Pleasant are two of the three leaders in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference and they play at Pleasant on Tuesday night in game that was originally scheduled for January 6.

Last week, the Colts beat North Union (65-51) on Thursday and Buckeye Valley (69-65) on Saturday.

Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel says those are big wins too. “Everyone is big. Against Pleasant and Ontario and us, we are all undefeated, we all want to beat each other, but every win is big. We just have to make sure that we are prepared and are mentally ready to go and expect it to be in a dogfight,” he said.

Marion Pleasant (11-2,7-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat Galion (50-40) and Marion Harding (54-32) last week. The Spartans only losses come to unbeaten Northmor and Columbus Bishop Ready.

Bechtel says they get to the basket and they pressure you a lot of defense. “They are pretty well balanced. They have a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things. Their dribble penetration is really good. They pressure you. I look at them and I think of ourselves,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I think we mirror each other fairly similarly and we just have to be ready to go. We have to go down there and execute on offense and make sure we limit them to one shot on defense.”

Clear Fork (9-3,6-2) is on the road, but Bechtel feels no matter who wins it is going to be a big win for them. “If they happen to beat us it is still a big win I think. They want to hold home court and we want to go down there and try and steal one, whatever word you want to use. We have to go down there and play well. Hopefully, we put ourselves in position where we can win it in the fourth quarter,” he said.

It is going to take 32 minutes for whoever wins the game. Bechtel says they have execute on every play and if they have a lead they have to keep building on it and not become satisfied. “Saturday, taught us a lot. We had a big lead and kind of squandered it away and we had to just milk it away there at the end. We have to do a great job if we have the lead. We have to do a great job if we have to get stops and then a score. No matter what the situation is we are going to have to execute at both ends of the floor,” said Bechtel.

Pleasant has scored in bunches this season and the Colts can’t allow that to happen on Tuesday night. Bechtel says they have to force the Spartans into taking tough shots. “Any runs with anybody you may be playing is not a good thing. We have to make them really earn their baskets. Not give them any easy ones and I am sure their game plan is the same thing with us. You have to make the other team score against your five guys. It is not soccer, it is not football, so we are not going top hold then scoreless. We just have to make them earn every basket,” he said.

Published 1/23/18

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Pleasant Wants to Force Clear Fork Turnovers

It is almost two months deep into the regular season and Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference co-leaders Marion Pleasant and Clear Fork finally meet on Tuesday night at Pleasant.

The Spartans are coming off two league win last week over Galion (50-40) on Thursday and Marion Harding (54-32) on Saturday to stay in first place.

Pleasant coach Ben Snively says Tuesday night is an important game, but the whole season is not riding on it’s outcome either. He says they have other games that are important other than the Colts and Ontario. “I talked to my kids about that (Monday.) We have some natural rivalries already with the schools we have been playing for 20 years in the league. It is obviously going to be a huge game (Tuesday,) but all of us still have to play each other twice yet. I talked to the kids that we never look ahead, but the key for this league thing for us we have to go to North Union, we have to go to “BV” and we have River Valley at home. Those are three games I feel like that we need to get them because who knows what is going to happen with Ontario and Clear Fork. I stressed (Tuesday) just a little bit more because it is the home game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Anytime you are going to try and win a conference you have to win your games at home. I told the kids regardless of what happens (Tuesday) we are still going to have six games left in the league. We want to win every game and put yourself in that leadership role in the league, but I am really concerned about those two road games and obviously River Valley being our biggest rival coming to our place and playing better now. There is a lot of basketball left to be played and in a short amount of time. This is a big week for us, but we have a lot other games we have to take care of.”

Pleasant (11-2,7-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, is at Ontario (8-3,7-0) on Saturday.

When it comes to Clear Fork’s (9-3,6-0) strengths, Snively says there are a lot of them, but he thinks the most dangerous in their perimeter shooting. “I think they are very athletic. I think they have five kids that dribble the basketball, pass the basketball, and shoot the basketball. When you have a bunch of kids that can do the basic skills of basketball it doesn’t seem like a lot. They can put a lot of pressure on you, they can trap you a little bit, they like to get the ball down the court, they shoot the three ball very well, which is a big concern of ours. I think the three ball can be a back breaker either way for a team. We really talked a lot (Monday) about getting out and defending the three point line and making sure we do a good job on that. The other aspect to that is a team that shoots a lot of threes is a good offensive rebounding team as well, which Clear Fork is. They kind of remind me of us a little bit. They are guard dominated. It should be a fun game. We will probably run up and down a little more than we normally do,” said Snively.

One of the keys to Pleasant’s success this season has been their ability to force turnovers and they hope to be able to do that on Tuesday night. “They are just really athletic and well coached. They are averaging nine-something turnovers a game, which is really, really good. We do a good job of turning people over this season. It will be interesting. It is not a make or break game (Tuesday,) but we have been waiting to play this game against them and Ontario and it should be a lot of fun,” he said.

Published 1/23/18

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A Change in Defense Pays Dividends for Madison

Madison plays at rival Lexington in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night and it promises to be a good one again.

The Rams beat Ashland (60-50) last Friday in a conference game, breaking a streak when they lost three of four games.

Coach Tim Mergel says after reviewing things that they were doing it was a time to change what they were doing on defense. “Just looking at what our weaknesses were we were really struggling to turn some defense into offense, so we made some changes and our guys responded pretty positively to it throughout the week last week leading up to Ashland. There were a couple of defensive miscues, but I was proud of the way we got out and attacked on offense. The ball moved pretty freely and we got in a pretty good rhythm. Unfortunately, we missed 12 free throws in the fourth. I guess we are going to be talking a little more about free throw shooting this week,” said Mergel.

He says it was really a total change in philosophy. “We used to be just a 1-5 switch team. We would switch and kind of cheat the passing lanes a little bit and that led to some mismatch problems for us that teams were exploiting and led to some miscommunication problems for us that left some shooters open. We went back to a more traditional style defense where your man is your responsibility when he has the basketball and you are fighting through screens. It gives our kids a chance to have a little more accountability and it forces us to communicate a little bit better,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “It is not something we are going to be set in stone 100 percent of the time. We could always go back to the switching style. It is always nice to have a little difference throughout the season.”

Lexington (10-4,4-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, lost to “OCC” leader Mansfield Senior (60-52) last Tuesday, but they beat “N10” co-leader Colonel Crawford (50-41) on Saturday.

Mergel says they are very good on defense. “They are just solid defensively. Colonel Crawford is a team we scrimmaged and they shot it well against us and offensively they have it going on. I think Lex held them to under 20 in the first half and maybe 40 in the game. So, defensively they really stand out to you. Across the board Cade Stover sticks out, but you have three or four guys that are shooting over 35 percent from behind the arc. They shoot good shots. They are not a team that is going to shoot themselves in or out of ballgames. They just stay solid. That is a credit to (coach) Scott (Hamilton) and the discipline he brings to the program and that is why they have been successful,” said Mergel.

Back on December 22, Madison (8-6,3-5) lost (54-46) to Lexington. Mergel says this time they have to be better decision makers on offense. “Defensively I thought we were pretty good against them. They made one run at us and we cut it down to three with about two minutes left. I think the biggest thing that stuck out to me is our shooting percentage and to not take anything away from Lex, but we missed some open shots that have to go in. On the flip side of that is you are not making those shots maybe you make that one extra pass to turn a good shot into a great shot. Our decision making wasn’t the best. I thought we shot some okay shots, but I thought with one more pass we could have gotten a better one. Decision making I think is going to be key. I think we have to get up and down the floor and that has to be positive for us,” said Mergel.

Published 1/23/18

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Buckeye Central Plays Upper

Buckeye Central shares the lead in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference girls’ basketball standings with Carey and Upper Sandusky trails both by just a game.

Buckeye plays at home against Upper on Tuesday night.

Buckeye’s only loss of the season came at Carey (51-50) back on December 27.

Coach Greg Moore says they didn’t play four quarters that night, but other than that the Buckettes have been consistent in their play. “We look at it and we have Carey next Tuesday and we really feel like we let one get away there. We played well the first half, we played two quarters and we told the kids you have to play four quarters if you want to be a team that is reckoned with. That night we didn’t do it and got beat by one,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Since then we have picked it up and had some great wins with Olentangy, we got Willard last week, and got Seneca East. There are some good things that we are doing. (Tuesday) is going to be just another set of circumstances that we have to take care of.”

Buckeye (13-1,7-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com girls’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division leader and division two Willard (55-44) last Thursday and Moore says that illustrates how good they can be as a team. “That is what we told the kids. We just have to come out focused. I thought we came out against Willard in the first half and played a very, very good game and really over four quarters we did. We took care of business right out of the gate and we got up on them. We made them chase us. That’s what we have to do. We have to make teams chase us. We have to make teams play our pace and play our style,” said Moore.

Buckeye Central beat Upper Sandusky (47-44) in their first meeting on December 16.

Moore says the Lady Rams (12-3,8-2) have some talented players, but he wants his kids concentrate on what they do well. “We know Hensel can flat out play. She is a hard matchup for us. They have (Abigail) Fogle that can flat out stroke it. We just have to take care of that. We just have to play Buckeye Central basketball and let things go the way they should go and see what happens,” he said.

Published 1/23/18

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Defense is Big For Mansfield Christian

Mansfield Christian is a team that normally plays pretty good defense and they are going to have to when they play Plymouth is a non-conference game on Tuesday night.

Last Friday, the Flames lost (51-42) to Lucas in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game. Coach John Kurtz says they couldn’t get things going on offense. “We had trouble all night scoring. We started out down 11-0, 12-0, or something like that and came back and went up one at halftime, but we had trouble scoring during the night. We had trouble shooting the ball very well, but we made a game of it was 46-42 there with a little bit the go in the game. We struggled all night scoring. I think they did a little bit too,” he said.

Plymouth (6-6) played three Firelands Conference games last week in beating New London (56-50) and Mapleton (54-44) and losing on Saturday (53-47) to Norwalk St. Paul.

Kurtz says they Big Red is becoming a more consistent basketball team. “When we watched them on film I think they have greatly improved since the beginning of the year. I think they are dangerous and I also think they are becoming a little more consistent in their play and I think that’s what has made them good. They are very good at taking the ball to the rim. They seem to be finding confidence in doing that and that us what has made them good. They did beat a good New London team and that just shows you how good they can be,” he said.

Defense has been a cornerstone of the Mansfield Christian program, but Kurtz says it has been inconsistent this year. He says it has to be there on Tuesday night. “I think the first thing is you have to keep the Adams kid under control and I think you have to keep them out of the paint the best you can. I think they also rebound the ball pretty well for their size. Those are the two things that we talked a good bit about (Monday) night,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “There are some things we have to take care of on our own end. I don’t think we were very good defensively against Lucas. We spent a good portion of our practice (Monday) night on that. I think throughout the year when we have been good we have played pretty well on the defensive end. I think that is a real point of emphasis and an area we are very inconsistent in right now.”

Published 1/23/18

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St. Paul Without its Best Player

Norwalk St. Paul faces a three game week and likely without the services of its best player in Chris Roffing.

They play host to Willard in a non conference game on Tuesday night and play Firelands Conference games at Monroeville (1-12,0-7) and Plymouth (6-6,4-3) on Friday and Saturday.

They just beat Plymouth (53-47) on Saturday and Mapleton (46-40) on Tuesday in conference games, but fell to second place South Central (64-45) on Thursday.

Coach Mike Smith says he was disappointed in their performance and their reaction against South Central. “I was disappointed in Thursday night to be honest. I didn’t think our kids handled the way the game was officiated and I really liked the way it was officiated. It was a tournament type of game. Our kids didn’t adjust that and the South Central kids did. We didn’t shoot it very well and that is a credit to them. We kind of misfired at the line. We were 11-27 and missed numerous one and one attempts, which surely would have helped us. I know the final score wasn’t indicative of how close the game was. It was still a five point game at the end of the third. It was disappointing because we really needed that win to kind of hang in there. We can’t afford another league loss and obviously we need a lot of help,” said Smith.

St. Paul (5-5) hosts Willard (3-9) on Tuesday night. The Flashes lost to Port Clinton (45-35) and Norwalk (56-35) this past weekend. They have struggled to score at times.

Smith says they rebound well and play some good defense. “They are pretty young yet and inexperienced. They have played pretty well at points. There are times maybe where they haven’t been nearly as consistent, especially at the offensive end. In watching them in the three of four games I was able to break down (Sunday.) They do a tremendous job going to the offensive glass. They do have good size and that is a major concern,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They are doing a nice job in the 1-3-1. There is not a lot of space. Sometimes they trap in that a little bit, kind of squeeze you a little bit. Again, I think they play awful hard. I know coach Bedingfield and coach Hirschey will have them well prepared and ready to go. It will be a good non league game for us.”

In regards to the weekend, Smith says they need to continue to have kids step up. He says they can’t afford to lose any more on conference games. “There is no question in my mind we are going to have to do that. We also going to have to that without Chris Roofing again pretty much this week. Hopefully, he will be back for February 2. That means our best player, our leading scorer, leading rebounder, is going to miss seven of our first 13 games. That is has put us a little bit in a bind as well. It has been next many up and some kids have stepped up and done a decent job,” he said.

Published 1/23/18

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Perkins Playing as a Team

Perkins is the right there in the tough and balanced Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference. They trial division leader Sandusky by just a game.

They had lost their last three division games to Sandusky (60-59) in overtime, Shelby (54-53) and Clyde (74-51) last Thursday before beating Bellevue (64-51) last Friday.

Coach Scott McVeigh says it was a win they had to have and he points to a couple of factors. “I was impressed with our defensive effort. It seemed we recommitted ourselves. We had five guys on the court on the same page and played very good team defense. I think that was the difference and we shared the ball. We had our high in assists with 23 assists I want to say. I think only three or four of our buckets were unassisted. I was happy because it was a total team effort and that was nice,” he said.

Shelby and Norwalk also trail the Blue Streaks by a game and really everyone but Tiffin Columbian is part of the race. McVeigh says there are no nights off in the Lake Division. “It is very balanced. I think we thought that from the start. You have to bring your “A” game every night. You have to do the little things better and sometimes it comes down to one or two possessions as we have seen. Two of our losses are at the buzzer. Sandusky, we give up a tip in at the buzzer and one to Shelby, which the Schwemely kid hits a tough shot that we had defended pretty good. You can do everything right for the most part and sometimes come out on the losing side. It is a battle, it’s a grind and it makes us better,” said McVeigh.

Perkins (8-6,5-3) plays at home against Norwalk (6-7,4-3) on Friday night. The Truckers played some excellent basketball last week with wins over Columbian (67-32) and Clyde (65-61) in division games and Willard (56-35) in a cross over game.

Perkins win the first matchup (49-44) and McVeigh thinks the Truckers are playing better basketball right now. “Seems like they are shooting a lot better. They are good, they are good. They are no slouches that’s for sure. When you have a kid like Haraway that is very talented he is a difference maker as he seemed like he was when they played Clyde the other night. We scored 11 points in a row or something like that. He is big and he is physical. He is good off the bounce,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They have some shooters out there with him. The Roth kid is a very good shooter. They have some size with Chapin. They are dangerous. They are well coached and obviously Steve (Gray) does a great job. He had his win 400 this past week and that says something. They are solid. We have to bring our game and our effort to be able to be in it.”

Published 1/23/18

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Stover Leads Lexington Past Colonel Crawford

Cade Stover had 32 points and 11 rebounds and Lexington beat Colonel Crawford (50-41) Saturday night at Mac Morrison Gym in North Robinson in non-conference action.

Stover scored 11 his team’s first 14 points and did a lot damage around the basket.

The game was tied (10-10) with over six minutes to play in the second quarter, but Stover’s free throw gave the Minutemen and (11-10) lead with 6:22 remaining in the half and they never trailed again.

Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says it was their goal to get Stover, a division one college football recruit, the ball as much as possible. “We told the guys before coming over here that they had one really good post player and the other guys were more perimeter players. When (Harley) Shaum goes to the bench to get a rest they really struggled to guard Cade. You kind of found his rhythm and he was kind of excited a little bit. We really built this game up,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We knew Crawford was a good team and we told the guys it doesn’t matter what the division is, it doesn’t matter what records are, they are well coached and they get after it. Stover just kind of got that feel early. He did get a couple of fouls and did allow him to rest , so he wasn’t out on the floor too much. The guys did a nice job of getting him the ball and actually working to get him open and he just went to the boards. Another double, double for him.”

Lexington outscored the Eagles (16-6) over the final six minutes of the first half to lead (26-16) at the break.

Colonel Crawford coach David Sheldon says they tried to make some adjustments, but they couldn’t find the answer to slowing down Stover. “He is very good. We tried to fronting him with backside help in the first half. Second half, we wanted to double him off their other post player and we just didn’t get there quick enough to double team him. We never got there. There is a reason he is a division one athlete and is going to play in the Big Ten, SEC, or in the Big 12. The other thing he did was on the defensive end. When we got in the paint in the first half we didn’t finish because of his presence in there at the rim. We had to adjust and shoot a little jumper or move the ball one more pass because his presence alters everything at the rim. He is a special athlete,” said Sheldon.

Colonel Crawford, one of the better shooting teams in the area, shot only 38 percent on the night. Hamilton feels they were aggressive without fouling a lot. “That is what we try to do. We knew Shaum was a definite threat inside. He can go off at any time and everybody else was a really good three point shooting player. We told the guys you can not get up in them and foul them and put them on the line because they are all excellent free throw shooters. So, we really talked to the guys about moving their feet and contesting and not fouling the shooter. I thought we did a really good job. We had a couple of guys give us a lot of minutes, but when we went to the bench those guys stepped in and did an excellent job. I thought out bench really came through,” said Hamilton.

Lexington (10-4) took a 13 point lead (46-33) on Stover’s three pointer with 3:35 left, but the Eagles went on an (8-0) run over the next 1:46 to cut it to five (46-41) with 1:49 left, but could get no closer. “This was good for us. I was proud of way we battled back and cut it two five with two something, one something to go. You face adversity in games and I thought we have to stay together more. The reason we have been successful is we have gotten four guys in doubles. We got off that island a little bit offensively,” said Sheldon.

Cameron McCreary has 11 for Colonel Crawford (12-3,) five of them coming in that fourth quarter run.

With two free throws with 1:31 left in the game Stover reached the 1,000 point plateau halfway through his junior season at Lexington.

Hamilton also thought they made some hustle plays. “We did a nice job rebounding. We won the glass. A lot of that was Stover. We didn’t have anybody else in double figures, but we had a lot of guys getting us those big rebounds when we needed one. There were a lot of lose balls coming off of the boards being tipped around, nobody could get their hands on it and I thought we came up with a couple of them too in important moments,” he said.

Published 1/20/18

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Upper Remembers

Upper Sandusky shares first place with Colonel Crawford in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference standings and Friday night they have a chance at revenge.

The only team to beat the Rams in a league game is Carey and Upper (10-3,7-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays hosts to their longtime rivals on Friday night.

Carey (10-3,6-3) beat the Rams (71-70) on December 15. Upper had a chance to pull it out, but missed a couple of shots late.

Coach Jeff Winslow says they have brought that game up a couple of times this week. “We brought that up because we have a quote of the day everyday and the quote of the day (Thursday) was winners hate to lose. I told them last time we played them we lost and you have to hate it enough that it makes you angry. Do whatever you can do to beat them this time. I hate to lose and I believe you have to hate to lose to win. I don’t enjoy winning as much as I hate losing. That was kind of the emphasis this week to give them a little motivation that we want to come out and play well and win this game,” said Winslow.

Winslow says both teams can score a lot of points. Carey has scored over 80 a couple of times and the Rams over 100. So, both are going to score. Winslow says it is going to boil down to who can get stops at crucial times. “We didn’t do a good enough job on defense the first time. They have Bame and Luzader and they both can shoot the ball well as well as take it to the basket. The Stone kid gets better every game. Their 6’7” sophomore post player. We is really turning into a nice player. So, they have the big three there. They are quite a load and their role players do what they are supposed to score, whether they are drivers or shooters. They are a tough matchup,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It will more and likely be a high scoring game since both teams can score. It is going to come down to who is going to get the most stops. So, hopefully we watch film and we had quite a few defensive breakdowns. I think we are a much better defensive team now than we were back then. So, hopefully we can get a little better defensive performance against them. They are going to score some because they have good players. Good players no matter what you do sometimes score. We will have to put the ball in the hole ourselves.”

With a (68-53) loss to Colonel Crawford last Thursday, Carey now stands two behind the leaders and they must have a win Friday night if a conference title is in their future.

Winslow says they like being home where they haven’t lost since January 24, 2015 when Buckeye Central beat them in a league game. “You are just more comfortable at home. Everybody has that advantage at home. You are used to your rims and your environment. We are excited about being at home. We should bring a good crowd and it should be a lot of fun to play that game (Friday) night,” he said.

Published 1/19/18

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Lucas Has to Keep Shooting it

Lucas and Mansfield Christian, two of the better small school boys’ basketball teams in the area, square off in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game at Lucas on Friday night.

The Cubs won the first meeting (49-44) and this one should be just as close, if not closer.

Lucas (7-2,3-2) beat Crestview (73-64) in a non-league game on Tuesday. Coach Taylor Iceman says they played well, but not that well. “It’s a team we know pretty well. We play in a summer league over at Crestview. We know coach Spencer and all of their kids pretty well several times through the summer with them. They like to pressure and they also have a little bit of size. They changed things up and didn’t start their big man and I think helped us a little bit early. It actually gave us some problems once they inserted him and started running their offense through him. We handled their pressure well and we shot it well enough early when we were kind of sluggish and not playing real great defense. Jeb Grover, I think he made his first three three pointers in the first quarter and that kind of kept us in it and then we kind of found our grove a little bit and didn’t play real great, but did enough to win,” said Iceman.

Mansfield Christian (8-4,1-3) has played well too, especially in non-league games. They have lost to Loudonville (67-50) and Crestline (66-55) in “MBC” games.

Iceman says the Flames have talented guards that can both shoot it and get the hole. “Mansfield Christian is over there in that same summer league with us. Another team we are super familiar with playing them two times a year, possibly three with them being in our sectional. Coach Kurtz’s kids always play extremely hard. They have two really good scorers and basketball players in Kyle Kurtz and Jared McPeak. You have to know where they are ar. They always play well against us. It should be a good game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are playing well right now. The thing with them you have to know where their shooters are at and keep McPeak in front of you because he gets to the rim with that left hand as good as anybody around. Hopefully, both teams play well, so it is a good game. I think both teams have dropped a game or two that they weren’t expecting. There is that potential that we could have an off night or something like that.”

With all the guards on the floor there are going to be shooters and shots put up. Iceman says they have to rebound the misses. “Kyle Kurtz is one of the better shooters in the area. The first time around he didn’t shoot it like he was capable and also went 0-4 from the free throw line, which is kind of unheard of. I know we can’t count on that this time around. That was the second game for us and that was an early game for them as well and you were still kind of trying to feel you way into the season and the jump shots maybe aren’t there yet. Both teams are playing pretty good now and kind of in the grove of our season. I am glad we are home here, it is always better shooting on your own rims. Hopefully, we can keep up our shooting. The other night we shot well, Jeb Grover had four three pointers, I think Logan Niswander had two and Ethan Sauder had two. We have a lot of guys that are capable we have all of those guards. The last time we didn’t box out really well. When they do miss, or we miss, and secure the rebound and take advantage of that,” said Iceman.

Published 1/19/18

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Wooster Needs This One

Wooster trails Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Mansfield Senior by a game and has another meeting with Tygers next month, but to keep pace they are going to need a win at Mt. Vernon on Friday night.

The Yellow Jackets are two back.

The Generals (8-4,5-2) beat Ashland (73-54) on Tuesday night in one of their more impressive offensive outings on the season.

Coach Michael Snowbarger says they played hard and they finally made some shots. “That was a very good win for us. Ashland comes in 1-8, but they have some great athletes, some big players. You start 6’4”, 6’4”, 6’5” across the board. Ashland is a good basketball team and they just got done beating Mansfield Senior and were coming off a high. I thought we came out with some pretty good intensity. It was good to see us make some outside shots. Lonnie Harper came off the bench and was 5-5 from three for us. That is always a big pick me up for the team,” he said.

Improved outside shooting and at the charity stripe might be the key to the rest of the season for the Generals. Snowbarger says they have to cash in on those opportunities. “Like I have said in the past we are shooting 24 percent from three and 56 percent from the foul line. If we can get that foul line shooting up to the 65 area and the three point shooting up to the low 30’s, that is still not great, but it would go a long way to winning some more basketball games,” he said.

Mt Vernon (7-5,4-2) beat Mansfield Madison (64-48) on Tuesday. Although the Jackets kind of fly under the radar screen a little bit they are a very good team.

Wooster edged them (52-49) in their first meeting on December 15. Snowbarger says they need to get more rebounds and continue to make shots in order to win. “I mean Mt. Vernon can knock down shots. When they came here Collin Barteau hit about every open look we gave him. We can’t give him any open looks. They are a great rebounding team. They came up here against us and packed in a 2-3 zone. We missed some shots and they rebounded. We went almost a whole half without getting an offensive rebound,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “So, that is tough to do without getting second chance buckets. Mt. Vernon is just a very disciplined team and they are a well coached basketball team. We are going to have to go down there and it is a tough travel for us. We are going to have to go down there and make some shots.”

Published 1/19/18

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Norwalk Taking Practice to Game Floor

Norwalk just might have played its best game of the season on Tuesday night and they hope to be able to take that forward to the rest of the season.

They play at Clyde in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference on Friday night.

On Tuesday night, the Truckers belted Tiffin Columbian (67-32) in Lake Division game.

Coach Steve Gray says it started with how well they played on defense against the Tornadoes. “We were really good against Columbian. Defensively Roth, Neuberger and Haraway took them out of everything they wanted to run and we were able to get out and get some easy transition baskets. We played well, we passed the ball well, the shot the ball well. It was a total team effort,” he said.

Norwalk (4-7,3-3) only trails co-leaders Shelby and Sandusky by only a game in the division standings. Gray says their hard work is starting to pay off. “We have practiced really well for the last three or four weeks and we are starting to see the results on game night. The last four games we have played pretty well. Unfortunately, we let two of them slip away. Clyde is a team that likes to get out in transition and shoots a lot of threes. If we don’t take care of the ball and we don’t get back defensively we are going to be in trouble,” said Gray.

Norwalk beat Clyde (7-4,3-3) in their first meeting (53-48) back in early December in Norwalk. Gray says it will be a lot harder to win on the road, especially at Clyde. “Unfortunately, we have to travel to Clyde and it makes a difference. Our gym is big and spacious. If you haven’t been there it is a lot like Ontario’s gym. You go to Clyde and the bleachers and everybody is right on top of you,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “The traps are closer together. It is loud. It seems like the noise just vibrates all over the place. It is going to be a tough game for us, but our kids are excited. I think we will have a good crowd and it should be fun.”

Clyde is going to trap for 32 minutes and they score in bunches. A good example was a (23-3) fourth quarter in a (74-51) win over Perkins on Thursday night.

Gray says they have to understand what a good turnover is. “We talked to the kids that a five or 10 second call is a heck of a lot better than a bad pass because we have no defense for bad passes. Our goal is 10, 11 turnovers. Once again, if we can spread them out and not let then go on those 10, 12, 14 runs it should be a great game,” he said.

Published 1/19/18

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Vermilion Tries to Protect First Place

Vermilion leads Oak Harbor by a game in the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference and the Sailors play at Edison in a division game on Friday night.

The Chargers now trail by three games after a (37-26) loss to Margaretta on Tuesday night. They also lost to Clyde (61-43) in a game played at Quicken Loans Arena on Monday. Edison had won six in a row previous to those losses.

Vermilion (9-1,7-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Port Clinton (63-37) on Tuesday.

Veteran coach Kurt Habermehl says the numbers look good, but he thought they were kind of sluggish. “It was a game that if you look at the stat sheet we kind of dominated in every category, but it kind of felt like we were stuck in mud a little bit. We hadn’t played in 10 days and we were on exams. Those little things seem to affect kids a lot. It wasn’t pretty, but again if you look at the stat sheet we had a really good night,” said Habermehl.

Vermilion had not played since January 6 prior to beating Port Clinton and Habermehl thinks that might have been part of the Tuesday night performance. “This is the time when kids get tired of practicing and they want to play games. I think we have done a pretty good job of back loading our schedule and we do play a lot of games in the second half. When you do go 10 days like that without playing a game it can kind of get stale for the kids and you lose a lot of the momentum that you had,” he said.

Edison (9-4,3-3), #3 in our small school poll, features a solid big man in Bryce Roberts and Habermehl says he is a player they have problems guarding. “They had a really good run going for them until Monday night. I don’t think they had lost a game since they played us, probably close to a month. Kyle (Hammond) has them coaching them really well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They have hit a couple bumps in the road lately, but I am sure we are going to get a really good basketball game (Friday) night. For us it is always about trying to stop their big men because they are a load for us and they are very skilled.”

Habermehl says they need to be able to handle Roberts and the Chargers other big people and make some shots against the Edison zone. “We are going to have to handle their size. Those kids are not only big, but they are skilled. We are forced to guard them on the perimeter and the block, which sometimes is a problem for us because we are not very big, so we are going to have to control the boards. We are going to have to handle their zone a little bit and make sure we shoot the basketball in rhythm. Hopefully, our pressure will get to their guards a little bit and we can get some runouts,” said Habermehl.

Published 1/19/18

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Ontario Wants to Take Advantage of Home Court

The Ontario Warriors play their home games on a court named after their current coach and they hope that court is going to be an advantage for them this week.

Ontario shares first place with Clear Fork and Marion Pleasant in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference and they play at home on Thursday against Marion Harding and Saturday against North Union, two teams they beat in the first round in close games.

Coach Joe Balogh says home or not they have to come out ready to play. “We hope it is a plus. That is the thing we have tried to emphasize to our kids that by us being on the road early in the league and being able to win those games we put ourselves in position where we control our destiny as we approach the second half of the league. Although it is a little unusual because we have not played Clear Fork or Marion Pleasant in the first half because of the postponements. We have talked this week especially about just being ready to play. Part of the that is we have been off and we didn’t play at all last weekend. We said when people come into our place they have go to know that we are really going to come after them. That is a big emphasis as we go into Thursday’s game is we need to come out and really try and set the tempo and the only way you set tempo is by how you start out defensively and the energy and enthusiasm that you play with on the defensive end of the floor,” said Balogh.

Harding (3-7.1-4) lost it last game on January 6 (54-33) to River Valley.

Ontario (6-3,5-0) beat Marion Harding (37-34) in the league opener the first week of December. Balogh says they want the game to be faster, so they get more shots. “Even in the first game it was not a game where either team tried to slow the pace down. Part of it was both teams struggled making shots. We didn’t do a very good job of handling some of their pressure they showed us in the second half. We hope we are a lot better team as we approach this game. Harding surely they are going to be a better basketball team. They have won some big games here over the past three weeks. They kind of had a step back against River Valley. We would like the pace of the game to be a little faster from the standpoint that we would like to have some more offensive possessions. So, we are going to try and push that pace a little bit. I think you have to be able to push the pace a little bit with your defensive pressure and we hope to be able to do that,” he said.

The Warriors won at North Union (50-48) on December 14. Balogh says the Wildcats (6-5,2-4) have some talented guards that are hard to stop. “They are a dangerous team from the standpoint that their guard and play is really good. They have a couple of kids that can put the ball on the floor and beat you with penetration. I think that is one of the hardest things to try and defend. When you get beat on penetration and then you have to help and recover and they have a couple of kids that can shoot it really well from the perimeter and then they have good size inside. The one thing is they are not really deep,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We hurt them a little bit with pressure in the second half. They showed a 2-3 zone the first time we played them. We struggled a little bit with that. The struggle was not us not attacking it was more not being able to make shots and making good decisions with the basketball. Coming back to the same thing we hope we are a lot better team then when we played them the first time. We hope the home court is a little bit of an advantage for us too. I think anytime you play in a league and you have been in the league for a while or you are just in the league a league game has a different feel to it and a different preparation. So, we have to make sure we are ready to play. The hope is when we are playing North Union we are still in a position where we control our own destiny.”

Published 1/18/18

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Shelby Faces Rematch with Talented and Improved Sandusky

It is a log jam a top the standings in the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference with Shelby, Sandusky, and Perkins all in a share of first place with Bellevue, Clyde, and Norwalk just a game back.

Wow!!

Shelby plays at home against Sandusky on Friday night.

They beat Perkins (54-53) on Monday night when Uriah Schwemley scored at the horn.

Coach Troy Schwemley says their focus was great for a Monday night and they were able to make a big play at the end. “When you look at just the prior weekend too. We practiced Thursday getting ready for Perkins on Friday. We knew the weather was coming in and Friday’s game gets moved to Monday. Then our Willard game on Saturday gets cancelled. When you practice Thursday and you don’t do anything until Monday I was a little nervous going into the game as far as where we were at because we had had that long weekend. We talked before the game and said guys at the end of the night we are either going to be tied for first or we are going to be two games back and we can’t make any excuses about not having practice time we have to come our ready to play and I really felt we did. We came out and were ahead the whole game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We had a couple of stretches where we extended the lead to 10 or 11, but Perkins kept battling and made some plays down the stretch and it kind of went back and forth there right until the last basket. We did a nice job of getting the ball to Uriah and he took to the paint and had a great finish at the buzzer to get us a win.”

Shelby (8-2,4-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Sandusky (68-63) when they played them December 15 at Sandusky. The Blue Streaks (8-4,5-2), #5 in our poll, lost only twice since that and not at all in the league. They beat Bellevue (66-52) on Tuesday.

Schwemley says they have really good guards that are the engine for the team. “Their guards Tosh Stavisky, Keith Williams, and Dillon Jones just make them go. Williams is averaging about 18, Stavisky is around 12 and Jones is around 14. Stavisky and Jones are sophomores. They are really aggressive and are nice shooters. Those three are their guys. They take threes, they will attack. I think they are most dangerous when they are attacking and either creating for themselves, each other, or for other players. Their other guys are role players. They take their roles. They get some garbage buckets. They are a team where their guards make them go. They have a lot of guys that come in and play hard. They have really figured themselves out. They are a different team than when we played the first time,” said Schwemley.

Then on Saturday night, the Whippets host Mansfield St. Peter’s (13-0), #1 in our small school poll. Schwemley says the Spartans are going to be another of what is a long line of contenders. “We are getting ready for Sandusky. Our focus is on Sandusky and when Friday night is over it will be move to St. Pete’s, who is undefeated and having a great season. We have had some battles the last couple of years and it has been a great rivalry. So, we are going to have to get ready for them Saturday morning. You go back to Monday and we had this great win Monday and it is get ready for the next team and we both tied for the lead and Saturday night we get St. Pete’s next. Then you look at next week and we have Clyde and Lexington on the schedule. Our focus has got to be one game at a time and put every once of energy into that one game and when that game is over move on to the next one and that is how it has got to be,” said Schwemley.

Published 1/18/18

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Madison Has to Play With Urgency


Madison is a talented team that has won seven games this year, but right now they aren’t playing as hard as they need to be on defense.

They lost last Saturday to rival Mansfield Senior (62-47) and on Tuesday night to Mt. Vernon (64-48) in Ohio Cardinal Conference games. They play at Ashland in an “OCC” game on Friday night.

Coach Tim Mergel says they need to have their defense lead to their offense and that hasn’t happened in the last two games. “I think it starts on the defensive end. Anytime we are able to get stops that leads to some runout things for us. We just haven’t had that urgency defensively to get those stops and get that defense leading into that offense and it has kind of hurt us. Mansfield Senior and Mt. Vernon are two solid programs defensively. They really grind you out defensively. We just haven’t been in a good enough flow offensively in the half court and that is something we need to get fixed,” said Mergel.

Mergel adds they need to rebound better too. Again, he emphasizes it is all about effort. “It comes down to having a sense of urgency and I think right now we are lacking a little bit. Too many catch and shoot opportunities. We are giving up more offensive rebounds than we are getting. From an overall effort standpoint right now we are lacking in those departments and that leads to some bad things and leads to some bad results, which you see in our past two ballgames,” he said.

Madison (7-6,2-5) is at Ashland (1-9,1-5) on Friday night at Arrow Arena. Mergel thinks the teams are kind of suffering from similar ailments. “We are in the same boat. We have won some more ballgames, but we share some of the same frustrations. We talk to each other pretty regularly and it is just that part of being consistent. That is the tough thing about basketball is exerting the same amount of energy defensively as you do offensively and vice versa. Getting the transition “D” tightened up and executing the scouting reports. They are all difficult things, but you continue to strive everyday in practice to get better. We know they are continually everyday trying to get better in practice,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Friday night they are going to be ready for us. We took it to them the first time around, but they are long, they are athletic, they have size across the board. They snuck up and got Mansfield Senior, and it looks like right now Mansfield Senior is the king of the conference. It is a team we can’t take lightly.”

Published 1/18/18

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Western Likes its Position

Western Reserve is in first place in the Firelands Conference and that is where they want to be.

They host Monroeville on Thursday and play at rival New London on Saturday in conference games.

Their game with South Central that was supposed to be played last Friday then last Saturday will now be January 30. “I think it is the Good Lord testing me and my kids the virtue of patience and unfortunately that is the only thing we can look at it as. It is out of our control and at some point we know we are going to get to play them and when that moment comes we will be ready for it,” he said.

Monroeville (1-10,0-5) is at Western Reserve (7-3,5-0) on Thursday night. Sheldon says the Eagles are inconsistent, but have some good players. “The Schaub kid has played varsity basketball now for three years and he has some ability and skill sets and he is going to get a lot of our attention at the defensive end of the floor. The big kid they have got I think does some nice things and they put a couple of young shooters around those guys. They are probably at this point in their development a team not collectively ready to compete night in and night out at a varsity level, but at the same token you see them compete well in spurts. You never want to overlook an opponent. You never want to play down and allow them to gain confidence and then you are in for a dogfight. They are going to get our attention and we have to be willing and able to play come (Thursday) night,” said Sheldon.

New London (4-5,4-2) hosts Western on Saturday night. The Roughriders won the first meeting (54-51) in another of a long line of good games behind the two. New London fell two games behind Western with a (56-50) loss to Plymouth on Monday night.

Sheldon predicts the Wildcats will come out with fire in their eyes on Saturday night. “It has been a tremendous rivalry in my 16 years, not just with a lot of league title game implications on the line, but also some very key tournament games in the division three tournament over the years. There is some great mutual respect between our two programs and yet at the same token our kids love to compete against each other. They have played really well in spurts. They are coming off a tough loss on Monday night. They know their backs are against the wall now with two losses. Those teams with two losses that we are playing know that they have to beat us and our kids understand that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “There is a target on our back right now. I tell our kids all of the time we would rather be the hunted rather that the huntee because that means you are doing some really, really good things. You put yourself in a position to compete for a league title. You have to own that and accept that and be able to step up to that challenge. That is something that we are going to find out if our kids are ready for come Saturday night.”

Published 1/18/18

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Pleasant Faces Road Tests

Marion Pleasant remains in a share of first place in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference with Ontario and Clear Fork entering conference play this week.

It is a pair of road games for the Spartans as they play at Galion on Thursday and at Marion Harding on Saturday.

They have had games postponed with the other leaders the last two weeks due to weather and coach Ben Snively says they can’t be thinking about those games. “It is kind of crazy with this weather that Ontario, Clear Fork and ourselves have kind of avoided each other to this point. I thought we were playing pretty good basketball at the time and I would have liked to be able to get them in but as it stands it is not. It is really scary for us at this point because we have taken care of business thus far. It is kind of different for us because we have never played Clear Fork or Ontario, but these other teams we have all played,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Marion Harding we have yet to win a game there in the four or five years being in the league with them. Buckeye Valley is coming up down the line, we have never won there, North Union is a tough place to play. Ontario and Clear Fork we have them in the next week are kind of on the back burner. This is a real big week for us with games at Galion and Marion Harding. Our kids have had a good couple of days of practice here, but you are out of school, you are in school, you are on delays. It is going to be a big couple of games for us this weekend.”

Galion (4-7,2-5) lost to Buckeye Valley (72-53) on Tuesday. The Tigers have shown the willingness to push the pace of play.

Pleasant (9-2,5-0) beat Galion (65-44) on December 8 to open the league season, but Snively believes they are improved. “I will tell you and I think this has happened with a lot of teams. We are at this point in the season where some teams have decided, hey, we are pretty good, some teams have maybe said we are not that good. I think Galion is a team that I look at and they have improved since the beginning of the year. I talked to my kids about that. You are on the road going to Galion. We have actually played pretty well at Galion the past couple of years since they have been in the league, so I feel pretty good about that. As far as tempo is concerned we have the type of basketball team that can play either style. If you are making shots you like the up tempo game we will feel that out as we go. They have a couple of nice basketball players. They have done a nice job at Galion, coach Valentine has,” said Snively.

Pleasant also beat Harding (3-7,1-4) in their first meeting (49-39) and the Presidents like to control the tempo a lot more than Galion. Snively believes they will approach that game with confidence. “I feel like we have already gotten over that hurdle. They had beaten us more in a row than we would have liked here at Pleasant. We had the same struggles with them in football. We did get over the hump with them in football and we have quite a few kids that play both sports. Going in there it is going to be a tough game for us. The thing is with Ontario and Clear Fork is we don’t have those rivalries with them yet, we haven’t played them yet. With Harding and BV and North Union and all of these teams that have been in the league we kind of know what to expect with each other and they are always battles. Obviously, Thursday is going to be big for us and hopefully we can take care of business there. We have to play well to do that. One thing I have always liked about these games against a bigger school, and some of our people have complained about that, but the nice thing about that with Harding and Pleasant and River Valley is we always get real nice crowds and it will be a nice environment on Friday night. Yeah, you want to win the league and do all of those things, but when kids get to play in front of large crowds in a rivalry game that is kind of what high school sports are all about. Those are the things you will remember down the line,” said Snively.

Published 1/18/18

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Northmor Faces Another Contender

Northmor begins the second half of the double round robin in the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference with a two game lead on the field and they can pretty much put Danville out of the race with a win over the Blue Devils at home on Friday night.

The Golden Knights (11-0,7-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, destroyed Highland (70-43) last week and coach Zach Ruth says they are played very good basketball right now. “We have put it together there in the Worthington Christian, Centerburg and Highland games. We were kind of hoping we could keep playing and, of course, the game gets postponed (Tuesday) night with Fredericktown. I know when things are hot you want to keep them going and we are anxious to get onto Danville on Friday. We felt Highland was our biggest threat and Danville was our second biggest threat. We got them at their place by 12 the first time. They beat Highland Tuesday night by 13 and we were able to be at that game since we didn’t play. This is a big meaningful game on Friday,” said Ruth.

Danville (7-3,5-2) beat Highland (62-49) on Tuesday night to move into a tie for second in the conference with the Scots. Ruth says Skyler Durbin is a talented player for the Blue Devils. He says he is a difference maker. “When you have a player like they have in Skyler Durbin. He had 22 or 23 (Tuesday) night, but he averages 27, 28 points a game. When you have a kid on the floor that can fill it up like that you are in the game no matter who it is. When you are down six, eight points and you have someone like that in a couple of possessions can bring you right back in. He had 28 on us the first time we played them. He is definitely a load,” he said.

When Northmor played at Danville in December they trailed going to the fourth quarter, but they were able to spread the floor and come up with a (65-53) win over the Blue Devils. Ruth hopes they can take some of that good feeling into Friday night. “We had been battled tested earlier. We were lucky with the Colonel Crawford game. Our two big guys, the Kegley twins had fouled out, and we were still able to rally to send that to overtime and took care of business in overtime. The same exact thing happened at Danville,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I think Tyler Kegley played 15 minutes and Kyle Kegley played a total of 14 minutes. We were down four going into the fourth, maybe we were down six, but we railed and picked up the tempo and outscored them that fourth quarter 26-11. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum from that game with what we were able to accomplish in the fourth quarter to the first quarter on Friday night.”

Published 1/18/18

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New London Has to be Ready to Play

New London dropped two games behind Firelands Conference leader Western Reserve after a loss to Plymouth on Monday and they two more conference games this week, one of them being against Western.

They play at home against Crestview on Thursday and the Roughriders on Saturday.

Plymouth handed the Wildcats their second loss in league play (56-50) on Monday night.

Coach Tom Howell says they just weren’t as focused as they needed to be on Monday. “We weren’t ready to play from the get go and Plymouth was and I give them a lot of credit. They played pretty well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We fought in the game and we put ourselves in position to tie it up and maybe even get the win at the end, but we just couldn’t finish it. We dug too big of a hole early in the game and that is on us. We just weren’t ready to play.”

Crestview (1-8,1-4) plays at New London (4-5,4-2) on Thursday night. The Cougars have struggled to put together anything consistently this year. They lost to Lucas (73-64) on Tuesday. In their last league game they lost (77-51) to South Central on January 5.

Howell describes Crestview as an athletic team that is going to get in their face on defense. “Crestview is athletic. They are going to be in your face on defense. They are going to play hard. I am just trying to get our kids ready to play in two days and that is hard enough in itself. I think we had a good practice (Tuesday) after coming off a loss on Monday. I feel like we will be ready to play and we are expecting a tough, hard game on Thursday,” said Howell.

Then on Saturday, the Wildcats begin the second half of the conference schedule at Western Reserve (7-3,5-0) against the Roughriders. Western won the first meeting (54-51) on December 8.

Howell says no matter what happens on Thursday, they are going to be fired up to play Western. “It is always fun to play against Western. It is very, very close in the distance between the schools. We have had some good games over the years during my 13 years. They have always been tough hard fought games. My kids will be ready to go. Things don’t go well sometimes, but we will be ready to play Saturday,” he said.

Published 1/18/18

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“MOAC” Leaders Have Two

Clear Fork shares the lead in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference standings with Ontario and Marion Pleasant entering league play this week with league games on Thursday and Saturday for all teams.

The Colts (7-3,4-0) host North Union on Thursday and travel to Buckeye Valley on Saturday.

Clear Fork shook some of the rust off with a couple of practices last week and then beat Loudonville (73-41) on Saturday night in a non-league game.

Coach Steven Bechtel says they were a lot sharper than they were in a one point win over Fredericktown (56-55) earlier in the week. “The practice was much needed and it was very beneficial to us. I think it helped us get back in the rhythm. Our shots were better. Our rotations where better. Everything seemed to be a little bit better than what they were on Tuesday,” said Bechtel.

The Colts were not allowed to practice due to weather conditions from January 4 to January 8, but they were able to get back on schedule last week and Bechtel says it shows. “It was just the constant movement, just staying sharp. We weren’t able to do that when we weren’t allowed to practice. It was just something we had to fight through. Hopefully, down the road it will make us a lot stronger and better off,” he said.

Clear Fork beat North Union (6-5,2-4) in the league opener (62-59) back on December 8 in Richwood. Bechtel says the Wildcats height is a concern to them because they don’t match up really well with big teams. “Obviously, they pose a few issues. They have a nice 6’5” kid and another 6’6” kid. We don’t match up real well with those guys,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We are going to have to do a lot better than we did last time. We are a lot better. They are a lot better. It ought to be a nice challenge for us.”

Bechtel says they are going to have to battle on the boards and also due a good when and if the Wildcats are able to get the ball to their big kids. “Just defending their high-low actions and keeping them off the glass so they don’t get any easy ones and try to keep the tempo the way that we want it. Trying to get up and down the floor and try and get as many easy baskets as possible,” said Bechtel.

The Colts are at Buckeye Valley (3-9,2-4,) who beat Galion (72-53) in a league game on Tuesday night. Clear Fork beat then (71-64) in their first meeting this year. Bechtel says the Barons can score. “I think it is a very good basketball team. Their record doesn’t show that. We know exactly how that feels. That is a real good basketball team and a really, really good guard. They have some decent size around him. They do a lot of things well and we are going to have to have our “A” game when we go down there on Saturday,” he said.

Published 1/17/18

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Another Big Week for Colonel Crawford

Colonel Crawford shares first place in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference with Upper Sandusky and Mohawk trails by just a game. Crawford is at Mohawk on Saturday night.

They host Ohio Cardinal Conference powerhouse Lexington on Saturday night in a tough non-conference test.

Last Thursday, after losing to Upper (68-54) the week before, the Eagles beat a very good Carey team (68-53) to remain in first place.

Coach David Sheldon says they had to be ready and they were. “I was very pleased with the way we responded after a tough loss the Saturday before. The thing we did is in the second and third quarter we guarded. We held Luzader and Bame to six and nine points, two of their leading scorers. Our guys really responded to the challenge in the three days of practice prior to that. We put four guys in double figured offensively. We got back to spreading the wealth. That was a very good road win,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “That is a tough place to play. We have seen some teams get beat over the years there. We were pleased with the effort. There is no rest for the weary this is the toughest stretch of our season, these four games. When we were at Upper, at Carey, at Mohawk, and home with Lexington. It’s in the middle of a grind right now. We are excited for this weekend.”

It’s the second meeting between Colonel Crawford (11-2,8-1), #3 in the Swnakonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, and Mohawk (8-4,7-2) in league play. The Eagles won the first one (73-67) on December 15.

Sheldon says the Warriors have outstanding guard play. “It was nip and tuck the whole way. Look at their record they only have two losses in the league. This is a big game for them and us with league championship rights on the line. It is going to be a tough environment going over there. The Hayman kid is a great guard. He is one of the top guards in our league. We have to do a much better job on him then the first game. They have some other shooters around him with Lacey and Hammer and Jenkins. It is a good basketball team. I knew going into the year. They were a district tournament team last year. We have to go on the road with a business-like attitude. We are going to see a lot of zone. They play a lot of zone defense and we have to attack that thing offensively as well,” said Sheldon.

Sheldon says they can not afford to be static against the zone, they have to attack it. “That is one thing we stress with our good guard play you can’t just pass it around the perimeter. You have to get into the paint to create for people and yourself to attack a zone. A lot times against a zone you just stand. We have to be aggressive against their zone defense,” said.

Lexington (9-4), #2 in our large school poll, comes to North Robison on Saturday night. They lost (60-52) to Mansfield Senior in “OCC” action on Tuesday night.

Sheldon looks at division two Lexington as a great challenge. He says they have to compete on the boards. “They are a very good basketball team. They are well coached. Scott Hamilton does a fantastic job over there. This a great non-league game. There is a reason we picked this up, it gets us ready for tournament action. The number one thing is they are so good on the offensive glass. I got to see them in person. Saw them several times on film. They are just relentless on the offensive glass. It starts withy Stover, of course, but there are other guys as well. They have some shooters around him. It is going to be a great challenge for us. These are games you want to pick up. I learned from my father a long time ago you play great non-league games and this is one of those to see where your team stands against the Ohio Cardinal Conference first place team. It is a great non-league game and we look forward to that, but our number one focus this week is Friday because in order to compete for a league championship we have to take care of Friday on the road at a tough Mohawk first,” said Sheldon.

Published 1/17/18

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Flames Have to Make Shots This Time

It is the second meeting of the season between Mid-Buckeye Conference foes Mansfield Christian and Lucas on Friday night at the “Cub Cave” at Lucas.

Lucas won the first meeting (49-44) at the “Furnace” on December 8 in the first conference game for both teams.

The Flames (8-4,1-3) have not played since they beat East Knox (65-51) on January 9 and coach John Kurtz says yes they are itching to get back out there. “We played on Tuesday night last week and obviously we were supposed to play St. Pete’s on Friday and then for some reason we don’t play until the next Friday and that is a long couple of weeks, close to a couple of weeks, before you play. It makes practices interesting. Kids are chomping at the bit to play and they are tired of practicing. We tried to make practices a little more competitive than we even typically do. Just something to get kids motivated to work on their game,” said Kurtz.

Lucas (7-2,3-2) beat Crestview (73-64) in a non-league game on Tuesday night. They have a couple of senior guards in Brian Sauder and Jackson Hauger and junior Jeb Grover that have logged a lot of varsity minutes,

Kurtz says they have strong guard play and they just don’t hurt themselves very much. “We played them very early in the season, but it was pretty much a guard oriented team. It is a team that is balanced. They shoot the three decently, but they take the ball to the rim. They just don’t make a lot of mistakes and I think that is because they have so many guards on the floor,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Those guards that are out there, some of them have got a couple of years of experience. They have played pretty well this season. They don’t make a lot of mistakes I guess is the key. They don’t do a lot of things that put them in bad situations.”

Looking back at that first game, Kurtz says they missed a lot of easy shots and that can’t happen this time around. “The first time that we played them we missed 22 shots in the paint. We have talked a lot about that with our kids. We are definitely a better team than we where then and they probably are too. It was a very close game all of the way down to the wire. We just have to do a better job of making those shots and I think we have done a better job of that. You tell your kids to get these good shots, they can get them, but making them is the key,” he said.

Published 1/17/18

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South Central Gets Back to Work

South Central trails Firelands Conference leader Western Reserve by game and they face two games in the conference this week.

They play at Norwalk St. Paul on Thursday and at Monroeville (1-10,0-5) on Saturday.

The Trojans have not played since a (77-51) over Crestview on January 5. Coach Brett Seidel says they have kind of been dealing with those issues all year. “Our schedule has been so screwed up lately that routine really hasn’t been a routine,” he said.

South Central is in the middle of a six game road trip. They only have four more home games the rest of the year. Their game at home with Western Reserve has been rescheduled for a third time to January 30.

St. Paul (4-4,3-2) beat Mapleton (46-40) on Tuesday night in a game that was a bit of a struggle for the Flyers. Seidel says there is no question they will be ready to play them on Thursday. “They are talented and very big and obviously very well coached. “Smitty” does a great job with that program and they are going to be well prepared and disciplined and they play very good defense,” he said.

The Flyers are one of the biggest teams, if not the biggest, on the South Central schedule this year. Seidel says they are going to have to do a lot of things to keep the ball out of the hands of those big guys. “They are huge. It is the biggest team that is going to walk out against us this year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We are definitely going to have to make sure we are helping on the interior, the backside, we are going to have to dig down, we are going to have to make sure we have pressure on the passer. It is going to have to take a super effort to keep the ball out of the paint.”

With Monroeville on Saturday, a team the Trojans handled (71-42) in December, Seidel says they are trying to teach the young team the value of being ready to play each time out. “I think with youth and inexperience they don’t understand the value of every game. They don’t understand how every game is important. It factors in in a conference race, in factors in in seedings. Just with that youth they don’t get how important each game is, so we are just trying to impress upon them that every game is the most important game that we will play and it is what we are trying to get across,” said Seidel.

Published 1/17/18

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Wynford Making Progress

Wynford has been streaky this year and they carry a three game winning streak in a meeting with Ridgedale in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference on Friday night.

They beat Crestline (46-36) in a non-conference game last Thursday and added a (61-49) win over Bucyrus last Saturday night in “N10” play.

Coach Jason Engel says they showed improvement and those were two good wins for the Royals. “It was a good weekend for us. You never predict what the weather is going to do here in Ohio, but we were able to get them games in. I felt we did some really nice things in those two big wins for us,” he said.

A couple of keys for the Royals, according to Engel, are they have been on the glass better and they have gotten the ball down low more often and that has been a plus for them. “I think we are rebounding a lot better. I think our defense has been a little stronger, so not only getting the stops, but getting the rebound to go with it. We have also been getting the ball inside a little better the last few games. So, I think those have been the major areas rebounding and getting the ball inside when we had to,” said Engel.

Wynford (6-6,4-5) hosts Ridgedale on Friday night in a conference game. The Rockets (2-10,0-8) won their last game (49-42) over Patriot Prep in a non-conference, that broke a 10 game losing streak. They have scored over 50 points only twice this year, but Engel says they have shown some signs. “They are not playing too bad. They got a win against Patriot Prep in their last game and they played Bucyrus really well. They won the first quarter and came out and did some nice things and only lost by nine points. They are improving too, so we are going to have to,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It is our first home game in a couple weeks. We had three away games, so it’s going to be a good think for our guys and our seniors. We only have six home games left and we have used that as motivation this week in practice just trying to get after it and keep improving. With the district seeding coming up and getting ready for tournament is around the corner. The guys know we have to get some wins know going into that district,”

Published 1/17/18

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Willard Faces Port Clinton and Norwalk This Week

Willard returns to action this weekend with an “SBC” Bay Division game against Port Clinton on Friday night and a cross over game with the Norwalk Truckers on Saturday night.

Willard is another one of those teams that hasn’t played in a while due to the weather in North Central Ohio. The Flashes haven’t played since January 6 when they lost to Edison (59-40,) but coach Joe Bedindfield says they just have do the best they can with circumstances. “The weather, you can’t control that, it has made things kind of difficult. We went in Friday wondering if we were going to play. It was raining in the early morning and then kind of switched over and got nasty. Saturday, we thought we were going to play Shelby and ended up not playing. The good thing is everybody is in the same boat, so it is not just happening to us, it is happening to everybody. Everybody feels the same way. It is nobody’s advantage or disadvantage. You can only focus on things you can control,” said Bedingfield.

Willard (3-7,2-3) beat Port Clinton (0-10,0-6) for its first win (55-39) on December 15, but Bedingfield says the Redskins are better and have pushed some teams. “They are getting better. They have played there last few games very close. They had the lead for the majority against Edison. The Roberts kid, a nice player for Edison, hit a 23 footer, contested, to win. They played Oak Harbor at Oak Harbor very tough. We just talked about that with our guys that those guys are getting better,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We always talk about getting better after Christmas and we need to come in with the same attitude that it is going to be a ballgame. Those guys are going to ready to play and we need to be ready to play as well.”

Norwalk (4-7) played maybe its best game of the season in belting Tiffin Columbian (67-32) on Tuesday night. Bedingfield says they know the Truckers are going to be a big challenge for them. “They are so well coached. Coach Gray does a good job. They have a really nice player in Haraway. The Roths and some of the players around him. They are a very good team, very capable. They have played a lot of teams down to the wire and just been on the other end of it. We know Norwalk is going to be a really tough opponent for us on Saturday and we going to have to play really well, but right now we are kind of focusing on that first one and go from there,” said Bedingfield.

Published 1/17/18

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Ontario in “MOAC” Race

Ontario stands in second place right now just a game behind River Valley in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference girls’ basketball standings.

They play Madison in a non-conference game on Wednesday night and then they host Buckeye Valley in a conference game on Friday night.

Their rematch with River Valley, who beat them by two (38-36) in December, is next week.

The Lady Warriors feature the leading scorer in the league in Shelby Nashail, who went over the 1,000 point plateau earlier this season.

Coach Mitch Willike feels their defense has been the biggest reason for their success. “The kids have played well and they are starting to click. Defensively we have seen huge leaps and bounds, and we are really pleased with that. Our big thing has been rebounding and we have had some kids step up and with that pretty well. Our perimeter defense is where we hang our hat for the most part. We have kids that are long and athletic and they have done a good job of creating havoc,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We always talk about deflections leading to steals and steals leading to transition points. The kids have really bought into that. We are happy with how we have played for the most part. We have been in every single game. I think now we are at tipping point and start to turn the page and finish out the year pretty strong.”

Ontario plays at Madison on Wednesday night. Willike hopes their pressure can force some turnovers and easy scoring chances. “We have seen them play a couple of times and they are athletic and they are quick. They like to attack the basket. They have two post players that work hard and rebound the basketball pretty well at both ends. So, we just have to do a good job of keeping those two in check. I think our pressure could affect them in some ways, but if they blow by our first wave we might be in trouble,” he said.

Ontario (8-5,6-2) plays at home against Buckeye Valley (9-5,5-3) on Friday night at the O-rena. The Lady Barons beat Ontario (53-42) in their first meeting on December 9.

Willike says the Lady Barons are big and that height hurt them the first time. He says again they have to turn to their pressure. “The first time we played them and we got midway through the third and we cut it to two and we just kind of hit a cold spell. The biggest thing with Buckeye Valley is their height. They’ve got five kids that are all over 5’11”. I mean they are big and they are tall. The other thing is their big kids can handle it. They have a couple of kids that can bring it up the floor. They bring a freshman off the bench who is pushing 6’1” or 6’2” and she hurt us the last time on the offensive glass. So, it is going to be how well do we rebound the basketball and how well do our guards pressure their guards,” said Willike.

Published 1/17/18

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Lexington Looking for Revenge on Tygers

Lexington and Mansfield Senior share first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference going into their game at Pete Henry Gym in Mansfield on Tuesday night.

Mansfield Senior took the first round game winning (54-53) at Lexington on December 9 on a couple of free throws by DaQuan Hilory with four seconds left. Lexington’s Mason Kearns missed a free throw that would have sent that game into overtime.

Lexington put together two quality wins last week in beating Wooster (53-46) in an “OCC” game last Tuesday and beating Upper Sandusky (65-52) in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

However, coach Scott Hamilton says they can still get better. “It was two really tough opponents for us going over to Wooster and having Upper comes to our place. We still have a lot of work to do and the guys they know they have some things to kind of clear up a little. They have confidence right now and we seem to be playing pretty well. Like I have said before the interesting part for me being in the gym with these guys six days a week is that we still have some potential to discover,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton says they have some confidence that they can win games decided in the fourth quarter, but they need to improve their rebounding and ball handling. “I think what we are realizing right now is that we have the confidence that if we are in the game in the fourth quarter we feel pretty good that we can make the plays and we can do the things to give us a good shot at winning the game. Right now, what we are trying to work on is just taking care of the ball a little bit better. Working on our box out and rebounding and, of course, always defense is the things that is driving us right now,” he said.

Lexington (9-3,4-1), #2 in the Swanksports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is at Mansfield Senior (7-3,5-1), #1 in the poll, on Tuesday night. Mansfield Senior lost its first conference game (65-55) to Ashland last Tuesday, but responded in beat rival Madison (62-47) on Saturday night.

When it comes to Tuesday night at Pete Henry, Hamilton says they have do a much better job at defending the Tygers than they did when they played in early December. “I don’t want to take any credit away from Mansfield for getting that win, but in watching that film and trying to correct some of the errors there were definitely a lot of things we could have and should have done better in a one point game to put us in a better situation. The first thing that comes to mind is just our defense,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We let them get to rim without ever being in their way. It wasn’t like we even made efforts. So, that is one of the things we definitely have to do. We know that they have capable shooters and I think we focused a little too much on that and not so much the dribble drive.”

And anytime you play Mansfield Senior rebounding is a big factor. Hamilton says they have to hold their own on the glass in order to win the game. “I think I saw a stat that they took like 86 shots in (the Ashland) game and a lot of those are coming off offensive boards, put backs, that kind of thing. That is one of the things that coach Sykes has them doing really well is they are putting up good shots, they are executing some good plays, but then they have a bunch of guys going to the rim in case that comes off and they are getting second chance opportunities. They are really good at that, so we definitely have to control the glass a little bit better than we have in some of our recent games,” said Hamilton.

Published 1/16/18

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Tygers Looking to Protect

Mansfield Senior’s win at Lexington last month got a lot of people’s attention and the rematch is Tuesday night at Pete Henry Gym as the co-leaders square off to see who takes the lead to themselves.

The Tygers (7-3,5-1), # 1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, kept their share of the lead with a (62-47) win over Mansfield Madison on Saturday night in an “OCC” game,

Coach Marquis Sykes says they were able to do some good things on defense. “I think our defensive pressure was able to bother them a little bit and take them out of their rhythm and what they like to do. We didn’t do a very good job of slowing down Kyle Jackson, but we did a pretty solid job on everybody else. We were able to make a few shots and came out with a good conference win Saturday,” he said.

Jackson had a game high 26 points for Madison, more than half of the Rams points.

Mansfield Senior beat Lexington (54-53) in an “OCC” game on December 8, only the second week of the season.

Lexington junior Cade Stover is one the best players, and best athletes in the area again this year. He is in his third year with the varsity. Sykes says some the less experienced Minutemen have improved a whole lot since these two played the first time. “Our first contest we very early in the season and I think both teams are a little bit different at this point in the season about midway through. Guys that didn’t have a lot of varsity action under their belt now do and are pretty used to the speed of the game and the strength of the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I think some of their younger guys that are playing a lot now are used to varsity action and playing better. The same goes for us as well, so I think it will be a normal Lexington-Senior High battle. So, hopefully our guys will be ready and hopefully we can defend our home court.”

A win over Lexington (9-3,4-1) #2 in our poll, on Tuesday night would give the Tygers first place to themselves, but Sykes says they are treating this game like any other on the schedule and are not putting a special emphasis on it. “Anytime we are playing. Anytime Lexington and Mansfield Senior are on the court together is a big one. Our approach has been next game up whoever the opponent is we try to treat it the same way. As it is it is a championship game. Our number one goal every year is to try and win the Ohio Cardinal Conference, so you have to treat every game no matter who it is as it is a conference championship game. I think it will be a big one and hopefully we come out and match their intensity and defend and rebound and make some shots,” said Sykes.

Published 1/16/18

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Boards Key for Bellevue

Bellevue beat Sandusky in their first meeting with a really good performance they are going to need that and a little bit more on Tuesday night as they travel to Sandusky to meet the Blue Streaks in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

The schools are in a four way tie for first place in the division as Shelby and Sandusky Perkins also have two losses after Shelby beat Perkins (54-53) on Monday night.

Bellevue has not played in 10 days after having games against Norwalk and Ontario wiped out by the weather last week.

Coach Ed Rich says that can be frustrating. “It is a big challenge. I thought we were pretty prepared, especially for Norwalk on Friday and even Friday night when we knew we weren’t going to play I had my kids do their scouting report on Ontario. So, I think we were as prepared as we could be for Ontario. Then that gets cancelled and we turn around and have go in and play Sandusky now (Tuesday) night,” he said.

Bellevue beat Sandusky (77-60) in their first game of the season on December 8, so they have seen them once this year and Rich says that is a little bit of an advantage, however, Sandusky is a lot better. “That definitely helps. We have played them once before in the first game of the season and played then well, so we obviously know what to expect. They have a couple of new wrinkles they have been doing. The scary thing is they have been playing some much better basketball then they were at the beginning of the season. We are definitely going to have our hands full (Tuesday) night,” he said.

Rebounding was a big factor in Bellevue’s favor in December and Rich says that is going to have to be the case again and he says with some personnel additions for the Streaks that is going to be more difficult. “The biggest thing is they got one of their players back. I think he was out the first two games. He is a about a 6’5”, 6’6” kid, he rebounds the ball really well and that was one of our strengths the first game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We really hit the glass hard and limited their second shots. That is the biggest thing I think is making sure when this Baldwin kid comes in that we box him out and keep him off the glass. Sandusky is really relying on their second shots. If they miss the first one they are very good at getting the offensive rebound and getting their next one. I think that is the biggest thing we need to adjust to.”

Published 1/16/18

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Ashland Finding Some Things

Ashland picked up its first win of the season last week against talented Mansfield Senior and now they are starting to understand things a little more.

The Arrows play at Wooster on Tuesday night in an Ohio Cardinal Conference as they start to play league teams they have played once this season.

Last Tuesday, the Arrows (1-8,1-4) beat Mansfield Senior (65-55) in overtime.

Coach Jason Hess says it was as much about effort as it was anything else for his ballclub. “I think the big things last week was our kids really just bought into playing hard for the whole game. We have been talking that we need to have a four quarter effort instead of just two or three quarters and it actually took about four and half quarters to get it done last Tuesday. I give our kids a lot of credit because Mansfield made a big shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime and our kids never got down on themselves, they never hung their heads, they just came right out in overtime and put the throttle down and just pulled away then for the win in overtime,” said Hess.

Hess adds there is no question they have the kind of talent to win games and hopefully the can build on what they did last week. “There is a lot of ability on this team and a lot of natural athleticism and talent. It is an exciting and fun group to coach it is just a matter of trying to put things together. We have continued to get better each day and each week. Hopefully, now we are getting close to the halfway point in season we will start compiling some wins and at the end of the year be playing our best basketball when tournament time comes around,” said Hess.

Ashland is at Wooster (7-4,4-2,) a game behind co-leaders in Mansfield Senior and Lexington in the “OCC” standings. They lost to Lexington (53-46) last Tuesday. They beat Ashland (54-48) the first time they played on December 8 at Arrow Arena.

If they are going to win Tuesday, Hess says they can’t have the high number of turnovers they have had in some games this year. “Not only the effort, but I think the big thing for us is taking care of the basketball. We have had a tendency to be a little turnover prone a couple of times this year. Our turnovers have been a little higher than we like them and those are opportunities that lead to easy baskets for the other team and also cut ourselves out of some scoring chances,” he said.

Ashland does not have as many wins as they would like to have, but Hess says this can be a much better second half of the season if they can be a little more consistent. “We have some kids that are really coming in and finding their own. Some of our juniors are really starting to step up here and be a little more consistent with their effort and learning how to play at this level and new roles that they are in this year. Unfortunately, it has taken a little longer than we were hoping at the beginning of the year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Part of that has to do with the schedule and some tough opponents that we had early on, but I think that has also helped to prepare us as we go down the stretch. There is a lot of basketball left here to play over the next six weeks to two months. If we keep getting better each day we will be a pretty dangerous team when February and March rolls around.”

Published 1/16/18

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St. Paul Plays Three Conference Games This Week

Norwalk St. Paul is a team with a lot of potential and we may find out this week if they are going to be a factor in the Firelands Conference race or not.

They play at Mapleton on Tuesday night, a game rescheduled from last Friday, and then hosts South Central on Thursday and Plymouth on Saturday, all in conference games. They trail Western Reserve by two games.

St. Paul beat Fremont St. Joe (65-52) in a non-league game last Tuesday, the last game they have played, and coach Mike Smith says it was a good performance by the Flyers. “We are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel here. I am pretty happy with how we are handling situations. We have tried to pick up a little more full court and try to play with a little more tempo. We were up 60-37 at one point. They cut it there at the end in the last four minutes of the game and made it a little closer than it was, but they are a good team, especially on their floor. It is a smaller floor and they are usually pretty successful there. We played pretty well,” he said.

Now, Mother Nature got in the way last weekend and Smith says they really wanted to get back on the court. “We really wanted to get those game in last weekend with Mapleton on Friday and another non-league game with Calvert on Saturday and unfortunately that didn’t happen. We are fortunate that we only have a week between games where a lot of schools are pushing 12, 13, 14 days with all of this crazy weather,” he said.

St. Paul (3-4,2-2) plays at Mapleton (1-8,1-4) on Tuesday night. The Mounties lost (48-41) to Kidron Central Christian last Tuesday and Smith believes they have shown some improvement. “I think Austin Sanders us is a pretty good players. He is 6’7” and he is very active. They are quite young. I think they have been making some strides. I think it was Kidron Central Christian game the other night where they played pretty well against a pretty good team. I expect the Mapleton kids to play hard. They also seem to play pretty well at their place. They are going to mix up man. They are going to play a little zone and mix in some half court type of pressure. For us I think the blueprint is going to be the same. We want to utilize our bench. We want to try and speed the game up a little bit doing some different things. Obviously, we want to get the ball inside. I am looking forward to see what we can do on Tuesday. It has only been a week, but I just want to keep seeing this team get better. So far in practice they have, but until you do it live you are not sure what you are going to get. I think we are heading the right direction,” said Smith.

South Central (6-4,4-1), in second place in the conference, comes calling on Thursday night. Smith says the Trojans have a lot of guys that can score. “They have offensive firepower. It starts with Simon Blair, he is a really, really good basketball player. The scary thing is he is only a sophomore. He is shooting the ball from the perimeter maybe better than he was last year. They have some other players like Ben Lamoreaux that has been playing probably since his freshmen year and Isiah Seidel. Those three are probably their core pieces. They have some other guys. The Holland kid is athletic. The Legg kid has showed some promise. I really like David Lamoreaux. I know he is only a freshmen, but he has some potential there. They are real deep and I know coach Seidel has been trying to play a few more guys,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They will be well prepared, they will defend, they will play hard. They go through stretches where they shoot the ball really, really well. That is our concern on Thursday night. It is one game at a time. We are going to finish out the first round before we head into the second half of the season. These three games are huge with Mapleton on the road, South Central at home and Plymouth at home. For us to be a contender we would surely like to win these next three.”

Published 1/16/18

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Buckeye Central Hopes to Turn the Corner

Buckeye Central is starting to compete with good teams for longer stretches of time, now they just need to get over the hurdle and start winning more games.

Their next chance is this weekend as they host Seneca East in an “N10” game on Friday night and New Riegel (5-3) in a non-league game on Saturday night.

Last Saturday, they took a very good Mohawk team to wire before losing (34-30) in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference game.

Coach Phil Loy says they really played pretty well, even down a man. “Our last three games we have struggled to score. For whatever reason we have struggled to get everybody on the same page. So, that is a concern that we have to get figured out. Saturday with Mohawk I felt pretty good going in even though we did not have our third leading scorer and second leading rebounder in Darren Wurm and also one of our better defenders. He was out with a concussion from the Wynford game. So, I thought our kids played pretty well, they played pretty hard. We found ourselves down 10, Mohawk makes a run in the fourth quarter, and we have to scramble. We got back into it and actually had a shot to tie it at 33 and missed it and they stretched out to four. Our kids played hard,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Mohawk is a really good team that has taken teams down to the wire. They have beaten a really good Carey team on the road, they were close with Upper, they were close with Colonel Crawford. I thought defensively we did a really great job. Unfortunately, we turned it over too many times and just wasn’t able muster up enough points.”

Not having Darren Wurm last week was a hardship for the Bucks. Loy says it forced them to have other kids take on different roles. “We had to go deeper into our bench and our bench isn’t super deep. We played three quarters with a couple of freshmen. We pulled a couple of freshmen up from JV’s. The dress varsity for us, but they haven’t been seeing any time, but it forced us to play them. Give them credit they came in a did a great job for us, but still not having Wurm is a big deficit for us,” he said.

It is the second time around for Buckeye (2-10,2-7) and Seneca East (5-4,4-4) this year. The Tigers railed to beat Buckeye Central (49-47) on December 15.

Loy says it was a game they had a good lead and let it get away from them. “They are just very long. We played them first time at their place. That was a game where Max Loy gets in foul trouble again. I feel like I have said that multiple times this year, but he ended up fouling out late in the game. We were able to give ourselves a 13 point lead late in the third quarter. I think we are up eight going to the fourth and then their pressure really affected us. We did not handle pressure real well in that game, especially without Max. We turned it over against there 1-2-2 and we probably had 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter and ended up losing that game by two points. They had some kids step up and they made a lot of free throws. We ended up sending them to the line 30 times. So, taking care of the basketball, playing a little better defense. Their length hurt us they got a lot defections, so those are things we need to correct this week,” said Loy.

Published 1/16/18

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Old Fort in Four Way Tie for Lead

Just one game short of the halfway point if the conference schedule, Old Fort, the defending champion, is in a four way share of the lead in the River Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference.

Fremont St. Joe, New Riegel and Sandusky St. Mary’s also have one loss in the division. The Stockaders play New Riegel on Friday night.

Coach Eric Hoover says they are in good position. “I can’t complain we still have a shot. We are one of the four that are in a tie for first. Petty much it is wide open at this point. We have almost played a round, I think everybody got cancelled last week, so I don’t think anybody has played a full round yet. There are a lot of big games left and every game is important. We are still in and have given ourselves a shot, so I like where we are,” said Hoover.

Old Fort hosts Danbury Lakeside in a non-conference game on Tuesday night. Hoover says the Lakers (3-5) are big, “They are joining our league next year. They have two good big guys from what I have seen that are 6’4”, 6’5” and good strong post players. With us being pretty small that is going to be a challenge for us. We are going to have to work on keeping the ball away from them,” he said.

Old Fort and New Riegel are both form Seneca County, on opposite sides of Tiffin, and Hoover says the small schools have a pretty good rivalry. “We have had a lot of close games over the years, the last five, six years for sure. We went back and forth way back in the “MAL,” which seems like a while ago now. It certainly has been a good rivalry. It is our homecoming game on Friday too, so that is another added dimension to it. We got them the first time in a close game, so they are going to be ready to go,” he said.

Old Fort won the first game (57-45) on December 15.

Hoover says this will be a different game. “Everybody is going to make adjustments. They are going to make adjustments. They are probably going to have different things in now that maybe they didn’t have in then that could affect the way we do things. They know how we approached them the first time, so they are going to make some adjustments,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We have some new things in too. We have some new wrinkles and do some things differently than we did it then. Playing to your strengths is what most coaches plan to do anyway. You are going to make some adjustments based on the other team, but you want to make them make adjustments to the game by doing what you do best.”

Published 1/16/18

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Rebounding is Big for Madison

Madison plays arch rival Mansfield Senior on Saturday night and they must have a win to stay in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race.

They trail their two biggest rivals in the Tygers and Lexington by two games with the first half the conference schedule closing on this weekend.

The Rams (7-4,3-2) blew out West Holmes (73-39) on Tuesday night and coach Tim Mergel likes the way they responded to a (62-57) loss to Wooster on Friday night. “The kids played well. It was good to bounce back into the win column after a really tough one against Wooster. A one we led for 31 minutes of the game and it just didn’t come out our way. The kids responded well and shot the ball well. We were able to knock down some shots,” he said.

Playing like they did on Tuesday night, Mergel is hoping that can help propel them through the rest of the season, but he knows in the “OCC” you have to show up every night. “We haven’t played terrible basketball we just haven’t finished basketball games. It is definitely good when you get out of the routine with the Christmas break and you started getting into the flow of things and maybe start clicking,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Tuesday night was probably one of our most complete games. We kind of kept the foot on the gas pedal and we didn’t let up. We understood what got us the lead and we stuck with it. It was a testament to our guys. They are learning. It may springboard it, but in the “OCC”, and you can tell with the records, you have to be your best every night.”

Mansfield Senior (6-3,4-1) lost to Ashland (65-55) in overtime on Tuesday, it was its first conference loss of the season.

The Tygers have not shot the ball well this year, but Mergel says to beat them you have to keep them off the offensive boards. “When you say Mansfield Senior doesn’t shoot well from the perimeter that is a good and a bad thing because they rebound so well. Ashland did a decent job beating them on Tuesday night by keeping them off the glass and keeping their offensive rebounding totals down a little bit. That’s what it takes against Mansfield Senior. It is not the first shot it is the second, third, and fourth shots that are going to kill you. They are going to shoot and miss some shots against us, but we have to hold them to one and dones,” said Mergel.

Also, as is typical with the Tygers he says you have to handle the pressure and frankly you must attack it, according to Mergel. “You start with the ball pressure. You have to handle the ball pressure with guys in your face. Once you are able to break that ball pressure down you can’t stand. You have to be an active basketball player. When we get idle is when we get in trouble. If you make yourself available and you make the cuts you are supposed to make at the right times there are going to be some openings there. Pressure does some things to you that make you uncomfortable and we have to be able to respond to that,” he said.

Published 1/12/18

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Upper Sandusky and Lexington to Tangle

Two of the better boys’ basketball programs, not just this year, but for the last several years, meet on Saturday night in non-conference play as Upper Sandusky, the co-leader of the Northern 10 Athletic Conference, travels to Lexington, the co-leader of the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

Upper moved in a share of the “N10” lead with Colonel Crawford last Saturday by beating Crawford (68-54) at Upper.

Coach Jeff Winslow says it was a win they pretty much had to have and they took advantage. “It was a really good win for us. They were on a roll, they were 10-1, and a really good basketball team. It was a big win because if we don’t win that game the chances of us winning the league were pretty slim going two games behind them. It was pretty big for us to go out there and get a win and even things up in the league. We are just starting to play better and better every day. We played a really nice ballgame at both ends of the floor. If we do things like that game in and game out I like our chances,” said Winslow.

Winslow says they made Crawford take some tough shots, rebounded the ball, and got some easy scores and that is a good combination. “We stopped them from scoring and then you come down and score yourself it makes it tough on the opposition. Another thing we did defensively is we finished the defensive possession by getting a rebound. They are a really good offensive rebounding team this year with the Shaum kid and some other kids that are really big. We did a really good job they only had six offensive rebounds against us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We were creating some tougher shots for them and when they missed we got the rebound and when we did that we got on our running game and got some easy ones. Defense, rebounding, offensive possessions where we were a little more patient against good teams you have to be a little more patient and work the ball a little longer and I thought we did just a great job of that.”

Upper Sandusky (10-2), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, is at Lexington (8-3), #5 in the large school poll, on Saturday night. Lexington is coming of a solid win (53-46) over Wooster on Tuesday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

Winslow is very impressed with Lexington power forward Cade Stover, but he says the Minutemen have other good players too. “Well, the first thing that stands out is number 32, the Stover kid. I mean this kid is a man, he is about 6’6”, he is big and athletic. He is going to be a division one football player, but he is also a good basketball player. He can play the game. Then he has a bunch of kids around him that are typical Lexington kids, athletic and a bunch of kids that can play basketball. They are just really good at putting the ball in the basket. No matter how good of defense that you play you are going to have to score with them. They are a very impressive team and we are excited to go over there and play a school that size and year in and year out they are a very good basketball team. So, we can’t wait to go over there are see what happens,” said Winslow.

Hopefully, the weather clears up on Saturday night, so this game can be played. Winslow says it going to fun for the teams and the fans. “I don’t know the last time we played. I have known their coach for a while and we thought it would be a good idea to play each other, it would be a lot of fun. We are excited about it. It should be a packed house and a lot of anticipation. It is two teams with good records and have been good programs over the years. So, it should be a good basketball game and a fun one to watch. I have had a lot of Upper Sandusky fans come up and they can’t wait for this ball game. We are excited to go over there and see where we are and what we need to work on,” he said.

Published 1/12/18

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Clear Fork Locks Horns With Marion Harding

Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference tri-leader Clear Fork hosts Marion Harding on Friday night in league play.

That is if Mother Nature allows and it looks like maybe she isn’t going to be in the mood.

Marion Harding (3-7,1-4) lost to River Valley (54-33) on Saturday night.

Despite their record, Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel, says Harding, a division one school, is a very capable team. “They are a very dangerous team that is pretty athletic. Their dribble penetration is really good. They seem to share the basketball really well. They have shown in many games that they can really step up defensively. They had a huge win earlier against a really good Mt. Vernon team,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “So, we know that they are very capable at coming in and playing at a really, really high level and we are going to have to come out at the same type of level and really concentrate on what we need to do.”

Harding took “MOAC” co-leader Ontario to the last possession before losing last month (37-34) in a league game. Bechtel says they have some versatility on defense. “I think they are capable. They are not overly big. They have a lot of guys that are the same size and that allows them to do many things, whether it is in their zone or their man to man type scheme. In the half court we are going to have to come out and execute at a high level no matter what defense they happen to be coming out in,” said Bechtel.

With Ontario and Marion Pleasant, the other two leaders, scheduled to play each other Friday night if the Colts (6-3,4-0) win they are going to remined tied for the lead with somebody. However, Bechtel says they are not looking at the standings. “That is something we really haven’t discussed with the guys at all. We just try and take it one game at a time. No matter how it ends up one game at a time. First with Marion Harding and Saturday we will come out ready to play against Loudonville,” he said.

Loudonville (4-5) plays at Clear Fork Saturday night in a non-conference game. Bechtel says the Redbirds are another dangerous team. “Obviously, coach (Kelly) Seboe does a great job and they are going to play extremely hard. This is another rivalry type game. They get to come to our place this year, so that will make it even more special that way. They are going to be disciplined on offense and they are going to very stingy in defense as well. He always comes up with a plan against us and they always seem to play really, really well,” said Bechtel.

Published 1/12/18

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Team Defense Needed for Western Reserve

Western Reserve leads South Central by a game going into their important matchup at South Central on Friday night, weather permitting, in Firelands Conference play.

Western (7-3,5-0) has won two one possession games in the conference play in beating New London (54-51) and Norwalk St. Paul (56-54) last Friday.

Coach Chris Sheldon says he hopes they learned from an early non-conference loss to Keystone (45-44) and understand game situations. “We have been able to make enough plays so far in league play in close basketball games. If you want to win a league title you have to learn to play in close games. Early in the year we didn’t do that in a non-conference game and I like to think we learned a thing or two about ourselves in that setting. At the end of the day we are 2-1 in close games. The two we have won are in league and that is the most important thing to achieving goal number one,” he said.

Sheldon says the two teams are a lot alike. “I hadn’t had a chance to watch them much until this week. As I watch them the thing that sticks out to me is Simon Blair is a heck of a player. Not just from a skill standpoint, but just from an athletic standpoint. He has the ability to score and do a lot of different things. Number two, we mimic each other in a lot of ways. We are guard oriented with a lot of shooters, both I think can be explosive at spurts at the offensive end. We don’t necessarily rely on low post play and we really rely on our guards making plays. It has the opportunity to be a very, very exciting game to watch and be a part of if both teams play to their capability,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “This is going to be one of the fun ones to just set back and enjoy. That for me is what is exciting about playing them. You really enjoy playing good teams. That is what you work for and those are the ones that are fun to be part of.”

Sheldon says, yeah, they would like to take the ball out of Blair’s hands, but that won’t be easy plus the Trojans have other scorers. “The challenge in doing that with that kid is, especially now a year later is he is so much more quicker and stronger and more athletic. It is hard when a kid that is that athletic to keep the ball out of his hands. The biggest thing is you just have to make him earn the points he gets and that is easier said than done. I really think they have guys that score it around him. You look at the games they have played well that has been the key for them they have had a lot of guys scoring the basketball. We have got to do not just a good job on him, but we have to do a good job on the Lamereaux brothers and Seidel and the Holland kid. It is just a cast of characters there and it is going to require us really buckling down on the defensive end five on five,” said Sheldon.

In big games many times it is a role player that steps up and has an impact. Sheldon says they can’t let that happen. He says they have to make every possession count. “I always think in big basketball games that every player plays a key role. You can’t let guys that haven’t been high scorers have a big game and those types of situations because they do end of having a much bigger impact, but at the end of the day our whole message has been next play mentality. You just have to win the possession. There are going to be runs in this game. There are going to be emotions in this game and we have to be able to stay within ourselves and stay within that mental mind frame of playing the next play. If we can do that for 32 minutes I think we are going to put ourselves in a good spot coming down the stretch in that ball game,” said Sheldon.

Published 1/12/18

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Lucas Ready to Move Forward

It seems like Lucas always circles Mansfield St. Peter’s on its schedule, but after a loss last week to the unbeaten Spartans, the Cubs need to move forward.

They play at Loudonville Friday night, weather permitting, another Mid-Buckeye Conference game.

Coach Taylor Iceman says they played well in spots against St. Peter’s in a (68-44) loss to the Spartans, but they have to have better shot selection than they did that night. “We came out a little slow and then had a good second quarter. In the second half, we got off to a good start and the wheels just kind of came off. We preached to not turn the ball over and we did a great job of that we only had seven turnovers, but we took some questionable shots and we took some tough shots thought we were fouled and we kind of wined and cried about it. I told our kids, hey, we didn’t turn it over, but sometimes a bad shot or taking a tough shot and crying about and not getting back is just as bad as a turnover and that led to some easy offense for them. Their two studs did what they were supposed to do, but we made it a little easier on them than it should have been and they were able to knock us off,” said Iceman.

Iceman is confident they can beat St. Peter’s when they play them February 9 on their home floor. “The kids found out that we can certainly play with them and we are capable of beating those guys. It was good and bad, we lost by 24, I don’t necessarily know it was a 24 point game, it was probably a 10 or 12 point game. We have to keep moving forward and move on from that and learn and keep getting better,” he said.

Lucas played last Saturday and beat Kidron Central Christian (52-39) in an “MBC” game and Iceman says Saturday was particularly good for a couple of reasons. “We were going to be ready for that game regardless of what happened with St. Pete’s. We kind of let one get away from us early against Central Christian up at their place. We weren’t necessarily ready to play and we let one get away, we lost by one point. So, we were ready to get back in the gym and rebound from the night before, but also we had a bitter taste left in our mouth from the last time we played Central Christian. It was good to come out and get to play and get a good win and get that St. Pete’s game off of our mind and keep moving forward,” he said.

Lucas (6-2,3-2) plays at Loudonville (4-5,2-2) again weather permitting on Friday night. The Redbirds lost (70-53) to Danville on Tuesday night, but beat Kidon (52-47) in their last league game last Friday.

Iceman says Loudonville is pretty good and certainly in need of all of their attention. “I brought up to my guys that Mansfield Christian win. I don’t necessarily know that they know who they are yet. They have had some wins and they have had some losses than kind of make you scratch your head a little bit. I know coach (Kelly) Seboe really well. He was my high school coach my senior year, so I am good friends with him. We talk a lot,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are certainly a capable team. We are hoping that they come out and play like that team that has lost some games. We will take that any night of the week, but we are not anticipating that. They have some good players, some good young players. The Fry kid is as good an offensive player as we will see all year. We have to know where he is at. Their offense goes as he goes. We are going to try and stop him.”

Published 1/12/18

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Northwestern Still Looking to Find Itself

Northwestern won the Wayne County Athletic League title last season and advanced to the regional final in division three, but this year it has been a much more inconsistent year.

If “Old Man Winter” allows they play Dalton (4-5,2-4) on Friday night at home in a Wayne County Athletic League game.

Last Saturday, they were blasted by conference leader Waynedale (83-63) on a “WCAL” game. Coach Mark Alberts Jr. says it was not their best performance and hopefully this week can be different. “We had a little rough night. We didn’t play with the same energy we did the night before and Waynedale played really well. I’m a little disappointed, but I think there are some things we can pull from that. We are going to try and put it behind us, but we know we didn’t perform the way we needed to. We are ready for this weekend we have had a good week of practice and ready to go against Dalton,” he said.

Northwestern (4-7,3-3) plays at home against Dalton Friday. The Bulldogs are coming off a (58-41) loss to Rittman on Saturday.

Alberts says they have a lot kids returning from last year, but he says the Bulldogs are much different. “They have some kids returning, four that start now, they were starting five, but the one guy isn’t starting anymore, so they are a veteran group. They kind of lost a lot of their scoring and they are trying to figure things out, kind of like we are a little bit. I think they are very similar in that fact. I think they play hard,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They have a new coach and they are kind of different than they have been in years past. They have a new coach it’s not Ben Holt, who went to Triway. It is a different team and we have to adjust to them.”

This season it is a new approach for the Bulldogs. Alberts says they are doing a lot of different things both when they the ball and when they don’t. “They run a lot more set plays. They try and push the ball a lot more and try and score in transition a lot more. They don’t press. They still play similar defense to what they did last year, where they switch every pick and just play half court defense. They never ran this many sets in the past, they ran a lot of continuity and tried to get shots and some isos. They don’t play any zone defense, at least the three games I have seen this year. Last year, they did mix it up a little bit and trap and do some different things. It is something we will have to adjust to, something we haven’t seen,” said Alberts.

Published 1/12/18

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Tygers Host Rams

Mansfield Senior and Madison meet at Pete Henry Gym on Friday in what is just not the “Battle of Mansfield” but a pretty important game for both sides as far as the Ohio Cardinal Conference race is concerned.

The Tygers lost their first conference game on Tuesday night when Ashland beat them (65-55) in overtime at Arrow Arena.

Coach Marquis Sykes says the difference was they just couldn’t make any shots. “It was a tough loss in a hard fought overtime game and we don’t expect any less when we do go over to Ashland. That is usually how game plays out. We shot really, really, poorly from the field. Looking at the stat sheet it sounds crazy to say it out loud, but we missed almost 60 shots. So, it was just one of those games. We just couldn’t find the rhythm. We weren’t able to make any shots and the ball didn’t fall our way, so we are going move past that game rather quickly and try and get ready for the big game coming up on Friday,” said Sykes.

Perimeter shooting has been when one the few weaknesses for the Tygers this year. Sykes says they work everyday in practice on ways to improve their shooting. “We are looking to become a little more efficient offensively. Getting guys in different positions where shots are a little easier for them to make. We definitely have to give ourselves more second chance opportunities by getting on the offensive glass. We have to create a few more turnovers for some good looks at the basket in transition as well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “In each phase of the game we just have to become more efficient and eventually the shots will fall. We are playing the game the right way and our spirit is right. The kids have definitely been putting in the work and we think eventually the shots are going to start falling.”

Mansfield Senior (6-3,4-1) hosts Madison (7-4,2-3) on Friday night. Mansfield Senior now shares first in the conference with Lexington. Madison is already two back and can’t afford to lose another. The Rams beat West Holmes (73-39) on Tuesday night.

Sykes says the Rams have two terrific players. “They certainly have the two headed monster with Kyle Jackson and Mason Campbell, certainly two of the better players not only in the area, but the state. We have to figure out some ways to slow them down and not allow them to dominate us on the interior or the exterior. Those guys can shoot it from the perimeter and attack the rim off the bounce and they can score in the paint with their backs turned. We are going to have to slow them down and figure out ways to keep Kyle off the glass and force some other guys to beat us and do what we normally do out there and that is make it difficult for teams to score,” said Sykes.

There is clearly a rivalry feel to this game, but Sykes says they can’t let it override them and they must remain focused. “Like any game you have to find that balance. A lot of times when you go on the road you are talking to your team about making sure you meet the other team and not allow their intensity to take over the game early. We have been talking to our guys about playing the game the right way and not be focused on anything outside other than executing the game plan. Not allowing anything outside of basketball to seep into their minds. I think if they do that we will be fine,” he said.

Published 1/11/18

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Ontario and Pleasant With First Round Showdown

Two of the three unbeaten tri-leaders in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference square off on Friday as Ontario hosts Marion Pleasant at the O-rena, “The House that Joe Built.”

Ontario and Pleasant are tied with Clear Fork, who plays Marion Harding on Friday night.

The Warriors (6-3,5-0) had one of their better offensive performances on Saturday night as they downed Galion (71-61) in an “MOAC” game.

Coach Joe Balogh says they got their offense clicking better and were able to get some extra shots by dominating the boards. “The big thing we tried to do is be better offensively. We got above 70 I think for the first time this year, so that was good. Galion really looked to push the ball with us in our transition game and it was a good in the first half. We really dominated the glass, I think it was 48-22 on the glass. So, we were pleased. We were pleased with our ability to score. We got to the free throw line 30 times, which showed we were aggressive attacking the basket. So, it was a good win for us in the league and kept us in a situation that we continue to control what we do,” said Balogh.

Marion Pleasant (8-2,5-0) is coming off a (75-36) thrashing of Mt. Gilead on Tuesday and beat River Valley (67-47) last Thursday in a league game.

Balogh says they are smart basketball players who have great skill. “I think they are just solid. I guess sometimes when you use the word disciplined you thinking that they are slow and they slow things down, but they’re not. They will push the basketball, but they do a god job from the offensive standpoint of being really good decision makers with the basketball. They try and spread you out and use their athleticism and force you that you have to guard all five out on the floor,” said Balogh.

On defense, Balogh says Pleasant isn’t complicated, but they execute well at that end. “They are similar defensively that they are fairly simple. They are basically a man to man team and they will pick up and pressure you in the full court. They will be physical with you. I am impressed that they are a solid basketball team,” he said.

The one thing that sticks out as the overall when it comes to Pleasant for Balogh is the winning attitude that the players seem to have. “Not knowing a lot about Pleasant, but being around for this many years Pleasant has had success in a lot of their sports. Perennially they have been a great football team, I think they have had very good baseball teams. I think you will find that those athletes know how to win and when you know how to win it really doesn’t make any difference what sport you play there is always a little more competitive spirit that you have and that can really make a difference. I think that is kind of where they are at,” said Balogh.

Joe says you never win the league in the first half of the season, but he knows this is one they would like to have on Friday night, especially being at home. “It is important. You really want to try and protect your home court, but it is not like you are going to lose the league with this game. Whoever wins this game puts themselves in a pretty good position after the first round, but Pleasant nor us have played Clear Fork yet. It still puts you in a good position as you approach the second half of the league,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It puts you in position where you are not going to have to have a lot of help. You are just there where you need to be. That is not to say they you have won the league with this game there are still a lot of league games to play, but you put yourself in a lot better position. We would really like to protect our home court if we can.”

Published 1/11/18

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Norwalk Still Believing

Norwalk does not have as many wins as maybe they thought they would have at this point, but they remain confident that things are going to turn around them this year it is just a matter of time.

They lost to Shelby (42-31) and to Sandusky (71-60) in Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division games last week. They play rival Bellevue in a division game on Friday and Ashland of the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Saturday.

Veteran coach Steve Gray, with almost 400 wins to his credit and a state title at Norwalk in 2014, says he told the players this week they were going to be rewarded. “I tell you what we have been practicing really well and I told the kids (Wednesday) after the practice that hard work pays off. It may not pay off tomorrow or the next day, but eventually this season you are going to enjoy the success that you deserve,” he said.

Norwalk (3-7,2-3) plays at Bellevue (6-3,3-2) on Friday night in a Lake Division game. With wins over the likes of Sandusky and Shelby, Gray says the Redmen have proven their merit. “I think (Trey) Ruhlman is one of the better players in our league. He can put up big points, we can go off for 30 at anytime. If we don’t do a good job on their two guards we are in trouble. They shoot the ball well. They can score the ball. Coach (Ed) Rich is one of the more complicated coaches to prepare for. We saw on film he plays nine different defenses. He may be the only team around here that runs more sets that we do,” said Gray.

When it comes to tempo it would seem Bellevue would want to be a little quicker than Norwalk, but Gray says they have to be able to do what is best to win the game that night. “We probably don’t want to play as fast as they do. We would rather than just settling for a good shot, get a great shot and if that means four or five passes that is okay with us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We will run with them it is not going to be a slow down game. We just have to defend. Good teams have to find a way to win and we have to find a way to win on Friday night, whatever it takes, defense, rebounding, getting loose balls. We need to step up and make plays down the stretch.”

Ashland (1-8) just upset Mansfield Senior (66-55) in overtime on Tuesday night to pick up their first win. They can put four guys on the floor than are 6’4” or taller. “I told the kids on Monday that if people watch us warm up and them warm up we are not going to pass the look test. They are tall, they are talented, they are long, they are athletic. Coach Hess will get them going, I just wish he would get them going next week,” he said.

Published 1/11/18

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Willard Needs to Bounce Back

Willard lost two Bay Division games last week, but they were very different kids of games and the Flashes hope to bounce back this week as they play Huron in an “SBC” Bay game on Friday and Shelby in a cross over game on Saturday.

The Flashes were leading Bay Division leader Vermilion on the road in the fourth quarter last Thursday and coach Joe Bedingfield thought they did a lot of good things in the (54-45) loss to the Sailors. “Thursday last week we played Vermilion at Vermilion and I was really proud of my team. We actually got in a bus accident on the way. A car slipped on ice and basically we had a front end collision. We were only going about 30, but still there was a little bit of impact and we had to wait around a little bit,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Guys battled a different routine and we went and played really well, actually found ourselves with a one-point lead with 3:00 to go. It is just unfortunate that they have a lot of good guards that put pressure on us late in the game and they have a lot of winning experience and they were able to close us out. Like I told my team after the game I was really proud of them battling through. I think we took some steps forward Thursday.”

On the other hand, with the matchups more to their liking on Saturday, Bedingfield didn’t feel like they played as well in a (59-40) loss to Edison. “On Saturday, we played a very good Edison team, which also has a lot of winning experience with a pretty good record, coach Hammond does a good job. I thought we matched up better with Edison than we did Vermilion going into the week and I didn’t think we played as well over at Edison, which was surprising to me. Hopefully it is a week we can learn from and move on,” he said.

Willard (3-7,2-3) plays at Huron (3-4,2-3) on Friday night in a Bay Division game. The Tigers also lost two last week to Edison (63-54) and Vermilion (70-59) in their two division games.

Bedingfield says they have great guard play, beginning with Michael Hurst. “They have some athletic guards, number five, is a really good point guard. They just have a really balanced team again. All of their kids can shoot for the most part. Coach James does a good job with them. They have had a lot of success and I know it will be a tough environment going to Huron. Hopefully, our kids are ready to bounce back and play hard and compete. I think our advantage is on the inside. Hopefully, we can utilize that advantage,” he said.

It’s the second time for Willard and Shelby (7-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, this year. The Whippets destroyed the Flashes in the first meeting (82-41) on December 8 and Bedingfield says this is a measuring stick when it comes to their growth. “The first time we played them they were coming off just a few days of practice and I think they were just ready to transition to basketball and they were super excited. It was their first home game and they have athletes. They had a lot of success in football and that seemed to carry over that night. They shot it really, really well and our kids just couldn’t get things going in a lot of different ways. So, I hope we see some improvement. To see some growth in areas we stress in practice and some of the drills we do. Hopefully, the things we do in practice show up in the games,” said Bedingfield.

Published 1/11/18

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First Quarter Key for Buckeye Central

Buckeye Central just can’t seem to put 32 minutes together and its is costing them a chance to win more games.

Last week, they were pretty good for about six of the eight quarters, but that wasn’t good enough in losses to Colonel Crawford (69-53) and Wynford (52-42) in Northern 10 Athletic Conference action.

Coach Phil Loy says they have to have more balance in the scoring column too. “We are a lot like the weather we haven’t been consistent here. With Crawford Friday we got off to a slow start, which is what we don’t want to do, especially over there. We dug ourselves a hole, but I felt like the second, third and fourth quarters we played a lot better. If we could have that for four quarters we could have at least made that game competitive. On Saturday, we struggled to have consistent scoring. We went all of the way until the third quarter before we got somebody else to score,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We had one guy giving us all of the scoring. That is tough. We got some good looks, but we just didn’t put the ball in the basket. We kind of hung around and hung around. We have to do a much better job at both ends of the floor. We have to be a lot more consistent. We don’t have any games that we are going to blow anybody out this year. For us to win games we have to be consistent for four quarters.”

It’s the beginning of the second round in the “N10” and Buckeye Central (2-9,2-6) travels to Mohawk (7-4,6-2) on Saturday night. On December 9, Mohawk beat Buckeye (61-43) with pretty good shooting.

Loy says the Warriors are pretty athletic and their guards are quick. “They are a dangerous team, the are kind going under the radar. We knew that they would be a tough team this year. Coach Dunn has them playing really hard. They have good athletes. They have a couple of nice post players. They have good shooters. They have athletic guards that are really quick. Last time we played them they shot the ball extremely well from behind the arc compared to their season stats. They got off to a quick start. We tried to play them some zone early on and they shot us out of it. Max Loy goes down in the middle of the second quarter and doesn’t return with a high ankle sprain and that hurt us. We ended up cutting that game back into single digits. We were right there, but we didn’t have enough firepower to finish that game,” said Loy.

It has been a problem pretty much all year and Loy says Saturday night they have to play better in the first quarter. “That is so key for us. It has just been a struggle at time. Even in the games we have won it has been a dogfight to get off to a good start and get the points on the board and get the stops. So, if we can get that figured out I think it is going to help us out tremendously down the road,” he said.

Published 1/11/18

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New London Expects a lot From Plymouth

New London trails Firelands Conference leader Western Reserve by a game heading into a matchup with Plymouth on Friday night in conference action.

They remained a game back with a (63-46) win at home over Mapleton last Friday, but then lost to Mansfield Christian (60-53) in overtime in a non-league game on Saturday.

Coach Tom Howell was pleased and not pleased with the results. “In every game we want to compete on do our best in every game. We won against Mapleton and lost a tough one against Mansfield Christian on Saturday,” he said.

When it comes to the loss to the Flames, Howell says they missed too many free throws to beat a good team like Mansfield Christian. “We look back at that game I talk the kids about it Monday at practice. We make free throws and it doesn’t go to overtime. We win in regulation,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “With all of the other little mistakes that we made all we had to do is make free throws. We were 50 percent from the free throw line in the game and you aren’t going to win close games like that too many times.”

Plymouth (4-5,2-2) plays host to New London (4-4,4-1) on Friday night. The Big Red beat Monroeville (62-44) last Friday in a Firelands Conference game and took unbeaten Mansfield St. Peter’s into the fourth quarter Tuesday night before losing (66-48) to the Spartans.

Howell says the Big Red can be very good, they just haven’t consistently put four quarters together. He says they have to be focused. “Plymouth is an athletic team. They play very hard. I got to see them a couple of times. They played well against Colonel Crawford for three quarters. They played very well (Tuesday) night against St. Peter’s. If you don’t go play they are going to get you. With the Adams kid playing and doing what can do on the floor. If we don’t get ready to play and do what we are supposed to do they can get us very easily,” said Howell.

Published 1/11/18

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Colts Hold off Fredericktown

Clear Fork made five of seven free throws in the final 40 seconds and they held on to beat Fredericktown (56-55) in a non-conference boys’ basketball game at Les Hauenstein Gym on Tuesday night.

Due to a number of weather related factors Clear Fork has not been permitted to practice since last Wednesday and had games against league foes Ontario and Marion Pleasant cancelled.

“We knew it was going to be one of those games where we weren’t exactly sure how we were going to come out. We told them we wanted to see a lot of energy. We understood their wind might not be there, but their legs might be. In the first half it was kind of getting into the flow of things and in the second half we really got into it on the defensive end of the floor,” said Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel.

Clear Fork led (8-5) with 5:08 left to play in the first quarter, but the Freddies (2-8) took the lead (16-14) when Xavier Stallard scored with 57 seconds to play in the quarter.

The Freddies led by as many seven (24-17) in the second quarter and held a one point (27-26) lead at the break.

It was the third quarter that turned out to be pivotal for the Colts (6-3) as they outscored Fredericktown (21-13) to take a (47-40) lead after three periods.

Freshmen Brady Tedrow gave Clear Fork a (36-33) lead with 4:58 to play in third with an old fashion three point play and latter added two field goals as part of a Clear Fork (14-7) run to end the quarter. Gannon Seifert added a three and Michael Chillemi scored back to back hoops as part of that run.

“I thought our bench played huge (Tuesday) night. Some of them didn’t get the minutes they really wanted and that type of thing. I thought that one group that was out there towards the end of the third quarter really set the tone and got us that lead and that really pushed us and we were able to hold them off,” said Bechtel.

Tedrow is part of a freshman class that was unbeaten in junior high and Betchel says he has been a solid contributor for them. “We love his intensity. We know what he can bring defensively for us. Offensively, he has been the guy for that group and this year he just has to be one of the guys. He is capable of having a big night and he really stepped up for us,” he said.

Fredericktown has a never say die attitude Tuesday night and got as close as (51-50) with 1:09 left to play on a layoff by Stallard, but could never get over the hump.

“The kids definitely played hard. We saw some things (Tuesday) night that we will build on. The toughness and the never give up attitude is pat of what this team is,” said Fredericktown coach Derek Dibling.

The Colts were led in scoring by Chance Barnett and Brennan South with 13 each. Tedrow had nine and Jay Swainhart eight. Anthony Caputo, Stallard and Nick Cunningham all had 13 for Fredericktown.

Clear Fork shares the lead in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference with Ontario and Marion Pleasant and had games with both of those teams cancelled last week on nights when the rest of the region played. The Ontario game will be played February 23 and Pleasant game the last week of January.

Without even a practice, Bechtel it was difficult to know how they would come out on Tuesday night. “We knew they would come our ready to play. We haven’t practiced and I am sure they have played a couple of games here. We knew they were going to be a little more prepared than we were. We just wanted to make sure we came out and played as hard as we possibly could,” he said.

Published 1/09/18

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Northmor and Highland Battle for “KMAC” lead

Northmor and Highland have faced and beaten everyone else, but each other in the first round of play in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, and they meet for the first time at Northmor on Wednesday night.

The Golden Knights (10-0,6-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, thrashed Centerburg (73-33) last Friday and they have a clean slate in all games this season.

Coach Zach Ruth says they are playing well and they are looking forward to the challenge that is Highland. “We have been jelling really well. This is great and the atmosphere will be unreal (Wednesday) night. I think both athletic directors kind of set this game up with us winning at Highland last year they knew this one was going to be a good one this year, so they kind of wanted to keep it separate from the other games. It has all played out how it was supposed to play out. They come in 6-0 and we are 6-0 in the conference. Whoever gets it (Wednesday) night has the upper hand to start the back half of the conference schedule,” said Ruth.

Highland beat East Knox (59-50) in their last outing on Friday. Ruth predicts they are going to see a lot of things, especially on defense, from the Scots on Wednesday night. “Coach (Chris) Powell does a really good job down there. I think when you coach in a league and stuff, this is my ninth year, you kind of get used to coach’s tendencies and stuff. We can normally pick up on stuff. Coach Powell has brought a unique style into our league. He runs a high offensive set and then defensively you will see about every zone. You will see man. They are a hard team to prepare for. Probably the hardest team to prepare for our schedule,” he said.

Part of the challenge on Wednesday night for the Golden Knights will be figuring out how to attack the different looks that Highland will give them. Ruth says they always want the ball in the hand of their point guard and let him create something. “It starts with the point guard, it starts with Demetrious Johnson recognizing what they may be in, recognizing the personnel. We have kind of went to this zone set that kind of is a little unorthodox zone offensive set. If a team is in a 1-3-1, 3-2, or 2-3, we stay in the same position because we are blessed to have Demetrious Johnson in our point guard spot. Normally if you have an odd man front zone you go an even front. We go Demetrious Johnson at the top of any zone anybody throws at us and attack from there,” said Ruth.

Published 1/10/18

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Shelby Can Land in First Place

Shelby can move into a share of first place in the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference with a win at home on Friday night over first place Sandusky Perkins.

The Whippets (7-2,3-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, got wins over Norwalk (42-31) last Thursday and Tiffin Columbian (59-32) on Saturday to keep right in the conference race.

Coach Troy Schwemley says Friday night is a big opportunity for them. “We were pleased how we finished the Christmas break beating Norwalk at their place, holding them to 31 points, and beating Tiffin Columbian, and with the way some of the other league games have went, I think maybe it is what we expected as far as the league was going to be very tough. We are in a situation where we play Perkins on Friday and they have one league loss and we’ve got two. We are in a situation where if we can knock them off it puts us back in a tie for first. We feel like we would like to have a couple of those games back, but we can’t control that, but we can control Friday night and how we play. We have chance to really put ourselves in a good position,” said Schwemley.

Perkins (6-4,4-1) has lost its last three to Brunswick (54-42) and Wadsworth (51-48) in a holiday tournament and Sandusky (60-59) in overtime in a league last week.

Schwemley says the Pirates are still very good and they have great balance. “They average three guys in double figures, Bennett McCune is averaging around 14 a game, Jacob Voight around 12 and then Helmut Wheeler around 11. They really have a nice blend. Wheeler plays more inside, he is a nice post player that works hard, he gets a lot of points in the paint, and those other two guys can really shoot the ball well. They really have nice balance with their personnel and the things they do,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They play hard. All of their games have been close. They are 4-1 in the league and they have had a lot of close games. I hate to sound like a broken record, but we are going to have to play great defense, rebound and be efficient on offense. We are playing a very good basketball team.”

Shelby and Perkins have similar personnel and Schwemley says this is another game that is likely going to come down to the end, something both sides are used to this year. “With us we are a very similar type team. We have three guys averaging double figures with Uriah (Schwemley) leading us with 15, Hunter Hoffman is at 14, Brady Hill is around 12. We have other guys in Carter Brooks and Tanner Stevens that have also had double figure here and there. Nick Amstutz and Cameron Stein come off the bench and do a nice job for us. A lot of games are about matchups and I think this game is intriguing because we are very similar type teams. We both have some bigs, we both have some guards that can score. It is going to be a game where you look at it coming in it is a game that should be a pretty close game going down to the wire,” said Schwemley.

Published 1/10/18

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Crawford Has to Bounce Back

Colonel Crawford lost its first “N10” game of the season last Saturday to Upper Sandusky and they fell back into a share of the conference lead with Rams. Now, they face another tough one on the road on Thursday.

The Eagles (10-2,7-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, play at Carey (10-2,6-2) on Thursday night.

Last Saturday, Crawford got off to a good start, but Upper Sandusky beat them (68-54) to make a tie for first place after the first round.

Coach David Sheldon says the second quarter cost them. “We went over there and got off to a great start and had a lead at the end of the first. The second quarter we just went cold. Credit Upper’s defense. They score 11 of the last 15 possessions in the second quarter to go up seven going into the half. We got it cut to six a couple of times. We just couldn’t get over the hump. They hit big buckets. Give credit to Upper they protected their home floor in the league race. Now it is a two way tie as we begin the second round,” said Sheldon.

Even with the loss the Eagles share first place and Sheldon says they have made that point with the players. “That is what we try and tell our guys. We wanted to go over there and win and create some separation. We were unable to do that, but we are still in first place with the second half of the league coming up. Now it is going to be a dogfight. We have two very tough road games right out of the gate to start the second round,” he said.

Colonel Crawford beat Carey (71-56) on December 9 in North Robinson in one of their better performances of the year so far. Carey has strung seven wins in a row and Sheldon says the Blue Devils are very talented. “They are a very good basketball team. They are very explosive offensively. They have the big kid Stone inside and the guards outside are very good,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We were very fortunate to get a win the first time around, now we have to go to their place. It comes down to we have to get stops and that is what it comes down to. We have to have an attitude on the defensive end because they can score in many different ways.”

It is going to be a tough game on the road Thursday, but after the loss to Upper Sandusky this will a good game to take part it because they are going to have to leave Saturday behind. “We were very happy Monday ours guys came in and they were ready to go back to work. We talked about that, hey, that’s over, we can’t let it linger, and move on, because we are still in the league race where we want to be. Our number one goal is to win a league championship. A big part of that is we have to win some road games the second half of the year in order to have that opportunity this season,” said Sheldon.

Published 1/10/18

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South Central Wants to be a Contender

South Central trails Western Reserve by a game in the Firelands Conference standings and they host the Roughriders on Friday night outside of Greenwich.

A win moves them into a share of the lead with one game left for each in the first round of the double round robin.

The Trojans blew open a close game at halftime last Friday to blast Crestview (77-51) they had pretty much done the same thing to Plymouth in a (65-44) win the week before.

Coach Brett Seidel says they need to play like that in the first two quarters. “We have been pretty good in the second half of our last two games. We are just trying to open up the game with that kind of focus and intensity. The ball moving is our focus for four quarters on Friday night,” he said.

South Central (6-4,4-1) hosts Western Reserve (7-3,5-0) in a conference showdown on Friday night. The Roughriders edged Norwalk St. Paul (56-54) last Friday to remain unbeaten in the conference.

Seidel describes them as an explosive team on offense with a number of talented shooters. “They have a lot of skilled players, guys that can make shots, can make shots at anytime from any place on the floor. They can create for themselves or they can create for others,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “So, there is a lot of talent on the floor at one time. They all can get hot in a hurry, so they can score in bunches. They are very dangerous.”

Sophomore point guard Simon Blair is South Central’s leading scorer and Seidel says he expects Western Reserve to try and keep the ball out of his hands. He says they are improved on defense. “They are good and they continue to get better. I expect them to probably face guard and double Simon (Blair) in the full. Trying to take it our of his hands as much as possible. That is kind of what I expect from them,” he said.

It is expected that the Firelands Conference will be balanced, but no one has beaten Western yet. Seidel says this is their chance to prove the are part of the race for the conference title. “It is an opportunity for us. There is a lot of the season to play yet, but you don’t really want to go down two games in the league race. It is a big opportunity for us to hopefully put ourselves up there as a contender,” he said.

Published 1/10/18

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Bellevue Must Execute on Offense

Bellevue faces two of the better defensive teams in the area this week when host Norwalk in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference on Friday and travel to Ontario for a non-league game on Saturday.

After starting the season with six wins in eight games, including wins over Sandusky and Shelby, Clyde hammered the Redmen (83-56) on Saturday night in a Lake Division game.

Coach Ed Rich says the Fliers came in prepared. “They came in and no lie about it they took it to us pretty good. They came in with a good game plan and executed their game plan. They made us look as bad as we have all year. It’s a credit to them they came in and they were ready to play and they did what they needed to do and really pounded us,” said Rich.

Norwalk (3-7,2-3) comes to Bellevue (6-3,3-2) on Friday night. The Truckers lost to Shelby (42-31) and Sandusky (71-60) in division games last week.

Norwalk may only have three wins, but Rich says the Truckers are always going to be tough to beat. “They are always dangerous. Coach Gray, he can put anybody on the floor and be competitive. They really have some nice players, especially the Haraway kid he is a really nice player. They are definitely dangerous. They can beat anyone at anytime. We are not going to take them lightly,” he said.

Tempo might be pretty big in this one. Rich says they don’t want to get caught playing a half court game against the Truckers. “They are going to run all kinds of sets. He wants to keep the tempo at a pace where they dictate it. He is going to run anything he can in order to run the game in the way he wants it to go,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “You have to be prepared. He’s got set upon set upon set. His kids run their things really well and they know exactly what he wants and they know exactly where they need to be. So, they are tough to prepare for.”

Ontario (7-3) will entertain Bellevue on Saturday night. The Warriors have had trouble scoring at times this year, but Rich says they their bread and butter is their defense. “They do have a different look. What they have really focused on this year and it shows when they play is their defense. They are really relying hard core on their defense. They don’t have that guard that they usually have that can run the team and put the ball in the hoop. I am telling you what they defend. It is going to be a tough weekend. We play Norwalk, who defends extremely well, and then we turn around and play Ontario, who defends extremely well. So, we really need to be on on offense this week to have a successful weekend,” said Rich.

Published 1/10/18

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Pleasant Preparing for Ontario

Marion Pleasant is in a three way tie with Ontario and Clear Fork on top of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference standings and they head for Ontario for a crucial game on Friday night in league play.

Pleasant hammered Mt. Gilead (75-36) in a non-league game on Tuesday night. They also won their last league game in beating rival River Valley (67-47) on Thursday night. Clear Fork postponed a game with Pleasant on Saturday night, due to cold temperatures.

Ontario beat Galion (71-61) on Saturday night.

Pleasant coach Ben Snively says Ontario has a great tradition and the O-rena is a difficult place to play. “The are obviously and established program with coach Balogh there, one of the best coaches in the State of Ohio. We know what we are getting into there. We have talked about us having the majority of our league games at home early on. We had River Valley, we went over there and took care of business last Thursday and this will only be our second road game in the league. It is a very good basketball team, very good basketball program. So, we are looking forward to the challenge, but they are a very good basketball team,” said Snively.

Some of the Ontario scores this year have been in the 30’s and they have not been able to push tempo as much as in the recent past, but Snively thinks they have some versatility. “I have been able to watch Ontario on film a couple of times against some other people. Ourselves we really don’t have an identity either. I feel like Ontario is the type of team, like ourselves, that there really isn’t an identity, they kind of feel out the game. They can push the ball and with the athletes they have they do want to. They have a big center and a couple of nice shooters and they are very athletic,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I don’t know a whole lot about Ontario other than their tradition as far as the way they have played in the past. I think like us they can play any style that they want to and I think they just allow the game kind of dictate how that is going to go and the flow of the game. We are kind of the same way if you want to slug it out with us and play defense or get up and down a little bit I think we can do that as well. We will both figure it out in the first half and then make adjustments and see where we are at.”

It might be defense that tells the story on Friday night. Snively says he believes they play hard and well on defense and if that is what takes they can do the job. “I feel like any good basketball team and program your identity better be defense. I know our kids play hard. I have a guy that takes care of all of that for me in coach Bob Smith. He does all of our defense and he does a tremendous job. Our kids play hard, their kids play hard. We have to go in there and try and steal one on their home floor and that will be a difficult task, but we are up for the challenge and we are looking forward to it,” he said.

Published 1/10/18

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Vermilion Tangles With Athletic Sandusky

Vermilion is the outright leader in the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference. They don’t play a divisional game this week, but they do face a still challenge in a cross over game at Sandusky on Saturday night.

The Sailors own a six game winning streak, including wins over Willard (54-45) and Huron (70-59) in Bay Division games last week.

Coach Kurt Harbermehl says they came through the holidays pretty good. “I am pretty happy with where we are at. We played some really tough road games going to Margaretta and going to Huron, so to come away with two wins when you go there is a good thing” he said.

The basketball season is a marathon and Habermehl thinks he team in well suited to handle that. “Especially mentally, the older kids seem to adjust mentally to a long season. Sometimes when you get tired kids mentally and physically it can lead to a lot of bad basketball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “So, I think we have come close to that at times in the last couple of weeks of being tired both physically and mentally, but I think we have kind of fought through it and are in a good spot right now.”

Vermilion (8-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Sandusky (7-4) on Saturday night. The Blue Streaks picked up two wins in the Lake Division in beating Perkins (60-59) in overtime and Norwalk (71-60) last week.

Habermehl says the Blue Streaks have outstanding guard play. “First of all, they are extremely well coached. I think Colin (Irish) does a great job with them. They probably have three guards that are as good as any guards around. When you have good, strong guard play you can win a lot of basketball games and you can overcome some other issues and they certainly have that,” said Habermehl.

Sandusky likes to create havoc by getting into the lane. Habermehl says Keith Williams, their senior point guard, does a great job of executing that plan. “Keith Williams is a great kid to have on your team if you want to get into the lane. He is such a great athlete and he is such a good basketball player. I think other kids kind of feed off of him. Then they other two guards do a great job of knocking down shots when Keith pitches the ball out to them,” he said.

Published 1/10/18

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Lexington Has to Force Wooster to Beat them from Perimeter

Lexington and Wooster are both a game behind Mansfield Senior in the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings and they play each other at Wooster on Tuesday night in an “OCC” game.

The Minutemen (7-3,3-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, had put together a five game winning streak, including a (68-50) win over West Holmes in “OCC” play last Friday before losing to Olentangy Liberty (62-35) on Saturday night in a non-league game.

Coach Scott Hamilton says Saturday night was an eye opener. “I really through we had played well. We had put a couple of nice games together and then we just kind of ran into a very, very good team Saturday night against Olentangy Liberty and we just couldn’t get things to flow. We could never get into a rhythm. I give a lot of credit to Liberty’s defense for that,” he said.

Hamilton says they have to get that fixed because they will play other teams with tough, aggressive defense, beginning with Tuesday night. “We know we have to continue to work to get better. We are going to face some really good teams, Wooster being one them. We play Mansfield again. We have yet to see Mt. Vernon in the conference, Madison, we play them again, so we know we have some nice conference teams on our schedule and we just have to be able to deal with the changes and just the different styles of play,” he said.

Last Friday, Wooster (7-3,4-1), #3 in our poll, rallied to beat Madison (62-57) in an “OCC” game, never leading until the final minute. Hamilton says they play with relentless pressure and that just wears on you. “They really get after you for four quarters. They like to trap. They generate a lot of points from defense and that is no different than what they did last year. One things that is different from last year is they may not have they high quality of shooters that they had last year for example Trevor Smith,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They have guys that really attack the rim well and they just do it for 32 minutes. It doesn’t matter what the score is that is just they way they play. It is tough for opponents to handle that. You might be able to handle it for a quarter or maybe a half, but to deal with that for four straight quarters is really tough.”

There have been several games, especially in a loss to Mansfield Senior (55-47) when the Generals have not shot it well from the perimeter. Hamilton says they have to protect the paint and make Wooster beat them from the outside. “Last year, they had a couple of what I would call perimeter shooters, this year they have guys that can make shots, but they still fill the floor with athletes and they get right to the rim and get those extra possessions from the offensive boards. Then they just have a couple of guys that just attack and play very, very well in transition looking to finish that the rim. Last year, they would pull up from 22 in transition. This year, they are looking to get all of the way to the rim and it is very effective for them and that is something we have to be ready for,” said Hamilton.

Published 1/09/18

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Wooster Must Play Great Defense

Wooster has been winning games this season with great defense and that has to continue as they host Lexington is a key Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Tuesday night.

Both teams trail Mansfield Senior by a game in the “OCC” boys’ basketball standings.

The Generals rallied in the final minute to beat Madison (62-57) in a league game last Friday and then downed Canton Central Catholic (54-40) in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

Wooster won the Madison game with aggressive play down the stretch and coach Michael Snowbarger says they were able to take that to Saturday night. “We finished the game off Friday very well against Madison and it kind of did carry over into Saturday. I thought for the most part our effort of Saturday was pretty good again against a scrappy Canton Central Catholic team. Whenever you are able to hold a team to 40 points at the varsity level you know you are doing something right at the defensive end. I thought our kids played extremely well on that side of the ball,” said Snowbarger.

Wooster (7-3,4-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, hosts Lexington (7-3,3-1), #5 in the poll, on Tuesday night. Lexington beat West Holmes (68-50) last Friday in an “OCC” game, but lost (62-35) to Olentangy Liberty on Saturday, breaking a five game winning streak.

Wooster won the “OCC” title last year and the Minutemen won it the year before and this has become a pretty good rivalry. Snowbarger says the Minutemen are good again and it starts in the post. “The big thing is Cade Stover. He is a great athlete, strong kid, physical kid. I have seen him several times this year and I think his outside shot has come a long way. Last year, maybe we could bang him a little bit and front him in the post and help in the post, but now he can step out and shoot the three,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We have to understand that we can’t back off so much them they get it to him because he is going to make us pay for that. They have some great shooters around him. Ben Vore is shooting the ball, Johnston off the bench is coming in and shooting well. They have a solid point guard in Mason Kearns that does a great job handling their offense.”

A lot of what Lexington does revolves around Stover, but Snowbarger says is you let the other kids wide open by giving too much attention to Stover that would be a mistake. “When you have a kid like Cade Stover in the post, but you have shooters around him you can’t help so much on Cade because he is going to get the ball to them and they are going to make you pay. There was one game when I think Vore made five threes in a quarter. You know Stover is going to get his 15 to 17 a game, so you can’t Ben Vore go for 20 also or Johnston go for 20. I think their supporting cast is coming on really well right now,” said Snowbarger.

Published 1/09/18

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It’s Defense for the Flames

It was defense that turned the trick for Mansfield Christian last Saturday they are going to have to have that same intensity and execution this week.

They play host to East Knox in a non-conference game on Tuesday night and invite arch rival Mansfield St. Peter’s to “The Furnace” on Friday night for a Mid-Buckeye Conference game.

The Flames lost a “MBC” game to Crestline (66-55) last Friday, but rallied back to beat New London (60-53) in overtime in a non-league game on Saturday night.

Coach John Kurtz says they really circled the wagons on Saturday night against New London. “We had some pretty strange circumstances going into the Crestline game. McPeak had been dinged up on Tuesday and had a bad ankle really wanted to go and we let him go in the Crestline game and he wasn’t himself, but he really toughed in out. Then we went to New London, and this team has been like this all year, where we have been very up and down, but when we play well we play really well and we did that against New London. During that game my son (Kyle) went down in third quarter with a rolled ankle and missed the third and almost all of the fourth until about two minutes to go in the fourth,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Our kids defended, we defended like we had been doing for years, and had kind of gotten away from it some defensively. Our kids really locked down defensively at New London. From halftime until four minutes to go in the fourth quarter we gave up eight points and we are pretty proud of that. The kids really rallied around the fact that Kyle had gotten hurt. I was really pleased with that effort.”

East Knox (4-5) plays at Mansfield Christian on Tuesday night in a non-league game. The Bulldogs lost by nine (59-50) to “KMAC” co-leader Highland on Friday night.

Kurtz says they have some big, strong kids and that has given them some problems. “They have been somewhat like us in when you just look at their scores. At this time, it is hard to just look at the scores and come up with good information, but they have played some teams in that league tough and then they have had some games when they haven’t played so well. So, we want to look at the games when they have played really well. They are physical, they are very physical and they are very good on the glass. In our films, they have two of three kids that can shoot the three. Those would be the things that concern us. We have had trouble with big physical teams on the glass and they have a couple of those kids,” he said.

Mansfield St. Peter’s (11-0,5-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at Mansfield Christian (7-4,1-3) on Friday night.

The Spartans have not been challenged in a league game this year. They beat Lucas (68-44) last week. Kurtz says they can play in the full or half court and do it very well. “This team is very good. There is no doubt in my mind. I have seen them on film, I have seen them in person twice. I think they really share of the ball. I think they have two outstanding players, Jakubick and Cobb and kids that are big guards type players that can go inside and get some. I think the thing I noticed with them that I think is a little bit different then what I have seen in the past is I think they are pretty good in the half court on defense. I think they present a dual problem for you. They have two kids that can really score and then they defend really well in the half court. I think they are very committed to that. They are tough to beat because they can play two types of games. They can play a fast game and they can play a slow game and be good at both,” said Kurtz.

It is going to take a tremendous effort by the Flames on Friday night. Kurtz says they must be nearly perfect, especially on defense. “We would have to play the best game of the year probably for us and be really clean. We have to defend at a high level because they have so much offensive firepower, even some of the kids that are filling in. I think it is the Stewart kid, Remy, those kids have bene filling in nicely for the kids that either left of graduated and so they are very solid. They don’t make very many mistakes. Early in the year maybe they were a little tentative, but now they seem to have settled in. St. Pete’s has played a good schedule. They are going to be a tough one for us,” he said.

Published 1/09/18

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Ashland Has to Keep Senior High off Boards

Ashland has had some success against Mansfield Senior in recent years. They will go after their first win of the season when they host the Tygers on Tuesday night in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.

They lost (60-40) to Mt. Vernon in an “OCC” game last Friday and traveled to Toledo and suffered a (74-52) loss to Toledo Whitmer on Saturday night.

Coach Jason Hess says they just aren’t getting enough of those 50/50 balls and they have to get more them if they are going to start winning games. “No matter what the record is you just want to keep getting better and keep improving and playing your best basketball at the end of the year. I think one thing that we have king of focused in on here the last week or so is to be a little more consistent with our effort. We have kind of challenged our guys that they have a little more in the tank and they need to give it for their teammates and put a little more on the floor,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “There are times during games that we are not quite making those effort plays, getting the 50/50 balls, getting offensive rebounds, we give up an offensive rebound. Little things like that, as opposed to x’s and o’s things, are some areas that we have been trying to improve here the last week or so.”

Ashland (0-8,0-4) hosts Mansfield Senior (6-2,4-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Tuesday night in “OCC” game. The Tygers did not play a league game last week. They lost to Lima Senior (54-47) last Saturday, that broke a six game winning streak. They are the “OCC” leaders by a game over Lexington and Wooster, who play each other Tuesday.

Hess says this is a Tyger team that gives great effort, plays aggressive defense and gets on the offensive glass. “Well, the one thing that jumps out when I watch them on film and see them is the defensive intensity they play with. They really get after it and make it hard for opponents to score. They make the games a grind. There is never a time when you can take a break. They are up in your shorts from start to finish. They just really get after it and they compete, and they play hard. They do a great job of offensive rebounding. They are not a team that shoots the ball extremely well from the perimeter, but because of their defensive pressure and because of the way they crash the offensive glass they give themselves a lot of extra opportunities to score,” said Hess.

If they are going to beat Mansfield Senior, something they have done in each of the last three seasons, Hess says they need to make the Tygers uncomfortable on offense. “When you let a team like this drive it to the basket and crash the glass and bully you a little bit they get momentum and they get energized from that and that makes it a long night,” he said.

Published 1/09/18

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West Holmes Has to Get Back

West Holmes is in the middle of a five game road trip and they play at Mansfield Madison in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Tuesday night.

The Knights have not won since the week before Christmas and coach Keith Troyer says it is inconsistency that continues to plague them. “We are playing a brutal schedule right now. We have five games on the road, but for the most part we have been playing well. We just have one bad quarter in each of those games. The other night against Lexington we dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter. We were down 28-8 and we outscored them 42-40 the rest of the way. It is just one of those things where we have to put four quarters together and we haven’t done that yet,” said Troyer.

West Holmes lost that game (68-50) to Lexington last Friday.

The Knights (4-5,0-4) come to Madison (6-4,1-3) on Tuesday night. The Rams are coming off a (62-57) loss to Wooster last Friday. A game they were leading for more than 31 minutes. They have won six of their last eight.

Troyer says they play very good defense in the half court and they have a couple of pretty big weapons on offense. “The first thing that comes to mind is they get after it defensively in the half court. They are physical. The Jackson kid inside and they have a good 1-2 combination with the kid that transferred in from Mansfield St. Pete’s (Mason Campbell.) They are a very good team. They have lost a couple of close games. They had Wooster on the ropes the other night and lost that one. They are a very good team,” he said.

West Holmes has scored some points this year, more than 60 twice, and more than 70 once. However, Troyer says the Rams really want to push it and they have to get back. “Especially this year we have the kids that can push it up the floor and get up and down a little bit better than we have the last couple of years, but they like to push the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They do a nice job of looking up the floor and after rebounding get good outlets. Transition defense we have to be aware of that and get back on defense. I thought that was something we didn’t do very well the first quarter against Lexington the other night. Give them credit they hit shots that first quarter. Madison likes to push the ball and we have to get back and find people on defense.”

Published 1/09/18

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Wynford Better on Both Ends

Wynford broke a six game losing streak with a win at Buckeye Central on Saturday night and they hope to be able to keep that momentum as they have games on Thursday and Saturday this week, both on the road.

They are at Crestline in non-league play on Thursday and at Bucyrus in an “N10” game on Saturday.

Coach Jason Engel says they were able to sort of catch their breath with the (52-42) win over Buckeye. “That was a long stretch for us, but we played some really good teams and we lost some tough games. To beat Buckeye on the road was a big win for us, a big rivalry game for us. We are looking to build momentum off that,” he said.

He says they were able to get on the glass better, play pretty good defense and shot the ball well against Buckeye. “I think we rebounded well. I felt we defended really well in our 2-3 zone we ran against them. Max Loy had quite a few points, but the other two scorers Wurm and Sheaffer we were able to kind of hold them under their averages,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “More than anything we were confident in our shooting and some guys really stepped up. Matt McBride had three threes. Gavin Leffler off the bench had a couple of big buckets for us and Josh (Crall) shot well. So, we played with confidence and we rebounded well.”

Wynford is at Crestline (4-4) on Thursday. Engel says the Bulldogs are vastly improved over where they have been in recent years and they will need to play well. “They are a solid team. They have a lot of guys that have played there for a long time. They have been young the last few years. So, a lot of experience and coach Lisle has a lot of guys that he has been playing off the bench. They are pretty deep, they are athletic they are physical. They rebound well offensively. So, we are going to have to play fundamentally sound. It is going to be a tough game for us on the road,” said Engel.

It is the beginning of the second round in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference and Wynford (4-6,3-5) is at Bucyrus (2-9,1-7) on Saturday night. The Royals won the first meeting (61-45) in early December, but Engel says it was really closer than that. “They have Hatley back too. He is a good player for them and he has been shooting the ball well. They played us extremely tough at our place early on in the year. It was just a couple possession game with two or three minutes left. We are going to have to play well Saturday again on the road. We just have to keep plugging away. We want to build off of a solid win against Buckeye,” he said.

Published 1/09/18

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St. Paul Wants to Kick up Intensity

It’s a three game week for Norwalk St. Paul as they travel to Fremont St. Joe on Tuesday and host Tiffin Calvert on Saturday in non-league games and visit Mapleton on Friday night in a Firelands Conference game.

They have lost their last two conference games by two points each, including (56-54) league leader Western Reserve last Friday.

Coach Mike Smith says they just need to continue to work and refine things. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We kind of understand why we are at where we are at. We are going to keep plugging away. I feel like we are really, really close. The last four games we played some really good basketball teams and we have played up. We played Huron, we played Edison, who is just playing great basketball, New London tough on the road and then, of course, Western. It is funny and I’m sure if talk to coach (Shelby) coach Schwemley he is probably not excited about how they are playing. The reality is you are four to five weeks behind everyone else,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “This morning I was watching some film of one of our upcoming opponents. It was a game earlier in the year it was sloppy and their technique wasn’t very good and there were a lot of kinks to be worked out and really it was equivalent to where we are at. I am happy with where we are at, obviously I’m not happy with our win less record. It is not on the kids, it is not on the players or the coaches, it is what it is and we have to battle through that.”

St. Paul is athletic and Smith says they need to bring more intensity and try to speed the game up a little bit. “The one thing we talked about Saturday morning after Friday’s game is there has to be a sense of urgency and there has to be a little more intensity, especially starting the third quarter. If you look at our last three games we scored five, seven and five in the third quarter. So, we will look to change some things up. We are going to try and speed up the game a little bit more over these next three games. We have two non league games and a league game. See if the tempo and things like that can pick up a little bit for us and help us along the way. I am not disappointed with the kids, the kids are working hard. We are paying attention to detail and cleaning up things as we go. We are excited about getting on the floor and playing three games this week,” said Smith.

St. Paul (2-4) is at Fremont St. Joe (6-3,) one three teams on top of the River Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, along with New Riegel and Old Fort.

Smith says the Crimson Streaks have a lot of good players. “I have been able to catch quite a few of their games here. I have been able to watch four of their games. They do have so good guard play. They have some guys that can shoot it. They have some nice size inside. The Harrison kid does a nice job and the Foster kid. Their guard play, Wonderly and Morrisette really have done a nice job and they have some depth. They play pretty well at home, especially on that smaller floor. I know they will be prepared, coach (Jon) Will does a nice job. They play a lot of man to man. They play some 1-3-1 defense, something we saw this past weekend versus Western Reserve. There isn’t going to be anything tricky. We might try to up the ball pressure and try and speed the game up a little bit to maybe help us,” said Smith.

Published 1/09/18

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It’s Colonel Crawford Versus Upper Sandusky, Round One

Can Colonel Crawford wrestle supremacy of the Northern 10 from the hands of Upper Sandusky? We start to find that answer when they play for the first time at Upper on Saturday night.

After an (89-64) win over Bucyrus on Tuesday night, the Eagles have won eight in a row and own a one game lead on Upper in the conference standings.

Crawford (9-1,6-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, plays host to Buckeye Central (2-7,2-4) on Friday night. Buckeye also beat Bucyrus (63-51) in its last game on Saturday night. They have won two of their last three and Colonel Crawford coach David Sheldon says they are coming into their own. “I think this is a team that has gotten a lot better from the beginning of the year. They were looking for some identity earlier with the loss of Shade and this is a team that has gotten better. I have the upmost respect for Phil Loy, he is one of my tight coaching buddies in the coaching fraternity. They have three good guards, his son Max, the Sheaffer boy and the Wurm kid. Those three guards have really played well for them. They are going to run Phil’s stuff. He runs a lot of different sets, a little continuity, they are going to run their stuff, and he is going to have them prepared defensively to try and take stuff away,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “So, I think it is a team that has gotten a lot better and they are better than their record. You look at what they did when they went over to Upper a couple of weeks ago and it is a two point game with like two minutes to go. I really think they are coming into their own. It is an inter-county rival. It is one of those where we have to get off to a good start and that has to start on the defensive end by taking away some of their weapons.”

Upper Sandusky (8-2,5-1) comes off one of its better wins of the season last Saturday in beating Mohawk (66-52) and Sheldon says they play with the same kind of actions that they have the last couple of years. “They are going to play full court pressure all night, they are going to trap you very once in a while, they are going to try and get into you one pass away, the same philosophy that has been successful for them the last several years. You talk about new kids, but their JV team last year was very good. Their JV team could have beaten some varsity teams in our league, that’s how good. Coach Winslow has just reloaded they cupboard. We are looking forward to the challenge in going on the road over there in the last game in the first round of our league play Saturday night and go over there and compete and give it our best shot,” said Sheldon.

That means you have to do the same kind of things to beat them. Sheldon says that is handle the ball, stop their transition and rebound the basketball. “The number of thing is you have to handle their pressure. You have got to handle their defensive pressure. With our guard play we are hoping we can do that. Second of all you have got to stop their transition scoring. They are very good at getting out in transition and scoring make or miss. They are very good at getting on the offensive glass. So, I think those are three of the keys when you talk about Upper Sandusky come Saturday night,” he said.

Published 1/05/18

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Lexington is Playing Well

Coming out of Christmas break, the Lexington Minutemen find themselves playing some pretty good basketball and carry a four game winning streak into a matchup with West Holmes in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Friday night.

Coach Scott Hamilton says they can be even better. “We have had a couple of nice wins starting back with Madison, Norwalk, Ashland, and Ontario at home. We are starting to believe in each other a little bit. Defensively, we are improving almost every day that we step on the floor. They crazy thing is I still think we have some room to work and get better and hopefully our guys keep working hard and stay hungry and who knows where we can go,” he said.

The Minutemen (6-2,2-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays host to West Holmes (4-4,0-3) on Friday night.

Hamilton says the Knights have been scoring more, but they still like to be patient when in the half court. “Watching some of their games on film they still like to control the tempo and run their half court stuff, but they definitely are not as disciplined as far as they like to gambles on defense quite a bit and they will take that risk reward percentage and they will get up and down the floor a little bit. If they think they can score 10-12 points real quick on you and push that tempo a little bit there are going to do it. If you can get back and slow them down they are pretty content just getting into that offense and making those passes and wearing you down a little bit and getting the shot where they want it,” said Hamilton.

Lexington trails Mansfield Senior, a team that beat them by one (54-53) last month, in the “OCC” standings. Hamilton believes this is going to be an outstanding league this year. “I think that makes for an exciting league. If your conference champion has two, maybe three losses I think that just makes it exciting, when it comes right down to the end. I think that is the type of league that we have this year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You really don’t see a lot of blowouts across the board. One thing that we told the guys in practice this week is we have to respect everybody. We have had some challenges and we have had some good games, but at the same time this is a team last year that we went into the locker room at halftime fairy even with. We know their personnel a little bit even though there is some distance between us. We have to respect these guys and be prepared for them when they step on our floor.”

Olentangy Liberty, coached by former Willard boss Greg Nossaman, comes calling on Saturday for a non-conference game. Hamilton says these kinds of games make them better. “Nossaman runs a lot of good stuff and he plays a lot of good teams down in the Columbus area, so he is used to seeing a lot of good athletes and some good play. We aren’t going to give him anything he hasn’t seen already. It is a good challenge for us to bring to a good, talented, well coached team into our building. It is just another one of those games on our schedule that we think prepares us for our tournament games,” he said.

Published 1/05/18

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Scoring in the Full Court Big For Upper

Upper Sandusky, the defending “N10” champion, has a chance to move back into a share of the Northern 10 Athletic Conference lead if things go well this weekend.

They play at Wynford on Friday and host Colonel Crawford on Saturday. They are a game behind Crawford in the standings.

The Rams have won five in a row, including a solid (66-52) win over Mohawk last Saturday.

Coach Jeff Winslow says they have gotten a lot better since the opening a week of the season. “I think we are starting to jell a little bit. Our younger guys are getting comfortable with what they are doing and their roles. You can see it day by day that everybody is getting a little bit better. One of our goals is to get better every day and we tell the kids that if each player can get rid of one mistake they are making over and over again. Just get rid of that one error they are making rather if it is defensive rotation or whatever right there are eight things we can correct in one week and that is what we set out to do. We are doing that and we are stating to play some pretty decent basketball right now,” said Winslow.

Wynford (3-5,2-4) has lost its last five games. However, Winslow says they have some good players and the “House of Thrills” is always a tough place to play. “They have had a tough stretch here lately. They have played some really good teams in Pleasant and Crawford and what not. They are young. They play a lot of sophomores. The sophomore Crall kid has really stepped up his game from a year ago. He was just kind of a shooter a year ago and now he can take you off the dribble, he is just a scorer,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They have some big bodies in there. They are another team that is young and they are learning and you see that every week. Going over there is never and easy place to play, so we hope we can put together a solid game over there. I just think it is going to be defense. They seem to struggle a little bit with pressure because they are young and not real strong yet and hopefully our pressure bothers them and we can use that to win the basketball game.”

Upper Sandusky (8-2,5-1) hosts Colonel Crawford (9-1,6-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Saturday night.

Winslow says the Eagles do a lot of good things. “We know each other really well. I have known David (Sheldon) for a long time. They can really score the basketball. I saw them live Tuesday night against Bucyrus and I have seen them a few times on tape and they can really score. They have got a bunch of kids that can put the ball in the basket. They can make the three and they have guys that can take you off the dribble. They have size and athleticism. We are going to have our hands full as far defending them for sure,” said Winslow.

Over the last few years this has been the big rivalry in the “N10” and Winslow says you can tell. “It is a great rivalry. I’ll come to the gym three o’clock that day and there will be a line of old Crawford guys out there waiting to get in the gym. I always have to walk though them. They seem to be the first there, they bring a good following, we’ll bring a good following to that game. It will be a big time atmosphere and hopefully we can take care of business Friday night first and if we can do that it would a real important game in the conference standings and if we don’t take care of it on Friday it probably won’t matter much,” he said.

Upper and Crawford both like the up tempo game and Winslow says its execution is going to determine the winner. “It should be a pretty fast paced game, both teams like to get up and down the court. Whoever comes out and shoots the ball the best and I think the big thing for both teams in going to be transition defense. Whatever kids decide they are going to get back and stop people in transition are going to have the advantage in winning the game. Whoever executes in transition offense and defense is probably going to be the one that wins the basketball game,” said Winslow.

Published 1/05/08

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Defense the Key for Wooster

It’s a big game for both on Friday night at the College of Wooster as Wooster plays Madison in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game that is a home game for the Generals.

Wooster is now in a share of second place in the “OCC” standings a game behind Mansfield Senior and Madison is two back and in danger of falling out of the conference race.

Mansfield Senior beat Wooster (55-47) last Friday to take sole possession of the lead in the conference.

Wooster coach Michael Snowbarger says they just didn’t make enough three point shots. “I felt we played well for the most part. In the end we made one three point shot. We made our first one and then we missed 12 straight against a very athletic, quick, well disciplined Mansfield Senior you can’t do that kind of stuff,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You can’t go on the road and shoot 1 of 13 from the three point line and beat a team like that. You have to knock down some shots. We stayed in the game most of the game, but in the end, we have got to make shots. That is what we have got to start doing, especially on the road.”

Wooster (5-3,3-1) plays Madison (6-3,1-2) on Friday at COW. Madison beat Clear Fork (77-73) in a non-conference game last week. Snowbarger says they have two very good players they will be forced to defend. “They have two great players in Kyle Jackson and Mason Campbell and you have to control those two. Anytime you have two kids averaging about 20 points a game that’s dangerous. If those two are getting their 20 and you get some of those complement players in there chipping in 10 and then you are looking at 60, 70 points and that is tough to get to. So, we have got to control Mason Campbell and Kyle Jackson and the complements, we can’t let those guys get off. We have to make sure we don’t give them open looks while controlling those two,” said Snowbarger.

When it comes to Campbell and Jackson, Snowbarger says they have to be able to force them off their spots. “You definitely have to make them work for it. You can’t let Mason Campbell stand around the three point line, you have to make him put it on the floor and get to the basket. Kyle Jackson, you have to keep him out of the paint because Kyle is extremely athletic and long and if he gets in the paint he is going to score on a lot of kids in the high school game. We have to limit Mason’s open looks and Kyle we just have to keep him out of the paint,” he said.

Published 1/05/18

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Mansfield Christian Getting Better and Better

Mansfield Christian has put together six wins in its last seven games and they are really playing some pretty good basketball.

They are on the road for the weekend with a Mid-Buckeye Conference game at Crestline on Friday and a non-conference game at New London on Saturday.

Coach John Kurtz says the Flames have become pretty consistent at both ends of the floor and that’s what a coach wants. “We have become a lot more consistent. Our shooting has gotten a lot better. Yeah, I think we are playing better. I think we have a good bit of room to go yet. We have been pleased with how solid we have been, especially late in games the last four or five games we have been pretty solid in the fourth quarter,” he said.

A lot of there success has been the play of veteran guards Jared McPeak and Kyle Kutz, the son of the coach. John Kurtz says that gives a coach a comfort level. “There is just a higher level of expectation from a coach with those players, but also those players with everybody else. I think these older kids with experience know where they are supposed to be in the general concept of what we are trying to accomplish. It is great to have them out there they are kind of an extension of the coach,” he said.

Mansfield Christian (6-3,1-2) is at Crestline (3-3,0-2) on Friday night. The Bulldogs got a win in their last game (60-57) over Hillsdale in non-conference play on Saturday night.

Kurtz believes Crestline is headed in the right direction. “I see a lot of good things going on over there. They present a lot of problems for us with their size, we are not small, but they have three or four kids that are good size. The Clark kid is an exceptional offensive rebounder, one of the better in the area I think,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are just big and last year I didn’t think they shot the ball very well and we kind of tried to work toward that end and put them in situations where they had to put a lot of threes up. They shoot the ball better this year, so they present more challenges for you.”

New London (3-3) has been better than expected so far this year. In fact, Kurtz thinks they are really good. “From being in the Firelands Tom (Howell) does a great job with his kids. I got a chance to watch them on film (Thursday) and boy they are just really solid. Tom’s boy Karson is a really good player, really smart and can shoot the ball, but a lot of teams have tried to take him away and they have other kids step up and do their job. I have been particularly impressed with their post play and their kids are good finishers. That is a hard place to play and that is a good team. I think they are going to be a surprise in the Firelands. I think they are doing a great job. They beat a good St. Paul team and that will just tell your how tough they are right now,” said Kurtz.

Published 1/05/18

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“KMAC” Co-Leader Meets Centerburg

Northmor shares the lead in the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference with Highland heading into play this weekend.

The Golden Knights play at home on Friday night against Centerburg.

They are unbeaten on the season in all games, but coach Zach Ruth says they have to be committed to getting better as a team. “You have to show up and work hard everyday. We have reinforced this whole week basically don’t think you have arrived. Let the sportswriters and papers and people talk. They are talking about one of the best starts in school history. Let those people do that. We just want to show up and keep working everyday and take one game at a time and not think that you have arrived because there is a lot of ball to play yet,” said Ruth.

Northmor (9-0,5-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, hosts Centerburg (2-5,2-3) on Friday night.

Ruth says a little luster was taken off this game by a summer transfer by a Centerburg kid. “This is a matchup that probably would have been a sell out when they had Ross Ryan, their big 6’9” guy that had always been at Centerburg. Him and Tyler Keggley, my big, had always battled back and forth since junior high, but he had transferred out to Pickerington for his senior year. That was a big blow to them. They have a new coach,” he said.

The Northmor coach says there is an odd thing about this year’s Centerburg line-up. “They are an intriguing matchup they have an unorthodox lineup as four of the five guys will be lefthanded. Friday night’s weakside is the right side for everybody they have on the perimeter and I think that is weird,” he said.

Scouting has always been part of the game, but Ruth says they have able to take it to a new level. “I have brought on Blade Tackett and he has really taken our program to another level on scouting reports. We are really emphasizing them. We have always attempted to attack what team’s weaknesses were, but we are taking it a step further we are attacking what the individual’s weakness is. On defense we want to try and take away their strengths,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have kind of been playing some mind games, I shouldn’t say mind games. Trying to prepare the kids for knowing what to do in certain situations and if it is a tight game we can go off the report, it says right here, this is the situation and this what we are going to do to them.”

Published 1/05/18

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Trojans Have to Finish

South Central, in a share of second place in the Firelands Conference, plays at Crestview in a conference game on Friday night.

They have a chance to move into a share of first place if Norwalk St. Paul can beat leader Western Reserve.

Christmas break can kind of be a crossroads for teams, but coach Brett Seidel says they don’t know how they will come out of it because it is still in progress. “Christmas, the celebration has come and gone, but we are still on a break because of the weather. We are still kind of getting through the difference in routine. We are practicing right now in the middle of the school day. Kids are sleeping in and staying up late. We are still kind of in the middle of it. I guess we will continue to sort this out and hopefully figure it out (Friday) night,” said Seidel.

South Central (5-4,3-1) visits Crestview (1-6,1-3) in a conference game on Friday. The Cougars have not won a game in almost a month and lost to non OHSAA member Mansfield Temple Christian (70-60) on Tuesday night.

Seidel says they are not void of talent and are still trying to find their identity and he hopes that doesn’t come on Friday night. “I think they are similar to most of us in this league who are still trying to sort out the inexperience and the youth and trying to find depth and balance and consistency,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “With the youth and inexperience comes the inconsistencies. They are going through the same as they rest of us. They have some athletes, they have some experience in the post that can score it. They play very hard, they are very scrappy on defense. We are going to have to come ready to play.”

Crestview will likely bring some pressure and Seidel says they have to handle it and then attack the basket. “Valuing the basketball and making of extra pass and not being passive once we get out of the pressure. Once we get out of a trap or beat their pressure we have to make sure we are aggressive and we are trying to find the next open guy,” he said.

Published 1/05/18

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Flyers Still Putting Things in

Norwalk St. Paul has a lot of talent this year, but they are still in a process of building their team.

They trail league leader Western Reserve by a game and they host to Roughriders on Friday night.

Leading for a lot of the game, the Flyers lost to New London (55-53) last Friday. Coach Mike Smith says they are still trying to find out how to win games when the pressure is on. “I think a lot of it is just situations. We just haven’t had enough court time. (Thursday) was our 17 th practice with everybody. We really tried this week to concentrate on clock management and just situations that we haven’t spent enough time on. We spent so much time trying to get zone offense in, press offense in and base stuff, baseline, sideline and that stuff. We didn’t handle it. We had a six point lead with a couple minutes to go. We can definitely finish the game a little bit better, especially on the road,” said Smith.

The Flyers (2-3,2-1) host Western Reserve (5-3,4-0) on Friday night. The Roughriders rode a big second half to (73-56) win over Crestview last week. This their first road game in the conference.

Smith says Western is explosive. “They have a lot of guys that really shoot the basketball well. When they shoot it well they are really hard to guard. They are dangerous. They are not really big. We have to make sure that we close out under control and do a good job trying to keep the ball out of the paint and then rebound the basketball. They take a lot of threes and that creates a lot of long rebounds. We are going to have to do the job on the boards,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “At the other end we have to push the basketball and be able to get it inside when we can. It is going to be a big challenge for us to play such a real good team here. It is also a game that we have got to do what we can and try and win at home.”

This game is a contrast in styles. Smith says Western Reserve is perimeter oriented while they want to challenge in the post. “The two teams are a little bit different as far as size goes. Obviously, they rely on the perimeter shot and we rely on post play. I think we do have balance. Our guards are capable of shooting the basketball as well. Probably who can dictate the way the game is played will come out of top. We are looking forward to that challenge. We have a nice game plan and understand personnel and what they can and can’t do. We are looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

Published 1/05/18

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Key Week for Clear Fork

Clear Fork shares first place in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference with Ontario and Marion Pleasant and they play both of those schools this week.

They host the Warriors on Thursday at Les Hauenstein Gym and they travel to Pleasant on Saturday. Two wins gives them first place to themselves in the “MOAC.”

Last Friday, they lost a non-conference game to division one Mansfield Madison (77-73) at Madison.

Coach Steven Bechtel says they must strive to get better on defense. “I thought we were okay offensively. We talked to the kids with four possessions if we could just get four more stops somewhere in any game that really increases our opportunity to win, especially when you lose by four. You never know what is really going to happen. Just getting better in the half court defense I think that is where we really have to improve. We have concentrated on that and hopefully come (Thursday) night we can showcase that,” said Bechtel.

Clear Fork (5-3,3-0) hosts Ontario (5-3,3-0) on Thursday night. The Warriors lost non-conference games to Highland (60-53) and Lexington (72-48) last week.

Ontario may be on a three game losing streak, but Bechtel says coach Joe Balogh will have them ready Thursday night. “Joe is the coach, so they are going to be fundamentally sound. They are going to be ready to play. They are a very solid basketball team. I know the scoring thing comes up, but they are winning games. People always say you would rather win ugly then lose looking good,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They are coming out and they are getting stops when they need too. They are scoring enough baskets to win quite a few games. They are kind of in a funk like we are. We have a two game losing streak and they gave three, but, Joe is going to have those kids ready to play.”

As normal Ontario has been playing outstanding, especially half court defense. Bechtel says when they have open shots they must cash in. “We have to make sure that when we get an open look because they aren’t going to come at a high rate for us because of how well they play defense we have to knock in those open looks. We have to do a great job of getting our guys in positions where they have the ability and our best opportunity to score,” he said.

Pleasant (6-2,4-0) has been very good too. They play rival River Valley Thursday night. Bechtel thinks the Spartans are a lot like them. “I think they are very similar to us. They have a lot of guys that can play. They have a lot of guys that can shoot, put the ball on the floor. Defensively they get after it just like we do, maybe not so much in the full court, they have shown that a little bit. It is kind of a mirror image that way. We have looked at them a little bit because we only get a day to prepare for them, but most of our focus is on Ontario,” he said.

Published 1/04/18

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Ontario Needs Consistency at Both Ends

Ontario and Clear Fork, two of the three leaders in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, Marion Pleasant is the other, play on Thursday night at Les Hauenstein Gym at Clear Fork High School in a key early season matchup.

Ontario (5-3,4-0) has a three game losing streak in tow after losses to Highland (60-53) and Lexington (72-48) in non-conference play last weekend.

Coach Joe Balogh says they have to play with more consistency. “We just have to get more efficient offensively. We are going to just continue to work on that. Defensively we have been okay even though we gave up 72 points to Lexington we had to get out of our element a little bit. We got behind and Lex did a tremendous job of running offense. The big thing is you just have to come back and go to work. It hasn’t hurt us with our league record, which is why we play a team like Highland, a really good team, a team like Lexington, which is really good,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “If we want to be a good team we have to learn how to beat those teams. You do that by being more consistent we have to be more consistent offensively. We have to be able to consistently score and at the defensive end we just have to make sure we are consistent with every defensive possession. We have a to make a priority that we get stops. The big emphasis that we have had defensively is we have to talk. We have to do a better job of talking to our teammates gaining each other’s trust at the defensive end.”

Clear Fork (5-3,4-0) lost to Madison (77-74) last Friday. At one time this year they had a five game winning streak.

Balogh says they have balance on offense and have been forcing some turnovers with their pressure defense. “They have great balance. They have a lot of different guys that can score. I know Barnett and South are their two key scorers, but they have other guys that can step out and shoot it. They are trying to play at a little bit faster pace than we have played in the past. They are able to create some turnovers with their defense making you play faster than you are used to. They have been very, very good, so the difficult thing for us is we have to get out and do a good job of contesting their three point shooters and then we have to make sure offensively that we take care of the basketball against their pressure, yet attack them. We think we can hurt them inside a little bit with our size, but we have to be able to get the basketball and put it in there,” said Balogh.

Ontario senior Logan Jones at 6’7” is going to have four to five inches on anybody Clear Fork puts on the floor. Balogh says they want to get it to him on the block, but they have to be efficient in other aspects of the offense too. “Not that we are afraid to play a fast paced game, but slow them down a little bit. We are going to have to make them defend those guys and if they don’t defend them we have confidence those guys can score. If they do double and stuff hopefully it will open it up for some other guys. That is kind of a key for us we want to play fast, but we also want to make sure we put the ball inside to our post guys,” he said.

Published 1/04/18

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Lucas Not Backing Off

Lucas is one game behind unbeaten Mansfield St. Peter’s and they play the Spartans on the road in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game on Friday night.

St. Peter’s (9-0,4-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, has won the last three Mid-Buckeye Conference championships and they are very good again.

Lucas coach Taylor Iceman says they have been preaching to the players they can compete with St. Peter’s. “We have been preaching to our kids the past couple of years that that is were we want to be. They have been the standard there. They have another pretty good team. They lost Tyson Kent and obviously Mason Campbell from their team last year. They are still a very good team and they have some kids that have stepped up and played well. It is more of a matter of just getting our kids to believe and truly believe they can knock them off. I certainly think we are capable. This will be a great springboard our season. It is still pretty early on for us,” he said.

Iceman adds that if they are to have any chance of winning on Friday night they have to believe. “I don’t want to take anything from the kids they have this year or the kids they have back. Those kids have stepped right in. They haven’t missed a beat. They are 9-0 and they have beat some good teams already and they playing well. We have to come ready to play. I think we are certainly capable. I think we have the team that is capable of beating these guys it is just a matter of going out and believing that and actually doing it. I think our team is still young and not sure how good we can be,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “My coaching staff tries to preach that the proof is in the pudding let’s go out and prove how good we really are. This will be a great measuring stick for us. We have gotten off to sort of a slow start game wise. It is game 10 for them and only game seven for us. We got a couple pushed. We want to go over to their place and steal one and kind of propel us for the rest of the season.”

Lucas (5-1,2-1) had a game against New London postponed last Saturday night.

You have to limit your turnovers against St. Peter’s and Iceman says you have to attack and that is what they are going to do Friday night. “They did lose their point guard and Tyson Kent was a great basketball player. Mason Campbell was a very solid player. Those are two kids that can create their own shots. What they are doing this year is playing that same style by getting their offense from their defense. They create turnovers and then go shoot layups, easy offense. We figure if we take care of the ball and kind of make them work on defense and then slow their offense down and get our defense set instead of turning it over and leading to transition. Slow it down and do what we do and attack them. I think so many people try and say what are we going to do here? We are not going to change who we are we are going to attack. We play the smaller lineup with all of the guards. We are tough to guard as well. We are going to attack them. We have to limit turnovers that lead to that fast break offense,” said Iceman.

Published 1/04/18

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Shelby Must Work For Good Shots

Shelby faces a must win game in the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference as they travel to Norwalk on Thursday night.

The Whippets are already two games behind Sandusky Perkins in the division race and third loss drops them out of contention.

They really thought they should have beaten Bellevue last Friday, but instead lost (56-55) to Redmen in a division game. Coach Troy Schwemley says they can let that feeling linger, but they have to learn from it too. “You have to ready for the next game and put it behind us. You don’t really want to dwell on it, but there are things from it that you want to work on and get better at. There are things you want to address and teach the team if we do a couple of little things in that game that game could have turned out differently, but you have to move on to the next opponent,” he said.

Norwalk (3-5,2-1) hosts the Whippets (5-2,1-2) on the Thursday night. Shelby also plays Tiffin Columbian (1-6,0-3) at home on Saturday night.

Norwalk is a team that has played a lot of low scoring games and likes to control the tempo of the game. Schwenley says they want to pick their sports to run, but it is not something they want to do for 32 minutes. “We want our defense and rebounds to turn into easy offense, but we not a team that I would say can consistently run up and down with our depth and the number of guys that we play. We play about six, seven guys a game, so we have to be careful that we just don’t run carelessly,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We want our defense and rebounding to get us some run outs and things like that, but we also want to get high percentage shots on the offensive end. That is something we still want to do and are learning when to be patient and when to run and when to take quick shots.”

Execution is the key no matter where the Whippets have the ball. Schwemely says in the half court they have to move better without the ball and that will be critical against Norwalk. “They always do a great job of rotating on the ball and help side defense. No matter what personnel they have had they have always done a good job of that. We are going to have to move the ball and work together and work without the ball. I think that is something we are still working on is guys moving without the basketball. It is easy to want to score with the ball in your hands, but you have do things away from the ball that draw those defenders away to get the guys with the ball opportunities to get good looks,” said Schwemley.

Published 1/04/18

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Bellevue Feeling it

Bellevue has beaten two of the preseason favorites in the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference in Sandusky and Shelby, but they know they still have to get better.

They at Tiffin Columbian on Thursday and at home against rival Clyde on Saturday in division games.

Coach Ed Rich says he knew they could be pretty good. “I think people knew we had some decent guards, but they weren’t sure what the rest of our roster would give us. We had a good feeling that we were going to be pretty good. We are not where we want to be, but I can’t complain with a 5-2 start,” he said.

Are there things to improve? By all means. Rich says two are rebounding and closing out games. “What we need to do to get better is we have to start rebounding the ball. That is a huge thing for us. When one of our guys goes out of the game we lose our rebounding edge. That is one the biggest things. The next thing is taking care of the ball in late situations,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Against Shelby we were up six with 40 seconds to go and they had a shot to win it at the end because we kind of panicked at the end with the ball. There are definitely a couple of things we have to work on right there.”

Bellevue (5-3,2-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Tiffin Columbian (2-5,0-3) on Thursday night. The Tornadoes did not play at all last week. They lost their last Lake Division game to division leader Sandusky Perkins (58-44) on December 23.

Rich says they want to be physical. “They are an aggressive, physical team. They like to spread you out. They have a very physical point guard, the Simmons kid. They are going to try and get it to the rack, get it to the line and try and out physical you. Get up in you on “D” and try and force you to do things you don’t want to do. They have two wins this year, but we have to go to their place and play and they are definitely going to be ready to play,” said Rich.

Clyde (3-4,1-3) has a new coach in Ryan Fretz and Rich says they want to press you all over the floor and all of the time. “It’s a big rivalry and Clyde is pretty good. They are really good in the press game and they like to trap all over the floor and I am talking like all over the floor and they don’t just stop trapping once you pass half court. They run a lot of guys in and out and play 10 guys pretty evenly. They just try and wear you down and force you into turnovers and again in to things you don’t want to do,” he said.

Published 1/04/18

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Tempo Key in Ashland-Mt. Vernon Game

Ashland plays at Mt. Vernon in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night. The Arrows are trying to find a way to get into the win column.

They play at Toledo Whitmer in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

Last Thursday, they fell to Lexington (63-48) in an “OCC” game.

Coach Jason Hess believes this team is still very capable. “Obviously, for us we just focus on getting better each day rather if it is a practice or game situation. Just continuing to grow as a team and also individually with what we want to do as far as basketball goes, but unfortunately that doesn’t always turn into wins on game night. At the same time, it is a long season and it is about getting better each day and play your best basketball at the end of the season. I think when you look at our schedule we haven’t had a lot of easy ones and there are not a lot of easy ones on the schedule. So, I don’t know if it is fair to our kids necessarily to judge this team quite yet based on wins and losses, but I also know that is part of the game and part of what high school sports are all about,” said Hess.

Ashland (0-6,0-3) plays at Mt. Vernon (5-4,2-2) in an “OCC” game on Friday. The Yellow Jackets dominated West Holmes (73-39) last Friday and added a win over Delaware Hayes (65-52) on Saturday.

Hess says they want to be deliberate and they are very good shooters when they are open. “They are a team early on at the beginning the year I really expected them to be at the top of the conference standings with as many seniors that they have. They have a lot of experience over there. They are a team that plays a very deliberate style and it is not something a lot of teams in our league play. It is one of those things that when Mt. Vernon is able to dictate the tempo they are very tough to beat. They can be very frustrating for their opponents when they play that type of game. It slows the pace down a little bit and gets other teams out of rhythm,” he said.

Hess says the key for the Arrows is to push the pace, but be selective in their shot selection. “With the way we are built and the way we have played for years is we like to play fast. We like to get our and go in transition. We have to be smart and make good decisions in transition. Just because we are playing fast doesn’t mean we have to shoot a quick shot. We can push it if we have a layup or a wide open shot that we can’t miss the kid has to have to the confidence to step it up and knock it down,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It is one of those things that getting impatient offensively is because we have been playing defense for a long stretch. That really goes back into that is the way they want us to play. It is almost counterproductive the mind set of trying to speed them up by pushing.”

Published 1/04/18

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Rebounding has to Improve if Wynford is

Wynford is in the mist of a five game losing streak and if they are to get back on the winning track they need to be better rebounders and just make more plays.

They host Upper Sandusky on Friday and play at rival Buckeye Central on Saturday in Northern 10 Athletic Conference games.

They lost to (71-29) to Marion Pleasant in a non-league last Friday and (64-49) to Seneca East in an “N10” game on Saturday.

Coach Jason Engel says they got beat up on the boards. “I would say the biggest thing right now for us has been rebounding. We have not been able to box out at the defensive end and in the last two games we gave up way too many second chance points. For us to be successful on offense we have to get to the glass and give ourselves opportunities to score. Right now, we are not shooting the ball real well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I think we have had good looks, but we have missed some shots in the paint, we missed some threes that were open and the other teams have been making those. Sometimes we have been over thinking the game and making things too complex in a way. The other teams have been able to make more plays than us, more shots.”

Upper Sandusky (8-2,5-1) plays at Wynford (3-5,2-4) on Friday night. The Rams routed Bucyrus (81-51) last Thursday and handled a good Mohawk team (66-52) on Saturday.

Engel says the Rams just do a lot of things well. “They are the best team in transition, along with Crawford, in our league and also in the half court they execute a simple shot fake and they move the ball really well, they are very unselfish, they lead the league in assists, they lead our league in free throw percentage at like 76 percent. They get a lot of offensive rebounds and obviously they have a lot of shooters and lot of guys to account for,” he said.

Buckeye Central (2-7,2-4) hosts Wynford on Saturday night. The Bucks have struggled too. However, Engel says games with the Bucks are always tight and this one will be too. “They play extremely hard. They are obviously very well coached. I watched them play Upper Sandusky, which was a good film for us to watch this week. We watched that with our guys (Wednesday) and they really played extremely well against Upper and they got some breaks and darn near pulled it out. They do a lot of good things and are fundamentally sound. Our games have been pretty defensive minded the last few years I have been here and I think last year when we won at their place the game was in the 30’s. So, it is going to be a very good challenge for our guys. We have to go on the road too. It is not easy to play over there,” said Engel.

Published 1/04/18

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New London Has to be Ready

New London has a lot of momentum coming off a big win last week and they play Mapleton in a Firelands Conference game on Friday night.

Last week, the Wildcats beat Norwalk St. Paul (55-53) in a conference game and coach Tom Howell says that win was big for them and gave them a lot of confidence. “It was a huge win for us, especially for our kids. Our players were working so hard just trying to find our way and our team identity,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It was just a good win for us. It wasn’t easy and St. Paul is a very good team. We had some things go our way at the end and we were able to put it out.”

The Wildcats (3-3,3-1) host Mapleton (1-6,1-3) on Friday night. The Mounties got their first win of the season (42-30) last Friday against Monroeville.

Howell says they can’t afford to underestimate the Mounties and what they can do. “You always want to get ready to play. I know their record isn’t good right now. They are a lot better than their record indicates. They have pretty athletic kids. They play hard and that is the only thing you can ask from any player to get from as we have to keep working and prepare for a tough game Friday,” he said.

They play at home Saturday against Mansfield Christian (6-3) in a non-conference game. The Flames have strung together wins over Clear Fork (84-72,) Fredericktown (66-56) and Fairless (59-52) over the last two weeks.

Howell says they have to guard the three point line when they play the Flames. “Coach Kurtz does a heck of a job over there. The McPeak kids is pretty good and they have some other kids to go around him. They can shoot the basketball. They are going to shoot a lot of threes. Both nights are going to be competitive and we have to get ready to play,” he said.

Published 1/04/18

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Madison Must Attack Wooster

Madison plays Wooster in a game very important to the Rams when it comes to staying in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race.

The game will be played at the College of Wooster due to a scheduling conflict with the Wooster High School gym.

The Rams beat Clear Fork (77-74) and Big Walnut (53-52) in games last weekend that were contested to the end. Coach Tim Mergel says they need to do a better job of finishing games off. “We are always happy with wins, but you always take a way some learning experiences. We got up double digits in both games and just couldn’t quite put them away. That was kind of the most disappointing part, but you can’t be disappointed in wins. I am happy for the guys and it was a good weekend, but another tough challenge awaits us,” said Mergel.

Mergel says sometimes they want to land the haymaker when they really don’t need to. “Sometimes we get those leads and I think our kids want to hit that big shot that kind of is the backbreaker and we tend to forget what gets us there. Once we do a better jog of getting that and understanding that hopefully we will get over that hump. They are all learning experiences, but again you can’t complain too much about wins,” he said.

Madison (6-3,1-2) plays Wooster (5-3,3-1) in an “OCC” game on Friday night. The Generals are the defending “OCC” champions, but they lost more than 80 percent of their offense. Calvin Blair (14.4 ppg) and Kedric Corbin (13.7) are Wooster’s double figure scorers.

They lave lost their last two to Akron Hoban (61-45) and Mansfield Senior (55-47) in a game that gave the Tygers the outright conference lead.

Mergel says this is still a very good team. “Anytime you lose that much experience off the team there is going to that transition period and they are kind of in that now, but they are playing good basketball. They have played a heck of a schedule. Anytime you play Archbishop Hoban and Mansfield Senior. Those are two solid ballclubs. They have played inconsistent as we have at times. No doubt they have some athletes,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have Blair kid there and he could run a streak of 10, 12 on you. We know they are going to try and get up in some passing lanes, just like Wooster is known for. So, nothing they can do is going to be out of the ordinary, it is the fact we need to execute against it.”

Mergel says the Generals are going to try and trap all over the floor and they have to beat it and be ready for attack. “You have to withstand their pressure because Wooster is that unorthodox kind of team. They can run a trap at you at any point. It could be 94 feet, it could be 28 feet, it could be 10 feet out. They can trap you at any time. You have to stay in attack mode against them. Anytime you pass out of a trap you are in an advantage and you have to be on attack. Wooster does a nice job of scrambling defensively and get their hands on a lot of basketballs. They have that unique ability to anticipate the ball as it comes down. I think coach Snowbarger does a good job with that. So, you have to be ready for about anything, but you constantly have to stay in attack mode,” said Mergel.

Published 1/3/18

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Roughriders With First League Road Test

It’s early, but Western Reserve has sole possession of first place in the Firelands Conference heading it action on Friday night.

They play at Norwalk St. Paul on Friday.

The Roughriders beat Crestview (73-56) last week after trailing by one at the half.

Coach Chris Sheldon says they just buckled down on defense in the third and fourth quarters. “I thought we had a great offensive half in the first half. We scored 32 points and in high school basketball that is a lot of points. We just didn’t guard anybody in the first half. We allowed them to play to their strengths and didn’t really try and take anything away. I thought in the second half we did a much better job of understanding our opponent’s tendencies and really working hard to make sure we tried to use their disadvantages to our advantage. It ended up working out for us and we played really, really well the season half to pull away. We have a huge challenge come this week,” he said.

Western Reserve (5-3,4-0) is at Norwalk St. Paul (2-3,2-1) on Friday night. The Flyers lost to New London (55-53) last Friday. They now own a three game losing streak.

Sheldon says the Flyers run some unorthodox things on offense that they will need to defend. “First of all, they have probably the best post player in our league in the Roofing kid. He is really, really good and talented. He is athletic and can score in a lot of ways. They really run their high, low Kansas series so well big on little yet exploit the opportunity to get their guards where they can score out of it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Our biggest challenge is going to be how do we guard them? How do we guard their high-low series? How do we guard their guards off of that high-low series? In this day in age in basketball you don’t see teams run a lot of the things they are running. So, how we guard that is going to be the key. Obviously for us how we shoot it is going to be a big, big factor.”

Sheldon says defense is a big key too because you never know how offense is going to travel, but good defense always does. “I told our kids this week to start the week off that we are in first place all by ourselves. We are the only team in the league without a loss, but we are the only team in the league that hasn’t played a road league game. The opening night when we shot 26 percent at Margaretta I said sometimes offense doesn’t travel, bur defense has to. When you are trying to win a league title, you are trying to grind it out, on the road you have to guard people and that is going to be a key factor for us going on the road for our first road opportunity in the league. Our intensity, our effort, our understanding of what we are trying to do is going to be huge,” said Sheldon.

Published 1/03/18

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Norwalk to Tangle With Shelby and Sandusky

Norwalk is improving and they are going to need to continue that trend as host Shelby on Thursday and travel to Sandusky on Saturday in Lake Division games in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

The Truckers beat South Central of the Firelands Conference (65-36) last Tuesday to end a three game losing streak. However, their chance to gain some momentum with a victory over Willard on Saturday was wiped out by poor road conditions.

Coach Steve Gray says things seemed to be set up in the Truckers advantage. “We had a day or so to prepare of Willard and Willard played the night before. I just think a lot of things were working in our favor until mother nature stepped in put a kibosh to that plan,” he said.

Gray says he wants his team to get better day by day and have some tunnel vision. “We are not worried about a roll. We are worried about having a good practice (Wednesday) and then playing a really good Shelby team on Thursday night. That takes enough of our concentration. Let’s just take care of one day at a time,” he said.

Norwalk (3-5,2-1) entertains Shelby (5-2,1-2) in a Lake Division game. The Whippets have lost their last two Lake Division games, including a (56-55) setback to Bellevue last Friday,

Gray says the Whippets are loaded with athletic players that can do things on both ends of the floor. “They are just long and athletic. They have three kids that are about 6’3”, 6’4”. They can go get it. They can block shots,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They can play at both ends of the floor. It is going to be a great challenge for us on Thursday night.”

Sandusky (5-4,2-2) has wins its last two division games in wins over Tiffin Columbian (67-34) and Clyde (65-53) last Wednesday. Gray says with players like Keith Williams this just another very good Sandusky team. “It seems like there is never a shortage of talent in Sandusky. Colin Irish just does a get job with the kids. He puts them in a position to be successful. It is going to be a great challenge for us this week,” he said.

Published 1/03/18

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Willard Faces Very Tough Weekend

Willard is still growing as a team and learning lessons and it will be a tough assignment for them as they travel to both Vermilion and Edison in Bay Division play in the Sandusky Bay Conference this weekend.

After winning three in a row, the Crimson Flashes were belted last week by Oak Harbor (70-39) in a division game.

Coach Joe Bedingfield says they weren’t as ready mentally to play that game as maybe they needed to be. “Last Friday, a lot of credit goes to Oak Harbor. We are still trying to win off the floor as much as we are trying to win on the floor. That being said we have to move on this week and we have to take care of business and learn from those mistakes that we made last week and get ready to play. Oak Harbor’s kids were a little more ready to play and we couldn’t get into a rhythm and that is a credit to them and what they are able to do,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have to move on Vermilion is going to be a challenge. We are on the road again and playing a really good team in our conference that hasn’t lost yet in our conference. Saturday, we go to Edison, who is also playing some good basketball. We have a challenge this week and we are telling out kids that we have to be mentally ready.”

Willard (3-5,2-1) is at Vermilion (6-1,4-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. The Sailors are the Bay Division leaders.

Bedingfield says the Sailors pressure the ball well and they score well in transition. “They have good balance. They will go out and pressure our guards. They will get out in transition. I think all of their kids shoot with confidence and that is a real big key. Sometimes you watch a team and you see kids that come down and shoot in transition and kind of play free and you know they have to confidence and the winner’s mentality. Their team seems to be playing well together. I think they complement each other really well. I am just hoping to see our kids rise to the occasion and hopefully we can put our best effort forward and go in there and get our first road win,” said Bedingfield.

Edison (7-2,1-2), #4 in our small school division, beat Huron last week (63-54) in a division game. Bedingfield says they are not going to be as up tempo as Vermilion, but they do a lot of things well. “I think they are two different types of teams that we are preparing for. Coach Hammond does a good job with his team and has a proven track record. They have to really nice players that have played a lot of varsity basketball and had a lot of success. They seem to be a team that plays good team defense and does a good job of executing their offense. It might be a different tempo and a different style of play, but it is still a successful style. The Flashes have to be ready as we prepare for two big games in the conference and hopefully are kids are ready for the challenge,” he said.

Published 1/03/18

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Buckeye Central Plays Two Biggest Rivals

Coming off their second of win of the season, the Buckeye Central Bucks play their two biggest and most long standing rivals in Colonel Crawford and Wynford in Northern 10 Athletic Conference action this weekend.

Buckeye beat Bucyrus (63-51) last Saturday. Coach Phil Loy says they will take the win, but there are still things to work on. “It wasn’t a pretty win, but right now we will take wins. Wins are kind of tough for us to come by and I don’t expect us to have any big wins by any large margins. So, I think a lot of our games will be competitive and maybe come down to the wire. Saturday’s game with Bucyrus I thought overall was good. The bad thing there was we just turned it over way too many times. There were a lot of careless turnovers. Some of them were charge calls and things like that. Just poor decision making,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We can’t afford to give up that many possessions in a game and expect to win. Overall, I thought we shot the ball well, we outrebounded them, and we got to the free throw line as well. Bucyrus has got a decent team. They have good guard play. They are athletic. They are struggling to win as well. Overall, I thought that was a good win for us.”

Buckeye Central (2-7,2-4) play at Colonel Crawford (9-1,6-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Friday night. The Eagles beat Bucyrus (89-64) on Tuesday night.

Loy says the Eagles are just good all over. “They just have a nice mix of kids. They’ve got good size. They’ve got good guard play. They are athletic, they are quick. They have good basketball smarts. They shoot the ball well. They want an up tempo like game. They are probably right now the best in our league. For us we have to play a near perfect game to beat them. We have to play better than we have been because we really have to take care of the basketball. Every possession if going to be very important when we go over there and play at their place,” said Loy.

The Bucks are at home for Wynford (3-5,2-4) on Saturday night in “N10” play. The Royals carry a five game losing streak, but Loy says they have players that give them problems. “Wynford was off to a good start. They won their first three games and now they have lost the next five. They are a dangerous team for us as well. They have one of better guards, better scorers in the league in Josh Crawll and they have some other kids that can knock down shots. They have a little bit of size, especially compared to us they have size. They have a big horse in the middle in Kaleb Roush. Again, we have to be very solid. We have to control the tempo of the game. We have to take care of our turnovers. We have to outrebound the next two opponents in order to compete,” he said.

Published 1/03/18

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Mansfield Senior Must Attack Wooster Pressure

Mansfield Senior and Wooster, the co-leaders in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, face off on Friday night, at Pete Henry Gym, to establish early control of the conference standings.

The Tygers (5-1,3-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, have won five straight after a (44-36) win over Ontario last Saturday.

Coach Marquis Sykes says they have been focused on getting better as a team. “That has really been our focus in practices to just to try and improve each week and making sure we are focusing on the right things. What our weaknesses are and also trying to build on our strengths. I think we have done a pretty solid job on being focused on what we are trying to improve upon. I think that is an indication of growth for our guys,” he said.

Wooster (5-2,3-0), #5 in our poll, beat West Holmes (47-43) last Friday in “OCC” play and then lost to Akron Hoban (61-45) at the College of Wooster on Saturday night.

Sykes says they will have to be intense because that is the way Wooster always plays. “I know those guys play extremely hard. That is the first thing that jumps out when you watch the film and you watch them in person. They play extremely hard. If we can match their intensity, if we can take care of the basketball, and rebound the basketball at a good rate, it should be a good fight. If we go out and don’t match their intensity and don’t handle the basketball and don’t rebound very well it could get ugly just like it did last year,” said Skyes.

Wooster pressures a lot in the full and half court and Sykes says they must attack that pressure, but also not lose their discipline as a basketball team. “That is something we have always tried to teach. When a team puts some pressure on you and plays some full court defense you want to attack that defense and make them pay for pressing. When teams are pressing you want to attack the basket, but you also have to maintain some discipline within that and make sure you are still valuing the basketball and making sure that you are under control and shooting shots that you are supposed to shoot,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “That is one thing their pressure does it kind of speeds you up and sometimes guys that aren’t supposed to shoot certain shots are taking shots that they shouldn’t take. Those are the things we have kind of been focused on and we try and maintain some of our discipline even when the game gets fast with their pressure.”

Published 12/29/17

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Clear Fork has to Play Team Defense

Clear Fork heads to Mansfield Madison for a non-conference game on Friday night between two schools with a long relationship on the basketball floor and both are having good seasons.

The Colts, who share the lead in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, had a five game winning snapped in an (84-72) loss to Mansfield Christian last Saturday afternoon.

The Flames shot 80 percent from beyond the arc and they were able to get open looks. Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel says they didn’t do enough to prevent those. “I don’t think we came out with the energy that we really needed to have a chance in that game. However, you have to give Mansfield Christian a lot of credit. They came out and took advantage of certain situations and knocked down a lot of open shots and that kind of cost us the ballgame. We have to rebound from that and be ready to go for Madison,” said Bechtel.

Perhaps that game last Saturday was a little out of character for Clear Fork because Bechtel says they have played pretty good defense for the most part. “That is obviously something we can control every night. We can’t control how many shots we make or if we are making baskets on a certain night, but we can control of defensive intensity. Besides the Mansfield Christian game, I feel we have done a fairly good job of that. That is something we have stressed to the guys that we have to come out and be more consistent in that area,” he said.

Clear Fork (5-2) is at Madison (4-3) on Friday night. The Rams beat Bellevue (84-74) in the same holiday tournament at Ontario that the Colts played in. They have two of the top scorers in the area in Kyle Jackson and Mason Campbell.

Bechtel says they can’t forget about the rest of the Rams. “They are playing at a very high level. Coach Mergel obviously does a very good job with those guys. They have the two solid players in Jackson and Campbell that you have to account for, but all of the other guys as well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have to make sure we don’t lose sight of all of the role guys as well. We can’t allow them to have a big night. We know that Campbell and Jackson are really, really good and they are going to get their points. We have to make sure we concentrate on those other guys too.”

When it comes to game planning Bechtel says they can’t let Jackson and Campbell go crazy, but the can’t lose everybody else when trying to defend those two. “The thing is I don’t think we can stop Campbell and Jackson, they are too good. We have to make them earn every basket. We just can’t let somebody else go out there and have a great night. That could hurt us. Obviously, they have a game plan. We just have to make sure we come out and play solid defensively and execute and hit open shots,” he said.

Published 12/29/17

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Wooster and Mansfield Battle for Paint and Lead

It is going to be an important game because Wooster and Mansfield Senior share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference lead going into their meeting at Pete Henry Gym on Friday night.

The winner takes lead to themselves early in the first half of the double round robin.

The Generals (5-2,3-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, lost in their last game to (61-45) to Akron Hoban on Saturday night at the College of Wooster. However, coach Michael Snowbarger believes they learned a lot. “Hoban was actually a great game for us. It was a neutral site. It was refereed very tournament like. I think we only got to the foul line twice during the entire game and it was a very physical game. It kind of showed our kids what you have to do come tournament time. How to battle inside. It is a little bit more of a war and officials are going to let things go. It was great for our kids that might not have gotten much tournament time or much varsity time last year. They kind of saw what it is was going to be like before we got into late February,” said Snowbarger.

Mansfield Senior (5-1,3-0), #1 in our poll, beat Mt. Vernon (52-49) in league play last Friday and then handed Ontario their first loss (44-36) on Saturday as part of a five game winning streak.

Snowbarger predicts this will be another physical battle. “We are going to have to get in there against Mansfield Senior and put your body on somebody. Hoban was going to knock you down or get an offensive rebound, similar to Mansfield Senior. We have to get our body on people and box out and do those little things or they are going to live on the offensive boards. You have to limit Mansfield Senior’s second chance opportunities,” he said.

The Tygers have not shown a lot of a perimeter game this year, but Snowbarger says they have to keep the Tygers guards out of the lane. “That is exactly what we have worked on all this week in practice. We have to limit Hilory and Patrick’s early looks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are good perimeter shooters, but Hilory when he gets the ball to the basket he causes a lot of issues. Jornnel Manns is another kid. He likes to get the ball to the paint a little more than the other two. The other two will shoot the three. Manns might not shoot as much as the others. We have to keep them out of the paint in order to be successful. We can’t let their guards live in the paint. We just have to stop the dribble drives.”

Snowbarger says this would be a great one for the Generals to steal on Friday night. “You look at the standings we are both 3-0, Lexington has one loss and everybody else has at least two losses. The winner of this definitely has a leg up getting into January and February. This is a big game for us. Like I said from the beginning this year in this league you have to protect your home court and steel a few on the road. We have been able to do that at Ashland and at West Holmes. We have to try and go over the Mansfield and try to get one from them,” said Snowbarger.

Published 12/29/17

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Ontario Will be Tested on the Road

There aren’t any Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference games this weekend, but Ontario plays both on Friday and Saturday in non-conference play, both on the road, at Highland on Friday night and at Lexington on Saturday night.

Ontario (5-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, lost for the first time this season to Mansfield Senior (44-36) last Saturday.

Coach Joe Balogh says they have struggled offensively most of the season and one the big reasons is turnovers. “We have to do a better job of valuing possession of the basketball and getting shots offensively. When you turn it over you don’t even get a chance to get a shot and you don’t get a chance to get an offensive rebound. We just have to do a better job of being precise with the basketball and understanding the value of the ball when it is in our hands. We want to try and get scoring opportunities,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “If you are able to take shots, even missed shots, you still have an opportunity to rebound, but when you throw the ball away it is either a turnover going the other way, which can lead to transition baskets or you are throwing it out of bounds. One of our other problems has been our turnovers have led to too many transition baskets by our opponents and that is something we are trying to work on.”

Highland (7-1,) the co-leader of the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference, plays host to the Warriors on Friday night. They beat Cardington (62-44) last Friday.

Balogh says they will need to score against a zone. “They are a very good basketball team. They return a lot of kids from a year ago. They play a matchup zone, kind of a 1-3-1 and get into a 2-3 and are really active in it. It is something a little bit different than maybe we have seen before. They have two really good scorers in Anglin and Phillips that are both 6’5”, 6’6” and athletic kids. I think they play with a lot of confidence and the other part is we have to go on the road and that is never easy. With our non league schedule we really try and challenge ourselves to play teams that are going to show something different and Highland does that. They have great tradition there, so it should be a good matchup for us on Friday,” said Balogh.

Lexington beat Ashland (64-49) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Thursday night and will carry a three game winning streak into the game on Saturday.

Balogh says they have an athletic post Cade Stover, but that’s not all, and they, like Ontario, are very good on defense. “Cade (Stover) is a really good player and is a tremendous athlete, but they have guys around him that if you concentrate too much on Cade that they other guys around him can make shots. The other thing Lexington does is they have defended really well. They guard people really well, they are physical, so it will be another big challenge for us going on the road on Saturday after traveling on Friday night. This gives us a good idea where our team is as we end the 2017 year and head into 2018. I think our kids are looking forward to both games,” he said.

Published 12/29/17

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Defense Coming together for Colonel Crawford

Colonel Crawford was already a really good team and they are getting better due to their performance of the defensive end of the court.

Last week, they walloped Seneca East (89-41) in an “N10” game on Thursday and buried Northwestern (66-44) in a game in the Steve Smith Classic at the College of Wooster on Saturday. They play at Ridgedale on Friday night in a league game and home against Plymouth on Saturday night.

Coach David Sheldon says their defense is becoming as good as their offense. “I think the thing that sticks out if you remember a couple of weeks ago we have been defending really well. The last two games holding teams in the 40’s. What that does is it allows us to get in our transition offense when we get stops. I think defensively this team has gotten better and now we just have to continue to maintain that defense in the half court, guarding people, and completing possessions with box outs,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Offensively, it has been a good group. We have had six different guys in double figures throughout the year and it is good balance. Our team is sharing the basketball and when you share the basketball good things happen when you have different ways you can score, off the drive, off the three, and the post presence that we have. I think the difference they last two games has been the defensive end. That has been the number one thing that sticks out to me.”

Colonel Crawford wants to push the tempo of the game and score in transition, but Sheldon says when they are forced into the half court they have been pretty good too. “When we have gotten stuck in the half court. If you look at our shooting percentages we are shooting 60 percent from twos and 40 percent from behind the line. That is one thing we work a lot on in practice. The nice thing about Christmas break is you get to work on some different things that maybe normally you don’t get to. We have been fortunate to work on some half court execution. Some nights putting rules in and it has been an advantage for us to work on half court execution,” said Sheldon.

Colonel Crawford (6-1,4-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, is ta Ridgedale (1-6,0-4) and coming off a (57-44) loss to Buckeye Central last Friday.

Sheldon says they need focus. “It is going on the road Friday. It’s only a varsity game and that is different. Ridgedale has been down. They are a young team. It’s a basketball team with a brand new coach (Nathon Loney) that is putting in a new system. One of the things we talk about is the journey of a 16 game league schedule and you have to go one game at a time and the next one up is Ridgedale and that is our focus,” he said.

It is to Plymouth (3-2) for a non conference game on Saturday night. Sheldon says the Big Red is capable. “They are very dangerous. I think the Adams kid is a really good player. I have seen them several times and he is a very nice player and that is one kid that you have to keep in check. When you look at them they play extremely hard. It is a team that I think is getting better. They got a good win over Crestline a week ago,” he said.

Published 12/29/17

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Back to the Firelands for St. Paul

Norwalk St. Paul, one of the contenders for the Firelands Conference title, returns to conference action at New London on Friday night.

They started their season two weeks ago with resounding wins in the conference over Monroeville (71-23) and Crestview (77-32,) but lost to Huron (58-44) and Edison (60-54) in non-conference play last week.

Veteran coach Mike Smith says last week was a learning experience for his young team. “We are not going to hit the panic button that’s for sure. There are a couple of things you have to realize. We had only had three weeks of practice and there were a lot of different things that we saw on Friday and Saturday versus Huron and Edison, they are both quality basketball teams and they had a whole preseason, they had been in the gym for seven or eight weeks. Both of those games were winnable. The Huron game was a six, seven point game going down the stretch and obviously the Edison game was tied with two and a half to go,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “The other thing is we play without Chris Roffing in the Edison game and he sprained his ankle early in the Huron game and he wasn’t himself in the Huron game. So, we weren’t at full strength. Hopefully, we learned from the things that we experienced in those two games and they will make us better. I feel this week we were able to work on some of the things that you need to work on as far as clock management situations, discipline, press offense, some stuff that we have hit, but stuff we haven’t spent a whole lot of time working on with the time frame.”

New London (2-3,2-1) did not play last week, but swept the previous weekend of conference games in beating South Central (67-57) and Monroeville (57-24) to improve their conference record.

Smith says they are led by guard Karson Howell. “He is an outstanding player. He shoots it really, really well. He is an experienced veteran for them and he does just a lot of good things. I think the inside people have done a really good job. The Marcshall kid and the Carruthers kid have done a solid job for them inside. I also think Dane Matthews is a really good athlete. The point guard, the Cole kid, has done a nice job for them. It definitely starts with Karson. You have to do what you can as far as limiting his touches. They will do some multiple things as far as some zone and some man and throw some different pressures at you, some 2-2-1 and some full court man,” said Smith,

Smith says this is important game for them on the road as they stake their claim as a conference title contender. “Our thing right now is we are taking it one game at a time. We have one game this week and we have another week of practice and we have one game next week. Hopefully, we can move forward. This is a huge game for us in the league trying to get to 3-0,” he said.

Published 12/29/17

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Northmor Doing What they do


Northmor has been up to every challenge this year and the next one comes Friday night at home against Worthington Christian in a non-conference game.

The Golden Knights share the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference lead with Highland after they beat Danville (65-53) last Saturday night.

Coach Zack Ruth says they were in foul trouble and down going into the fourth quarter against Danville, but they found a way. “We were happy. We had some foul trouble. There have been sometimes when my bigs have just got to be smart and they weren’t smart last Saturday. Even though we were clearly jumping and getting rebounds the opposite official would assume we were over the back a little bit. My two bigs, the Keggley twins, probably only played a combined 30 minutes between the two of them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We actually went into the fourth quarter down four and really picked it up and outscored them in the fourth 27-11. My guard play really stepped up. It was about a carbon copy of the Colonel Crawford game. Danville, it was the first time we have ever played there, a small gym, they have some very talented players. Skyler Durbin, who was their prenominal quarterback, is just as good on the basketball court and he had 28 against us. We fought back and kept our composure and came away with a double digit win on the road. I don’t care who you are playing that is good.”

The fourth quarter has been pretty special for the Golden Knights and Ruth says adapt very well. “Over the last couple of years, we have won a lot of games in the fourth quarter. We have gotten some comments before, why we wait till then? It is not necessarily waiting. We can play any style that a team tries to get us to play and they were really slowing us down. As good as the twins are when they are in the lineup, we are actually a little quicker when they are not. We spread the floor with more of a dribble drive attack. Danville just wasn’t prepared to defend that against us and I think that is why we were pretty successful with that,” he said.

Worthington Christian (1-5) plays at Northmor (8-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, on Friday night. The Warriors play in a tough schedule.

Ruth says they are going to dance with what brought them. “Worthington Christian you can throw their record out. You talk about the eye test. You watch them on film, you watch them live and they definitely pass the eyes test. A couple of 6’5” athletic kids. I will go on record a lot of teams have had success zoning, but the Golden Knights are going to play man to man Friday night against them because that is our bread and butter and that is what we play. They are very athletic and they will try and get in an up and down game and my only concern is it is Christmas break and the kids getting out of rhythm and getting out of their routine, but we have had a really good week of practice and we are ready,” said Ruth.

Published 12/29/17

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Willard Takes Three Game Winning Streak to Oak Harbor

After loosing their first four, Willard has now won three straight, two in the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, going into a Bay Division game Friday night at Oak Harbor.

They beat Margaretta (48-41) last Friday, but coach Joe Bedingfield says they don’t want to look back, they want to look ahead. “Our kids are excited having gotten a couple of wins under our belts here having only three wins last year. Three in a row is a step forward for us. We have to continue to get better after Christmas and that is what we have talked to them a lot over the last few days. Never allow it to be good enough and it just has to continue to grow and get better and not really worry about the wins and losses so much as try to not to repeat the same mistakes twice and not let mistakes snowball. Hopefully, we will continue to grow in the right direction and everything else will take case of itself. We just try and get better each and every day,” said Bedingfield.

Willard (3-4,2-0) is at Oak Harbor (5-3,1-1) on Friday night. The Rockets beat Lakota (65-39) on Tuesday in a cross over game and lost to Bay Division favorite Vermilion (65-60) last Friday.

Bedingfield says the Rockets want to be up tempo. “They are very balanced. They do a good job in transition. They have some good perimeter players. They have McAtee, he is probably their best, most athletic, he is a flasher, post player. They have a nice, young point guard that does a nice job that kind of makes them go and gets out in transition. We will have to do a good job of stopping the ball and basically get out on their shooters,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You can’t just not guard one or two guys. I think they have three or four guys averaging in double figures. Anytime they are balanced like that it makes them a tough matchup. We are hoping to contest shots and get out on their shooters and slow down their transition and give them only one shot going down the floor.”

After winning three games last year nobody expected that much from the Flashes, but they are 2-0 in the division. Bedingfield reminds that it isn’t even 2018 yet. “It is early. We have only played two games in the league. I am happy with the direction we are heading, but we also know that it is only December and we have to continue to keep on getting better. We are going on the road now, so we have to flip our mindset. We have had three home wins and now we have to learn to win on the road and we talked a lot about that as we start like five or six games on the road here in a row. We are going to be on the road for a little while. Hopefully, our kids are ready for the challenge in some pretty tough places to play,” he said.

Published 12/29/17

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Bellevue Travels to Shelby

Friday night, Bellevue travels to Shelby to meet the Whippets in a key early season matchup in the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference.

Both have one loss so far in the division and they don’t want two this early in the campaign.

Bellevue lost to Mansfield Madison (78-68) last Saturday in a holiday tournament. Coach Ed Rich says they did some good things in the loss. “Late in the third quarter there I thought we got into a rhythm and that was because we were forcing some turnovers and pressuring them into some mistakes and got our offense going with the defense. That is how we want to play. We want to turn people over and we want our defense to turn into offense and good shots,” he said.

Bellevue wants to push the pace this year and Rich says when in the half court they have been a little inconsistent. “There have been times we have run good half court offense. I thought Saturday we jogged through our stuff too much. We didn’t hit our cuts hard. We didn’t use our screens. There have been times, especially against Sandusky we executed really well, but the other games it has kind of been hit or miss,” said Rich.

Bellevue (3-2,1-1) is at Shelby (4-1,1-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. Rich says the Whippets were predicted to be good and they are. “They are good. They have one of the better rosters in the league. We knew that coming in. I think they were picked to finish second. Right now, it is anyone’s battle. They definitely have a nice roster. They are going to be tough to defend,” he said.

Rich says the Whippets do run some sets, but when they don’t get what they want right away they are to improvise and get the score and that makes them difficult to defend. “What they do really well is they run a couple of sets and when their set breaks down they are able to play out of it. They don’t have to reset and call something else out. If their options are taken away off their play call they play off it really well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are really good at penetrating and sucking up your big guy and then dropping it off to their big guy. They are tough to scout and tough to defend.”

Published 12/29/17

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Ashland Still Looking for that First Win

If you count just the second half the Ashland Arrows would be one of the better teams in the area, but unfortunately for the Arrows the points are added up over the whole 32 minutes.

Ashland has had a lot of inconsistency this year and that has paved the way to an (0-5) record so far over the first part of the season.

They lost (65-58) to Shelby last Saturday at a holiday tournament at Ontario High School.

Coach Jason Hess says they just couldn’t get anything going early in the game and got too far behind, something they have done before. “Saturday, we really got off to a bad start. We were really lackluster in the first half and dug ourselves a deep hole, down 18 points at one point there in the second quarter. Give our kids a lot of credit that we just didn’t hang their heads and leave with our tail between our legs. We came out fighting in the second half. We had it to a two point ballgame with about a minute and half left. We had a chance to tie it up, but we missed a pretty good look at it. That is the way it goes when you get behind early it is hard to dig it out of those holes sometimes,” said Hess.

They host Lexington (4-2,1-1) in the Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Thursday night and Hess says a win is real important for them because things are getting tough mentally for the kids. “I have said to just people around that are kids are figuring it out slowly, but the longer it takes the harder it gets. There are a lot of things mentally that start wearing on you when you can’t notch something in that win column. Part of it is we have played some pretty good competition,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I will put our schedule against anyone’s in the area with the teams we have played thus far. Moral victories and feel good wins don’t count for “W’s” so we have to start making some corrections on the court to get us over the hump.”

Lexington beat Madison (54-46) in a conference game last Friday and then beat Norwalk (56-48) on Saturday.

Hess says the first thing you have to concern yourself with is how to contain junior post Cade Stover and that is a difficult task. “Well, when you look at Lexington the one things that jumps out at you is how physical they play and how hard they play and that starts inside with Cade Stover. He has got to be a fifth years senior it seems as long as he has been around, but I am pretty sure he has another year left after this one. He really demands a lot of attention when you are putting things together to get ready to play Lexington. They have some shooters that can knock down shots around him. When they are shooting the ball well they are tough to guard,” said Hess.

Published 12/28/17

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Execution in the Open Floor for Shelby

Shelby plays at home for the first time as a member of the Sandusky Bay Conference when they host the Bellevue Redmen on Friday night in a Lake Division game.

After losing for the first time to Clyde (64-54) last Thursday in a Lake Division game, the Whippets beat Ashland (65-58) last Saturday in non-conference play.

Coach Troy Schwemley says they were able to get things going early in the game. “I was especially happy with how we started. We jumped out real quick and really played well in the first half. We lost to Clyde on Thursday and then you turn around and have a game on Saturday against Ashland, who as we talked to out kids don’t look at their record they are a very good team and they had played a lot of good opponents and just been on the short end. I was real happy with how we jumped out and we were up 14, 15 points at halftime,” he said.

Bellevue (3-2,1-1) is at Shelby (4-1,1-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. They lost at Ontario in the same holiday tournament Shelby was in, to Mansfield Madison (78-68) on Saturday.

Trey Ruhlman has 26 points against Madison and he is one of the best point guards in the district. Schwemley says a lot of things go through him, but he is not their only scorer. “He is averaging around 23 points a game. He really does a great job of handling the ball and getting shots off and they are typically high percentage shots. He really does a great job of creating for himself, but coach Rich does an excellent job of running certain actions and plays and things that get him or other guys open looks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “The hard thing with them is if you have too much focus on one guy and they have guys that have varsity experience coming back with the Waskielis kid that is averaging around 13 a game and Marshall is around 11 and Vogel is around nine, so they have got four guys that are almost in double figures or above. Ruhlman makes them go, but they have other guys that can hurt you that you have to pay a lot of attention to.”

Bellevue like to force the tempo and Schwemley says they want to be able to take advantage of their opportunities to score on the fast break. “In that Madison game you saw a variety of presses and some zone action that they were doing. They pressure defensively and when you are being aggressive defensively you are a high risk, high reward type of thing. We are hoping we can take advantage of things and get some offensive looks and some high percentage shots offensively, but you have to take care of the ball and then defensively anytime good offense is good defense, by scoring and finishing that helps to protect us defensively. We have to do that because they have some guys that can get out and run and they can kind of play both ways. They can attack you in transition and they do a nice job in the half court running some sets and some things to get their shooters open,” said Schwemley.

Published 12/28/17

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Madison Getting Ready for a Different Clear Fork

Madison plays host to Clear Fork in a non-conference boys’ basketball game on Friday night between two teams that are pretty good.

Madison (4-3) lost a tough one to Lexington (54-46) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference matchup last week, but responded to down Bellevue (78-28) at a holiday tournament at Ontario High School on Saturday night.

Coach Tim Mergel says he would have traded Saturday night for win over Lexington, but he was pleased with how his kids responded. “If we could switch the roles around a shoot a little better Friday night we would have definitely taken that. I was just happy with the way the kids bounced back being the third game in a week. We showed some legs and showed some life still, which is good for our kids,” he said.

Kyle Jackson has emerged as one of the best players in North Central Ohio. He had three dunks against Bellevue, including one that was two handed in traffic. Mergel says Jackson has worked hard on is game and he has been in the weight room. “He put on about 10 to 15 pounds of muscle and gained some confidence. He played some pretty high level “AUU” basketball. He got to play against some kids that if you didn’t show up every single tournament you were going to get owned. He has kind of taken that philosophy to the high school basketball floor. He is a gut that benefited from the weight room,” said Mergel.

Now, Clear Fork (5-2) had a five game winning streak snapped by Mansfield Christian (84-72) last Saturday at Ontario. The Flames shot 80 percent from behind the three point line.

Mergel says the Colts have a lot of options on offense. “They have a lot of guys back. What is difficult about preparing for a team like Clear Fork is they have a lot of capable scorers each night. People can say the Barnett kid leads them in scoring, but the South kid can fill it up. The big kid inside can score and he has good footwork underneath the basket. Different guys can fill it up,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I think that is part of the reason why they are successful. You look at what happened to them on Saturday against Mansfield Christian they just ran into a buzz saw. Mansfield Christian just lit them up. With all of that being said Clear Fork still came back and lost by 10 or 12 and put up 72 points. That just goes to show you the firepower they have.”

These two used to both be in the “OCC,” so they played a lot and the Colts typically have tried to slow the game down, but Mergel says that may not be the case this time. “This is a different scout than we have been accustom to with Clear Fork. Coach Bechtel does a nice job with the players he’s got. This year has kind of has some horses he can let run free. They are definitely seeing some success from it. It s going to be tough for us to match-up in transition once we get matched up to push them off their shots, so they don’t get some wide open looks on us,” he said.

Published 12/28/17

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Mental Discipline a Key Factor for Western Reserve

Western Reserve returns to Firelands Conference action with a game at home against Crestview on Friday night.

The Roughriders share first place in the conference with Norwalk St. Paul.

Last Saturday, things started well against Sandusky of the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, but they ended with a (85-63) defeat.

Coach Chris Sheldon says they didn’t keep their emotions in check like they should have. “The biggest thing that we have talked about this week is you blow a 16-point lead in the first half and get beat by 20. It was such a role reversal with how well we played to start the game and how horribly we finished. Yeah, some of it had to do with their athleticism and some of it had to do with what Sandusky did. At the end of day what we pointed out was it was clearly evident that we weren’t ready to take advantage of being in a good ballgame against a good team and trying to win. We played too high and too low on our emotions throughout the game and we lost some mental discipline in the process. That was really the reason why the score flipped so fast from the first quarter to the second half. That is something you have to get better at if you want to be a good team and beat teams that are better than you,” said Sheldon.

Western (4-3,3-0) hosts Crestview (1-4,1-2) in conference play. The Cougars have not played since December 19 when they lost to Mansfield Christian (63-60) in a non-conference game.

Sheldon says the Cougars may not have a lot wins, but they certainly have a lot of athletes. “Anybody that watched their football team would recognize how many good athletes they have walking that hallway. I have watched them on film and it is clear they have the body, the quickness and the foot speed and even some length that could give us some fits on the floor. For them they are just like a lot of people trying to find ways to be more consistent at the offensive end,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “If we are going to have success we are going to have to play at our pace and our tempo. We have to be much more mentally sound. That has been what our approach has been all week long is we have be a little more stable whether things are going well or things aren’t going well. That is part of high school basketball. Teams that can get through those ebbs and flows from a mental standpoint on a steady plain tend to be much more successful and that is what our focus is going into this weekend.”

With the Roughriders at home, this game is doubly important according to Sheldon. “What I have always told our kids is if you want to be around in February in the league race you have to win at home. The schedule just happens to be that our first four league games are at home and we have won the first three. Come Friday night it is our first league game at home and that is what we told our kids you have to protect home court. We understand that, we know that, and that is what makes this one even bigger for us,” he said.

Published 12/28/17

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Wynford has to Play Defense

After two tough losses before Christmas, the Wynford Royals are going to need to play tough defense to win this week in a non-conference game with Marion Pleasant on Friday and a Northern 10 Athletic Conference game with Seneca East on Saturday, both on the road.

Last week, they lost at the horn to Carey (60-58) and then dropped one to Mohawk (49-43) on Saturday night.

Coach Jason Engel says it was a pretty tough week for the Royals. “We had two really good “N10” opponents in Carey and Mohawk. Against Carey we played really, really hard and I was proud of the kids. I felt bad for the kids because they really played hard. To lose on a three pointer at the buzzer when you are up one is tough. Mohawk on Saturday did a nice job in their 2-3 zone kind of frustrating us and not letting us get any rhythm offensively. Going into the fourth quarter it was tied and they made a few more shots and a few more plays than we did at the end of the game,” said Engel.

Wynford (3-3,2-3) has now lost its last three and Engel says this weekend is going to be pretty important for them when it comes to getting wins and it is not going to be easy from any stretch. “Friday, we have to go to Pleasant and Saturday we turn around and go to Seneca East and both teams do some really nice things offensively. Pleasant has some good shooters and they can penetrate and attack the basket. Seneca East has a kid inside who worked hard in the off season and is a good player so they will run more of a four out, one in kind of offense. They will attack us as well. We are going to have to be ready offensively to attack both of these teams,” he said.

Pleasant (4-2) is one of the favorites in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference and Engel says they are tough guard and for that matter so is Seneca East. “I think our non league schedule is really strong. It has been my first couple of years and this year too. Pleasant is very athletic and they are very physical on the ball. They have a 6’4” kid that can score from the outside as well as the inside. They don’t do anything surprising,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Neither them or Seneca East, I don’t want to say they aren’t difficult to prepare for, but they don’t run a ton of sets you have to know. We just have to defensively stop the penetration and close out on their shooters because they shoot well from the outside.”

Published 12/28/17

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New London Back to Work

After not playing at all last week, the New London Wildcats play twice this week, both at home, against Norwalk St. Paul in a Firelands Conference game on Friday night and Lucas in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

Coach Tom Howell, also the athletic director, says he is a little concerned by the layoff. “This happened to us not last year, but the year before and we fought our way through it. I did had a game schedule for last week, but things didn’t work out of the scheduling and we had to move that one. I have to work on that schedule a little bit to make sure we are playing on that week of Christmas. We have had some good days of practice, we have had a little time off. I would have liked to play, but it just worked out that we didn’t,” said Howell.

Norwalk St. Paul (2-2,2-0) comes in Friday to play the Wildcats (2-3,2-1) after winning their two conference games by big number they lost last week to Huron (58-44) and Edison (60-54) in non-league games.

Howell says the Flyers are loaded with talent. “They are big and athletic kids. They can put four 6’4” kids on the floor at one time. They have two freshmen guards with the Winslow twins. They have some kids that can shoot a little bit. They are a pretty good basketball team. It’s not going to be easy,” he said.

When it comes to the tempo on Friday night, Howell says they want to run some, but they don’t want St. Paul to get going. “We will see how the pace is going. We might have to mix up some things that we might be doing to maybe slow them down a little bit. We want to slow them down on offense, but on offense we want to go a little bit. It sounds weird, but that is how we try and play. We will see how it goes,” he said.

Lucas (4-1) we be a challenge too. The Cubs lost their first game of the season last Friday to Kidron Central Christian (52-51) in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game. They had beaten South Central, another team from the Firelands, (57-53) earlier in the week.

Howell says the Cubs are really good at the guard position. “Lucas is pretty good. Coach Iceman since he has took over he has done a pretty good job with those guys. They have gotten better every year since he has been there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We played them a little bit and got to watch them play quite a bit this summer. We were playing with them at a summer league at Crestview. They have some good guard play. They have four good seniors. Their leadership is really the key for them right now.”

Published 12/28/17

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Lexington Still Not There

Lexington improved its play last weekend to get two wins and they know they need to continue to get better going forward.

They play at Ashland in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Thursday night and hosts Ontario in non-conference play on Saturday night.

They beat Madison (54-46) in an “OCC” game last Friday and beat Norwalk (56-48) in a non-league game on Saturday. Coach Scott Hamilton was pretty proud of both of those wins. “I told the guys in the locker room Saturday night that I really apricated the Christmas gift. Whenever you can travel to Madison and come away with the “W” you know it is going to be a hard fought battle and we were happy able that one and then to turn right around on Saturday and face a hall of fame coach like Steve Gray and get that win on a neutral floor was definitely special as well,” he said.

Hamilton believes they can end up being pretty good on offense, but they are going to need to play strong defense to win consistently. “It is just one of those things where we feel we have just not been clicking so far if that is the correct term and I have always been more of a defensive mined coach. I have just believed that that is going to carry you though your ups and downs on offense. Eventually we are hoping to get of offense going a little more and flowing a little bit smoother than what it is now. Our defense is going to have to be consistent and we have not been real strong in that category this year and we are working to get better at that,” said Hamilton.

Lexington (4-2,1-1) is at Ashland (0-5,0-2) on Thursday night to play the Arrows. Ashland lost its only game last week to Shelby (65-58) in non-conference action.

Hamilton says he expects the Arrows to start playing better and know they would like nothing better than to beat them. “Going into preseason I actually had Ashland picked to be at the top half in the “OCC” and right now they are sitting winless,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “As a program we have been over to Ashland before in tournament time and we had had to use their locker room and they have team goals that they post on the wall and one of the team goals that we saw that year was beat Lexington, nobody else in the conference, but beat Lexington. So, I know we are fairly high up on their goal list as far as getting a win. I don’t think that is going to change this year. We know they are going to break out and start playing some really good basketball and start racking those wins up. We just hope it is not on Thursday night.”

Ontario (5-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, comes to Lexington on Saturday night. Ontario lost for the first time (44-36) to Mansfield Senior last Saturday.

Hamilton says the Warriors are going to make it hard to score. “I saw them live ion Saturday night and I was really impressed with their defense. They are little bit like us I don’t think the offense is clicking really well right now and definitely they are relying on their defense to keep them in games. When you have a seasoned, veteran coach, like coach Balogh, he will have a couple of tricks up his sleeve. If the team can keep it close he is going to be able to pull a couple of wins out. That is something we have to be aware of as well,” he said.

Published 12/27/17

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South Central Faces Norwalk and Plymouth

South Central goes out of league to host Norwalk of the “SBC” on Wednesday night and then they travel to Plymouth for a Firelands Conference game on Friday night.

The Trojans (4-3,2-1) beat Old Fort (56-51) in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

Coach Brett Seidel says they were able to handle the Old Fort press for the most part and get the win. “They are a different type of team to play against. They run a scrambling press styled defense for an entire game and are very relentless with their effort and scrapping. We got in some foul trouble and battled through some adversity. Have a couple of guards on the bench. I was just happy we were able to come out on top,” he said.

Norwalk (2-5) plays at South Central Wednesday night. The Truckers lost to Sandusky Perkins (49-44) in Lake Division play last week and lost to Lexington (56-48) on Saturday in a non-league game.

Seidel says the Truckers are very strong defense and they have a very, very good guard. “They are very, very good defensively. That is what I see on film. They have really good ball pressure. They are pressuring the passing lanes. They help early. They are very disciplined and very good defensively against every opponent they have played against. Their defense has given them a shot to win it at the end. Haraway is obviously tremendous athlete with division two offers and skills. We know we are in for a very tall challenge,” said Seidel,

Seidel says there isn’t any big secret. He says they have to make shots. “This sounds really silly, but you have to make shots. I think you have to make some perimeter jump shots. They have 6’5” inside and they are athletic, disciplined and physical defensively. We are just going to have to make that extra pass and when that pass comes we catch with our feet ready and be able to knock down some jump shots,” he said.

When it comes to Plymouth (3-21-1,) Seidel says they have to find a way to control Plymouth’s Jacob Adams, which nobody really has been able to do so far. “We all have inexperience and we all have some youth to us and with that inexperience and youth you are going to have some inconsistencies and ups and downs and feel that is the same way with Plymouth as it is for us. We have stretches where we play really well and we have stretches were we don’t play really well. The Adams kid is a load,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “He scores in multiple ways. He is very athletic. He has worked really hard on his game and you can tell. He is seeing junk defenses and he is still putting up numbers. Everybody is aware of him and trying to stop him, but he is still able to find ways to score.”

Published 12/27/17

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Mansfield Christian Hopes to Carry Momentum

Mansfield Christian played its best game of the season on Saturday and they hope to continue that trend when play at Fredericktown on Thursday.

They meet Navarre Fairless in a holiday tournament at Berlin Hiland on Friday.

On Saturday, they outscored Clear Fork (84-72) in a game that was played at Ontario High School. Kyle Kurtz had 32 points and Jared McPeak added 27 for the Flames.

Coach John Kurtz says they got good shots and just started pouring them in on a regular basis. “We played a great game on Saturday. Probably in my 28 years of coaching it was one of my greatest shooting performances I have ever seen at the high school level. Our team was 11 for 14 from the three point line and they for the most part where very good looks and good shots. We shot it really well against them. On Saturday, I thought we got a glimpse of what we played like this summer. Up to this point we had not been able to play quite like that. Saturday was sure enjoyable and the kids played really well,” said Kurtz.

Kurtz adds the performance against Clear Fork was somewhat unexpected, but he says it shows the kind of character his kids have. “I think what we thought is was going to be tough for us because we played Friday night and had a tough game and we lost by like 17 points and the game was not nearly like that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We are down four early in the fourth quarter. We did some trapping and gave some buckets up that we wouldn’t normally give up. Our concern going into Saturday was we had a long, hard game Friday night are we going to have enough gas? We were on a big court. We had a good talk early Saturday morning and our kids just came out ready to go. I think that is just a testament to the kid’s character and the leadership on the team.”

Loudonville had beaten the Flames (67-50) in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game on Friday night.

Mansfield Christian (4-3) is at Fredericktown (1-6) on Thursday night. The Freddies lost their last game (58-48) to East Knox. In Knox Morrow Athletic Conference action.

Kurtz says he thinks the Freddies are better than their record indicates. “They seem somewhat dangerous to me. Watching them on film, they have times in games where they rebound the ball extremely well, especially on the offensive end. They have guys that can make shots. They have had a little trouble with consistency there, but them being at home makes them even more dangerous. We are expecting a very good game out of them. Early in the season they played Lucas very close at Lucas and we have seen that Lucas has played very well so far this year. We have learned not to look past anybody and take every game as it is. You have to be prepared for every game,” said Kurtz.

Published 12/27/17

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Upper Has to Get Better on Defense

Upper Sandusky is starting to settle in as a basketball team as we head toward the new year. They trail Colonel Crawford by a game in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference standings.

They play at home against Bucyrus on Thursday night in an “N10” game and they host Mohawk (4-2,4-1) on Saturday night.

The Rams have won their last three games and coach Jeff Winslow says things are starting to come together. “I think we are getting better every day. The kids are learning their roles and learning what we expect at he varsity level. We just haven’t been where we want to be defensively and I think every day we are working on that and getting better at that. Sometimes it is a process and like I tell the kids you can’t waste a day and you need to get better every single day you are out there. Right now, we are understanding that and learning that. I think we are a better team now than we were a week ago and hopefully a week from now we are a better team than we are right now. So, that is the goal to keep getting better,” said Winslow.

When it comes to getting better on defense, Winslow points out two things guarding the ball better and rebounding. “We play with great ball pressure and I think sometimes in the half court we relax a little bit and give up some drives, so we are giving up too many paint touches. We have to be able to help and rotate on that, but the main things is being able to guard the ball. If you have to help all of the time that is going to break down your defense. We have done a lot of work just trying to keep the ball in front without fouling. We have to finish defense with a defensive rebound. Against Buckeye Central there were some times we played really good defense and we gave up the offensive rebound and they had 17 second chance points and that is too many and giving up 63 points is too many,” said Winslow.

Bucyrus (1-5,0-3) got a win in their last time out, (68-64) over Riverdale in a non-league game on Saturday, and Winslow says coach Justin Mattix is getting the Redmen going in the right direction. “I am real familiar with Justin. He is an Upper Sandusky kid. He has come to a lot of our open gyms and played over the summers the last few years. I actually tried to get him to help me coach before he got that job. He is a young guy doing a nice job with a lot of energy. He has got that going in the right direction. They have some young kids and they seem to be shooting the ball really well right now. If they can cut down on some of the turnovers I think that would help quite a bit,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “The Evans kid, I think he had 10 threes the other night, which I think set a Bucyrus record. He has 36 on the year, shooting over 50 percent and they have a couple of other kids that are up above 40 percent. They like to attack off the dribble and kick to shooters and right now they are making them. That is going to be a tough task for us to try and limit those guys, especially the Evans kid, I think he is one that makes them go.”

Published 12/27/17

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Norwalk Looking to Make More Shots

Norwalk is a team going through some growing pains early in the season, but they haver the potential to be pretty good.

They already play good defense and they are trying to become more efficient on the offensive end of the floor.

The Truckers travel to South Central (4-3) to face the Trojans in a non conference game on Wednesday night.

Coach Steve Gray says the Trojans have some good tools, especially point guard Simon Blair. “I think they have a chance to be really good in the Firelands. Their point guard is about as good as anybody we have seen so far this year. As coach (Tom) Foster says he could play for us. They have some kids that can shoot the three. Their coach just does a great job of running sets offensively and putting his kids in position to be successful. Defensively, coach Seidel does a good job of switching things up on us,” said Gray,

Brandon Haraway is a pretty good point guard himself for the Truckers. Gray says he make kids around him better and that is going to make them better as a team. “He takes the pressure off some other kids. I just think he is the type of player that makes players around him much better. I think we are getting close to being pretty good. We just have to get over that hump and start winning some of those close games,” he said.

It has been scoring the ball that has held the Truckers back this season. They have not scored over 60 this season and not over 50 in the last three, which are loses to Keystone (55-39,) Sandusky Perkins (49-44) and Lexington (56-48) in their last game on Saturday.

Gray says is about confidence really. “I think before this year in over we are still going to be a pretty good shooting team. Right now, we are just pressing a little bit. We just have to relax and just take a deep breath and let things just come to us naturally,” he said.

Norwalk (2-5) plays at home against Willard (3-4) on Saturday night. The Flashes have won their last three, including (48-41) over Margaretta in their last start.

Gray says they are big and they can be tough to score on in the paint. “They have had some good wins over the last two weeks or so. You talk about Bedingfield and Hirschy they are two quality coaches that they are going to make a difference over there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think they are like us they just need to get a couple of wins under their belt and I think they are going to be okay. The think that scares me more than anything is their length inside and their ability maybe to not allow us to score anything close to the basket.”

Published 12/27/17

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Buckeye Central Gets Wins; Plays Talented Carey

It took seven games, but Buckeye Central finally got its first win of the season last week and now they face a very good Carey team to try and get a two game winning streak.

They play at Carey on Thursday night in Northern 10 Athletic Conference play.

The Bucks beat Ridgedale (57-44) last Friday night to get that first win.

Coach Phil Loy says that win was the end of a long week. “We are glad to get that first win, it took a while, but we got it. Last week was a tough week, but we knew it would be a tough week going Tuesday, Thursday and then Friday, so kind of an NBA schedule. That kind of concerned me a little bit. We moved Saturday’s game up to Friday, so we could play the same night as our girls against Ridgedale because neither of their girls or boys had JV teams, so we agreed to move that up. I was a little concerned how much legs, how much energy we would have. It seemed to be enough. It wasn’t a pretty win, but a win is a win,” said Loy.

They had lost to Willard (59-50) and Upper Sandusky (68-63) last week.

Loy says they are starting to score more and get more kids involved on the offensive end. “We keep working on that. We want to get more production out of more people. Early in the year it was just one or two guys doing most of the scoring, but I think some other guys are getting a little more comfortable accepting their role. We need them to be scorers for us and slowly, but surely we are starting to get that,” he said.

Carey (6-2,2-2) beat Wynford (60-58) in “N10” action last Thursday and downed New Riegel (53-34) in a non-league game on Saturday.

Loy says had a great perimeter game and they have a big guy in the middle and that makes them difficult to defend. “They return a lot of people. They have very good guard play. They are athletic and quick and then they have a 6’7” kid inside, he is just a sophomore. He has grown a lot since last year. I think last year the roster said he was 6’4” and this year they have him 6’7”. He is a horse and we are kind of used to it like the Willard game and some other games where we have had to go against some really big post players and we aren’t big,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Our biggest post player is 6’0”, so he really has to work hard and get position and do a really good job of boxing out. That is a big concern. It is tough to double down on somebody like that when they have two or three guys that are shooting over 40 percent from three. So, we will have to do a really good job defensively to compete in this game.”

Published 12/27/17

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Tygers Grind out Win over Ontario

It was hard to watch sometimes, no a lot of times, like a car wreck at Mid-Ohio, but it was a battle that both teams put all they had into and Mansfield Senior prevailed in beating Ontario (44-36) at the O-Rena late Saturday night.

It was the last game of six on the day. Mansfield St. Peter’s beat Galion (71-56) in the first game, followed in the afternoon by a Mansfield Christian (84-72) win over Clear Fork and a Shelby (65-58) win over Ashland.

Ontario led (15-11) at the break, but the Tygers took the lead on a Jornell Manns fade away bucket off an offensive rebound (21-20) with 2:34 left in the third quarter. They never trailed again, outscoring the Warriors (17-11) in the fourth quarter.

Coach Marquis Sykes said three things at halftime. “We simplified our game plan. It was as simple as getting defensive stops, getting rebounds, and pushing ball in transition. That was it. I told them those are our three keys for the second half. I thought at a pretty decent rate we got stops, we rebounded and we pushed the pace,” he said.

Ontario coach Joe Balogh says they had three defensive keys and they really didn’t get any of them done. “Our emphasis on defense was really three things. We had to make sure got back in defensive transition and not allow layups, two, in the half court we had to keep dribble penetration out of the lane, and three we had to keep them off the offensive glass, and I think that is the difference in the second half. They got a couple of transition baskets, they were able to beat us to the lane, not so much to finish plays, but they got offensive rebounds and put backs, which was really key,” said Balogh.

Neither team shot 40 percent for the game and there were a number of scrums for loose balls, even an official got ran into unintentionally. Sykes says there was a lot of contact. “This was definitely a grind out type of game. It was low scoring. The refs let us play. There was a lot of bumps and a lot of contact. Both teams probably though, hey, there was a bump there, but they let us play. It was a grind, get stops, get rebounds in traffic and when you get the ball on the other end you to finish it strong in traffic and I thought we did that,” he said.

Mansfield Senior guard B.J. Patrick scored seven of his game high 11 in the crucial fourth quarter, five of those points coming from the charity stripe. Logan Jones had 10 for Ontario.

Balogh says they had problems getting good shots and that was due to aggressive defense played by the Tygers for the most part. “Offensively we kind of struggled. I think you give credit to their pressure on the basketball. It was pretty good. I thought when we were able to get the ball reversed or stick it inside to our post guys we were pretty affective, but we just didn’t quite do that enough throughout the game,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “They are a team that is kind of using a new system. They play really, really hard. I think the effort by both teams was really, really good. A lot of the offensive inefficiency was because of the defense. We hurt ourselves a lot. We probably turned the ball over five or six times on baseline out of bounds plays.”

Mansfield Senior is now (5-1) after the win over Ontario and an “OCC” win over Mt. Vernon (52-49) on Friday night. “I told the guys that nobody though we would be here at this point, especially after how we played in the first game. I told them I was proud of where we are at this point, but don’t get comfortable we have to continue to build. We have to continue to grow and get better every week,” said Sykes.

Published 12/24/17

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Lexington Outlasts Norwalk

Lexington outscored Norwalk (11-4) in the game’s final three minutes and they beat the Truckers (56-48) in a non-conference boys’ basketball game played Saturday night at Ontario High School.

The Minutemen made nine of 12 free throws during that stretch, including three of the four by Cade Stover after a technical foul was called on a Norwalk’s Jacob Roth with Truckers down three (49-46) with 1:35 to play. Veteran Truckers boss Steve Gray, a head coach for almost 30 seasons, had no comment about the call.

It was (38-30) Lexington at the half and (34-21) Minutemen with 7:06 to play in the third quarter, but Norwalk went on an (11-1) run to cut their deficit to three (35-32) after a Brandon Haraway basket with 3:21 to play in the third.

Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says his kids battled played well when they had too. “I don’t want to say we had a couple of lapses, but Haraway is a tough defend for us. I thought Mason Kearns really did a nice job. We knew that they had some shooters, so we really didn’t give him a lot of help. We kind of put him on an island. Brandon came off the bend and scored 20,” and Hamilton added tongue in check, “A good coach would probably be starting that kid, but that is Steve Gray for you.”

Haraway led all scorers with 20 points on the night and led the Truckers in minutes played with 30 after starting the night on the bench.

Kyler Lacey’s hoop with 3:09 to play in the game cut Lexington’s lead to one (45-44) and Gray says he was very proud of his kid’s effort. “We had a chance. We were right there. We just sort of let it slip away there at the end. We competed. We played hard. I thought we did a great job on the boards,” said Gray.

The Minutemen missed back to back point blank layups in the fourth quarter when they were trying to put it away and Hamilton say they have to do a better job of taking advantage of opportunities. “The ones that stick in my head where the layups, the easy buckets inside the paint, that we missed,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “I know two straight times late in the game we had point blank layups and the ball rolls off the front of the rim and we don’t get anything out of that. I give them credit they came up with 10 offensive boards and that’s tough when you give up 10 offensive boards. That’s hard for me to accept.”

Norwalk outrebounded Lexington 32-25 on the night. They held the Minutemen to 42 percent from the floor. Cade Stover was just 2 of 8 from the field, but he was 9 of 11 from the foul line to finish with a team high 13 points.

Gray thought they did a pretty good job of defense. “We lost Vore once or twice. We got pinned high by Stover once of twice, but those things happen against good teams. We competed and I am just very, very proud of them,” he said.

Norwalk got 10 second chance points and Hamilton says that can’t happen on a nightly basis for them. “I am looking at second chance points that they get. That is just something we are not used to doing. We are not a great offensive team. When we step up and we put our mind to it we have to be able to hold teams to a certain number. I thought we played a pretty good team and we were able to come away with a win,” he said.

Defense is going to be the key to the rest of the season for the Minutemen and Hamilton says that is something they have to improve. “I think we said it (Saturday) morning in practice that offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. Every high school kid right now wants to get up and down the floor or shoot threes and layups in transition, but the reality is if you can’t get back and get stops it is going to be a long night no matter how many threes you score,” he said.

Published 12/24/17

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Madison Outruns Bellevue

Both teams wanted to run the floor, but Madison did it better on Saturday evening and they knocked off the Bellevue Redmen (78-68) in a non-conference boys’ basketball game played at Ontario High School.

There were no field goals in first two and half minutes of play and Madison coach Tim Mergel thought they were a little tentative. “They were sending some pressure at us and I thought at first we were timid. We would pass out of trap and we would catch and hold the ball. I told the guys it doesn’t matter if you catch the ball and someone is in your face and we are one on one with someone unguarded in front of us. The kids responded well to that,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We got to the paint and when we didn’t get there we got some kick out shots. We got in a pretty good rhythm there. We got in some foul trouble and weathered the storm and I was proud of our kids maintaining the lead.”

Once they got going both teams made some shots and Bellevue (3-2) held a (18-17) lead with 6:12 to play in the half on a three by Jake Waskelis, but Madison would outscore the Redmen (15-5) for the remainder of the half to take (32-23) lead into the intermission.

Bellevue coach Ed Rich says they didn’t have any energy and he was disappointed. “We were sluggish. We were really, really sluggish to begin. I don’t if it is because we haven’t played since Saturday? We expected to come out and be the team with more energy to be honest. They played two games against two good teams this week. We thought we would come out and really get up and down

Kyle Jackson had 26 for the Rams (4-3) including two dunks and Mason Campbell added 18. Tyler Tacket had 11 and Mergel says he was able to get some good looks. “Tyler is going to have those games where teams aren’t going to notice him a whole lot because of the attention that Mason brings and Kyle brings and even Shamir (Brown) brings when he is knocking down shots. Being a sophomore, he is going to have to step up and fill that void and he has done a nice job for us,” said Mergel.

Rich says they allowed Madison to get too many open shots. “They got a lot of easies in the paint and they got a lot of straight line drives. I don’t know what it was, we just didn’t defend. We were just giving straight line drives the whole game. When we would collapse we would foul and it was the and one. It was rough,” he said.

After trailing by as much as 16 (53-37) with 2:37 left in the third quarter, Bellevue battled back to cut it to four (61-57) with 6:37 to play, but Mergel says they were able to battle though the adversity. “The foul trouble hurt us a little bit, but we have some senior leadership. We asked Mason to handle the ball a little bit more (Saturday) night. He was successful getting to the rim and finishing. If you just take care of the basketball you are going to get layups. Unfortunately, we had a couple of turnovers, but nothing that hurt us too bad,” he said.

Trey Ruhlman had 26 for Bellevue, but left with 4:38 remaining with an ankle injury and did not return. Mergel says they had problems containing the outstanding Bellevue point guard. “They were running the high ball screen and I think we switched three different times and every time I switched he went a different direction. We got beat weakside a couple of times and that should never happen. We should never get beat weakside on a ball screen. That kid has some hangtime and he can finish, unlike some other guards that we face,” said Mergel.

Published 12/24/17

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Colts Blitz Galion

Chance Barnett scored the first hoop 19 seconds into the game and after 2:45 it was (10-3) the Clear Fork Colts went on to blast the Galion Tigers (67-47) in a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game on Thursday night.

Barnett had 20 points, including three dunks, and nine Colts scored at least four points in the team’s fifth straight win. They share first place in the “MOAC” with Ontario and Marion Pleasant.

The Colts led by 11 (21-10) after the first quarter and coach Steven Bechtel says they wanted to get off to a good start. “We came out and we said we wanted to get on them early. We are home and the kids came out and they responded. We didn’t make as many shots as we were hoping, but we fought through that adversity of not making shots and kept it up in the second half then,” said Bechtel.

On Saturday night, the Colts seemed to hit everything they looked at in a (101-62) win over River Valley. That was not the case on Thursday night, especially in the second quarter when they made only one perimeter shot and no threes. “We said there are going to be games this year where we don’t shoot it as well as we are capable and how are we going to overcome that? I thought our defensive intensity really picked it up in the second half and that helped us out a lot more,” said Bechtel.

Clear Fork (5-1) started the third quarter on a (14-0) run, punctuated by back to back three pointers by Jay Swainhart, to take a (47-21) lead on two free throws by freshman Brady Tedrow with 4:16 left in the quarter. Galion has a turnover on seven straight possessions in the third quarter.

There weren’t a lot of easy baskets in transition either, but Bechtel says they found a way. “Galion did a good job of getting back. They got out there and they really contested. They pressured us a little bit more than I think our kids anticipated,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “You have to give coach (Matt) Valentine and those kids credit. They continued to fight. Isiah Alsip is an exceptional player and he’s a handful.”

Alsip is one the leading scorers in the area and he led Galion Thursday night with 13 markers, but six of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. “We knew that was going to be a big key to contain him. He did pick up a couple of early fouls and he had to set on the bench a little longer than I am sure he anticipated. He is an exceptional player and we had to do a great job of containing him,” said Bechtel.

Swainhart and Tanner Winand both had eight and A.J. Blubaugh and Michael Chillemi had six each for the Colts, who play Mansfield Christian (3-2) at a holiday tournament at Ontario High School on Saturday.

They gave not lost since the opening night of the season to Lexington. Bechtel says they have good confidence, but they most keep focused. “I think just the confidence and maintaining that intensity and maintaining the focus of no matter who we are playing against, that will be the biggest key. We like where we are right now and we have to get ready to play Mansfield Christian on Saturday,” he said.

Published 12/21/17

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Wooster Thinking Defense

Wooster, the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion, plays at West Holmes in an “OCC” contest on Friday night.

Right now, the Generals share first place in the conference with Mansfield Senior, who they play next week. Wooster beat Mt. Vernon (52-49) last week in an “OCC” game.

Holmes lost to Mansfield Senior (78-58) in a conference game last Saturday afternoon. They fell behind by 18 points after the first quarter before battling back against the Tygers.

West Holmes (4-2,0-1) beat Warsaw River View (64-58) in non-conference play in Tuesday night.

Wooster coach Michael Snowbarger says they have played well on offense, especially Chance and Chase Wells. “West Holmes is a much improved team and coach Troyer does a great job with them. The two Wells kids are very good players. Like I told the kids (Thursday) in practice. We have to find them and not give them any open looks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are looking to score and they can score from anywhere on the court. We have to limit their touches and just make sure that none of the compliment players chip in with 10-15 points.”

The Knights have been scoring more points this year and Snowbarger says they have to be able to find the Wells brothers in transition. “You have to find them in transition situations. We have to find Chance Wells because he is more of a spot up shooter that can catch and shoot the ball. Chase is more off the dribble and things like that. In transition we have to make sure we are communicating about who is guarding them and find them and matchup. If you give them any looks early the basket keeps getting bigger and bigger and things just start flowing in. We have to limit their early touches,” said Snowbarger.

Saturday, in the Steve Smith Classic the Generals (4-1) play a very talented Akron Hoban squad. Snowbarger says they have kind of been looking forward to this game. “Hoban is a very good team this year. I think they are ranked either number five or four in the Cleveland Plain Dealer northeast Ohio poll. They are a great team. Our focus this week has been on West Holmes, it’s a league game, it’s next game. We haven’t really gone over anything with Hoban. We will do that Saturday morning. Hoban is a definite challenge for us. They are a very good basketball team,” he said.

Published 12/22/17

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Three “KMAC” Games for Northmor This Week

Northmor faces Mt. Gilead on Friday and a makeup game with Danville on Saturday, both Knox Morrow County Athletic Conference games, and they are going to need wins to maintain first place.

Right now, they share first place with Highland and Danville.

On Tuesday, night the Golden Knights (6-0,3-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat East Knox (62-50) to stay in first.

Coach Zach Ruth says their depth was a big factor for them in that win over the Bulldogs. “Sometimes you have some ugly wins. Demetrious Johnson struggled with us Tuesday, but luckily he is blessed, and I’m blessed, having the teammates that we have. Tyler Keggley goes for 20, Brock Pletcher gets his 18 again and Kyle Keggley gets 13, and that was enough. We didn’t seal the game off like I would have liked. We used that as a teaching moment to try and get better on some things that might present themselves (Friday) night,” said Ruth.

Mt. Gilead (3-3,2-2) lost to Centerburg (50-37) on Tuesday night. It was really one the first games this season the Indians have not scored a bunch of points. Ruth says they have a couple of guys that can really score. “They have some guys that can fill it up. They have a big guy inside that to this date early in the season has had one of the biggest games. Mason Mollohan has 40 points and 21 board all in the same game. That is kind unheard of at the high school level,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Then (Jason) Bolha has had three games of over 22. They like to get an up and down game. We are more than comfortable playing that style as well too. I am hoping we can kind of shut them down a little better than what some other teams have done on the defense end.”

Danville (2-0,2-0) beat Cardington (74-42) on Tuesday. That is after opening the year last Friday with a (64-56) win at Fredericktown.

There isn’t much on the record about the Blue Devils, especially for Northmor, and that has Ruth a little concerned about this Saturday night game. “We take one game at a time. We haven’t talked about Danville, but in the back of my head what has me concerned is we were the only team in the league last year that didn’t play them for a non-league game. So, we didn’t see them last year. Of course, we were supposed to get some scouting done on them early this year, but with moving them game they played the other night when we played and they play (Friday) night, so we are not going to get to see this team live. So, we are kind of going into this game like it is opening weekend,” said Ruth.

Published 12/22/17

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St. Paul Has to Make More Steps

Norwalk St. Paul is off to an outstanding start the season, but their veteran coach knows there is still an upside to this team.

This Flyers (2-0,2-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, beat Monroeville (71-23) on Friday and Crestview (77-32) last weekend in their first two games of the season in Firelands Conference play.

Coach Mike Smith says played really well on both ends of the floor. “We played pretty well considering everything in regards to late start and so on. We played with a lot of excitement and lot of energy and we played as a team and we shot the ball well and where really good defensively and I really like the pace. It was a good start, but obviously we still have a lot of work to do t become the team I think we can become,” he said.

As good as they were, Smith knows there are some things they haven’t even seen this year. “There are a lot of things we have to clean up. We still haven’t seen some different things that you need to prepare for, different types of pressures, different types of zones. In all of those instances you have different types of attacks that you want to run versus those kinds of things. I thought we did a good job Friday versus he 2-3 zone that Monroeville played,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Then Saturday Crestview played a lot of man and they tried to press a little bit and our kids were able to handle it. They went to some half court stuff and our kids were organized and were able to handle that as well. I do like that, but just little things that make you a good team that take you from a good team to a great team. Cleaning up screens, angles and attention to details and jumping to the ball, knocking down cutters and blocking out and all of those things. They have to become a habit and we have to get better.”

St. Paul plays at Huron (2-2) in a non-league game on Friday night. The Tigers beat Port Clinton (53-31) on Thursday in a Bay Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

Smith says like usual the Tigers are athletic. “They are very athletic, a typical Huron team. They have one of the better guards in Michael Hurst, I really thing he is a heck of a player. They also have the Vanvlerah kid that I think is a very good player and nice inside player in the Davis kid. They are athletic all around. They have some size. They like to push the ball up and down the floor a little bit. They play some man. They play some 2-3 and play awful hard. It is our first game on the road against a really good opponent and try and get better,” said Smith.

There is another game with a Bay Division team on Saturday as the Flyers travel down the road to Edison (4-2) to play the Chargers. Edison beat Tiffin Calvert (53-33) Thursday night.

Smith says the Chargers are very good and it starts in the paint. “It starts with the Roberts and Hill kids. Those two do a tremendous job and create a lot of problems for you. They are big and strong and four year letter winners and the Schaeffer kid on the perimeter gives them some good size and experience. They are very well coached. Coach Hammond does a super job with them. They are playing pretty basketball right now and it will be a good measuring stick for our basketball team to see where we are after the first two weekends,” he said.

Published 12/22/17

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Ashland Working on Getting Better

Ashland is still looking to get over the final hurdles that would lead to a win and their next chance is Saturday against Ashland in a holiday tournament at Ontario High School.

Coach Jason Hess says they have been doing some things better, but that improvement hasn’t been enough to win games. “There is a reason we practice four or five times a week and we only play two games. That’s the way you get better is grinding it out in practice and you find out about your ball team and where you are at when the lights are on on Friday or Saturday. The time to get better is through the week. I give our kids a lot of credit that they are coming and working hard even though we haven’t tasted success yet as far as victories go. We have seen improvement each week and we are getting there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “When we break through I do think these guys can continue to improve and get better and there are going to be a lot of victories and success in our future if we can continue to stay the course and just trust each other and continue to work and get better each day.”

Hess says they have addressed some offensive issues, but at times they still have some concerns with defensive intensity. “Early on we had some trouble with turnovers and some shot selection that in the end are almost like turnovers. We weren’t running any offense and we weren’t getting anything out of it. I thought we got a lot better with that last Saturday against Toledo Start. We executed offensively and got a lot of good shots in a game that we were tied and had the lead there in the fourth quarter. So, that was really encouraging to see that kind of sinking in with our guys. I think we are still lacking a little bit of defensive intensity at times. We get a little stagnate on defense and a little sluggish and not quite as aggressive guarding the basketball as I would like to see at this point. We have improved in that area, but the problem is sometimes in the heat of the moment we have the tendency to revert back to some bad habits instead of the new tendencies that we are developing,” said Hess.

Shelby (3-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, has looked very good so far this year. They were upset by Clyde (64-54) on Thursday night in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

Hess says they are bigger and more of a threat inside. “They have always been a good program and coach Schwemley has done a tremendous job and the one thing that has always impressed me about them is how hard they play. In the past we have had a little bit of an advantage and been able to win some close basketball games and part of that has been our size and our ability to go inside and score consistently. This year Shelby, in addition to their effort and their three point shooting that they have been known for, they have a little more height and a little more size, which makes them a very dangerous basketball team,” he said.

Published 12/22/17

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Boards and Turnovers Key for the Knights

The West Holmes Knights have shown some good things this year, but are they good enough to be competitive in the Ohio Cardinal Conference? We might get some answers on Friday night.

The Knights (4-2,0-1) play host to defending champion Wooster (4-1,2-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, in an “OCC” game.

They were competitive with Mansfield Senior for three quarters last Saturday, but lost (78-58) to the Tygers after falling behind (26-8) after the first quarter.

Coach Keith Troyer says you can’t get behind by that much to good teams. “We felt coming into that game that we had two or three kids that started for us that just don’t have that game experience and throwing them in against a team like Mansfield Senior they kind of had their eyes opened the first quarter, but after that first quarter we kind of settled in and played them even the last three. That was good to see and we were able to take a positive out of it, but you can’t dig yourself a hole like that and expect to win,” said Troyer.

Troyer thinks his kids will continue to get better this season as some of their younger kids mature. “Early on here setting at 4-2 we have played some good basketball. It’s that consistency that comes along with it. I mentioned earlier that we have a couple of kids that just didn’t have that varsity experience, but they are settling in and getting better each day out. There are a lot of positives to take and a lot of things we need to keep working on,” he said.

Wooster beat Mt. Vernon (52-49) last Friday in an “OCC” game and they share first place with the Tygers, Troyer says they attempt to play the same way they have since Michael Snowbarger became their coach. “They play the same style. They try to create a lot of chaos on the defensive end and offensively they really look to push the ball up the floor,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They might not have the horses they have had the last couple of years, but they still have good athletes and they are well coached and they get after it defensively.”

Troyer says they can’t have a bunch of turnovers and they have to keep the athletic Generals off the offensive glass. “We have to keep them off the offensive boards, which we have struggled with some far. Like I said they have athletes and they crash the boards. The second thing is just taking care of the ball and making good decisions and taking good shots each time down the floor. With their defensive pressure and they like to create turnovers. I think if you take care of the ball and make good decisions you are going to be in the game,” said Troyer.

Published 12/22/17

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Buckeye Central’s Defense the Difference

Buckeye Central is all alone in first place in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference right now with a one game lead on Carey, Upper Sandusky and Bucyrus.

They play Ridgedale (3-4,1-2) in an “N10” game on Friday night in New Washington.

They are coming off an impressive (47-44) win over Upper last Saturday.

Coach Greg Moore says it was their defense that gave them the win against a very good team. “Absolutely it was our best win of the season. Upper is always at the top of our league. They are D-2 school. It has been tough for us to play with them. We have competed, we just haven’t been able to get over the hump. So, we went over there on Saturday and played a really good game. We didn’t shoot the ball that well, but we had great team effort and our defense was very, very good,” said Moore.

The Buckettes (6-0,5-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com girls’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, has scored more than 60 points in all of their games until last Saturday, including an (89-36) win over Plymouth to begin the season.

However, Moore says it is their defense that is the difference. “It is something we really pride ourselves on. When we got to Buckeye three years ago we were not that good on defense. When I got here were giving up like 52 points a game and that was just atrocious. We have got that down now to we are giving up 36 points a game. We are young and the kids are buying into it,” he said.

Ridgedale topped Wynford a couple of weeks ago in overtime (45-43,) but lost to Upper (68-20) in their last league game on December 12. Moore describes the Lady Rockets are up and comers and he knows they are going to have to be ready to play. “They are a team that is improving very much. They are young. I think they start three or four sophomores. They are going to be a team to reckon with. They have a nice point guard. They have some posts. They have a freshman that actually starts also,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are a very quality team. They haven’t go there yet as far as wins and losses. They beat Wynford last week in overtime. We can’t overlook them. We just have to come and play basketball.”

Published 12/22/17

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Northwestern Needs More Consistency

Northwestern seems to be on the edge of being a pretty good team, but they just can’t get there quite yet.

They play at preseason Wayne County Athletic League favorite Rittman on Friday night.

Last Friday, the Huskies lost (71-65) to Smithville in a league game and coach Mark Alberts Jr. says they just had too many dry spells. “Smithville was kind of one of those games where we did not play the way we need to play for the entire game. Smithville is a very talented team with two really good players. I think the rest of their seniors kind of mix together well with them. We didn’t play as well as we needed to for the whole game. This week against Rittman it is going to be very similar. We need to play a lot more consistent for the 32 minutes,” said Alberts.

The Huskies (1-4,1-1) won the “WCAL” last year and advanced to the regional finals in division three. Alberts says the reason they were so good was they didn’t have these kids of lulls and that is what they are working towards. “Good teams play the entire game or they never have big lulls or stretches where they don’t play well. We are trying to get to that point. I think last year there were always times in the game when we didn’t play great, but we didn’t have very many of them and I think that is why we were so consistent throughout the year. So, hopefully that is something we can get to. Going against Rittman is going to be a tough night, but I am definitely confident in our guys that we can get after them at their place,” he said.

Rittman (5-1,1-1) also lost last week when Waynedale (71-66) beat them in a league game. Alberts says Indians have a good mix of players that can do a lot of things. “Their point guard was out and didn’t play in that game against Waynedale. I think that is a little more important than anyone wants to let on. I have watched them play and they are very talented. They have two very good players in William Swartz and Kaleb Bauman. They have had a kid move back in this year that is 6’10” and he is a little better than you realize,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “He is averaging I bet double figure points and four or five blocks a game. He is definitely a difference maker. He is not a great player, but he does some good things. They have those three and then they have a couple of other guys that played last year that can shoot. Their weakness is their bench. It will be interesting to see if we can combat what they have.”

Northwestern plays Colonel Crawford (5-1) in the Steve Smith Classic at the College of Wooster on Saturday. Alberts says it is a game where they will need to be outstanding. “I know that coach Sheldon does a great job with his team. McCreary is really good. He is one of the sophomores. I am anxious to see them and what kind of team they are. I know they had a nice year last year. I am anxious to see how we stack up against them,” he said.

Published 12/22/17

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Armstrong Says it’s Virginia

Shelby quarterback Brennan Armstrong made it official on Wednesday he is going to the University of Virginia to continue his football career and his education.

He says they Cavaliers made it feel like home. “I think it was best fit for me because of the family feel they have in the university. It comes natural. They don’t have to fake it. All of the guys have wives and kids. They understand what is like to be a family and they just bring that over to the football program,” said Armstrong.

He is the most decorated quarterback in Shelby’s history hold all or at least most of the career and single game passing records.

Armstrong, a duel threat quarterback, says he like what the Cavaliers are trying to get established. “The offensive style they are going to be running. They showed be the BYU film from a couple years ago where they coached. They run a lot of the read option things that they want to incorporate now in Virginia,” he said.

Armstrong also believes he has made the right choice when it comes to the books. “Just the academic side of it. If something happens to me in football, anything can happen one play at a time and I think the University of Virginia degree I am going to have will set me up for life and want to do,” he said.

Earlier this year, Armstrong has committed to Minnesota, but he says they made him a little uncomfortable. “They got a preferred walk on. I talked to the coaches just trying to figure out what they wanted to do with that. They were cool I happy with Minnesota and I was fine with that. Then at the time Virginia got a word and they started to contact me again,” he told Swankonsports.com, “I started talking to them a little bit. Long relations came back. So, I had some doubts, so I went back and really thought about it an made my decision with Virginia.”

When it comes to playing time, Armstrong was he has been made no promises, but he thinks he will get a chance to play. “They really haven’t talked about it much. They haven’t talked about redshirting. I think they just want me to go in there and earn everything I want to do,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Go in there and work as hard as I possibly can. Right now, it I kind of open they have some guys there. If I go in there are work hard I think I will be in good shape.”

Shelby football coach Erik Will says he new he had a special player early on in the process. “I would say for me when I watched him play for the first time in the eighth grade. I remember going down to Skiles Field ad he is 14 years old and I had heard about him. We had had him in camp and you can see it, but now you could see him with the pads on and watching him run the first thing I thought of was, I believe it was the first week they were playing, the first thing that came to my mind was, and I told our staff, if this was Kentucky he would be a five year starter because he was that good as an eighth grader. Not just because he was athletic because he was 6’1”, 185 pounds in the eighth grade, his body was mature and he was mature beyond his years,” said Will.


He says there is no question Brennan is a hard worker based on what he has seen and that is going to be a plus for him. “The thing I appreciate the most about him we had a talk coming into his freshman year that nothing will be given, everything will be earned. If you are as good as everybody says you are. If you are an elite athlete it is going to be the work ethic, that is the unseen thing that is going to catapult you to the type of athlete you can be. I can tell you this, he works as hard as anybody I have coached,” he said.

Published 12/21/17

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Mansfield Senior Not a Finished Product

Almost unbelievably Mansfield Senior has sort of been flying under the radar screen this year. Almost impossible for a program like the Tygers have.

After their worse season record wise in a long time last season there was a coaching change and they Tygers have come our and won three of their last four and share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference lead.

They beat West Holmes (78-58) in “OCC” action last Saturday afternoon at Pete Henry Gym. They play at Mt. Vernon on Friday night.

The Tygers (3-1,2-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, led (26-8) after the first quarter and put the game away with a (25-16) advantage to end the game.

Coach Marquis Sykes says they were good, but not consistent. “I was happy with our energy and effort and our execution for about two quarters. The first quarter and the fourth quarter. Our performance in the second and third quarters I wasn’t so happy with, but those are the kinds of things you have to deal with early in the season and I understand that. The things we struggled with in the middle part of the game has been our focus in practice this week,” he said.

Mt. Vernon (3-2,1-1) lost to defending “OCC” champ Wooster (52-49) last week. They also beat Madison (55-51) in overtime two weeks ago.

The Yellow Jackets are a team likes to control the pace and Sykes says they can’t allow that on Friday night. “We think the best way for us to play this year, specifically offensively, is we want to look to push the tempo against pretty much every team on our schedule. So, certainly that is going to be a big deal for us coming up this Friday to make sure the game in played kind of way we want to play it, kind of the way we practice it. There is always going to be a chess match going on playing fast or playing slow,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “So, we will look to push the tempo, but even still when the game slows down, we understand that it will, execution is a must at both ends of the floor. We can’t take breaks defensively because they will be looking for opportunities when we take a break and make a mistake and capitalize. Offensively we have to push that tempo and look to attack the basket for fouls and get easy baskets.”

The Tygers play Ontario on Saturday. Sykes says he doesn’t know a lot about the Warriors yet other than their strong basketball tradition. “Coach Balogh is one of the best coaches in the state and has one of the better programs in the state as well. We know that any time that these two programs get together it is probably going to be a battle. Honestly, I haven’t got a chance to look at their film yet I am so focused on our Friday night conference game. Our assistant coaches have been breaking it down last week and this week. After our game on Friday I will be up all night taking a look at Ontario and the tendencies of what they like to do. We’ll go out Saturday night and try and give it all we got,” said Sykes.

Published 12/21/17

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Perkins Will Need to Execute

Perkins and Norwalk are two pretty good teams out of the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference and they meet at Norwalk on Thursday night.

Perkins (4-1,2-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is coming off a (55-51) win at home over Bellevue last Friday.

Coach Scott McVeigh says they did the job on defense against a Bellevue team that has been very explosive on offense this season. “Honestly they make you better. It was a very good win Friday at our place against a very good and dangerous Bellevue team. We just did a nice job, I thought, I was pleased especially with our kids at the defensive end the last 16 minutes of that game because you look at Bellevue they are dangerous. They have a lot of guys that can fill it up, especially when you look at Trey Ruhlman, one of the better players in the league. It makes us happy. Anytime you get a league win we will take it,” said McVeigh.

Norwalk (2-3,2-0) shares first place in the league with Perkins and Shelby. They beat Clyde (53-48) in a division game last week and now have their best players Brandon Haraway back in the lineup. McVeigh says the Truckers come at you from a lot of angles. “Steve (Gray) does a tremendous job obviously at Norwalk. He does a lot to just put them in position to be successful. Especially, having Haraway back, he does a nice job and I think everything starts with him. You look at them and they can hurt you in many different ways, his dribble penetration, they have shooters on the wings and corners there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have a little bit of size this year, which, Steve haven’t had in the last three years. You know what you are going to get when you play Norwalk, a very disciplined team that is going to be sound and play hard and is going to exploit your weaknesses. We always walk out of the Norwalk game knowing what we have to work on.”

Gray is famous, or infamous, depending on your prospective, for running a lot of offensive sets and McVeigh says they will have to be ready for that. “They run the sets so well. They will run a multitude of sets and they are very good at the flex. They are good at spreading you out and they are dangerous. You have to kind of pick and choose with them what you want to try and take away. You can’t sit and let them run their stuff because they are so good at it. We have to be sound and fundamental and have to be very disciplined defensively,” he said.

Published 12/21/17

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Western Reserve Gets Different Test

Western Reserve plays a challenging non conference schedule and that continues on Saturday night when they host the Sandusky Blue Streaks.

Coach Chris Sheldon says they probably played their best game of the season last week when the Roughriders (4-2) beat Plymouth (78-42) in a Firelands Conference game. “Saturday night without a doubt was the best we had played for four quarters all year long. It was like we picked up right where we left off the second half on Friday night just from our intensity on the defensive end to our ability to execute our game plan. Then offensively when we share the ball and play with pace and space we are difficult to guard and I thought we did an outstanding job of that for four quarters. We got good contributions from a couple of our bench guys that have been a little inconsistent at times. It was a perfect formula for us. It is something that we know if we want to be successful we have to play the way we did on Saturday night,” said Sheldon.

Sandusky (1-3) lost to Madison (76-68) on Tuesday night and also have loses to Shelby (68-63) and Bellevue (77-60) in “SBC” Lake play.

Sheldon knows the Blue Streaks are good and they are going to get a lot better. “I was able to catch them against Madison. They really took control of the game before they self destructed and Madison hit a big shot and it just spiraled out of control in the last two minutes and a lot of that was their doing. The one thing that sticks out to me besides their athleticism and besides their quickness and their ability to defend, Keith Williams is without a doubt their leader and a very, very good player and you can tell he is a guy that has been on the floor for a number of years for them at the varsity level, they have three sophomores in their starting lineup,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have played some good teams and you can see in each game that I have watched so far that those three sophomores are growing more and more confidence. Their two guards that are sophomores the Tahj (Stavesile) and the (Dylan) Jones kid are both really talented kids. It is just a matter of those two putting it together and figuring out what it takes from possession to possession. I have seen that growth from the Bellevue game to the Shelby game and now into the Madison game where they have really gotten a lot better.”

There are some keys the Western staying in this game and Sheldon says they are keeping the Blue Streaks from slashing to the hoop and they can’t have a bunch of turnovers. “For us to be successful against them it starts with our ability to handle some of their defensive pressure and it also comes don to how do we keep them in front of us at the offensive end because not only are they really good drivers of the basketball, but they do a great job of avoiding contact in the lane and that is a tough combination to guard. Why we have them on our schedule is it is a great test for us and an opportunity for us to go out and get better and play somebody that we don’t get to play on a nightly basis in our league. That is the hope of this game and our kids are excited for it,” he said.

Published 12/21/17

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Wynford Needs to Find it

Wynford has only lost one game this season, but that came in their last game Saturday night to rival Colonel Crawford, and they need to bounce back against two very good teams.

They are home with Carey on Thursday and at Mohawk (2-2,2-1) on Saturday.

Last Saturday, Colonel Crawford was leading by 30 at the half winning handily (76-47) and Wynford coach Jason Engel says they just got their heads handed to them. “We never were really in the game. They had five threes in the first quarter. They scored 27 in the first quarter and in the second quarter we only managed one defensive stop. We got killed in transition in the first half. Once we were able to set up our half court defense and we did get back we weren’t terrible. I told the kids at halftime, guys we are not coming back and beat them, but we have to end this half with some sort of good feeling going forward to Carey this Thursday and then Mohawk on Saturday. Our kids never quit,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Honestly, we were never really in the game. They sped us up a little bit on offense, our shot selection wasn’t great, and some key turnovers in the first half led to some easy run outs and layups. We didn’t turn the ball over a ton we just couldn’t get stops and we didn’t allow our defense to get back. Playing a team like that early on will help us the next few weeks. They are a really good team and you can’t make those mistakes if you want to beat really good teams.”

Carey (4-2,1-2) lost to Mohawk (59-55) in their last “N10” game and beat Liberty-Benton (70-46) on Tuesday in a non-league game.

Engel says they are athletic and can just do a lot of things with the ball in their hands. “Carey is really, really good and they are a tough matchup for anybody. They have seven seniors and five are returning lettermen, all starters. They played Liberty-Benton Tuesday night and I went to that game at Carey and they handled them. They won by 20 I think. They are just a really good team. The Lutzader kid is one the stars in the league. He had eight threes (Tuesday) night and I believe six or seven against Mohawk the previous game. They beat Upper Sandusky, that game was really fast paced. They like to do very similar things to Colonel Crawford and get out in transition and they like to shoot the three. They have Trey Bame, who can stroke it and you add a 6’7” post kid, the Stone kind, who is only a sophomore, who does some really good things for them around the rim and shoot it too for a big guy. They have the Summit kid, who rebounds well for them and Wentling, who is their quarterback. They are very, very athletic, very talented and very competitive,” said Engel.

If the Royals want to stay in the “N10” race they have to win and Engel says Thursday night is big for them confidence wise. “It is going to be a big game for us (Thursday) and coming off a blowout loss for us, how do we react? We all have a bad taste in our mouth. If we are not getting back in transition, some of the things we struggled with last week, we are going to have to do those things to set our defense us it situations and hold them to one shot. I am proud of the kid’s efforts after halftime last week being down 48-18. So, we have to move on and see if we can get some stops against Carey,” he said.

Published 12/21/17

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Close Outs a Must for Bellevue

Bellevue does not play a league this week, but they face a very interesting game against Mansfield Madison on Saturday in non-conference play.

After a loss to Sandusky Perkins (55-51) last Friday in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference, the Redmen came out and scored repeatedly in beating Port Clinton (92-54) on Saturday.

Coach Ed Rich says it was a good way to rebound. “We came out pretty hungry and we came out and took care of business like we wanted to, so it was a good win for us,” he said.

Rich says they changed their offensive approach this summer. He says they like the quick down approach and they have the horses to make that work. “We are pretty explosive offensively. We like to get up and down as much as we can. That was one of the things we worked on quite a bit in the off season. My guys wanted to do it. We took a look at it and when we get up and down we are pretty good,” he said.

Bellevue (3-1) plays Madison (3-2) on Saturday at Ontario High School in a Holiday Tournament. The Rams own a three game winning streak, including a (76-68) win over Sandusky on Tuesday night.

Rich says the Rams are very athletic and they also have kids that can shoot too. He says they are the whole package. “I saw them (Tuesday) night against Sandusky and they are probably going to be the most athletic team we play. They have guys that are pretty athletic at all positions. It starts with Kyle Jackson, he is a really, really nice player. He can play all five positions, so he is a tough match-up for anybody,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The other things about them is they really fill it up. They shoot the ball with a lot of confidence and I think there have been at least two games this year where they have hit over 10 threes. We have to be really disciplined defensively.”

Defensively, Rich says they have to get hands in the face of the Rams shooters and make them feel uncomfortable. “It starts with the basic fundamentals. We have to close out off the pass, we have to close out with high hands, and try and get those shooters to second guess their shot. Right now, they seem to comfortable when they catch and shoot. There has been little to no closeouts. We want to play our normal defense , but make sure we close out and get a hand in the shooters face an attempt to get them out of their shooting rhythm.”

Published 12/21/17

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Willard Finding Some Confidence

Willard lost its first four games, but now they have won two in a row and are starting to feel a little better about themselves.

They beat Buckeye Central (59-50) in a non-conference game on Tuesday night. They won their first game of the season in Bay Division play in the Sandusky Bay Conference in beating Port Clinton (55-39) last Friday.

Coach Joe Bedingfield says they are feeling better, but understand they need to continue to strive to improve. “Anytime you can win a few games kids get a little more confident and hopefully that confidence grows. We have to take the next steps to continue to not only win games, but come to practice and prepare for the next opponent and continue to get better. It’s nice to win games, but our number one goal is to continue to make progress as we go through the season. I think the difference so far is we are starting games off better,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The last two games we have came out ready to play and kind of built a lead. We are leading how to play with a little bit of a lead. We are still make a good amount of mistakes, but hopefully we aren’t making the same mistakes. I think that is what we have to do is continue to eliminate repetitive mistakes.”

Willard (2-4,1-0) hosts Margaretta (3-2,1-1) in a Bay Division game on Thursday night. The Bears beat Old Fort (79-74) in a crossover game on Saturday night. They lost to Huron (56-51) in the Bay Division on Friday.

The Flashes have size, but Bedingfield says so do the Polar Bears. “They are picked number two in our league. I know it doesn’t mean a whole lot. We were picked number six. They have some returning players. Coach Keller does a good job over there and they have some good size. They will match us size wise. The Kimberlin kid is probably their best scorer and the Morris kid is a nice player. They bring Rafsnider, 6’7”, a freshman, gives them some nice size. They are shooting the ball really well. They have some experience. In their last game they beat Old Fort and they are playing pretty well. We are going to have to match their intensity, we are going to have to match their physicality, with their size. Hopefully, our guys are up to the challenge now that they have a little confidence hopefully we can build it into a streak,” said Bedingfield.

The Willard coach says they have challenged the kids. “We kind of sold it to our kids that they are expected to finish in the top half and it is kind of your choice to choose your attitude and your effort and whether you think you belong or you think you are were you are supposed to be. We are trying to build in the kid’s minds that it’s a new league and it doesn’t matter. We haven’t played each other that much and anything is possible. We are playing some decent basketball as well. I think it is going to be a good game and I expect our kids to come out and play with a lot of confidence,” he said.

Published 12/21/17

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Lucas Outlasts South Central

After falling behind for the first time in the game with just over a minute and a half to play, the Lucas Cubs scored the next eight points and they downed the South Central Trojans (57-53) in a non-conference boys’ basketball game on Tuesday night.

Lucas (4-0) took a (22-6) lead after the first quarter, but the Trojans closed to (28-20) at the half and (40-36) after three quarters.

‘ South Central (3-3) took its first lead of the game (50-49) with 1:35 to play on a basket in the paint by Alex Holland, but the Cubs would respond. Freshman Ethan Sauder it an open three to give the Cubs the lead back (52-50) and then Jeb Grover cashed in on a layup (54-50) and sophomore Logan Niswander made a free throw and a hoop off a steal to seal it (57-50) with :07 left.

“We have been pretty resilient this year. We show our peak and play pretty well, like in that first quarter, and then we have been bad stretches. I have been happy with our resiliency and our attitude and we stick with it. I guess than comes from experience I have some experienced guards. So, we will take that. They are making it rough on me. I wish we could just keep playing, so we don’t have to worry about that stuff,” said Lucas coach Taylor Iceman.

The Trojans had two critical turnovers once they got the lead. South Central coach Brett Seidel took the blame for those and their slow start. “I sat to start the game because I think that is what my parents want to see. I think they want to me to set down and be calm.,. not yell and scream and get into the game, not be passionate. So, I sat and we went down 22-6,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “I don’t know why for whatever reason they need me to scream and yell at them, so that’s what I do. I take the loss because of lack of communication at the end of the game. I thought we dug ourselves, but we battled back and the kids some resiliency. They hit a couple of big threes from their young kids down the stretch that gave them the game.”

Lucas held South Central’s leading scorer in sophomore guard Simon Blair to 12 points and Iceman says it was part of the game plan to limit his touches. “The Blair kid is extremely tough. He is good with the ball. We were just trying to deny him the ball and not let him get it. We weren’t real successful with that and it led to some transition baskets for them. They spread you out. We played good team defense. We had good help. You have to try and make their other guys beat you,” he said.

Ben Lamoreaux led South Central with 14 points, all in the second half.

Lucas sophomore Logan Niswander led everybody with 22 points on the night. Jeb Grover had 12 and Brian Sauder 11 for the Cubs.

Iceman says Niswander has good skill. “Logan is as talented an offensive player as we have got. He is only a sophomore, so I think once he figures things out with that lineup we put out there he is going to have a nice match-up a lot of nights. I tell him to keep shooting even when he is cold. I think that is our fourth different leading scorer here in four games. So, it has worked out,” he said.

Published 12/19/17

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Clear Fork Looking Good

Clear Fork shares first place in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference with Ontario and Marion Pleasant after three games and they host Galion in a league game on Thursday night.

Last Saturday, the Colts lit up the scoreboard in beating River Valley (101-62) in a conference game.

Coach Steven Bechtel says it was a night when it seemed everything went well for the Colts. “It was one of those nights when everything came pretty easy for us. We moved the basketball around and found the open guy and we had a lot of guys knocking in shots. It was a lot of fun for the guys, it was great to see. Our defensive intensity really though sparked our offense, so that was key for us,” he said.

It seems every game Clear Fork is putting eight to 10 guys in the scorebook and Bechtel says that is going to be key for them this year. “With our balance and depth that is where we feel confident gong into most games that if somebody isn’t hitting hopefully out of all of those guys we will have somebody that will be able to step up each night and knock in shots. Fortunately, we have been okay in that area. We just hope we don’t run into one of those nights when nobody is hitting anything,” said Bechtel.

Galion (2-3,1-2) dropped a game to Marion Harding (52-45) last Saturday. They beat River Valley (91-70) last Thursday. Bechtel says they have an excellent player in Isiah Alsip. “I think they are a much improved team from last year. They are led by Isiah Alsip. He is going to be a handful,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have to make sure he earns every basket and not allow anybody else to have a really good night. We are going have our work cut out for us. We are going to have to go out and do what we do best and execute at both ends of the floor and do it at a high level.”

Clear Fork (4-1,3-0) owns a four game winning streak, but Bechtel says they have to guard against over confidence and keep good focus. “We just constantly tell them it is one game at a time. Never look ahead or anything that way or look behind too much. We want look back at the things we did well and things we need improve and think have game by game improved in some of those areas. I think they are feeling pretty good about themselves. We just have to consistently give the kind of effort that is going to be needed out of all of us,” he said.

Published 12/20/17

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Ontario Gets to be at Home

Ontario has played three Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference games, but Wednesday night’s game with River Valley will be its first at home.

The Warriors last week beat North Union (50-48) and Buckeye Valley (57-46) in “MOAC” games.

Coach Joe Balogh says they have been improving as a basketball team, but they still have a lot of things to refine. “We feel like we have gotten better. We went on the road for three straight games in the league, probably the furthest places that we go and they are all new venues, we had never played in any of those places before. Two of the three games came down to we had to make a defensive stop on the last defensive possession to win the game or prevent the game from going into overtime and we were able to do that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We were a little more efficient when we went to Buckeye Valley Saturday and we are still working on that process and try and make sure we do a better job of taking care of the basketball to be able get shots rather than throwing it out of bounds or throwing it to the other team. So, we feel like we are making progress, but we still have a long way to go.”

Defending the other team has been a cornerstone of Ontario’s success and Balogh says they have done an outstanding job in the half court this year. “Our half court defense has been really good. We haven’t been a team that has forced a lot of turnovers, but I think we have done a really good job of defending our opponent’s actions and not allowing them to get the first look out of a set that they want to get and they have had to go to their second or third. We have also done a pretty good job of containing the other team’s best player or players. So, that is a good sign for us and something we are going to need to continue to do,” he said.

Ontario (4-0,3-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, hosts River Valley (0-4,0-3) on Wednesday night at the “O-Rena,” the “House that Joe Built” in a league game. The Vikings lost to Clear Fork (101-62) on Saturday.

Balogh says they are going to have to be good at transition defense. “They are a team that likes to push the ball in transition and one of the things we haven’t done well earlier, but even against Buckeye Valley. I think Buckeye Valley had seven transition baskets. So, that is a concern going into the game because they do a good job pushing the basketball down the floor. So, they want to play at a faster pace and that is different than the three teams we have played so far in the league. So, it will be interesting to see how we adjust to that. I don’t think we are fearful of playing at a fast pace. The thing will be if we play at faster pace than we have we are going to have to have a little more from the guys coming off the bench, which are starting to gain confidence, so that will be a good test for us,” said Balogh.

The Warriors play Mansfield Senior (3-1) on Saturday night. Balogh says they look forward to matchups with the Tygers, another of the top notch programs in North Central Ohio. “We have played them the last two years and it has been a game that has come down to the last play. The first year we win it on a buzzer beater and last year we win in triple overtime. So, I’m sure they are trothing at the mouth a little bit. It’s a game that our kids are excited about getting an opportunity to play. Anytime you are able to play a Senior High team there is going to be a little more excitement in the air. That will be the case of Saturday night,” he said.

Published 12/20/17

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Shelby Handling Pressure

In two of their three games so far the Shelby Whippets have faced a lot of pressure and they have handled it pretty well, in fact, really well, and that is going to be important this week.

They play at Clyde in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference on Thursday.

They beat Sandusky, the defending division two district champion, (68-63) last week. They had broken Upper Sandusky’s 49-game regular season winning streak (68-59) the week before.

Coach Troy Schwemley says they have been able to handle the press without a bunch of turnovers. “As far as our start goes we are obviously off to a good start and I and really happy with the guys. We are jelling quickly. When you look at the teams we have played in Willard and Upper Sandusky and Sandusky and I think the things that kind of stood out to me against Upper Sandusky and Sandusky both is those teams are really pressure teams. They like to pressure you up and down the floor. We have dealt with the pressure pretty good and taken care of the ball. With a little concern with our conditioning I think our guys have done a nice job of handling the pressure and knowing the difference between being under control and attacking and taking opportunity when those opportunities arise,” said Schwemley.

Shelby (3-0,1-0), #1 in the Swankonsports,com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, play at Clyde (2-2,0-2) on Thursday night. The Fliers lost to Norwalk (53-48) last week.

Schwemley says this is a third straight team that is going to try and attack them with defensive pressure. “I think when I mentioned as far as Upper Sandusky and Sandusky, Clyde is almost like round three of playing another team that just pressures and pressures. They have really kind of shifted their style a little bit. Coach Fretz has a lot of nice athletes up there that really pressure you. He plays a lot of guys. Last year, when we played there I was very impressed with how hard they played and they had a lot of young guys,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think almost everybody is back from last year’s team. They have three guys averaging double figures (Derek) Harrah, he is around 15 a game, and (Camaron) Farrar around 14 and (Seth) Hohman around 11. Those are guys that can score, but it is not just those three. They have kind shifted there style. They play a lot of guys and pressure you in traps.”

With some veteran ballhandlers led by senior point guard Brady Hill, Schwemley says they have handled pressure, but he says it is tough to do in somebody’s else’s gym. “I am glad we have played the teams we have to kind of prepare us. Anytime you go on the road against a team that is thriving on trying to turn you over you have to be ready to play and we are going to have to up there,” he said.

Published 12/20/17

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Lexington Faces Madison in Big Early Season Test

Lexington travels to Madison to face one of their biggest rivals in a big game to establish possible contenders in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race.

Both already have a league loss and they don’t want another one this quickly.

The Minutemen (2-2,0-1) lost to Clyde (77-75) in a non-conference game last Saturday.

Coach Scott Hamilton says they just got too far behind. “It was a tough battle. It was a competitive game. We kind of dug ourselves a hole in the first half being down 10. We were able to put together a pretty good third quarter and then just kind of let in slip away in the fourth. I think we grew a little bit. We understand some of the mistakes we made and hopefully we are working quickly to correct them,” he said.

Lexington has been consistent winners the last several years and to get the level they are used to Hamilton says they have to do some things, but the potential is there. “The good thing that you see with what I’ve got is the potential of where we could be by the end of the season. Now, potential could also be a bad thing if it never materializes into talent. The good thing is we have a lot of guys that are capable and like I said potentially we could be a very good team. Some of the things I see right now is we are searching for an identity,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Our defense is not where it needs to be. Offensively sometimes we are not making the best decisions. Like I said the potential is there and the guys are working hard. Their attitudes are great. Their commitment to the team and each other is just outstanding. So, we are very optimistic that we are going to get their rather quickly.”

It’s a trip across town to Madison (3-2,1-1) on Friday night for an “OCC” game with the Rams. Madison beat Sandusky (76-68) on Tuesday night in a non-league and evened their record in “OCC” play with a (68-53) win over Ashland last Friday.

Hamilton believes Madison is the conference favorite. “I think they are probably to top of the “OCC.” With Kyle Jackson, who is just a very exciting player they have some perimeter scorers, both in the starting lineup and coming off the bench. Cal Rickert is a seasoned point guard and veteran for them. He is a defensive stopper without a doubt. Then you throw in Mason Campbell at 6’4”, who is an All-Ohioan from St. Pete’s that has been to the regional finals two consecutive years. That is just a heck of an addition. I think that has just catapulted then to the top of the “OCC,” said Hamilton.

Wooster, the defending champ, and Mansfield Senior, are both 2-0 in the “OCC” and Hamilton knows this game is important. “That is way the Madison-Lexington games usually come down. It is a situation where both of us are in need of a victory. I think it establishes the winner and puts them in good position. For us it is a little bit different. In the past couple of years, we were the ones that were a little bit favored to where this year there is no doubt about it that they are the favorite, like I said probably in the “OCC.” But definitely in this game,” he said.

Published 12/20/17

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Upper wants to Get out and go

Upper Sandusky is at home for Buckeye Central in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference game on Thursday night and it is game that is going to be dictated by tempo.

The Rams (4-2,1-1) lost by a point in a really good game with rival Carey (71-70) last Friday and then won their first “N10” game (106-51) over Ridgedale on Saturday.

Coach Jeff Winslow says his group is learning what they have to do to win games. He says they finally thot it well against Ridgedale. “Carey is a good basketball team and to go over and play at their place we knew it was going to be tough. We didn’t bring our “A” game and they had some kids step up. Basically, they just made more plays than we did. We had a chance to win it at the buzzer over there and we missed our shot. So, it was a really fun basketball game for the people watching it was up and down. A good basketball game between two good teams. The good thing about it is we took a lot away from it watching film. I think our kids now realize there are things we just can’t get away with doing. This week has been a really good practice since then,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Ridgedale we finally got in track shooting the basketball. We are a team that shoots the ball really well from three, but we just haven’t got untracked this year doing that and on Saturday we finally did, so hopefully that gets the lid off the basket for us and we can start relaxing a little bit seeing the ball going through the hoop and start shooting the ball better here the rest of the season.”

Buckeye Central (0-5,0-2) has found it difficult to find success this year. They lost (49-47) to Seneca East last Friday in a league game and (59-50) Willard Tuesday night in non-league play.

Winslow says Buckeye is a good team and they are going to have to play well to win. “They have had a couple of close games. The Seneca East game, they probably feel like they should have won that game. I just watched that game on film. They have two really nice players in Loy and Schaefer. Phil (Loy) does such a good job over there he is going to be in every game. I just told my kids that we have to be ready because he will have them prepared and they are going to do in the basketball game. They have a few kids that are new to the varsity stage so they are trying to get comfortable. They are going to win their share of basketball games. They are not as bad as their record looks. So, we need to be prepared and ready because I know Phil will have them ready to play against us,” said Winslow.

The Rams want to by very up tempo and Buckeye Central does not. Winslow says that is going to be the key. “They are going to try and slow the game down. They first time we played them last year they weren’t able to. The second time they were able to and they were right in the game. They had the lead in the fourth quarter and we were able to pull away late. It is definitely going to be a battle for tempo, they are going to try and slow the game down and we are going to try and speed it up. That is something we have to do a better job this time around against them,” he said.

Published 12/20/17

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Better Perimeter Defense for Truckers

Norwalk has won two games and lost three this year, but their two wins have both came in Lake Division games and that gives them a share of first place.

They host Sandusky Perkins in a Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division game on Thursday night.

They beat Clyde (53-48) last Friday.

Coach Steve Gray calls it a physical battle. “We won the game we wanted to win in terms of a league game against Clyde and I think Clyde is a really good team. They are athletic, they are strong, they are sort of football type kids and they just get after you. They run 10 kids at you the whole game. We were fortunate to come away with a win. Saturday, we didn’t have a lot of energy and I am not really sure why and we are trying to figure that out,” said Gray.

Keystone beat the Truckers (55-39) on Saturday night.

Gray says it has been the kind of year when it has been difficult to get everybody together. “The good thing is I think for the first time if things go well (Wednesday) we will have our whole team. That is exciting for us. Kyler Lacey that has been out for a couple of weeks comes back from an ankle sprain. With the whole team hopefully we can get things going in the right direction,” he said.

Norwalk (2-3,2-0) hosts Sandusky Perkins (4-1,2-0) on Thursday night. The Pirates have beaten Clyde (72-71) in double overtime and Bellevue (55-51) in league games.

Gray says they have a lot of good players and a practically good coach. “I think Scott McVeigh is a great coach. He puts his kids in a position to be successful. They have everything you need to be a good team,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have some bigs. They have some shooters. They have some good ballhandlers. It is going to be a great challenge for us on Thursday night.”

It should be another close game for the Truckers and Gray says they have to find a way to get out and guard that three point line, something they have not been doing very well. “We have to be consistent. You look at our stats it is sort of interesting. Our free three percentage is about the same as our opponent, our two point field goal percentage the same as our opponent and where we are getting killed is that three point line. We are only shooting about 22 percent and our opponents are shooting about 42 percent. 42 percent from the three is totally unacceptable,” said Gray.

Published 12/20/17

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Madison Hitting its Stride

Madison certainly has the building blocks for an outstanding team and we are starting to see it now after a win last week over Ashland in “OCC” play.

They beat the Arrows (68-53) last Friday.

They play at Sandusky in a non-conference game on Tuesday night and host Lexington in a rival game in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Friday night.

Coach Tim Mergel says they feel like they are putting things together. “I think we starting to get a little bit comfortable with one another. Just me personally, and as a coaching staff, are feeling comfortable a little bit more with some rotations. Anytime you get 23 assists in a game that shows you are sharing the basketball pretty well and that’s what we ended up with Friday night against Ashland. I think the score reflects how unselfish we were,” he said.

Kyle Jackson has stepped up his game for the Rams and Mergel says it is not just scoring the ball. “Anytime you can go up 15 on Ashland and Kyle Jackson is still on three points you know it is a pretty good night. He ended up with 18, but what I thought was most important was he ended up with 18 points and 11 rebounds nine assists, so he was one assist away from a triple double. If we can get that night in and night out obviously it is going to be a good situation. Just in general with him leading from the top it kind of trickles down to other guys,” said Mergel.

Madison (2-2, 1-1) is at Sandusky (1-2) against the Blue Streaks in non-conference play on Tuesday night. Sandusky lost to an outstanding Shelby team (68-63) on Friday in the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference.

Mergel says they will bring pressure and make athletic plays on Tuesday night. “They are ultra athletic. They have a couple of guards out top that really can kind of dictate a game in the (Keith) Williams and number 4. They jumped on Ashland early and were really able to hold a lead. They went down to Shelby last week by five, but I think Shelby is probably one of the best teams in the area and they had a chance to win that. Their record is no indication of who they are,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They are a team that is going to win a lot of ballgames throughout the year. It is going to be a great contrast in styles seeing their type of pressure in defense. It is going to be a really good challenge for us. We are looking forward to it.”

Lexington (2-2,0-1) comes calling on Friday night. Mergel says this is always one of the best games for the Rams all season. “You always circle a couple of games on the calendar and this is one of them for us. We have to take care of some business on Tuesday night. There is no question that we always look forward to the Lexington game and those are always fun and exciting. The last couple of years we have had some games go to the very end. I know both games last year, one in overtime, and the other Tyrell (Ajian) hit about a 28 footer that won it for us at their place. There is always something memorable that is going to happen and something that kids always take away from those games with Lex,” said Mergel.

Published 12/19/17

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Eagles on Beam in “N10”

Colonel Crawford’s number one goal is to win its conference title in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference and so far, so good.

They won their two in the “N10” last weekend in beat Mohawk (73-67) on Friday and Wynford (76-47) on Saturday.

Coach David Sheldon says that is just what they needed. “It was a good double league weekend. Anytime you get two wins this early in the year it was good. Played a very good Mohawk team on Friday and it was nip and tuck the whole way and we were able to pull off a win. Saturday, we went over the Wynford and we got off to a fast start, had a great first half. Got off to a great lead and set the tone right from the get go and it was good to do that on the road in the first road league game. So, we were very happy with the weekend and now it is time to go back to work to prepare for Thursday night with Seneca East,” said Sheldon.

The Eagles (4-1,3-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, have a number of quality players with different skills and Sheldon says that makes them very difficult for a defense to stop. “You look at our stats and it is pretty crazy. We have basically five guys in double figures. So, where is a lot of different weapons out there. Guys that can shoot it, guys that can score inside our offense has been very efficient and we have to keep doing that. The big thing is we have to make sure we don’t turn the basketball over because when you have that efficient offense the only way things go bad is when you throw the ball away of get some careless turnovers,” he said.

Cameron McCready had 10 assists in the win over Mohawk.

Seneca East (4-0,3-0) beat Bucyrus (62-47) on Saturday. Sheldon says the Tigers are going to come in with some confidence. “They are off to a great start. They have a very good post player inside in Turk and they have the Forehand kid that has been there forever it seems like and he can really shoot it and they have some good players around them. They are off to a great start, undefeated, and it is going to be a tough match-up come Thursday,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We have to have a great three days of preparation before they come here. It is good during Christmas break, a lot of people back, alumni, and we are looking forward to the opportunity against a good basketball team Thursday night.”

On Saturday, Crawford travels over to Wayne County to meet the Northwestern Huskies (1-4) in the WQKT/Steve Smith Classic. Sheldon says the have great respect for the Huskies, even though they are off to a little slower start to year. “They are a very good basketball team. It is a great program. Coach Alberts over there has a historic program with the success they have had. I think they play a very competitive schedule. It is a good basketball team. We are excited for the invitation to go over there and play at the College of Wooster Saturday before we take off for the holiday,” he said.

Published 12/19/17

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Mansfield Christian Likes Pressure

Mansfield Christian hopefully has turned a corner.

After not playing well in the first couple of weeks of the season they clearly turned in their best performance of the season in a win over Kidron Central Christian on Friday.

The Flames downed Kidron CC (56-48) on the road in Buckeye Conference play in a gym they usually don’t play very well in traditionally.

Coach John Kurtz says it was the best the Flames have shot the ball all year long. “It was a good win and our kids even probably played a little better than the score. We had a 12-15 point lead in there a little bit in the third and fourth quarter. So, we played well and we shot the ball really well. That had been our problem up until that game we just had not shot it very well. We shot about 45 percent from the three point line against them and we will take that anytime,” said Kurtz.

Although they didn’t play Saturday, Kurtz says his kids are looking forward to getting back on the court Tuesday against Crestview in a non-league game. “You are pretty anxious after playing like that. Our kids felt pretty good about themselves, so we are looking forward to this week. We changed out lineup a little bit and we feel like we are playing better right now,” he said.

Mansfield Christian (2-2) plays at Crestview (1-3) in a non league game on Tuesday night. It was not a good weekend for the Cougars who lost to rival Plymouth (62-49) on Friday and Norwalk St. Paul (77-32) on Saturday in Firelands Conference games.

Kurtz says they are concerned with the Cougars big guys. “We know they have the two big kids inside. The Stimpert boy has been playing well and the King boy shoots the ball very well. We have to be aware of that and they seem to always shoot better in their own gym,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “That is a game where we are going to have to be careful with those two bigs. Hopefully, we can create a lot of tempo in that game because I think that will definitely push the game a little more in our favor.”

Crestview has been known to show a lot of pressure in full and court situations, but Kurtz is pretty confident they can handle that stuff. “The last film we looked at they did a lot of full court man stuff and a little bit of double teaming and a little run and jump. We have to be aware of that. I think you have to be aware and ready for that stuff, but our strong suit though the year has been our guards and we would hope that they could handle that. We really hope that when we see that we are able to take advantage of it,” said Kurtz.

Published 12/19/17

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Trojans Have to Take it to the Game

South Central is a team with some pretty good potential and at times has looked good, but not consistently and that has cost them in their two losses, most notably last Friday night.

New London came to town and beat the Trojans (67-57) in a Firelands Conference game. Coach Brett Seidel says the Wildcats were just better than them. “I have to give all of credit to Tom Howell and his kids and New London. They came in well prepared and they did a good job defending us making us uncomfortable and we were unable to guard them. His son played really well. He came out hot and got comfortable and hit a layup and back to back threes to open the game and that made everybody else more comfortable and it made for a long night for the Trojans,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Again, credit them, they played well and we did not. We bounced back against Mapleton and played really well for three quarters. Now, (Tuesday) we have another tough matchup with undefeated Lucas.”

They beat Mapleton (65-36) in Firelands play on Saturday night.

Defense has been an issue for the Trojans. Seidel says they have been good in practice, but as much in games. “The big thing and this is what coach Durham and I have been harping on, is carry over. We drill and drill and drill and drill and talk about what is proper and what we need to be doing to make us good defensively and we do it… during practice. Carrying it over to the game and applying it to live situations, not a drill is the biggest issue right now. So, just the carryover from practice to games of what we are looking to be more consistent with,” he said.

South Central (3-2) plays at Lucas (3-0) in a non-conference game on Tuesday night. Lucas beat Crestline (70-61) in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game last Friday. Guards Jeb Grover and Brian Sauder both had 23 points.

Seidel says it those guards they are going to have to contain on Tuesday night if they are going to win. “Their experience at the guard position. They have three very experienced, very strong, very efficient guards. They shoot it well and they defend, they are athletic, they are physical. It is a tall order to go into their place and play well enough to come out with a win. It is tough. Hopefully, it being a Tuesday game it has a little bit of a tournament feel playing an undefeated team. So, hopefully we rise to the occasion mentally,” said Seidel.

Published 12/19/17

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Upper Sandusky Hosts Bellevue

Upper Sandusky and Bellevue, two of the better girls’ basketball teams in North Central Ohio, play an interesting non-conference game at Upper on Tuesday night.

Upper (6-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com girls’ basketball poll I the large school division, lost for the first time on Saturday when Buckeye Central beat then (47-44) in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference game.

‘ Coach Brent Fahle says they just didn’t shoot the ball very well against the Buckettes. “When you look back at the stats usually we shoot between 45 and 48 percent. When you shoot 30 percent from the field you are probably aren’t going to beat too many people,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “A quality Buckeye I will give them all of the credit in the world. They did a great job on Saturday and now we have to rebound from that loss and hopefully get one against Bellevue.”

It wasn’t like they didn’t run their offense and get some gook looks at the basket. Fahle says they just missed them when they were there. “I thought we got good looks after I watched the film. I thought we got some really good looks. Shots that we normally hit we didn’t hit. We just missed wide open shots from about 15 to 18 feet and we just missed them. That is basketball and we will move on and get better,” said Fahle.

Bellevue (6-0), #2 in our poll, beat Napoleon (38-36) in a game played at holiday tournament at Shelby High School on Saturday. Fahle says they know it is going to be a challenge. “They are young, but they have a lot of great players. They are well coached. Obviously, things revolve around the Santoro girls, they are phenomenal players and we are going to have our hands full (Tuesday,) he said.

Published 12/19/17

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Vermilion Invites Oak Harbor to Run with Them

Right now, Vermilion is the only team in the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference with a 2-0 league record and that gives them first place, well if you go by halves.

Both Oak Harbor and Willard are 1-0 in the league.

Vermilion (4-1,2-0) plays host to Oak Harbor (4-1,1-0) on Thursday in a Bay Division game.

The Sailors beat Edison (70-60) on Friday night.

Coach Kurt Habermehl says they got out of the gate quick. “We started off really fast. We got out to a 20 point lead in the second quarter, 17 points at halftime. We shot the ball extremely well in the first half, led by Mason Montgomery, who had 18 points. It was a little bit of a sloppy second half, but I thought all and all we did a pretty good job,” said Habernehl.

Montgomery finished with 26.

Former Ohio State star and CBS TV personality Clark Kellogg once called it spurtability and Habermehl says they have that ability this year. “We certainly have the ability to put a lot of points on the board in a hurry. Our problem is every once in a while we fall in love with the three point shot a little bit,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “It is a strength of ours, but if aren’t making them we need to go to something else. So far, for the most part we have done a pretty good job with shot selection. Juts hopefully we can continue that throughout the year.”

Oak Harbor didn’t play a division game last week. They beat Millbury Lake (53-47) on Saturday. Habermehl says his like their guards. “I think Eric (Sweet) does a great job over there. He has done an excellent job with that program. They have a couple of very good guards. Jac Alexander is a very nice point guard. They have another kid, his name kind of eludes me right now, that is a heck of a three point shooter. Then they have the Smith kid inside that is six foot six. They are certainly going to be a load for us to handle. It should be a really good basketball game,” said Habermehl.

When it comes to keys, Habermehl wants to push the pace of the game because he believes it fits his team pretty well. “We are effective when we get teams to turn the ball over and get them to play fast. It will be interesting the see of they will run with us on Thursday because we like it when we get a game like that. So, we are going to have to try and enforce our will and create tempo and make sure we can get some easy baskets off our defense,” he said.

Published 12/19/17

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Rams Want to Beat Height Down the Floor

With losses in their first conference games last week, Friday’s Ohio Cardinal Conference matchup between Madison and Ashland at Madison is going to be pretty important for both teams.

Madison lost (55-51) to Mt. Vernon last Friday in their “OCC” opener, but bounced back with a (75-51) win at Norwalk in a non-league game on Saturday night.

Coach Tim Mergel says they had more of a balanced attack. “It was nice to bounce back so quickly after the night before. We like to use learning situations and that was evident against Mt. Vernon. I think the big thing against Norwalk was some other guys got involved. We were able to knock down some shots early and guys kind of settled in,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “I think the first two games Mason (Campbell) and Kyle (Jackson) were right around 75 percent of our offense and that wasn’t the case against Norwalk on Saturday. If we get that type of effort we are going to be a tough out each and every night.”

Because of the abilities of their two leading scorers, Mergel says the other three kids on the floor at the time are going to get open looks. “We have talked about being shot ready and having in your mind what is next. We have been preaching to the kids that was are going to get open shots for other guys because of the attention those two are going to receive. They are good enough basketball players no matter how much attention they receive they are going to get points. It is going to open up some opportunities for some other guys. The other night we were able to take advantage of it and hopefully that carries over,” he said.

Madison (1-2,0-1) hosts Ashland (0-2,0-1) on Friday night. The Arrows have lost Sandusky (65-54) in a non-league game and last week to defending “OCC” champ Wooster (54-48) at their place.

Mergel says they are big. “They have two losses, but they are not are not a winless basketball team. They have 6’7”, 6’6”, 6’5”, 6’4” and they have a group where four of the five present some problems to you if you want to get inside and score. They have played some pretty good teams. We have to do our best to try and attack them and make them work a little bit. I don’t think they are a very deep team. I think pace is going to be pretty important for us,” he said.

Although, they may not be a team that wants to push the pace all of the time, Mergel says they want to get down the floor on Friday night. “We do pick and choose when we want to run. I don’t it is any secret and coach Hess knows we are going to try and beat them up the floor. I think the more that we can dictate that pace the better success we are going to have. Ashland with their height they present such a challenge for us to score on them. It kind of goes back to the philosophy that if you aren’t very good against a zone beat it down the floor. We are not very good against height and we have to beat the height up the floor,” said Mergel.

Published 12/15/17

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Colonel Crawford Working on Defense

It’s a double weekend in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference for the Colonel Crawford Eagles as they host Mohawk on Friday and travel to rival Wynford on Saturday.

They won a crucial early season game in the league last Saturday when they downed a talented Carey team (71-56) in the league opener for both. That was after losing (66-63) to Northmor in overtime last Wednesday.

Coach David Sheldon says they played pretty well in protecting their home floor. “We were really happy with the way we bounced back. Carey is definitely a very good basketball team. They tied for second in the league last year with us and has everybody back and it was a good win. I have always said to stay in a league race you have to protect your home floor. We did that last Saturday night. It was a good start to a 16 game process in our league. I was very happy with our guys after a tough loss. Got off to a good start in our league,” he said.

A team as talented as the Eagles has a lot of solid attributes, but Sheldon says what pleases him most is their ability to create tempo. “I think the way we are pushing the basketball. We are averaging 66 points a game and this team has done a good job pushing tempo. We you have guys that can score on all five spots on the floor it is tough to guard. When you push tempo it is tough for defenses to set up no matter what defense they are in,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Defensively that is where we are still trying to get better, but I thought in the second half Saturday night we did a good job of getting stops and we were able to push the lead up and end up winning by 15. So, that is the area that we have to keep getting better is the defensive end. The way we have pushed the basketball has been fantastic.”

Colonel Crawford (2-1,1-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, entertains Mohawk (1-1,1-0) on Friday night. The Warriors buried Buckeye Central (61-43) in their league opener.

Sheldon says this is a team with experience and talent. “It is a very good basketball team. Their starting five are five lettermen back that got to the district tournament last year. This is a very good team. They have guard play, they have post play inside. They have some depth last year getting to a district tournament. It is going to be a challenge. Last year, the second time we played them it was a very close game. We are looking forward to the opportunity. It is at our place. We have to be able to defend guards and posts all night long. They have showed a lot of zone defense as well as a little man. We haven’t seen any zone this year, so that has been in our preparation in getting ready for anything they could throw at us,” said Sheldon.

The coach takes the Eagles into his alma mater on Saturday night as they visit Wynford (2-0,1-0) to play the Royals. Wynford beat Bucyrus (61-46) last week in “N10” play.

Sheldon says they have some talent and road games are never easy. “When you look at Wynford they are undefeated right now. The (Josh) Crall kid is an exceptional player. He is averaging 24 a game. They return the (Cole) Heinlen boy and (Caleb) Rausch as well. They are off to a great start and playing with a lot of confidence. They play Ridgedale Friday night. It is a team with a lot of confidence and we have to go over to their place on a back to back league week. After Friday night you have to have good focus and chance the tune come Saturday morning,” said Sheldon.

Published 12/15/17

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Wooster Working Out Kinks

Wooster is the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion and they have played pretty well this year most times and good enough to win every time, but once.

They play at home against Mt. Vernon in a conference game on Friday night.

They started on the road last Friday in league play against Ashland and beat the Arrows (54-48) in beginning defense of their conference title.

Coach Michael Snowbarger says they didn’t shoot it well at all, but they did enough to get the win against a good team. “Especially on the road against a very talented Ashland team. It was ugly after watching the tape I confirmed it was ugly. We didn’t shoot well from the perimeter or the free throw line, but to come away with a win at a very tough place to play at Ashland against a very talented team in the conference opener was definitely a plus,” said Snowbarger.

On Tuesday night, the Generals lost for the first time when Copley beat them (70-67) in a non-conference game. Snowbarger says they had a chance to win and believes they will learn from the experience. “Copley was a great out of conference game for us. We were down one with the ball with 11 seconds and set up a play and got caught with a moving screen. It could have gone either way. To play a team like Copley out of conference, early in the season is definitely beneficial for us as we continue to move on,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Copley is very athletic. They get up and guard you have to handle your pressure. We paid for that, but again now the kids know what they need to do to get better and make the next step.”

Wooster (3-1,1-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at home against Mt. Vernon (3-1,1-0) on Friday night. The Yellow Jackets beat Madison (55-51) in overtime last week. Their first loss came Saturday to Westerville South (60-46) in a non-conference game.

Snowbarger says the Jackets have some players they are concerned with. “Mt. Vernon has definitely gotten better. They went on the road last week and played a very good Madison team and were able to beat them. Collin Barteau is a very good player. We are going to have to find him in transition. If we leave him open from three he is definitely going to hurt us. Kaden Daniels, their point guard, is a great athlete, both on the football field and the basketball court. We just have to limit his dribble drives,” he said.

Published 12/15/17

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Big Weekend for South Central

South Central has shown some good things so far this season, but this weekend is going to be a test for the Trojans in a number of ways.

They play rival New London on Friday and a young and inexperienced Mapleton team on Saturday, both at home.

Coach Brett Seidel says these two games are going to say a lot. “I think this is where we find out who we are. New London has played three quality opponents in Edison, Wellington and Western. We have them on Friday night and then another conference game on Saturday for a double conference weekend. We kind out who is for real and who is not,” said Seidel.

South Central (2-1,1-0) hosts New London (0-3,0-1) on Friday night. The Wildcats lost a tough one (54-51) to Western Reserve last Friday in their league opener.

Seidel says this is a team that is pretty good and improving. “I have seen them on film. Edison is a load, who beat Sandusky Perkins. Obviously, the second half against Western was really good for them as well. Tom (Howell) does a great job so they are going to continue to get better. The inexperience that they have at their positions they are going to get better as the year goes on and Tom is going to have them ready to play,” he said.

Karson Howell is the Wildcats best player right now. Seidel says they have to know where he is at all times. “I think they are aware of that as well. He torched us last year home. Hit big shot after big shot down the stretch. He has gotten bigger, he has gotten stronger. He can score in multiple ways and he gets to the rim now, so he presents a problem. He never stops moving. He wants the ball and everything is kind of geared for him. We are going to have to be locked in and ready to go and guard him as a team,” said Seidel.

Mapleton (0-3,0-1) lost to Crestview (68-41) in their first Firelands Conference game of the season last Friday.

Seidel says this is a game when they are going to have to be focused. “You kind of view it as a trap game,” he told Swankonsports,com on Thursday, “We have a team on paper that we should be better than. They only have two returners with varsity experience at all. One of their best guards is having shoulder surgery in Pharmer. The kids they do have they are going to come out and play and play hard. They don’t care what the score is. That is a trap game for us with having a rival game on Friday night against New London and them having to come back on Saturday against Mapleton. The focus mentally has to be there throughout.”

Published 12/15/17

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Flames Want to Play Faster

Mansfield Christian is not exactly the Cavs when it comes to tempo, but they certainly want to play faster than their opponent Friday night in Kidron Central Christian and that is going to be a big key to the game.

The Flames (1-2,0-1) visit the Comets for a Mid-Buckeye Conference game on Friday night.

Christian picked up its first win last Saturday when they downed Hillsdale (61-56) in a non-league game. Coach John Kurtz says it was at least a tiny step in the right direction. “We finally played a little bit better. We still feel like we haven’t put a lot of things together as a team. We have shown signs of that a little bit this week in practice. We got a win and that was good for our kids. It was just good to get the monkey off your back so to speak and move forward,” he said.

Inconsistency has been the big problem for the Flames. Kurtz says there has been too many low spots when it comes to scoring. “Kind of how we have played in every game early on we tend to have little spurts where we play really well. I think we got up to a 12 to 15 point lead against Hillsdale. Then had a two, three minute spell in the third quarter when we didn’t play so well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Just being consistent and making shots you know you can make. Those things all play into that. We still have some kids that are pretty young with this group. They are feeling their way around a little bit. Hopefully, we get it going here sometime after Christmas and put it all together.”

Kidron Central Christian (0-3,0-1) lost (54-36) to Mansfield St. Peter’s last Friday. Kurtz says the Comets and coach Craig Martin will do all they can to slow you down. “For us, that has been a hard place to play. They do a good job with their 2-3 zone and they really protect the basket. If there is ever a good reason for Ohio high schools to go to a shot clock it would Kidron. They like to slow it down. They like to play slow. They like games in the 40’s. I think we really don’t like to play that way and we become pretty impatient, especially in their gym,” he said.

Kurtz says they don’t want to face that zone. He says they want to get the ball down the floor and kick up the pace. “Yeah, we would like to speed it up. We would just like it to be played a little faster. They run read and react, which is a lot of passing and a lot of cutting and a lot of movement. We would like the game to be a little faster and we certainly hope we can get it to go that way when we go down there,” he said.

Published 12/15/17

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Perkins and Bellevue in Lake Division Game

Sandusky Perkins and Bellevue are two schools trying to find out if they are competitors in the Lake Division in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

They play each other on Friday night at Perkins.

The Pirates are coming off a very good weekend, which included a (72-71) overtime win over Clyde last Friday and then beat Huron (54-47) in an interdivisional game on Saturday.

Jacob Voight made two free throws with a second left to beat Clyde and coach Scott McVeigh says it was a quality win. “It is a good win. Clyde did a nice job the second half of really being the more aggressive team and somehow we snuck out of Clyde with a win. Any league game, especially on the road and we will take it. We played Huron the night after and that was three games in five nights. It is going to be a little weird having just a single game this week against Bellevue,” he said.

Perkins (3-1,1-0) also beat Bowling Green (45-36) last Tuesday. McVeigh says it is kind of nice to concentrate on just Bellevue this week. “It has been kind of a weird week we didn’t get to practice (Wednesday) and we got a real good practice (Thursday.) It is nice because you usually talk about teams and tendencies if you are playing back to back, what they share. We will focus just on Bellevue this week. We know we are going to have our hands full there. They are playing well and had a nice, big win over Sandusky to start their season and then they gutted one out against Willard Saturday night, so we are looking forward to it. We know it is going to be a dogfight. We know it is going to be a battle. Ultimately that is how you get better,” said McVeigh.

Bellevue (2-0,1-0) beat Sandusky (77-60) in their first game of the season last Friday. Trey Ruhlman had 27 points and McVeigh says he is an outstanding player and the Redmen have a lot of good players around him. “They have some nice players. They will get up and down. They will shoot the three. When you look at Bellevue everything starts with the (Trey) Ruhlman. He has done nothing but improve from his freshman year to his sophomore year and it looks like he has made as a much of a jump going into his junior year that he did last year. Everything starts with him, he is one the better guards in the area. He is very dangerous. He is quick, he can shoot it. I think he made 16 free throws against Sandusky. So, he is very, very aggressive.,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You throw (Kayden) Vogel out there and you throw (Jake) Waskielis out there. They have some shooters. Then you throw the (Caleb) Marshall in there I think he had 18 rebounds and numerous blocks. They are very athletic and very dangerous. We relate them a lot to Clyde with how offensive minded they were. It is going to be a tall task.”

Published 12/15/17

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Northwestern Faces Smithville

Northwestern won the Wayne County Athletic League title last season and they are off to a 1-0 start heading into a league game at home Friday night against Smithville.

They beat Chippewa (73-55) last week in their league opener. That is their only win so far, but coach Mark Alberts Jr. says they have played a very tough schedule and have been competitive. “We won our first league and it also happened to be at home and that is nice. We lost three other close games to good non-league teams. One team is undefeated in Woodridge and Clear Fork is 3-1 and Triway is 2-1. When you are tied with a minute to go or less in two of those you have a chance to win. It was nice to get off to that good start against Chippewa in the league,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “With Smithville coming in it is definitely going to be a challenge. They are picked to be one of the front runners in the league with Rittman. We definitely have a challenge in front of us on Friday night.”

Smithville (1-2,0-1) lost last week to Waynedale (60-49) in their league opener. Alberts says they have two really outstanding players. “They have two really good players and they probably do 70 percent of their scoring. Jacob Reed is a 6’4” returning post-forward. He likes to shoot the three, posts up a little bit, jumps well. He was first team all league last year. They have a point guard named Trevor Pertee, a solid point guard and he averaged 15 last year. Jacob Reed was picked as the number one player in the Daily Record area. Our guys are definitely excited to play against him,” he said.

Alberts says their plan Friday night is two limit the impact of Reed and Pertee without letting the other Smithies go crazy on them. “We have to make sure we control those two guys. You always go into it wanting to control good players, but they do so much scoring we want to make it tough on them. Waynedale beat them last week and held them to 49 points and they had half of those if not more. So, we want to control them, but not let the other guys have big games. If they do that then you are in trouble. Offensively we are not sure what they are going to do. They beat Orrville playing a certain way and I am kind of anxious to see how they play us,” said Alberts.

Published 12/15/17

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Clear Fork Plays Aggressive Buckeye Valley

Clear Fork is at home for a pair of Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference games this week as they host Buckeye Valley on Thursday and River Valley on Saturday night.

The Colts (2-1,1-0) beat North Union (62-59) in their first ever game in the league last Friday. They had a double digit lead entering the fourth quarter and almost let it get away. Coach Steven Bechtel says they have talked about that. “We talked about it (Wednesday) with a couple of players because that was a concern for them. Getting off to a better start in the fourth quarter when we have a lead. Who knows what will happen (Thursday) night. Hopefully, we can learn from that and fight through that adversity. Fortunately, on Friday we were able to prevail and come out on top,” said Bechtel.

They have quite a few kids back that have varsity experience, but they are still young kids in some cases. Bechtel says leadership is going to be important this week and this year. “We have Brady Tedrow, he is a freshman, and he is logging a lot of minutes. Brennan South, I know he logged a lot of minutes last year, but still just a sophomore, and he puts in a lot of time out there are well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The juniors and seniors have to really step up and be the leaders on the squad. I think everybody is doing a pretty good job of just playing their role and doing it as well as possible every night.”

Buckeye Valley (1-3,1-0) beat River Valley (66-62) in an “MOAC” game last Friday. They followed that with a loss to Highland (68-63) on Saturday night in a non-league game.

Bechtel says the Barons are going to be aggressive on defense. “Traditionally they are a really, really solid basketball team. Traditionally they press a lot, but they are not as deep as they have been. They still get after it really hard in the half court, so we are going to have to be really strong with the basketball and make really good decisions and make our cuts really sharp, so we are able to move the basketball like we want to,” he said.

So far, the Colts have handled the ball very well this year. Bechtel says that is going to have to continue. “I think so far we have done a pretty good job of handling the ball. The guys have done a good job of moving the ball around and finding the open guy and that is going to be a huge key to our success throughout the entire year, so we just have to continue to do that,” he said.

River Valley (0-2,0-1) comes to the Clear Fork Valley on Saturday. Bechtel says the Vikings approach is going to similar to Buckeye Valley. “They are going to come out and they are going to play aggressive as well. They are going to be a solid basketball team, we played them last year. They have a few guys back. They are going to play hard. The “MOAC” most of the teams are fairly similar that way where they are going to be strong defensively and really look to push the basketball as well,” said Bechtel.

Published 12/14/17

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Tygers Not Satisfied

Mansfield Senior started league play with a win last week over one of their biggest rivals, but they understand they need to continue to get better as a team.

They host West Holmes in an Ohio Cardinal Conference on Saturday afternoon at Pete Henry Gym,

The Tygers (2-1,1-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Lexington (54-53) in an “OCC” game.

Coach Marquis Sykes says it was a good win over the Minutemen, but they need to continue to move forward. “We got that first conference win on the road against one of our conference rivals in Lexington certainly feels good. We have been preaching this week trying to move forward and getting better each day and trying to remind our guys that West Holmes beat us last year in our place and that was certainly one of the low points of our year. Just trying remind the guys that we need to stay focused and we need to be focusing on getting better each week and especially when we have the opportunity to face a conference opponent at home and we have to make sure we are prepared and ready to do what we do,” said Sykes.

Sykes says he wants to bring a different kind of style and approach than the Tygers have had in recent years and it needs some refining. “When I watch us play I just feel like we have to be more disciplined. Defensively, I am not one that likes to gamble a whole lot. My thought process is very traditional. I want to see a lot more discipline on the defensive side of the floor. The offensively, we need to execute a lot better. I have said it before we are not the best outside shooting team, but you don’t have to be,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “There are other ways to score with the basketball, so we just have to be more efficient and get better at executing our offensive sets and make sure our shot selection is where it needs to be. Make sure the guys that should be taking outside shots are taking outside shots and the guys that should be shooting the ball in the paint are in the paint taking shots that fits their skill set. That is what we are focusing on just sort of fine tuning all of those little things offensively and trying to get these guys better and in the right position to be successful.”

West Holmes (3-1,0-0) is playing its first conference game on Saturday. The Knights lost their first game (58-53) to Massillon Tuslaw on Tuesday night. Sykes says the Knights are doing some different things too. “They have pressed a little bit. We have seen them do some things that are different from what they have done in the past. They have three shooters on the floor and guys that will shoot it from anywhere going out to about 23, 24 feet. We know we are going to have to locate shooters. We are preparing to see maybe some full court pressure. We are preparing for a little bit of everything. We know they may show us some zone, some things they haven’t done as much in the past. I think we will be prepared that is something we see day to day in practice when we are going against our JV’s and some of the things we like to do,” said Skyes.

Published 12/14/17

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Northmor Still Striving to Get Better

Northmor has won all four of its games so far this year, but they are not standing still.

They play at Cardington in a Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference game on Friday night.

After a win in the conference last week, (81-51) over Fredericktown, the Golden Knights improved to (4-0,1-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division.

After playing four games in eight days, the Golden Knights will have a week off. Coach Zach Ruth says it has allowed them to get in some practice time. “I think any coach when you have a bunch of games like that and you are winning you just want to keep going. We were actually scheduled to play Danville (Tuesday) night an that would have been our fifth game, but with their football success they moved that game to the 23 of this month. It was like since the games started here we have finally been able to get back and do some break down drills this week. Kind of get back more into a routine other than just preparing for the next game,” he said.

Ruth says they have worked hard in practice this week to challenge the kids and keep them sharp. “Us as coaches have to think outside of the box and try and think of some things to challenge them. For example, (Wednesday) night in practice we were doing break down stuff with the JV’s. If the JV’s got an offensive rebound we had to do 10 push ups. If they got an uncontested shot we had to do 10 pushups. You have to really challenge them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I have never been a fan of letting kids think they have arrived because I think that is a disaster waiting to happen. We like to really challenge them on that. Another thing we have done is we have done a lot of drills where we have to get so many reps in in a certain amount of time. Just trying to keep them ready and hungry.”

Northmor is at Cardington (1-3,0-2) on Friday night. The two schools shared the title in the old blue division of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference last year. The Pirates lost to East Knox (51-49) on Tuesday night.

Ruth says Cardington is very young this year. “Cardington is really young. I have the upmost respect for coach (Rod) Brown. We were high school friends. He graduated from Cardington when I graduated from Northmor. We help each other. Of course, we shared the league title last year. This year he is in rebuild mode running a couple of freshmen. He probably has the youngest team around. They pose a threat. They have the Garrett Wagner boy, which will contend for player of the year in our league. He is a pretty good one. We can’t leave him. We just have to play our game one quarter at a time, one game at a time. We have to be prepared to see some junk defenses and some zones, so we have been working on that as well,” said Ruth.

Published 12/14/17

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Upper Sandusky Starts “N10” With Tough One

Upper Sandusky has won the last two Northern 10 Athletic Conference boys’ basketball titles and they begin defense of that title on the road at Carey on Friday night, another good team.

They had their 49 game regular season winning streak snapped last Saturday night by Shelby (68-59) in a non-conference game.

Coach Jeff Winslow says they learned when they play good teams they have to be execute very well and not be sloppy. “Playing a team like Shelby they are really good and athletic. We haven’t had too many close games the last few years. So, when It’s a close game, learn how to play those. We took away from that several little things that sometimes we have been getting away with. Setting up a screen, screening a man, checking out every time. We have to do little things like shot fake inside against guys that are bigger than us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I think those are the things