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Friday, February 27, 2009

State Tournament - One Advance, Two Fall

J. C. Tilton
Thursday night was the opening round of the state tournament for three area teams, the season would halt for two and so only one would advance to the next round. The first game had familiar foes Twin Valley South and Preble Shawnee. This would be the third meeting between the two teams, but the first one at a neutral site. The previous games had taken place at Shawnee’s home court. The series was tied with one win apiece, with both games being hard fought. Fans were looking forward to yet another battle on the hardwood.

But Thursdays game was anticlimactic. South used a stifling defense and a strong presence on the boards to control the game. Shawnee had a tough time getting anything going offensively against the Panthers. South used to the same zone as they had in the previous encounter. But Shawnee was cold from outside - a good many of their points came from driving to the basket. And any rebounds from missed shots were quickly scooped up by the Panthers.

South’s scoring was consistent. Shawnee showed a type of zone in the opening quarter, but went to man to man when South drilled some three point shots. Then the Panthers moved the ball inside and continued to rack up the points. At the half South was up, but not by a lot. Shawnee was down 19-8 with seconds left when Dylan Brown hit a buzzer beater to give Shawnee some momentum going into the locker room.

But in the second half the wheels fell off the Shawnee cart. South charged out of the locker room and built an impressive 18 point lead. Shawnee just couldn’t mount a response. When the horn sounded, South won 50-35. Tony Augspurger was ecstatic about the teams performance, “This was one of the best games we had for doing the things we laid out in practice. We talked about what we had to do to for each move they would make and to their credit we did everything we discussed in practice. Innis and Walker did a particularly good job on the boards. Ryan Innis did a good job of keeping his composure when Shawnee gave him extra attention. We have not been a good third quarter team and I told them in the locker room that if we want to be a tournament team, we have to win third quarters - and tonight we did that.”

Roger Ellis on the Arrows, “We plain didn’t shoot well tonight. South gave up some good looks, but we didn’t take advantage. We were hesitant with our offense. And when South came out strong in the second half, we didn’t respond. We held them to 50 points and if we could have generated any offense at all, we could have been in the game. But 5 out of our last 6 games we haven’t scored 50 points, you can’t win games like that.”

The Dixie Greyhounds drew a tough Dayton Christian team in the opening round. It has been a disappointing season for the team and although the team gave a good effort, the Crusaders just had too many weapons for the Greyhounds to stop. The team was tentative in the first quarter. Caught some momentum in the second quarter, and closed the gap with DC. Seniors Matt Risner and Nick Worley scored during this run. But just when the game got interesting, Dayton Christian found another gear and left the Greyhounds behind. They went on to win 57-38.

Joe Miller was unhappy with the loss, but pleased with his seniors. “They are good kids, and they didn’t quit out there - they played hard. Dayton Christian is a good team and are loaded with seniors. We played some young kids today. They did well too and we talked in the locker room about next summer, what we want to do as a team to get where Dayton Christian is today. It’s been a tough season, but next season will be nice - we’ll be alright.” Comments:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

National Trail - New Football Coach

I like the selection that National Trail made for their new head football coach. It is Coach Graher formerly from Mississinewa Valley. The Black Hawks for a number of years were the team that you scheduled for homecoming. Lucky to eek out one or two wins a season. But Graher turned that program around and made it respectable. Even getting them into the playoffs for the first time ever. So here is a guy with proven track record.

He is being thrown into a similiar situation. Trail can count the number of winning seasons that they have had on one hand - and still have fingers to spare. Sports in general at Trail have really fallen off, although there are signs of life in the 2008-09 school year. I think that it is a good decision and I would like to see what one of the biggest school districts in the CCC can accomplish.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

No Love Here

J. C. Tilton
Saturday was Valentines day. But there was no love in Preble Shawnee’s gymnasium as the Arrows squared off for a defensive battle against their neighboring adversary, the Twin Valley South Panthers. Veteran coaches Roger Ellis and Tony Augspurger had their respective teams ready to play on Saturday. South was trying to rebound from a Friday night thumping from league leading Miami East. But revenge was on their mind - Shawnee had beat the Panthers in December at the Holiday tournament. Shawnee was likewise trying to rebound from a Friday loss - a narrow 2 point loss against Carlisle.

Both teams played shut down defense in the first half. South played in a zone which they stuck with all night. Shawnee played some man to man and varied their half court defense. They did press against South, it was not too effective in the first half, but in the final stanza, their press would generate turnovers. The South defense was strong inside initially - blocking several shots and negating the Shawnee inside game.

South was starting to accumulate fouls and with about 4 minutes left had their 7th. During the game Shawnee would toe the line more often as South, but would shoot 53% from the foul line. Meanwhile South would make the most of their opportunities and their foul shooting was almost 80%. There were several lead changes in the second quarter. It looked like Shawnee would take a lead into half time, but Jordan Combs nailed a buzzer beater to give South a 23-21 halftime lead.

In the third quarter South kept making shots to keep their lead. Every time Shawnee would close the gap a South player would make a timely shot to extend their lead. Ryan Nisius and Clint Spitler both hit key three pointers during this stretch. Eric Walker would get his 3rd foul in the third quarter and at the start of the 4th he got another and was sent to the bench. Shawnee turned up the heat by going back to the press - and now were generating turnovers. Post player Levi Robbins put in some critical minutes in the fourth quarter. He scored 6 points in a row when South needed a momentum boost.

South held off the Shawnee onslaught and went into a slowdown offense. Shawnee fouled, but fouled the wrong guy. Ryan Innis would coolly score 5 points from the line in the last minute of the game and would have a total of 10 charity points for the night. South would win 54-49.
“It was a hard fought game from both of our perspectives,” stated Coach Augspurger from TVS, “Both teams are less than we thought we would be at this point in the season. We’ve both lost games we thought we should have won. I know Roger [Ellis] feels the same way. Our second half was great tonight. We had foul trouble, but we made some shots in the second half. We haven’t always used good basketball skills this year, but tonight we took a step in the right direction.”

Rockets Catch Fire in Second Half

J. C. Tilton
The Tri-County North Panthers fell into a tough district in the Division Three State tournament. It is a murder’s row of teams - most of which have winning records. The strength of the district shows when last years state champs - Versailles only drew a 5 seed. Their opponent was the Anna Rockets, a battle tested team from the Shelby-Mercer county area.

North seemed to be a bit intimidated in the first quarter. Anna capitalized by scoring the first 7 points of the game. The North defense stepped up and started to generate some turnovers and these turnovers became points. Mallory Ullery scored, then Sarah Whittaker scored 3 fast break layups in a row, and senior Emily Ervin chipped in a bucket. And although the Panthers were down after one quarter, it was by just 6 points.

One pattern became evident early. The Rockets were substituting freely while the Panthers were limiting their substitutions. Anna used full court pressure during a good part of the game to help tire the Panthers. They did not generate many turnovers from the press, but did make them work the ball down the court each possession. North did try to use a zone thru most of the game to save the legs of their players. Anna countered the zone with a single post spread offense to try to spread the North defense thin.

In the second quarter North had a strong finish. After being down by double figures, they scored the last six points of the quarter and kept the gap at 6 - being down 27-21. Kindra Mullins scored from the field just before the half, but the rest of the points came from free throws as North made a point of driving to the basket against the tough man to man half court defense of Anna.

The Rockets blasted off in the second half. North assigned Abbie Schlater to Anna’s Carrie Watkins who had been an offensive dynamo. She would end up with a game high 19 points. But once North slowed down her down, the remainder of the Anna team stepped it up. Both offensively and defensively. And North’s woes were later compounded when 6 foot post player Mallory Ullery got her 5th foul. Her inside presence had helped keep Anna away from the basket. Scoring inside and outside the Rockets built an insurmountable lead. By the time that the dust settled, Anna had a comfortable 55-33 victory.

Coach Music was disappointed with the loss, “They did a good job of taking Rachel Heindl out of the game. We had a good run at the end of the first half. But they just dominated in the second half.” On his seniors, “Rachel Heindl scored over 1100 points for us and was a competitor. Sarah Whittaker pound for pound, inch for inch may be the most hard nosed player I ever coached. She keeps getting after people on defense and is a vocal leader for the team. Emily Ervin sparked us in several games with her three’s. She was a real team player throughout the season.

Finally, “We take pride in our record as a 13-8 team. We won the mythical Preble County championship as we swept the other teams. There was a late start to the season since I took over at the last minute. I am looking forward to next year with our returning players and being able to get them ready this summer.”

Scoring for the Panthers: Sara Brierly 3; Emily Ervin 3; Rachel Heindl 6; Kindra Mullins 5; Mallory Ullery 8; Sarah Whitaker 8. Comments: