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Wildcats, Jays look ahead to rest of season PDF Print E-mail
Friday, January 11, 2013 1:32 PM

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Entering the final month and a half of the regular season, both Jefferson head boys basketball coach Marc Smith and his St. John’s counterpart, Aaron Elwer, have seen progress from their respective teams.

Smith, whose Wildcat team is 3-6, 1-1 in the Northwest Conference, can see light at the end of the tunnel.

“We are markedly improved from the start of the season. We’ve won our last two and if we continue to progress and play with the effort we have been, I can see a few more wins the rest of the season,” Smith acknowledged. “The kids have worked really hard and it’s nice to see some reward for that work ethic. We still do our scouting reports on our opponents and have our game plans but the focus has been on what we are doing more than what our opponents are. We have focused a lot on the fundamentals and will continue to do so; the kids have bought into the approach and they display a great attitude and work ethic to get better.

“One of the things we have been solid with has been our free-throw shooting. We have also rebounded the ball very well this year. Those two, along with our ability to guard people — for the most part; some nights haven’t been as good but that is more the high level of our opponent — have given us a chance to win every night.”

The starting five has senior Zach Ricker (9.1 points, 3.0 boards, 2.0 assists per game), juniors Ross Thompson (8.2 markers, 10.0 boards) and Austin Jettinghoff (5.6 counters, 2.7 assists), sophomore Nick Fitch (4.8 points, 5.2 caroms) and freshman Trey Smith (12.7 markers, 4.3 boards). The bench, which won’t have junior Jordon Williams, who moved back to California, does have junior Tyler Mox (1.1 points), senior Seth Wollenhaupt (.4) and new member Dylan Hicks (freshman; .7). Overall, the Wildcats average 42.3 points and cede 49.8.
“At times, we have struggled putting the ball in the basket and handling the ball. We all understand that and we all work hard to try and address that situation,” Smith continued. “We’re also still addressing our depth issue. We lost Jordon; he is a great kid and it’s been tough for him to move here and then back to California. We’ve had some injuries that we’re working through as well, so this is a work in progress.”

The Wildcats, who opened 2012-13 with six straight road games and only finally hosted their first game last Friday in a 47-46 last-6-seconds victory over Ada, know what’s coming onto The Stage tonight: powerhouse Lima Central Catholic.

“I don’t think they have any weaknesses. Just when you think they can’t be any more athletic, they are,” Smith added. “They have a post presence, they have a lot of athleticism and depth and they seem to be more disciplined this year, especially defensively. They are so capable of forcing a turnover and quickly turning it into points at the other end. They can guard people as good as any team around.
“Our focus is on ourselves: how are we going to guard them and rebound? How can we handle the ball well and not give them those easy looks in transition? Those are what we need to find out.”

Tip-off is at 6 p.m., with the junior varsity game first.

Elwer, whose Blue Jays are 6-3 (2-0 in the Midwest Athletic Conference, have steadily gotten better, as he hoped.
“We had the late start due to football but we have made a lot of steady improvement. We have faced some very difficult competition both inside and outside the conference, so that bodes well,” Elwer began. “We are in the second season of a new offensive system — both half-court and in transition — and that helps a lot with confidence and knowing what to do in certain situations. We had some veterans back to help the transition but we have a lot of fresh faces on varsity and they have fit right in.

“Same thing on the defensive end; we’ve been trying to do some different things and the kids have picked up on it quite well.”
The Jays trot out a starting five of seniors Curtis Geise, Ryan Buescher and Seth Bockey and juniors Ryan Koester and Eric Clark. Three sophomores come off the pine: Andy Grothouse, Ryan Conley and Evan Hays.

Elwer knows his team still has a long ways to go.

“Most coaches will tell you it’s about being consistent for 32 minutes each game and from game-to-game. We haven’t done that yet,” Elwer continued. “We have had stretches where we have played exceedingly well but we have those lapses where we don’t. That is a never-ending quest and one we will continue to strive for.”

Elwer also knows what his team faces when Minster pays a call tonight in the MAC (6:30 p.m. JV start).

“They have a little bit of everything: they have experience with Devon Poeppelman in his fourth year and Adam Niemeyer in his third on varsity,” Elwer added. “They have size with Ethan Wolfe in the middle at 6-6, 240 pounds, but he is also capable of stepping outside. Defensively, they play hard. When they have put it all together at times this season, they are very good.”


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