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Jays battle Cardinals for MAC lead; Wildcats eying post-season PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, February 14, 2013 1:50 PM

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One team — St. John’s — is still in the running for a conference title.
The other — Jefferson — is seeking to build toward the post-season.
Both hope to take another step in the next few days in league matchups Friday.
The Blue Jays (13-4, 6-1 Midwest Athletic Conference) host league front-runner New Bremen (17-3, 7-1 MAC) Friday night, while Jefferson (4-14, 2-5 Northwest Conference) heads to Bluffton (8-11, 2-5 NWC) that same night.

Blue Jay coach Aaron Elwer hopes his team can continue its strong play as of late, including Friday night’s 57-38 blowout of Versailles on the road.
“We’ve been playing very well. The kids have worked hard and bought into what we’re trying to do on both ends of the floor,” he noted. “We have the scouting report and game plan we put in at the beginning of the week and these kids basically have executed it very well. Things are starting to come together. We had the veteran leadership back to build around but now the kids that were new to the varsity have gained valuable experience. We’re all getting on the same page more and more and that has helped our effort on both ends; you can see it in the confidence we are playing with.”

The Jays trot out a starting five of senior Curtis Geise (19.9 points, 5.9 boards, 2.6 assists per game), senior Ryan Buescher (11.3 counters, 7.1 boards, 3.2 assists, 2.1 steals), senior Seth Bockey (5.1 markers) and juniors Eric Clark (8.0 points, 2.9 dimes) and Ryan Koester (5.6 markers). Off the bench are senior Cole Fischbach (.4) and sophomores Andy Grothouse (4.0), Evan Hays (1.6) and Tyler Conley (1.1) for a unit averaging 57 points and yielding 48.6.
Elwer knows what his Jays are facing with the Cardinals coming to town on Senior Night.

“They build from their defense. They are senior-dominated and very tough and physical,” he added. “They make it very tough on you to run your offense; they force you to one side. They will extend their defense some but mostly, they rely on a half-court man-to-man. They rebound on both ends very well — they average about 13 offensive rebounds a game — and generate offense that way.”

Tipoff of the junior varsity game is 6:30 p.m. Friday. They hit the road Saturday to WBL power Bath.

Though the Wildcats of coach Marc Smith are at the bottom of the NWC standings, the post-season gives them something to shoot for.

“We want to extend our season as long as possible; for us, no minute of extra practice or game time is useless. We use it to get better,” Smith said. “It’s all about getting playing time for all our young guys and improving on our individual skills at this point; we’ve focused a lot on that lately. We have the things we like to run: 3-out, 2-in and open post, for example. We’ve also gotten a bit healthier with the return of junior Ross Thompson (7.1 points, 9.1 boards) from injury. He’s getting his legs back and he gives us a physical present on the court that we lacked when he was out. Plus, he gives us a secondary ballhandler.”

The rest of the starting five has senior Zach Ricker (8.8 markers, 3.6 boards), junior Austin Jettinghoff (6.3 points, 2.3 assists) and freshmen Trey Smith (15.7 markers, 4.7 boards) and Dalton Hicks (2.5 counters, 4.8 rebounds). Off the pine are senior Seth Wollenhaupt (.3 points), junior Tyler Mox (1.1) and freshman Josh Teman (.3) for a crew averaging 42.8 points and ceding 56.7.

Smith remains focused on his crew’s development as they prepare for the final three games of the season.

“We expect to be competitive Friday night, Monday versus Van Wert and next Friday vs. Columbus Grove; we expect to play well,” he added. “We have concentrated on defense all season; we are getting there but we’re not near where we were a couple of years ago when we had a lot of success. The kids are trying and working hard to get there; they are buying into the need to be able to stop people and rebound night in, night out. With the injuries we’ve had, we had guys playing out of position. Now, we’re getting back to where they can play where they are more comfortable. Plus, we are faced with the simple fact of lacking strength and mental maturity, of being able to play varsity ball on a physical and mental level. That simply takes time.”
JV tip Friday is 6 p.m.


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