The first week is in the books in County boys basketball, and five of the seven teams were able to come away with at least one win on opening weekend.
Friday night was league night, and Anna, Jackson Center and Russia all were victorious.
On Saturday night, County teams went 2-3 in non-league games.
On Friday this week, Fairlawn looks for its first win on a visit to Anna, Fort Loramie is at home to match 1-1 records with Botkins, and Jackson Center travels to Houston for each team’s second game of the season.
On Saturday, Botkins hosts Allen East, Fairlawn hosts Bradford, Jackson visits Indian Lake, and Houston stays home to face Franklin Monroe.
Russia was scheduled to play Minster Friday, but since that game was postponed because of Minster’s football playoff run, the Raiders are off until next Tuesday (Dec. 8) at Anna.
The Tigers opened with a good win on the road against County rival Fort Loramie Friday, thanks in large part to a dominating first half.
“I was pleased because you never really know what to expect in that first game, especially going on the road against a quality team,” said head coach Scott Elchert. “We really got ourselves off to a good start, up 27-10 at the half.”
Everyone knew the Tigers had two of the top players in the County returning this season in Drew Sosby and Brady Wildermuth. And in the opener, they combined for 43 of the 54 points the Tigers scored.
“I really thought it was just the way the game unfolded,” said Elchert of the two’s percentage of points scored by the Tigers. “We didn’t have to run a lot of specials to get them the ball. I felt like the other kids were active and involved, and Bryce Sosby did a good job of getting us into our offense. Drew and Brady got some points in transition and the others out of the offense.”
The Tigers face a double weekend this week, starting with Houston Friday and concluding with Indian Lake Saturday, both on the road. Jackson won’t play at home until a week from Friday.
Being off last Saturday, Elchert got a chance to see Houston firsthand when the Wildcats opened the season at Newton that night.
“Houston is an improved team that got down early against Newton, but came back and had a chance to win,” he said of the Wildcats’ overtime loss. “They are definitely improved this season. (Zach) Freytag played well inside. He’s a big kid and takes up a lot of space. And they have guys on the perimeter that can knock down shots.”
The Tigers make the short trip down 274 to Indian Lake on Saturday.
“Lake was supposed to open last week, but they were playing Wapak, so that game got called off because of football,” Elchert said. “So I know very little about them, except that they lost a couple of good players to graduation from last season.”
It was an impressive opening weekend for Spencer Cordonnier and the Russia Raiders, who came within five seconds of starting off the year 2-0.
The Raiders got a win in Cordonnier’s debut when they beat the team many expect to challenge in a big way for the County title, Fairlawn, on Friday night. Then a night later, the Raiders went to St. Henry and lost 40-39 when a Redskin player hit a tough shot from the corner with :05 remaining in the game.
Josh York, a 6-foot-5 post player, started off the season with a 29-point effort against Fairlawn, then followed that up with 14 points and eight rebounds at St. Henry.
“Josh did a great job in both games,” said Cordonnier. “But obviously, we have to find some perimeter scoring. And we will.”
The Raiders won’t play this week. They were scheduled to take on Minster Friday night, but because of Minster’s postseason run in football, the game was postponed and rescheduled for Dec. 23 at Russia.
Cordonnier doesn’t mind the layoff, which will stretch to next Tuesday, when the Raiders face Anna in County play.
“It will give us a chance to re-evaluate some things,” said the coach. “We didn’t get a whole lot of scoring out of our guards, so this will give us a chance to get better. If we’re going to win games, we have to have balanced scoring. We can’t depend on Josh to score 29 points every night.”
Cordonnier was ultra-pleased with the way his kids played defense.
“We played exactly how we wanted to play defensively. Maybe even a little better than I expected,” he said. “I can’t complain one bit about that. We pretty much emphasized that from day one, and told the kids ‘the guys that guard are the guys that play.’ And they flat-out got the job done last weekend.
“We’re not exactly very big,” he added. “We have some shooters, but we have to get them in position to shoot. Moreso than anything, we have to play inside out more than we did in the first two games. If we can get the ball inside, and work it back out, we’ll get open looks.”
Even though his Redskins suffered a loss in last weekend, head coach Corey Britton was effusive in his praise for his Loramie team after falling to Jackson Center, then coming back and nipping New Knoxville at the buzzer a night later.
“The tenacity, the energy, and just the toughness,” said Britton. “I really like our team. We played extremely hard. On Friday night, we spotted Jackson Center a 17-point lead at the half, and you can’t give a team as good as Jackson that kind of a lead. But with five minutes left, we were only down five. We wound up shooting just 19-for-60 from the field and still had a chance in the fourth quarter.
“Then on Saturday night, we led the entire second half, but lost the lead with a minute to go,” he added. “But the kids kept their poise and found a way to win.”
That game ended 52-51 when Drew Wehrman hit a floater in the lane with three seconds left to give the Redskins the win.
“Drew played well and did a nice job of taking the reigns,” said Britton. “Dillon Braun played well for his first week of varsity play. He’s always been able to shoot, but he and Tanner Rosengarten really got after it on defense, too.”
The Redskins return to County play Friday night at home against the Botkins Trojans, who are also 1-1 on the season.
“They played well Friday night against Anna, and then really took care of Parkway Saturday,” Britton said. “They have the Bergman kid back (6-foot-7 Chad), and some other kids that can shoot. If we’re not ready to play, it’s going to be a long night. Every night in the league this year is going to be a battle.”
Put Botkins coach Brett Meyer right alongside Loramie’s Britton in how he feels after week one of the season.
The Trojans gave Anna all it could handle on the road Friday in losing by six, then routed Parkway a night later at home.
“Going to Anna is always a battle anyhow, but this year it was the opener,” he said. “But I thought we came out and played really strong and hung tough with them. They just made more plays than we did in the third quarter, and we had some turnovers that hurt us. We had four turnovers in six possessions in the third quarter. But we battled back.”
Chad Bergman, Botkins’ 6-7 post player, got his points as expected, but Meyer got good efforts from elsewhere on the floor.
“Luke Bergman hit a couple of big threes in the two games, Erik Greve played well, and Nolan Greve came off the bench and really gave us a spark. And Aaron Fullenkamp is on the point and I thought he was outstanding Friday night. He got the ball to the open guys and kept Anna’s press from bothering us.”
The Trojans now turn their attention to a big County game Friday night, again on the road against 1-1 Fort Loramie.
“It’s a tough place to play and their floor is a little bigger, so you have to adjust to that,” Meyer said. “They have the big kid in the middle (6-7 Tyler Siegel), and (Dillon) Braun had a big game Saturday (19). So we have to be able to get out on their shooters.”
The Trojans return home Saturday night to face Allen East, which goes into this weekend with a 2-0 mark.
It wasn’t the way the Fairlawn Jets were hoping to start the season, with two straight losses. But head coach Justin Tidwell said the formula his team used last week led to those setbacks.
“We averaged 18 turnovers in the two games, gave up 20-plus points both nights in the fourth quarter, and allowed two kids to score around 30 points,” he said. “That leads to losses. But the bright side is we were still in both those games, and against two quality opponents.”
The Jets lost 56-48 at Russia and 65-64 at Triad on a bucket with 1.8 seconds left. They go on the road again Friday night against Anna in County play before finally getting to play in the friendly confines for the first time on Saturday against Bradford.
“We weren’t able to get into a flow offensively against Russia,” he said. “They did a very good job defensively on us and we never felt comfortable against their defensive pressure. Our turnovers were a result of not being patient in running a half-court offense. We have to make sure we are able to do that.”
Russia did a good job on high-scoring Nathan Lessing Friday. He got 16, but had just seven after three quarters. On Saturday, he erupted for 30. “The scoring is there. We just have to give ourselves a chance by taking care of the ball,” Tidwell said.
The Jets play at Anna Friday and the Rockets are coming off a 68-62 win over Botkins to start the season.
“Going to Anna will be a tough assignment,” Tidwell said. “They had a good win against Botkins and have a very big lineup. And Wyatt Bensman kinda completes their offense. So we’re going to have to get a good defensive effort and make sure we don’t let their guards go off. We have to go in there and play hard.”
The Rockets got a huge lift from a youngster Friday night and it led to a 68-62 victory over the Botkins Trojans in the season opener.
Wyatt Bensman, just a sophomore, hit four three-pointers and finished with 22 points to power the Rockets. Botkins coach Brett Meyer said this week that Bensman “turned the game” with his second-half, long-range buckets.
“Without his play we weren’t going to be where we wanted to be,” said Anna coach Nate Barhorst. “He really gave us a lift. Wyatt is capable of shooting like that every night out. I don’t know if I expected that last week, but he’s a gamer and he lives for those opportunities. So it didn’t surprise me.
“Overall it was a typical first game,” he added “There are a lot of things we need to shore up. We need to get better defensively and we have to box out and not just rely on our athleticism. Botkins played hard and crashed the boards, and that’s what kept them in the game.”
He knows he’s going to see a hungry Fairlawn team come to town Friday night after the Jets lost a couple of close ones on the road last week.
“We told our kids theyre going to come in here wanting a win badly after last week,” said Barhorst. “They’re a big rival. We have to make sure we know where (Nathan) Lessing is, but they have a lot of other weapons too. So we have to know where those guys are and we have to limit them to one shot.”
Anna’s game Friday is the first of nine games scheduled this month.
The Wildcats, after winning just once last season, nearly equalled that with a win in the season opener Saturday. But Newton was able to come away with an overtime win.
And head coach John Willoughby was a bit disappointed.
“Going in, we had some expectations there after the way we played in preseason,” he said. “I know you can’t put a lot of stock in scrimmages, but we didn’t have the defensive intensity we should have Saturday, and that should always be there. And running our offense wasn’t as smooth and continuous as I thought it would be.”
But he was pleased with one aspect of the game. “One of the things we wanted to do is increase our number of shots this year,” he said. “And Saturday night, we took 20 more shots than our average from last year. And as we watched the film, we had maybe six bad shots and that was it. So I was happy with that.”
The Wildcats face a big task Friday night against Jackson Center at home. And Willoughby said that his defense has to be there Friday.
“I saw them play and their top three are as good as any three in the area,” Willoughby said. “They are much improved from last year even. We’ll have our hands full, and I don’t know if we can guard them. So we’ll have to come up with something.
“They will make us play hard,” he added. “And if we don’t it will show. It will be a good test to see if the kids will go out and play like we think they should.”
Reach Ken Barhorst at 937-538-4818