The Jackson Center Tigers, winners of six of their last seven, are trending in the right direction and would seem to be primed for their clash with league-leader Botkins on Friday.
Since Dec. 11, Scott Elchert’s club is averaging nearly 60 points per contest and, with the exception of a fourth quarter slide versus New Bremen, is playing consistently well at the offensive end of the floor. The Tigers started the season scoring only 24 and 36 in opening losses to Botkins and Fort Loramie, but are shooting a simmering 58% on two-point field goals since then.
Jackson Center, 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the Shelby County Athletic League, hopes to turn the tables on Botkins, 9-1 on the season and 5-0 in league play. A Tigers’ victory would tighten up the race considerably. Despite losing by a point on New Year’s Eve to Marion Local, the defending state champion Trojans were ranked number in Ohio this week in the state’s first Associated Press Division IV basketball poll.
Like Jackson Center, Fort Loramie and Russia both have two setbacks in the SCAL. They are set to collide Friday in another important league battle.
ScoresBroadcast.com and WMVR, 105.5 TAM FM, provide play-by-play of the crucial Botkins-Jackson Center encounter. Air time is at 7 p.m.
The Tigers now boast a couple double-digit scorers — Carson Regula and Jace Mullenhour — who are versatile offensive and defensive performers. Each tallies a dozen points per night. The two combine for ten rebounds a game. Nolan Fark chips in with nine points and nearly three boards. As a team, the Tigers are limiting the opposition to an amazingly-low 14 rebounds for every four quarters of action.
You can bet that figure will be challenged by the taller Trojans on Friday. Botkins hits the glass for 24 rebounds per contest. Head coach Phil Groves’ front line has blocked 40 shots on the season and altered many more.
Brothers Jacob Pleiman, at 6-6, and Carter Pleiman, at 6-5, are scoring 17 and 10 per game, respectively. Guard Jameson Meyer tacks on eight more. Dylan Topp is playing his best basketball of the season and has upped his points per game total to seven.
Botkins players and coaches will be the first to tell you that the very competitive SCAL pushed the Trojans during last year’s schedule and prepared them well for the state title run. The Trojans closed 2020-2021 with 14-straight victories after dropping tight SCAL battles with Anna and Fort Loramie.
The Botkins’ win over Jackson Center last season at BHS was by a mere three points. The first contest between the two was a dead heat near the end of the third quarter.
Friday’s fray, on paper, looks much too close to call. Incredibly, Botkins is averaging 51.4 points per game and Jackson Center is a tick better at 51.6. Botkins has increased its three-point shooting mark to 37 per cent. The two teams are rock solid defensively, allowing opponents to score only 8 or 9 points per period.
The boys season so far has been a mystery, at times, throughout the area. During December, Fort Loramie thumped New Bremen by 16 points right before the Cardinals whipped St. Henry by 11. St. Henry then pounded Fort Loramie by 16.
When interviewed recently by ScoresBroadcast.com, 11-year Marion Local head coach Kurt Goettemoeller noted that it’s one of those years “when team A can beat team B, which can beat C, which can beat A,” during a fairly short span of time.
This season, when making forecasts on game outcomes, abide by your ABC’s… “Always Be Careful.”
Goettemoeller knows first hand how such results, which are mind-boggling at first, can occur. His club topped St. Mary’s after the Roughriders routed St. Henry. Goettemoeller’s Flyers were then knocked off by St. Henry, the night before Marion upset Botkins.
Dubious and unforeseen results are taking place each weekend during a season when a high degree of balance clearly exists from school to school and from league to league. If you think for a minute that your team is the favorite to win, you’d better think twice.
Botkins has won the last four over Jackson Center and put the defensive whammy on the Tigers in November. That result means nothing on Friday night. It’s a new game in a new and “unpredictable” year.