On Tuesday night, the Russia and Fort Loramie boys basketball teams, 9-0 and 7-1, respectively, resume one of the region’s healthiest and most competitive rivalries at the Redskins gym. It’s also one of the closest. Extremely so.
In fact, the difference is darn near microscopic!
Over the last 25 meetings, the Redskins lead by a game, 13-12, and average only a scant point per contest better than Russia, 49 to 48. An unofficial count reveals the Redskins have made just seven more field goals than the Raiders in head-to-head battles since the 2011-2012 season.
And a dozen of the 25 confrontations have been decided by only one or two offensive possessions in the final half-minute.
There is no reason to believe this week’s game won’t be determined by another razor thin margin. Russia snatched a one point triumph over Fort Loramie last season and has squeezed out three one-pointers in recent years. The Redskins took tight tourney tilts in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Tip-off for the varsity match at Fort Loramie is 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening. ScoresBroadcast.com is on the air with the pregame segment at 6:55. Jack Kramer and Chuck McBee are on the call.
At the start of this new year, only 17 of the 42 contests on the full Shelby County Athletic League boys schedule had been played. However, already weighing on the minds of both the Raiders and Redskins are key wins and losses in the league, an edge in the season’s two-game series, and sectional tournament seed implications. All SCAL schools but D-III Anna and Houston compete in the 14-team D-IV Piqua tourney.
Russia sits atop the SCAL at 4-0. Jackson Center is 5-1; Fort Loramie, 2-1. Only the Tigers and Fairlawn have played each club in the SCAL at least once.
The Botkins boys, who have yet to play Russia, have dropped two in the SCAL. Anna has lost three; Houston, five; and Fairlawn, six.
The Raiders completed a two-game holiday tournament at the end of December in Covington, defeating handily both Northwestern and previously one-loss Bradford. Fort Loramie got a late start to the hoops season as a result of its deep run in the Division-VII state football playoffs. The Redskins topped Margaretta by eight points in an event at Cedar Point last Thursday, after whipping Botkins on Tuesday. Jackson Center routed Houston and Fairlawn last week.
The SCAL boys basketball campaign began on Thanksgiving weekend with the league’s most exciting game to date. A big fourth quarter rally propelled Russia to a thrilling 42-41 victory over Jackson Center at the Raiders gym. Jackson Center held home court on December 13 in downing Fort Loramie, 50-42.
Tuesday’s Russia-Fort Loramie fray is the only tussle between the two programs before the tourney draw on Sunday, Feb, 5. The schools collide again head on in the season finale on February 10.
So, obviously, much is at stake tonight.
By the way, the streaking Raiders, Redskins and 8-1 Tigers have combined to lose only twice through the 2022 part of the season. Overall, they are 24-2.
The Redskins scored impressive December wins over three Midwest Athletic Conference schools — St. Henry, Versailles and Fort Recovery. Russia has won its nine games by a commanding 28 points per tilt. The Tigers have recorded eight wins in a row.
SCAL boys action heats up even further this Friday when Russia and Jackson Center square off in their second scrap of the season. This one takes place in the lair of the Tigers.
Fort Loramie hosts Jackson Center in a return match on Jan. 24.