Wauseon and Archbold look to represent the Northwest Ohio Athletic League and Fulton County well when they compete at the OHSAA State Boys Basketball Tournament this week in Columbus.
The Indians kick things off Thursday morning at 10:45 a.m. against Eastmoor Academy of Columbus in the Division II semifinal.
Eastmoor, like Wauseon, comes into the game on a roll, fresh off a pair of convincing victories in the regional. The Warriors defeated ninth ranked Fairfield Union 55-37 in the regional semifinal, then followed that up with a 69-48 victory over 10th ranked Vinton County to claim the title.
They have some recent history at the big dance, falling in the Division III state semifinal to Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph two seasons ago.
The main threat for the Warriors is Central District Player of the Year Taevion Kinsey who comes into the contest averaging 16.4 points per game.
They have a total of six players 6’3” or taller who are key contributors.
“They are patient and solid in the half court offense. They are an outstanding offensive rebounding team with their length,” said Wauseon coach Chad Burt. “They are a solid defensive team that plays a variety of defenses. They like to press and try to force turnovers. I think that turnovers and rebounding will be two major keys in deciding the outcome of the game.”
Other players of note for Eastmoor are Tim Smith (7.7 ppg) and Stanley Williams (7.4 ppg), each who were named honorable mention all-district.
Their main inside threat is 6’6” junior Tariq Brown. He is averaging 8.4 ppg.
“We will continue to hang our hat on the defensive end,” said Burt on the keys to the game. “We have been a good rebounding team all year, but this will be put to the ultimate test this weekend. These will be the best rebounding teams that we have played thus far.”
Wauseon enters the contest on a 25 game winning streak for a 26-1 record.
The Indians are making the program’s fourth appearance to the state tournament with the last time coming in 1994 when coach Burt was a player on a team that finished runner-up. Their other appearances came in 1924 and 1926.
“We are playing at a high level right now and with a lot of confidence,” said Burt. “We have been sharp at both ends of the floor. Our guys continue to play unselfishly at the offensive end. We have been very good the last couple of games at the defensive end, and this is something that we hope can continue.”
Archbold veteran coach Doug Krauss is taking the Blue Streaks to state for a fifth time under his leadership. It is the program’s eighth appearance overall, with their best effort coming in 1996 when they finished runner-up.
Archbold also qualified for state three times in four years from 2003-2006.
However, they are taking on a Cincinnati Roger Bacon team that has advanced to state in two of the past three seasons.
The Spartans have a trio of seniors in Craig McGee, James Johnson and Justin Johnson who lead the way.
At the forefront is the Spartan point guard, McGee, who made the all-district first team in the Southwest District. McGee comes into the contest averaging 13.2 ppg.
James Johnson was third team all-district and comes in averaging 12.8 ppg, while his brother Justin Johnson made honorable mention all-district as a player off the bench. Alec Pfriem, a 6’4” sophomore, notches 13.4 ppg for the Spartans.
“They want to run the ball, and mostly like to run an open post offense, in which they have great ball movement and players cut hard,” said Krauss of the Spartans.
“We are going to have to keep them in front of us…especially McGee, the Johnsons, and (Alec) Pfriem. Rebounding is always a key, and we are going to have be active ourselves at both ends. We need to shoot the ball, but they really guard. We need to be aggressive and take care of the ball.”
Krauss notes the lack of a deep bench for Roger Bacon. Therefore, the Streaks will want to be aggressive in the hope of getting them into foul trouble.
But regardless of what happens at state, Krauss is proud of what his team has accomplished.
“It’s so awesome as a coach when you have a group of guys that play the game for each other and no one cares who gets the credit!,” he said. “Anytime a group gets to Columbus, it’s special because seasons like this just don’t grow on trees….it takes plenty of effort and teamwork. This team has made great strides this year from day one, and they have earned this reward!”
The Streaks take on Roger Bacon in the Division III semifinal Friday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010