Local Sports from The Courier
Thursday, January 10, 2013Prep Basketball: Trojans are out to raise their game
Jim Rucki was busy preparing his Findlay High basketball team for different opponents this week.
One still hasn't won a game; the other has just one loss and is state ranked.
But the team Rucki was focusing on most was the one he sees every day in practice.
"We're worrying mostly about ourselves first, then Oregon Clay, and in the back of our heads Ottawa-Glandorf," Rucki said.
Beginning with a key 61-59 win over Toledo St. John's, Findlay rattled off five straight wins. The run included a dominating 71-34 win over longtime rival Fremont Ross and a 64-54 victory over an 8-2 Lima Bath team.
Last Friday, however, Findlay struggled against winless Toledo St. Francis (0-8), and needed a 10-0 run late in the game to pull out a 42-35 victory. The next night against a solid Defiance team, the Trojans built a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter, but scored only 12 points in the final 20 minutes of what became a 40-31 loss.
"It was a night where we needed to play harder than our opponent and create some things, and we did not do that," Rucki said.
"Defiance did a good job of taking a lot of things away from us, and we did not respond well. We did not play with any energy, we did not create things with our defense, we did not get on the glass and get some easy baskets ...
"We did not play that well Friday, either, but we were fortunate to pull out a win and stay in the league race.
"We're going to have to raise our level of play and we've been trying to do that in practice. I'm pretty confident in saying we're going to come out with a little more fire in our bellies Friday."
With Findlay and perennial Division III power Ottawa-Glandorf renewing their Route 224 rivalry on Saturday, it would be easy for the Trojans to overlook a winless Oregon Clay (0-8, 0-5 Three Rivers Athletic Conference) that is allowing an average of 63.3 points a game and scoring just 46.5.
But Rucki knows that's a trap his Trojans (6-3, 3-1) cannot afford to fall into.
"They have a couple of all-league players back (Patricc Booth, Jack Nagy), they have athletic kids who get to the rim well, they really play hard and they are scrappy on defense," Rucki said.
"They haven't been able to win a game yet. But they are the only team in the state of Ohio that can beat us Friday night, so we have to be ready."
With schools allowed to expand their schedules to 22 games, Findlay and O-G were able to renew the Route 224 rivalry after a one-year hiatus. Findlay won the first two rounds of the home-and-home series, including a come-from-behind 61-59 victory at O-G in 2010.
Ottawa-Glandorf, which returned all five starters and eight lettermen from last season's state semifinal team, is 8-1 and ranked No. 3 among Ohio's Division III schools. The Titans' lone loss was a 51-48 setback to No. 2-ranked Lima Central Catholic.
"It's a great atmosphere," Rucki said. "This is the kind of game that gets you ready for other big games, whether it's league or tournament.
"We know O-G is going to play hard. We know Clay is going to come in here and play hard, too.
"Our main concern is still us. Our goal is to come out and in two games in a row really get after it. We have to raise our level and try to play harder than our opponent each night."
The marquee league matchup Friday has No. 6 Toledo Whitmer (8-2, 4-1) facing No. 2 Toledo Central Catholic (6-0, 3-0) at the Sullivan Center on the TCC campus.
Depending on the outcome of other TRAC games, a Whitmer win could possibly leave four teams in a virtual tie for first in the league standings.
FRIDAY'S TRAC MATCHUPS
Oregon Clay (0-8, 0-5) at Findlay (6-3, 3-1)
Whitmer (8-2, 4-1) at Central Catholic (6-0, 3-0)
Lima Senior (4-4, 2-2) at St. John's (9-3, 4-1)
St. Francis (0-9, 0-5) at Fremont Ross (5-3, 2-3)
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