Local Sports from The Courier
Thursday, December 13, 2012Boys Basketball: Tough assignments ahead for Trojans
It was two-for-one night when Toledo Whitmer played Toledo St. John's on Wednesday.
And Findlay High coach Jim Rucki wasn't about to pass up a deal like that.
"One of the good things about games getting bumped around is the chance to see both of these teams (on the same night)," Rucki said.
"We've seen St. John's once. Tonight we'll see (Toledo) Whitmer play live. It's a chance to learn a little more about both teams, a chance to look for tendencies and find out what their other guys can do."
St. John's won that encounter, making a statement in the TRAC with a 60-37 victory over Whitmer.
Findlay will travel to Toledo Whitmer on Friday and host Toledo St. John's on Tuesday as the Trojans gear up to battle two of the best players, two of the winningest coaches and two of top programs in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
Findlay is 1-1 entering its TRAC opener.
Whitmer, which had to adjust its schedule after reaching the Division I state football championship game, entered Wednesday's game at Toledo St. John's with a 1-0 record. St. John's was 2-0.
Findlay's schedule was also altered because of Toledo Central Catholic's run to the Division II state football championship.
But the unexpected nine-day break from competition could prove beneficial for the Trojans, who will have 6-foot-1 junior point guard Michael Clark and 6-3 junior wing Adam Twining back in the starting lineup.
Clark had been sidelined since injuring an ankle in the second quarter of Findlay's opener with Fostoria; Twining missed the first two games with a concussion.
"First off, we got healthy," Rucki said. "Adam and Michael have played against those guys (St. John's and Whitmer). With them back we have more experience and better depth.
"We had good practices. We had time to work on basic things like passing and catching the ball, not turning it over, shoring things up on defense. We need to be strong with the ball and we will have to handle pressure."
The only championship Whitmer didn't win a year ago was the Division I state championship. After capturing TRAC, sectional, district and regional titles, the Panthers had to settle for a silver lining to a 24-3 season when they came up just short of Pickerington Central, 45-40, in the state final.
Whitmer graduated a sizeable inside tandem of 6-7, 270-pound Chris Wormley (Michigan) and 6-8, 310-pound Storm Norton (Toledo). Both went Division I in football. Also gone is all-league guard LeRoy Alexander.
But three starters return for Panthers coach Bruce Smith, who entered his 22nd season at the school with a 345-168 career record.
Headlining that group of veterans is 6-7 senior Nigel Hayes, a University of Wisconsin signee. Also back are senior guards Ricardo Smith, who has signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of Findlay, and Luke Hickey.
"Whitmer is not as big as they have been. They don't have a lot of true post guys," Rucki said. "But they have good athletes and guys who can score.
"Ricardo (Smith) was probably their defensive stopper during last year's tournament run. But he worked on his game a lot in the offseason and has become good offensively. The kid can play."
Findlay will face another Big-10-bound big man on Tuesday when Marc Loving and the St. John's Titans come to town.
A 6-8 senior who made a verbal commitment to Ohio State when he was a freshman, Loving averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds last season, when he was one of six players nominated for Ohio's Mr. Basketball Award.
Like Whitmer, St. John's also has a talented point guard bound for the University of Findlay in Austin Gardner.
Junior guard Anthony Glover is also a returning veteran for Ed Heintschel, who entered his 34th season as St. John's head coach just 11 wins shy of becoming the 10th man in Ohio prep basketball history to achieve 600 career victories.
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