Don’t look now but there’s a three-way tie for first place in the Ridge Valley Conference boys basketball race.
With Wauzeka-Steuben’s overtime defeat of Ithaca last Tuesday, it left the previously undefeated Bulldogs tied with Seneca and North Crawford for first place. All three teams now have 4-1 conference records, while the Hornets moved in right behind the leaders with a 3-2 record.
“Now, we have a big logjam at the top,” North Crawford coach Gary Hines said later in the week.
Well, if it's a logjam, it might be the Trojans’ log that’s on fire. North Crawford is coming off an 81-24 shellacking of a struggling Weston team on Tuesday, Dec. 20.
How hot were the Trojans in this one?
Real, real hot. Junior forward Joe Childs scored 29 points. That’s five more points than the Silver Eagles scored in the game. Childs also led the team in rebounds with nine and tied senior guard Grant Dull for the most steals with six.
In all, the Trojans recorded 25 steals and that’s after getting 24 steals against LaFarge in the previous game and around 20 against Seneca. This season, it seems North Crawford uses its quick athletic players in almost constant full-court pressure for the entire game. Many teams are having trouble dealing with that pressure.
Hines readily acknowledged that both Weston and LaFarge are struggling teams at this point, although the Wildcats (2-3) have shown some life along the way this season, including losing to Ithaca by just one point. The coach noted that in his almost 25-year career of coaching basketball, he cannot recall any of his teams stealing the ball almost 50 times in two consecutive games.
“I’ve coached some very good teams, but I’m quite certain I never saw anything like that before,” Hines said of his current team’s propensity to steal the ball.
North Crawford started quickly against Weston last week on the road and led 18-4 at the end of the first quarter. The Silver Eagles were never able to solve the Trojans’ full-court pressure and never were able to mount a comeback.
In the second half with a substantial lead, Hines pulled the press and had his team drop back into a 1-3-1 zone. However, it made little difference. The coach noted that he has a small bench this year and there just are not many substitutes to put into the game to gain experience. The few subs available are strong, experienced players.
The Trojans shot extremely well against Weston hitting 61 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the three-point line.
Although Childs dominated the game in scoring with 29, the rest of the team put up some impressive numbers of their own. Senior guard Zach McCann scored 16 points. Sophomore forward Cody Herschberger and Dull both scored 12 points. Rounding out the scoring for North Crawford were Tyler Olson with four points, Jordan Barr and Joe Bedessem with three points and Matt Friar with two points.
Despite an abundance of points off turnovers and offensive rebounds, the Trojan guards did find time to come up with five three-pointers, including two from McCann, two from Dull and one from Bedessem.
Ithaca may be struggling with illness and/or injury as several players were missing from the lineup against Wauzeka-Steuben last week. Meanwhile, Seneca’s experienced senior guard Trenton Payne missed last week’s game against Kickapoo with a sprained ankle, while senior guard John Alanis quit the team earlier this season because of some very severely sprained ankles he received during the Indians’ exteneded football season. Meanwhile, North Crawford seems to be healthy and running.
The season resumes for the Trojans on Friday, Jan. 6, when the Trojans take on the DeSoto Pirates.