We'll also hear from another guest, who has some real-world experience with the Riders' opponent.
What: A Division 3, Region 9 Semifinal Game
Where: Canton Memorial Fieldhouse
When: Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 6:15pm
The quick info on Cleveland Central Catholic.
Record: 13-11 (started 0-6) against a loaded Division I schedule.
Last Regional Appearance: 2009, defeated Smithville 59-54. Advanced to win the D3 state title
Coach: Kevin Noch
Key Players: Anton Grady (6'8" Junior) & Chall Montgomery (6'3" Senior, committed to the US Naval Academy)
Scoring: 53.1 offense/50.6 defense
Do Not Be Fooled
First thing we'll hit are those 11 losses. Yes they're losses, but consider who they're against, and remember that both Grady and Montgomery were injured at different times this year.
Loss 1 - Akron St. V - 85-50
Loss 2 - Villa Angela St. Joseph - 57-50
Loss 3 - Lakewood St. Ed - 80-42
Loss 4 - Akron Hoban - 62-56
Loss 5 - Cle. Benedictine - 68-59
Loss 6 - Cleveland E Tech - 56-55
Loss 7 - Cle. St Ignatius - 48-39
Loss 8 - Villa Angela St. Joseph - 56-47
Loss 9 - Notre Dame Cathedral Latin - 43-37
Loss 10 - Holy Name - 48-38
Loss 11 - Campbell Memorial - 75-39
A few bad losses (as in "not very competitive")....but that's a murderers row of big-time basketball programs. For as athletic a team as I assume they are, to average only 54 points a game tells me they might like a ball control game highlighted by maximized possessions and defensive pressure.
Seven of their games have been either won or lost by 6 points or less, and another 8 (14 total) have been decided by 10 points or less. A tight ballgame clearly does not rattle this team.
We've heard (and I've talked about) about Orrville's reliance on the 1-2 combo of Jake Bolyard and Zach Wasson. The Ironmen boast a similar threat in Grady and Montgomery, who have been responsible for a little over 50% of their teams points so far in tourney play. Wasson and Bolyard have scored exactly 50% of Orrville's points in their 3 tourney wins.
Since losing to Holy Name on February 19th, CCC has really clamped down on defense, holding opponents to an average of 39.2 points per game and posting 5 straight wins, while scoring nearly 60 points per game.
Who Guards Montgomery?
It's not often you get a 6'3" guard who can shoot it or finish at the rim with strength...but that's who he is. He's a game changer. We'll need someone who has size, speed and strength. I don't know if any 1 guy will take that responsibility all game and if it were me (and I'm glad it's not)....I'd do a committee of players drawing that assignment.
I'm sure all of our guards will take their shot...but I wouldn't be surprised to see Coach Slaughter throw a curveball at him...maybe someone like Max Pirman or even Drew Brenner.
Whoever guards Montgomery needs to play aggressive and know that there's help behind you....but that can also lead to defensive breakdowns.
The Bates Report
Who better to give analysis on the Ironmen than a guy who faced them in person last year.....Smithville grad Tyler Bates. I think he makes great points and things that can be learned. Take it away Tyler.
"The focus of many teams that play C.C.C. starts with the big man, Anton Grady, in the middle.That "on-ball" defense worries me. The goal is to harass the ball handler so that you're not able to establish any kind of offensive flow. For us to be successful, we have to have effective possessions....and the more the better.
Anton has an offer from Michigan State and Tom Izzo says he is thoroughly impressed with his size and athleticsm (I actually think if Wasson gets post touches he can be just as effective).
Where he poses a problem is that he blocks a lot of shots, and also poses matchup trouble for opposing big men because he can step outside and hit from downtown. While Grady is a key piece of the puzzle, I think Chall Montgomery is their most valuable player.
At 6'3", he can put the ball on ground and finish above the rim, while also knocking down open shots in transition. The problem he posed for us was on defense.
He played a big part in my TEN turnovers, shadowing me all over the court the entire game. C.C.C. didn't run and jump us, however they get in the passing lanes and if the ball is ever exposed it will be going the other way. It wouldn't be smart to count on just Joey or Jacob to handle the ball the whole game.
While they don't run and jump like some other pressing teams, it really wears on you and the turnovers eventually add up if you count on only one player to handle the ball the entire game like we did last season against them.
They are a disciplined team, but they let us back in the game, so if things don't go right at the beginning, that isn't as big of a deal as it would be against teams Triway or Campbell Memorial.
If Orrville just relaxes and handles the ball and tries to get into an offensive flow every possession, they have a great shot at advancing to the regional finals.
I know that the Riders mix in some zone defense occasionally, however, I would encourage to stay man to man like they have in the tournament. We played zone for the first time last year against C.C.C. and got down 9-0 quickly. Against any team at this point in the season it's tough to do that and come back."
He also mentions that the Ironmen talk their share of "game" (imagine...a Catholic school talking trash) and that their goal is to get in your head and get you to worry about what's being said and not about playing your best. I know we've got some guys that will talk right back, but that's not our style. Let your play do the talking.
There's a game like this in every team's path to Columbus....and in my opinion, this game may be worth more than just a ticket to back to Canton, but maybe a ticket to the Final 4. Sure Newton Falls or East Canton will be waiting on the winner, and East Canton is undefeated...but a win over the defending champs would give the Riders a huge shot in the arm.
All that said, it will take a super effort from the entire team if the Riders are to advance. I think a big key will be the play of Zach Wasson, who has struggled to score points in the last 4 games, averaging several points less than his season average. If he has a big night, it will mean the Riders are scoring high percentage baskets around the hoop...and may open scoring opportunities for our outside shooters.
I think each team has their game changers (Montgomery for CCC and Bolyard for Orrville) and big men (Grady and Wasson). It may again come down to the supporting casts, or which superstar has a bigger night.
There's too many variables to predict anything (although we're picked to win per the Ohio High School Hoops Blog)....for this one, I just want to be a fan. Looking forward to seeing the red jerseys on the Fieldhouse floor again. Coach will have his team ready and motivated and I've got a good feeling. Can't wait to see what it produces.
Riders have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Most of the time, we're the favored team....I kind of like it when we're on the other side of conventional wisdom.