Column: Line Drives — Post play will be crucial Saturday

[This is my column in the Jan. 2 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Saturday has the makings to be a pretty exciting day.

Jay County and Fort Recovery will meet on the hardwood.

Twice.

The border battle basketball games kick off in the afternoon when the Patriot girls squad crosses the state line to take on the Indians. The junior varsity game is set for noon with the varsity game to follow.

In the evening, the boys teams will continue their renewed rivalry in Portland. The reserve game of that matchup is slated for 6 p.m.

There are a number of things to look at in each game, but it all comes down to who can play better on the post.

Let’s start with the girls.

Looking at records, one may assume the Patriots have the clear advantage. Jay County is 9-1 while Fort Recovery is 4-2.

The two losses by the Indians, however, were against good teams. They lost 42-31 to a still unbeaten Wapakoneta squad, and then were beaten 51-49 in overtime to perennial Midwest Athletic Conference powerhouse Marion Local, which is 10-0 on the season.

Jay County’s 9-1 record comes with a couple quality wins under its belt.

The Patriots defeated Fort Wayne South Side 42-36 and Leo 48-41. The victory against South Side snapped a six-game losing streak against the Archers, and Leo was heavily favored to win the Allen County Athletic Conference after the departure of Garrett.

The Patriots’ only loss was at the hands of Muncie Central, 48-40.

And the focus of the matchup between Jay County and Fort Recovery — the Indians have won six of the last 10 meetings — will be on the offensive side of the court for the Tribe.

Defense has been the strong suit for Jay County all season. It is ranked No. 1 in Class 4A (13th overall) in defensive average, giving up fewer than 34 points per game. Teams have scored 30 points or fewer three times, and the Patriots have held a team scoreless for the equivalent of one quarter in five games.

Fort Recovery averages nearly 47 points per game, and doesn’t rely on any one player to score points.

Junior Kendra Siefring is the team’s leading scorer with 9.2 points per game, followed by Tori Lennartz (8.5) and Jocelyn Kaiser (7.8). As a team, the Indians are shooting just below 47 percent from the field.

While Jay has been feisty on the defensive side of the court — forcing ill-advised passes and stepping in passing lanes — Fort Recovery is averaging nearly 15 turnovers per game.

To combat the Patriots tenacity, Fort Recovery can utilize its size on the post to its advantage. The Indians have three players — sophomore Whitney Will, senior Cassidy Rammel and Siefring — who are all 6 feet or taller. Junior Ava Kunkler listed as the tallest Patriot at 5 feet, 11 inches.

In the evening, the boys game will feature two teams that seem to be headed in opposite directions.

The Indians (2-5) are coming off a game against South Adams in which they led by 23 points midway through the third quarter before falling apart down the stretch in a 61-59 loss.

It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Tribe, and it’s safe to say it would love to bounce back from the disappointing loss with a win against its state-line rival. The Indians have an 8-5 record all-time against the Patriots, so history is on its side.

But much like the girls squad, Fort Recovery will face a tough defensive team in Jay County.

No team in the state of Indiana is allowing fewer points than Jay County. The Patriots (6-2) are allowing just 35 points per game, and have held three teams to fewer than 30.

But Fort Recovery is averaging 51 points per game. Only four teams have scored 40 or more points against Jay County, which is 2-2 in those games.

And while the Indians are off to a slow start, the Patriots have had a familiar beginning to their season. Jay has started 6-2 for the third time in four seasons and has bounced back from consecutive losses to Richmond and Leo with back-to-back victories against Randolph Southern andWinchester.

Similar to the afternoon game, the nightcap will come down to the post play.

Micaiah Cox is the only Tribe player to average in double figures, totaling 15.6 points per game. The 6-foot-3-inch sophomore is also the team’s leading rebounder, grabbing an average of 6.6 boards.

Big man Adam Dirksen is leading Jay County in scoring with 14.1 points per game. The 6-foot-3-inch junior has reached double figures in every game this season and is hauling in nearly six rebounds a game. Along with sophomore Jay Houck (10.8 PPG), they have the ability to give opposing teams fits down low.

The play below the hoop will be critical for either team. Whoever can control rebounds at both ends of the court has a shot at a win.

But as with most rivalries, records can be thrown out when the two teams meet.
Saturday should be a fun day, regardless of the outcomes.

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