Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013, 9:16 pm
Spartans seek Wethersfield rematch, but focus on Mercer County
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By Terry Duckett, firstname.lastname@example.org
One week removed from seeing Wethersfield hang an even 100 on his team, Ridgewood boys' basketball coach Casey Adamson knows what's on his players' minds this week.
"I'll tell you exactly what our mentality is — we want another shot at Wethersfield," said Adamson, whose 11-9 Spartans could get that second crack at the Flying Geese in Friday's semifinals of the Lincoln Trail Conference boys' tournament.
At the same time, Adamson knows full well that his fifth-seeded club has a formidable obstacle to overcome in tonight's 7 p.m. quarterfinal when it travels to Mercer County High School in Aledo — the site of Friday's winners' bracket semifinals and Saturday's finals — to take on the No. 4 Golden Eagles (12-8).
"We played them at our ROWVA/Ridgewood Tournament, and they got us by five," Adamson said of the Eagles, who at 4-3 in the regular-season LTC race are a half-game behind the fourth-place Spartans. "Plus, we've seen them play multiple times; we both know each other very well. We're made up basically the same way, but with Mercer County, they have more of a size advantage.
"If we want another shot at Wethersfield, we have to get through Mercer County to do it, and we know we'll have to earn it. But, we feel like if we want to get anywhere — in the conference or in regionals — we have to go through Wethersfield."
Fueled by senior guard Elisha McCreary's 15 points per game, Ridgewood has also gotten a boost from the emergence of sophomores Ridge Greenman and Sam Althaus at guard and center, respectively, with both averaging just under 10 points per game; the 6-foot-6 Althaus also puts up eight rebounds and three blocked shots per night.
The Golden Eagles counter with 6-foot-3 senior forward Tanner Matlick, who is enjoying a strong season with 14 points and 8.5 rebounds per game after being hampered by injuries last winter, and a solid supporting cast that is capable of being a top scorer every night, a group that includes junior standout Tyson Nylin (12.5 points, 3 assists).
"In my personal opinion, Matlick is one of the nicest opponents we've seen in awhile; a very likable kid," said Adamson. "We're definitely not looking past Mercer County."
For their part, the Golden Eagles are taking anything for granted as they hope to begin a run of three straight tourney games on their home floor.
"Ridgewood is one of dangerous teams that can get up and down the court in a hurry, and they take some deep 3-point shots," said Mercer County coach Brian Hutton, whose club has won four in a row since falling to .500 with a three-game skid.
"Going into (last week's) Princeville game, which was the night before the seeding meeting, we knew we had to get a win, and we took care of business. The conference coaches were kind enough to give us a No. 4 seed."
Although not quite there yet, Hutton feels his team is getting close to achieving its peak.
"We're not where we could be as a team," he said, "but we're getting close."
For its part, top-seeded Wethersfield (18-3) opens with a rivalry game with No. 8 Annawan (8-15). The Braves opened strong with a 75-45 first-round win over Princeville highlighted by a combined 52 points from Tony Gripp and Grant Baele.
On the other side of the bracket is No. 2 Galva (16-3), which currently sits tied with the Flying Geese atop the regular-season LTC standings at 6-0 after sweeping both the season and tournament titles last winter. The Wildcats host a potentially dangerous No. 7 seed in Biggsville West Central (10-9), led by former Westmer and Aledo boys' coach and AlWood girls' coach Brad Jackson.
There's also third-seeded Stark County (8-2), which at 5-2 sits in third place behind Wethersfield and Galva. The Rebels welcome No. 6 ROWVA (8-14) to Toulon for tonight's 7 p.m. quarterfinals.
"It's going to be a tough time," said Wethersfield coach Jeff Parsons, who recently saw junior guard Trevor Lay set a single-game scoring record with his 49 points in the aforementioned 100-68 win over Ridgewood.
"The LTC is loaded. It's a good, competitive conference that's getting better each year, and this should be a heckuva tourney. But our kids are gamers; they like it when a game means something."