Ranked sixth in Division IV, the Jeeps will head back to the Convocation Center at Ohio University for the fourth straight season. Though walking on to the Bobcats' floor at “Basketball Thirty” is becoming old hat for the team, South Webster coach Marc Kreischer said it's still stimulating for the players.
“A lot of these kids are going for their third or fourth time,” Kreischer said. “It's always exciting to go to the Convo and they all know what it takes to win there.”
Winning is almost an understatement. The Jeeps have made the Convo like a second home the past two years, going a flawless 4-0 while gaining two berths into the regional tournament. Though a third straight trip to Columbus is viable, South Webster isn't looking past anyone.
“Our approach to the tournament hasn't changed,” Kreischer said. “Our kids aren't looking ahead. That's when teams can jump on you.”
Teams haven't been able to surprise South Webster yet, as the Jeeps steamrolled through the sectional tournament, winning the two games by an average of 46 points.
But the team's opponent, a familiar district foe, has surprised. South Gallia comes into Athens off the heels of a 58-51 win over second-seeded Trimble last week. The Running Rebels, the third-seed, had dropped three of its final four regular season games, including a loss to Oak Hill.
But behind seniors Bernie Fulks and Curt Waugh, South Gallia has righted the ship in the postseason, coming from eight behind in the fourth quarter to knocking off Eastern Meigs before beating the Tomcats.
A guard-dominated team, the Jeeps will need to contain the Running Rebels' 3-point shooting again, like they did in last year's 64-52 district semifinal win. Kreischer said the talent the Jeeps have at the guard position matches up well with South Gallia and expects his team to set the tone early.
“I think we need to come out and establish the tempo,” he said. “We have to rotate to their 3-point shooters and challenge them to get shots off. Limiting them to one shot is the key.”
The key for the Jeeps on the offensive side will be to the team's steady rocks, Nick Aldridge and Brigham Waginger. The duo averages almost 40 points a game, and with opponents, it's been a pick-you-poison scenario with the two seniors.
Kreischer, however, believes that some of the more key points will come from the role players, considering the team's depth.
“We're a pretty deep team. We have individuals that can step up, like Ryan McClintic and Nick Bowman off the bench,” Kreischer said. “They've all really played well.”
South Webster will also get a boost from the projected return of Josh Campbell, who sat out the sectional tournament with a minor injury. His outside shooting, coupled with Waginger and Jordan Lower, could nullify any success the Running Rebels have from the perimeter.
South Webster hasn't had too much trouble with success recently, but with the success comes pressure of living up to expectations. Kreischer doesn't think it affect the players and said the only pressure is to get better.
“I don't think we've put pressure on ourselves,” he said. “We have goals, but the one thing is to ultimately get better every game. We're going to have to because the competition is getting better, too.”
JEFF TAEPKE can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 203.