PDT Sports Writer
Sunday’s time change wasn’t a deterrent to either the South Webster or Notre Dame boys basketball teams.
Shortly after winning Division IV Southeast District Championship games the night before, both teams jumped back into the gym Sunday and Monday to prep for Tuesday’s regional semifinal at Ohio University’s Convocation Center. Both programs know that when public address announcer Lou Horvath announces that it is basketball-30, a lot will be on the line as Scioto County waits with anticipation to see who will be playing in Friday’s championship at Ohio Dominican University.
It’s been 40 years since the Titans were crowned as district champions and coach Matt Mader understands the road to the school’s first-ever state semifinal berth will be a tough one to climb.
“The way they’ve been shooting the ball, that’s the key,” Mader said. “They’ve put up a lot of points…Offensively, they’ve been shooting the basketball well.”
In the three postseason contests leading up to Tuesday’s game, the Jeeps have been averaging 65 points a game with four players in double figures. The ringleader of the offense, which has been without the services of Lance Swords for the second half of the season, is Levi Cook.
The junior is near a 20-point-per-game clip, which included a 26-point outburst during Saturday’s 72-57 win over Leesburg Fairfield. He is the only player on the team to not only reach double digits in all games but to also score at least 15 points.
Senior Seth Goddard found his shooting stroke against the Lions, finishing with 25 after posting four in the 51-30 district semifinal win over Miller. While Andrew Salisbury and Nick Norman have also averaged at least 10 points from the guard spots, the interior presence of Jensen Dyer and Brody Queen can be a challenge as well.
“They share the ball real well and their half-court offense, they run very well,” Mader said. “They back cut and they play well without the basketball so that presents a huge problem for us.”
This is the second trip to the regionals in three years for South Webster and coach Steven Ater. The last trip to the state for the Jeeps was a fruitful one as South Webster won the 2006 Division IV State Title.
“There is a little bit of an experience factor for us but I still wouldn’t say that negates just how good of a team and how good of a season (Notre Dame) has had,” Ater said. “Twenty-one and three is a great season and we want to make sure that we approach them the right way.”
While the Jeeps have won every tournament game by at least 20 points, Notre Dame’s path to the Sweet 16 has been more difficult. After pulling away in the sectional finals with a 20-point win over Clay, the Titans have won their two games over Reedsville Eastern and East at The Convo by margins of one and three points respectively.
Senior J.P. Kayser has been the mainstay of the Notre Dame offense with a 17-point average while Daniel Ogg comes in with a dozen. What scares Ater is the fact that the Titans are not led by one player.
“They’re really balanced, they’ve got good guard play and they shoot the ball well from the perimeter,” Ater said. “That’s one of the main things especially when you talk about Kayser and (Kevin) Lewis…Inside, they’re so physical and strong with Ogg and (Michael) Mader working down there and (Adam) Cooper coming off the bench gives them instant offense.”
Cooper has scored 19 points off the bench in the last two games. After scoring 18 against the Panthers, Lewis has been held to 11 points the last two games.
Despite not playing each other this regular season, both teams have played each other in previous years. Tendencies in previous battles will be exploited when both teams tip at 7 p.m. as the winner will take on the winner of the Danville-Lancaster Fairfield Christian game.
That semifinal will be taking place at the same time but will be at ODU. Neither team is looking ahead because they both understand a loss ends the season.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.