By DAVE HANNEMAN
Three coaches with over 1,200 career wins and three programs steeped in history and tradition form an interesting backdrop for what promises to be a “Titan-ic” weekend for Findlay High’s basketball team.
On Friday, the Trojans (6-3) travel to Toledo St. John’s (8-2) to battle the Titans in a matchup of schools tied for first place in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference. Both teams are 4-1 in league play, and in a three-way tie for first with Toledo St. Francis (9-1, 4-1).
On Saturday, Findlay makes the trek west for its annual U.S. 224 rivalry with the Titans of Ottawa-Glandorf (10-0).
“Traditionally both are strong programs,” said Findlay High coach Jim Rucki. “We have a lot of respect for both programs, and hopefully they respect our program and what we do, too.”
Toledo St. John’s was the preseason pick to win the league title, and despite a 66-55 loss to Lima Senior on Dec. 16 Rucki still considers the Titans the cream of the TRAC crop this season.
“They’re still the team to beat,” Rucki said. “They have three (basketball) scholarship kids in Vincent Williams (6-foot-5, jr.), Houston King (6-4, jr.) and their point guard Harrison Riggs, who will be playing at a GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) school next year.
“Their other two starters (Tycen Anderson, Toledo) and Joey Fretti are very athletic and good football prospects and the other Williams kid (Blake, 6-0, sr.) is a lights-out 3-point shooter off the bench. He made 5 of 6 threes (and scored a game-high 19 points) in their win over St. Francis.”
Guiding St. John’s is Ed Heintschel, Ohio’s winningest active coach with a 663-209 career record heading into Friday’s game. Rucki, who has never had a losing season in his 18 years at Findlay, is 423-201.
The overall success of both programs is no accident.
“(St. John’s) teams always defend well, they share the ball well, they can make shots, they play hard …. and with their size and athleticism they are a matchup nightmare,” Rucki said.
“Somewhere we’re going to end up with a 5-9 or 5-10 guy guarding a 6-3 athlete. That’s something we have to be aware of.”
Findlay was not one of the teams predicted to be in a first-place battle of TRAC contenders. And while a 64-46 nonleague loss to an 0-6 Dayton Meadowdale team may have reinforced some preseason concerns, that game may have had an upside to it.
“It certainly effected us the right way,” Rucki said.
“We came out the next day, had a good heart to heart talk with the players and had a really good practice. We’ve been a better team ever since.”
St. Francis handed Findlay its first TRAC loss (61-45) when the new year started. But the Trojans used a strong fourth quarter to beat Lima Senior 67-56, then came up clutch again in Tuesday’s 54-52 win over Toledo Central Catholic.
Six-three seniors Kyle Nunn (17.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.1 apg) and Drew Hapner (14.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 11 blocks) have led the Trojans offensively and on the boards. Senior guard Tre Miller (5.8 ppg, 20 assists), junior guard Jacob Logsdon (6.6 ppg, 15 assists) and sophomore guards Ryan Roth (7.2 ppg, 39 assist) and R.J. Nunn (4.0 ppg) have been adding offensive depth and balance, along with Mitchell Hucke (1 ppg), Adam Gutting (1.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and Isaac Schumm (2.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg) on the inside and KahRon White (1.1 ppg) on the perimeter.
“I did not think we had great energy last night,” Rucki said of Tuesday’s last-second win over Central Catholic. “But we competed, we kept plugging away, we kept going and we made some plays.
“It wasn’t pretty. (But) if we play with great energy, if we make some breaks happen for us, if we get to those 50-50 balls and if we shoot the ball well, we can play with anybody in the league.”
Findlay goes up against another talented twosome of junior big men on Saturday at Ottawa-Glandorf’s Robert J. Hermiller Gymnasium. Jay Kaufman, who quarterbacked O-G to the Division IV regional finals, is a 6-4 forward who averages 20.6 points and 9.1 rebounds a game; Jake Dible is a 6-6 post averaging 13.1 points and 5.8 rebounds.
“Size-wise, it’s another tough matchup with their inside kids,” Rucki said.
“Ty (O-G coach Tyson McGlaughlin, 141-50 as a head coach), does a good job with that program. You know their kids are going to play hard and get after you.
“It’s always a great atmosphere over there, but we have to worry about Friday’s game first, then get ready for Saturday.”
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