By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay High is supposed to play a couple of boys basketball games this week.
FHS coach Jim Rucki is hoping his Trojans don’t get caught up in a couple of track meets instead.
“Both of these teams go fast,” Rucki said of Friday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference matchup with Lima Senior and Saturday’s nonleague game at Ottawa-Glandorf.
“We can go fast, too. We just can’t let those guys go faster than we want to them to.”
Traditionally a team known for being sound defensively and patient on offense, Findlay (7-3, 3-2 TRAC) is averaging 60.8 points a game this season and allowing an average of 52.9.
This weekend, though, the Trojans will be challenged to slow down and/or keep up with two of the most explosive teams on their schedule.
Following an opening loss to Anthony Wayne, Lima Senior, 9-1 overall, 5-0 in the TRAC and ranked No. 10 among Ohio’s Division I schools, has reeled off nine straight wins, including a 77-74 win over perennial state power Lakewood St. Edward in the championship game of the Kewpee Classic, a 100-45 romp over Dayton Dunbar in the semifinals of that tournament, and a 61-54 win at Toledo St. Francis, beating the TRAC’s preseason favorite on its home floor.
“(Lima Senior) beat St. Francis up there and that’s tough,” Rucki said.
“They beat Middletown (78-51). They beat Lakewood St. Ed’s. They spanked Dayton Dunbar, which is down a bit this year, but they beat them by 55 points. They have a nice team.”
Lima Senior graduated four regulars, including first-team all-TRAC guard BJ Miller, from a team that went 12-12 last season. But fifth-year Spartans’ head coach Quincy Simpson had some quality talent coming back, including second-team all-league wing Jaleel King, a senior, and junior Jadakis Mack.
Lima Senior has also restocked the roster with some key transfers, including 6-foot-2 junior guard Josiah Fulcher and 6-5 junior wing Jamir Simpson. Last season, Fulcher, who has drawn considerable interest from Division I colleges, averaged 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists as a starter and Simpson, son of Lima Senior grad and two-time Ohio Mr. Basketball Greg Simpson (1991, ’92), saw action in 20 varsity games for a Pickerington Central team that reached the Division I state semifinals.
Loaded with outstanding young talent, Lima Senior has also gotten excellent play from Khalil Luster, a 5-4 freshman point guard.
“He hasn’t been scoring a lot for them, but he’s really quick and really skilled,” Rucki said of Luster.
Ottawa-Glandorf, which faces Lima Senior next Saturday, actually boasts a higher offensive average than the Spartans. The Titans, ranked No. 6 in Division III, hit triple figures in a 102-48 romp over Lima Bath, topped 90 points three other times and fell one point shy of another 90-plus game in an 89-71 win over Perrysburg.
Senior guard Owen Hiegel, an honorable mention all-Ohio pick last season, averages 18.3 points and 4.8 assists a game for O-G. Ben Westrick, a 6-7 junior, averages 15.7 points and 7.1 rebounds, 6-4 senior wing Ethan White averages 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds, and 6-1 senior Carter Heringhaus averages 10.7 points.
While there may be cultural diversity between Lima Senior and Ottawa-Glandorf, two programs exhibit similar tendencies on the basketball floor.
“Both teams have a lot of depth. They just keep coming after you with new guys and they can all play,” Rucki said.
“Both teams will pressure you, try to force you into a lot of turnovers, and they can put up a lot of points. They’ve both made a lot of 3’s, a lot more than we have.”
Findlay will challenge Lima Senior and O-G with some talented players of its own. A.J. Adams, a 6-4 sophomore, is leading the Trojans in scoring (18 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg). Senior guards R.J. Nunn (17.5 ppg) and Ryan Roth (13.5) are averaging double figures as well.
Rucki warns, though, that pace of play will be pivotal, especially when Lima Senior and O-G try to amp up the speedometer.
“When you start playing faster, you end up getting some easy baskets,” he said. “But you can get lulled into a false sense of security. The next thing you know, you might go three, four times in a row where you don’t score, they come down and hit a couple of 3’s and all of a sudden that six-point deficit might be 15.
“We have to play our game. I think we did a good job of that last Friday (a narrow 48-45 loss at Toledo St. Francis) of sticking with how we play.”