By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay High’s boys basketball team has already snapped one losing streak against Toledo Whitmer and will be trying to end another when the Trojans travel up I-75 on Friday to face the Panthers in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference clash on their home floor.
Findlay beat Whitmer 61-44 in a Dec. 10 league matchup at FHS, ending a nine-game losing streak to the Panthers. Whitmer has been tough as nails on its home floor, however. Since the TRAC got underway with the 2011-12 school year, Findlay has won just once in eight games at Whitmer, that being a 61-34 victory in January 2014.
Whitmer was looking at a bit of a rebuilding year after graduating all five starters from last year’s team that shared the TRAC title with Lima Senior (12-2), went 21-4 overall and reached the Division I district championship. The Panthers started the season 2-2, but have gone 2-5 since and enter Friday’s game 4-7 overall, 2-6 in the TRAC.
Returning 6-foot-1 senior lettermen Riley Keller (14 points, 6 rebounds) and Tony Delvaux (10 points, 7 rebounds) were Whitmer’s top guns in the earlier game at Findlay. But Panthers’ coach Ryan Brown also got solid contributions from juniors Kelmar Williams, Tyson Phenix and Jordan Phenix, sophomore guard Grady Mee and 6-7 freshman Ja’Vaughn Jones (8 points, 4 rebounds).
Whitmer jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the December matchup. Findlay took the lead with an 11-2 run, outscored Whitmer 16-8 in the second quarter and played the Panthers a bit better than even the rest of the way.
Findlay High coach Jim Rucki isn’t banking on past history being a factor in Friday’s game, especially against a Whitmer team that often gets off to a slow start in basketball because of the school’s extended success in the football playoffs.
“Whitmer has gotten better since the first time we played them,” Rucki said. “They’re playing pretty well right now, they have guys that are making shots and they have a little point guard that didn’t play against us last time.
“And you know Whitmer is always going to play hard and be physical.”
Junior A.J. Adams continues to put up solid numbers for Findlay. The 6-4 forward leads the Trojans in scoring (16.8 ppg), rebounding (8.2 rpg), assists (3.3 apg) and blocked shots (1.5 bpg) and shares the team lead in steals (23) with senior guard Isaiah Moore.
Max Roth is averaging 12.1 points, 3 assists and 2.2 steals per game, with Brock Makrancy averaging 8.8 points, Moore 7.8 and Chris Strzempka 5.4 points and 5.1 rebounds. Subs Sam Weihrauch, Justin Roth and Luke Montgomery are all averaging between 2.1 and 2.9 points a game.
Usually a good shooting team from 3-point range, Findlay’s outside accuracy has dipped from 35 percent to 33 percent in recent games as opponents apply more man-up athletic pressure on Makrancy (26 3-pointers) and Max Roth (16).
Findlay’s offensive average (55.8 ppg) has gone down a bit and its defensive average (47.7 ppg) is slightly up. Following a 70-50 win over Toledo St. Francis, Findlay lost by three points (48-45) to a Lima Senior team ranked No. 8 in the state and fell by four (61-57) to unbeaten, No. 3-ranked (Division III) Ottawa-Glandorf.
In Tuesday’s game against a Toledo St. John’s team that had beaten the Trojans 54-36 in the second week of the season, Findlay took the lead, lost it, got it back, lost it again, then made some key plays in the final minute to come away with a 49-46 win over the team that was in second place in the TRAC standings.
“If we play well, we feel we can play with anybody in our league,” Rucki said.
“But we’re not good enough to go anywhere, make mistakes and not give our best effort and think we can get by, not against the kind of competition we play.”
Findlay has Saturday off, but will be busy next week with home games against Toledo Scott on Tuesday and Toledo Central Catholic on Friday, plus a make-up game at Toledo Start next Saturday.
Findlay’s girls basketball team will play a TRAC game at Toledo Central Catholic today, while tournament competition will be on tap for several FHS athletic programs this weekend, including the Three Rivers Athletic Conference swimming and diving championships at Fremont Ross.
Findlay’s hockey team will participate in the Walsh Jesuit Tournament. The Trojans, who have won four straight games and six of the last eight to improve to 10-10-2 overall, will face three teams from the Great Lakes Conference — Parma Padua, Parma Holy Name and Shaker Heights — at Kent.
Findlay High’s wrestling team will compete at the Maumee Bay Classic on Friday and Saturday, and the FHS gymnastics team will see its first competition of the season at the Wolfpack Invitational at Worthington Kilbourne.