Swank on Sports
Lex Ready to go
Lexington has already beaten one conference champion in the tournament, why not another?
They get their chance when they play Sandusky Perkins (20-3), #3 in the final Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coach's poll in the large school division, and outright Sandusky Bay Conference champion, in the division two district semi-finals Wednesday night at Mansfield Senior High School.
Lexington (16-8) upset Northern Ohio League co-champion Ontario (56-49) in a sectional final last Friday. Big Lex coach Scott Hamilton was modest, yet very excited with the win. "We were really excited about getting the opportunity to play them again after we took them into overtime at our place early in the season. The kids were excited and it being a tournament atmosphere in sectional final the kids really got after it and for us it was a good thing that we came away with a win," he said.
Perkins beat Sandusky (76-32) in their sectional final last Friday at Willard High School. Hamilton says the Pirates have an outstanding player in Nic Williams. "It starts with Nic Williams their very good wing player that is committed to going to Wheeling Jesuit and continue his basketball career next year. He is averaging roughly 23 points and 12 rebounds a game on a 6'4" frame and that's a pretty tough match-up for anyone. He is really the guy that makes things go for them. They also have some very nice players that support him very well in Kyle Lewis and Chase Green and a couple of nice guards. So, it's a real team effort, but it all starts with Nic Williams. Last year we was the district six player of the year and this year it probably would have happened again if not for Norwalk dropping down to division two and Jeff Thomas getting that honor. We definitely have our work cut out for us. We are excited to be still playing right now and being in the district semis," said Hamilton.
Perkins was the two time defending "SBC" champion, but was predicted by some to finish as low as third this year after losing some talent to graduation. Hamilton says Williams was not about to let that happen. "I am not really sure I don't follow them last year, but I'm not sure if Perkins didn't win the conference last year. Of course, Huron made a very long run in football, which kind of delayed their season a little bit. Like I said Nic Williams was district six player of the year last year and a very tough athlete and basketball guy, so we knew if we matched up against them that would be a our top priority, but he has a very good supporting cast and we are going to have to deal with all of those guys when we step on the floor Wednesday," he said.
As far as keys to winning go, Hamilton says they have to control the tempo, which they have done all year, compete on the glass and make those open shots when they are available. "They really look to get up and down the court pretty quick. We are going to have to contain him in their transition and that is one of our keys for being about to compete with these guys. The thing that really jumps out at you is how well they rebound. They go to the offensive boards very strong, very physical. I believe they are averaging about 36 rebounds a game. They are just doing a very good job on the boards," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We have to control the glass a little bit better than maybe some of their opponents have this year and keep them away from those second chance opportunities. For us when we get an opportunity to knock down and open shot we just have to do it. We have to have a nice shooting game. Hopefully we can put a couple of those things together and at the end of the fourth quarter we will be in position to win the game."
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Lexington to Tangle With Ontario
It went to overtime the first time and now Lexington gets a second chance as they face Ontario in the division two sectional finals on Friday night at Bucyrus High School.
On Tuesday night, the Minutemen (15-8) held Clear Fork scoreless in the first quarter and went on to beat the Colts (58-43) in semi-final play. Coach Scott Hamilton says they played well, but admits Clear Fork was tied having played eight games in two weeks. "We really stressed to the guys, second season, and all of that stuff. It all comes down to defense and we have thought that way all year long. The guys went out and executed really good. Honestly we were playing a tired team in my opinion. I know coach Bechtel talked to his kids before the game and asked them if they were tired. Of course, 16, 17, 18 year old kids are going to say heck no we are ready to go, but anytime you play for games in a week there has to be some mental and physical exhaustion there," said Hamilton.
Lexington and Ontario have enjoyed a rivalry since the 1960's and Hamilton says he expects another close game on Friday night. "It's a little of a backyard rival you could say. With coach Balogh, you know, we know the players from playing them in the regular season. We are excited for the opportunity to play them again. The first game was very exciting and we don't expect anything less in this game," he said.
The Warriors have experienced players like Cameron Mack and Tyler Boatwright, both three years starters. However, Hamilton says was impresses him the most is the Warriors bench and players like Paul Homan and Bradley Garverick. "They have some starters that are very talented, very good athletes, good basketball players. Even with that once he starts going to his bench with his rotation they go a solid eight, maybe nine deep with guys that come off his bench and put points on the board and defend. They can handle the ball. It is a lot to think about and prepare in two days," said Hamilton.
Ontario (22-1), #2 in the final Swankonsports.com boys' basketball poll in the large school division, and Northern Ohio League co-champ, beat Lexington (56-49) in overtime back on December 28 and Hamilton hopes they can be the ones to make the plays late this time. "We go into every game hoping, and planning, and thinking we can get the win. The first time we played them we definitely had some opportunities and so did they to not let it go to where it did. We hope to put together a good game plan and have our kids prepared and have that same opportunity late in the fourth quarter to win the game," said Hamilton.
Lexington has shown the ability to win close games this year and Hamilton says their goal is to take this one down to the end too. "They have had more experience getting out and getting those good leads. I don't know what their point spread average is, but it has got to be up there. I know they have had a lot of 20 point wins. We hope not to be one of this teams. In the fourth quarter if we give ourselves a chance we will knock down some shots. They are a very tough match-up and they are very quick," he said.
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Lexington Plays Clear Fork Again
It's the third tome around for Lexington and Clear Fork this year. This time in the division two sectional semi-finals at Bucyrus High School on Tuesday night.
Lexington (14-8) finished third in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this year, which is a lot higher than some predicted. Coach Scott Hamilton thinks the Minutemen are playing pretty well right now as they have won their last six. "You always want to be playing you best basketball towards the end of the year. We have encouraged our guys to do some things. Hopefully end the season with six wins against tough competition in the "OCC" makes us ready. Going into the first game of the tournament though we face that "OCC" competition again in Clear Fork fort the third game, which nobody really ever wants to do. Clear Fork is a good competitor for us. We've had two tough games this season," said Hamilton.
A real key for the Minutemen has been the development of good balance on offense. Hamilton says that make them harder to guard. "Going into the season we really didn't know if we need a bucket and were down two with three seconds to go, who were we going to call the play for the tie or the three to win it. We really didn't know who that person was going to be. And now we may not know who that person is going to be, but now we are comfortable making that call for three or four different guys. It could be a different guy each night," he told Swankonsports.com, "It is definitely a different situation for us because last year we had that guy. Everybody in the whole gym knew who our guy was late in game situations. Maybe jelled is a good word to describe our guys here late in the season."
Yes, they have played good lately, but Hamilton says they still need a little more consistency, especially on defense. "Defense is something we have stressed all season long as most coaches probably do. There have been times when we have played very, very well on the defensive end and there have been times when we haven't played to my satisfaction. Hopefully now that we are in tournament the guys realize that you could be one and done. Hopefully they stay hungry and we can put a solid four quarters of basketball together every night. The scary thing is when we look at our guys we know what we are capable of doing and if we get four, five, six guys all in rhythm at the same time," he said.
Lexington beat Clear Fork (59-54) in the valley and (76-59) at their place earlier this month. However, Hamilton knows what the Colts are capable of. "You can't take anything away form coach Bechtel and what he has done. You look at Ridge Winand and the kid can light up the stat sheet from anywhere on the floor. Kadin Chrastina who loves to create and push the ball. They have some nice athletes inside. Like us they bring some guys off the bench that are just solid performers. They have some guys on the bench that could be starting elsewhere," said Hamilton.
Clear Fork (10-11) ended the season with seven games in 11 days and that is tough. Hamilton says they have proven through the year they can be very good. "When they get it going they took Mansfield Senior right down to the wire. They can put some points up. Clear Fork had Ontario beat in regulation and Cameron Mack had to hit a shot at the buzzer top send it into overtime," he said.
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Lexington Finishes Regular Season With Two "OCC" Games
Lexington has become one of the better basketball teams in the Ohio Cardinal Conference as they have a group of solid guards and some real good post players.
Coach Scott Hamilton says it has been a year long process, but he likes were they are right now. "We have been able to string a couple of nice games together. I would like to think we are coming together as a team and recognizing some of our strengths and potential. At this time in the season that is what every coach wants," he said.
The Minutemen (12-8,6-6) beat Ashland (57-52) last Friday and Hamilton says they are starting to play with some more consistency. "I think consistency is the key word. We have become comfortable with each other and it allows us to just trust and rely on each other in our movement and everything. A lot of times when you are coaching you talk about making the extra pass. I think some of our guys have become comfortable with each other that if I'm not open, my teammate is. It just comes with playing with each other and I think we have come to the point where we have confidence in every kid on the floor to be able to take the shot when we need to take it. Sometimes they fall and sometimes they don't, but just having that confidence in each other is really key," said Hamilton.
Defense has become a strength for the team and Hamilton says they are able to customize their defense for each opponent. "That has always been something that we have stressed in trying to get the guys to buy into playing defense together as a team, working on the different rotations and the schemes that we want. We do a lot in practice each week in preparing for our opponent specifically for what they do," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Sometimes it is an easy adjustment during a game and sometimes it is not. We play some pretty good talent and a pretty good schedule, so those adjustments need to be made sometimes on very short notice. I think we are at a point now where we have seen all of the differences. Hopefully that is something we just continue to build on on the defensive end."
Madison (5-15,2-10) visits Lexington on Thursday night. The Rams beat Lexington (46-40) earlier this year in the first game played in Madison's new gym. Hamilton believes theyhave also matured. "I am a true believer in there is a difference between young and experience. When you looks at Madison's team, let's say, Ajian, he is a freshman in class, but now that we are in game 20, 21, 22 there are no more freshmen on the floor. You have the experience. He is definitely one I would talk about in that regard because he is definitely playing much better than a freshman would. So, I think they have valuable experience on that team. Just like we have some younger students in class. Right now we don't look at our guys as being freshen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, we look at them as being varsity players," said Hamilton.
Orrville (12-9,6-7) will be at Lexington on Friday night. The Minutemen beat Orrville (68-65) in overtime last month. Trevor Summers is an outstanding player, but Hamilton says they have to be mindful of the other Red Riders too. "They have some nice talent throughout. Guys that can play both offense and defense and can knock down shots, but Summers is the key. You really have to focus on him. Just like most teams that are in the "OCC" this year you could probably point the finger at one player on each squad that really could be their go to guy, but unfortunately when you are dealing with a lot of teams in the "OCC" this year if you take for granted some of the other players they are very capable of knocking down shots and winning games. So, Summers is going to get a lot of attention from us on Friday night, we also have to be aware of their other shooters and what they bring to the table as well. We are going to have to defend all five guys on the floor,' said Hamilton.
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Lady Lex Gets Offense Going
Lexington had only six games during the regular season in which they scored more that 40 points, but Tuesday night they easily did that and more as they beat Ontario in a division two sectional semi-final.
Lady Lex (4-19) beat the Lady Warriors (66-56) for the right to advance to play the top seed Mansfield Madison (9-11) in the sectional title game on Saturday night at Mansfield Senior.
Lexington coach Michael Kathrein says they were able to able handle the ball without turning it over and that gave them a lot of easy shots. "We got a lot of points in the paint. I think we made two three pointers and the rest were within 10 feet and we converted a pretty high percentage from that distance. We were able to get dribble penetration. Ontario pressed us a lot and we were able to get some transition buckets," he said.
Lexington made 24 of 58 field goals on the night and were led by Michaela Biddle's 18 points.
Twice in December Lexington failed to score 20 points in game, but they have gotten much better. Kathrein says they have learned the game at the varsity level. "We have gotten better by leaps and bounds from the beginning of the season until now. We had three retuning letter winners and the rest were mostly freshmen," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "We have one junior that was a JV player a year ago, so we didn't have much experience to begin the year. With each game we have gotten a little bit better. Those freshmen were thrown in the fire and have all gown tremendously."
Madison beat Lexington in both of their Ohio Cardinal Conference meetings this year (70-54) at Lexington and (64-38) at Madison. Kathrein says they have the potential to put up a lot of points. "They are quick and they score a lot of points. They put a lot of pressure on offenses. They get you to make silly mistakes and we have to avoid that kind of trap and take care of the basketball. They like to speed you up a lot and they are quick and athletic and they convert your mistakes into points," he said.
Madison plays a very physical game, sometimes it boarders on a street fight, and Kathrein says they need to be able to handle that pressure. "They are a very physical team and I like that kind of basketball. I am trying to get our girls to be a little more physical because officials don't call it and they allow that kind of play a lot and you have to make your kids play that way. That is kind of the state of the game at this time. We are going to make mistakes and we have to make sure we put those mistakes behind us, keep playing, and try to get stronger from each play to the next," Kathrein.
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Lexington Meets Galion
Lexington continues to build toward the post season tournament with games this week at Galion in non-conference play and at Ashland in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.
The Minutemen are coming off one of their better performances of the season, especially on offense, when they shot more than 60 percent from the field in beating Clear Fork (76-59) last Friday night.
Coach Scott Hamilton says they played well, but that is in the past now and they have to move forward. "I was really happy with the guys and the way we played and attacked them and everything. It wasn't and easy task and now we are looking at getting ready for Galion (Tuesday) night and what they offer. They are not a team in our conference, so this is the only time we get to see them. With it being mid week because it was rescheduled it is something a little out of the ordinary for us," said Hamilton.
Big Lex is at Galion (10-8) for a non-conference match-up on Tuesday night with the Tigers. "I think they would be a little bit comparable to us in that at the beginning of the season they were trying to find the right combination with guys they have on the floor. They have gone through some adversity over there and some injuries, so now they are starting to jell a little bit, which is what you want at this time of the season," said Hamilton.
With the talent they have on offense, Hamilton says they have to be ready for whatever Galion brings to the table. "You really have to be able to do both today with the 22 games and all of the different styles you see you have to be versatile. When it comes right down to it you are going to go to your comfort zone and I think that is what they are doing," he said.
In retuning to conference play on Friday night Lexington (10-8,5-6) will be at Ashland (7-9,3-6) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play. Hamilton says he is not surprised that the Arrows have become one of the better teams in the conference. "We always kind of knew Ashland would be pretty good. In my opinion we went into the season this year thinking they would be right there, maybe behind, but right there with Mansfield Senior as far as the conference goes," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "They just didn't get it going early in the season, but here lately their shots are falling and their defense is playing pretty well and they are definitely a threat for us, especially at their place."
Ashland (44-30) about a month ago at a time when Ashland was not playing at
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Lexington Finding Answers
Lexington has been on a mission all season to find the right combination of players and the right approach to the game and when they have the right plan they can be very difficult to deal with.
The Minutemen have a nice combination of height and guard play and they are the only team this year to beat Mansfield Senior. However, the Tygers, the Ohio Cardinal Conference leaders, returned the favor last Friday by downing the Minutemen (51-33) at Pete Henry Gym.
Coach Scott Hamilton says they knew the Tygers would come out charged up after the result of the first meeting and they made it difficult for the Minutemen to run an offense. "We knew going in and nothing much changed once we got there. They really got after us in the half court and made it difficult for us to do anything or execute anything that we really wanted to do. I don't know if we were as aggressive as we should have been against their defense. Taking nothing away from the Mansfield Senior kids. It is a tough place to play when you go over there to Pete Henry. We knew that going in and we thought we were prepared, but obviously the game results showed us different," he said.
They were able to get back on the winning trail with a (73-35) trouncing of Fredericktown in non-conference play on Saturday night. Hamilton says they were able to play some tough, aggressive defense against the Freddies. "After Friday night's game when we came in Saturday morning to prepare for the Freddies we knew they were a quality team down there and coach Bellman has them playing well. Some of their losses have been really close losses at the buzzer and last second shots and things like that. We knew that their three man perimeter squad were really tough and we would have to sit down and defend," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We were coming off a game Friday night that was very fast and very up tempo, very aggressive and our guys were ready for that. We tried to keep playing that way. Fortunately for us we were able to get into them a little bit and they picked up some fouls here and there and it took some of their guys off the floor that they really rely on. Some things went our way and it ended being a good night for us."
On Friday night, the Minutemen (9-8,4-6) play host to improving Clear Fork (6-7,3-5), a team they beat in the first round (59-54) in the valley. Hamilton says although Ridge Winand and Kadin Chrastina do most of the scoring, the other Colts do some good things too. "Peaks and valleys when you are in the "OCC" seem to be a common thing with all of the teams. Anytime you play an "OCC" team you are never sure how its going to turn out. You have to be prepared for anything and this Friday night is no different for us with coach Bechtel brining in Ridge Winand and Kadin Chrastina and Ridenour and Robinette and Luers and van Dyke. Those guys can all do some good things for them. The scoring of Winand and Chrastina is always going to be there for them, so you have to focus on those two guys, but you can't leave Ridenour, Robinette, Luers open, those guys can make open shots. It is really going to have to be another strong team effort for us if we want to expect to battle in that game," said Hamilton.
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Can Lightning Strike Twice?
Lexington is the only team to beat Mansfield Senior this season and they get another chance this Friday in Ohio Cardinal Conference play this time at Pete Henry Gym.
Last week, the Minutemen (8-7,4-5) led West Holmes (21-15) at the half, but allowed the Knights to score 51 points in the second half and lost (66-53) in a game played outside of Millersburg. Coach Scott Hamilton says for whatever reason they quit guarding people. "For us in the second half the best way to put it we did not play defense very well at all. When you kind of take some things for granted and expect the other guy to kind of do something for you. It just didn't go our way over there. We really felt we played a good defensive first half and the second half we didn't do that at all," he said.
On December 27, Lexington played a tight zone defense, kept the ball out of the post, and the Tygers didn't make outside shots and the Minutemen upset the "OCC" leaders (60-49) on their floor. Hamilton knows a carbon copy performance won't be good enough. "Any time you are playing a conference opponent for a second time you know whatever worked or what didn't work for you in the first game is probably going to have to be tweaked and adjusted the second time around because any coach is going to make those adjustments and changes to his team. We know going in this is a very tough place to play," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "I can't tell you what their conference record is over the years at Pete Henry, but I know Lexington has not been successful over there. It is a very tough place to play for us and we are going in as the definite underdog. We are just going to have try and be as prepared as we can for what they are going to put on us and come Friday night we will be in the gym ready to play."
A big key in that win a month ago over the Tygers (11-1,9-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball poll in the large school division, was the Minutemen didn't turn it over much against the Tygers intense pressure, not easy to do. Hamilton understands the Tygers will be out for revenge this time. "I think that is a pretty big thing in any game. You can't go into any game and have a lot of turnovers and expect it to turn out well for you. With us being the only loss on their record this year that gives them a little extra motivation to come out and get ready to play us. It is one of those games that in history they have always been up for us coming into their house. It's another tall task and in a very competitive "OCC," he said.
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Paybacks for Lexington
Both of the conference opponents Lexington faces this weekend beat them in the first round of the Ohio Cardinal Conference double round robin and they would like to get some revenge.
It is the second straight double "OCC" weekend for the Minutemen as last week they won at Orrville (68-65) in double overtime on Friday and then lost a tough one at home to Wooster (51-44) after reducing their deficit to just a point with less than a minute to play.
Coach Scott Hamilton says they gutted it out at Orrville. "Whenever you split a weekend you come back thinking about what went wrong for you and what went right. Friday night going into Orrville, always a tough place to play, we battled them for to additional periods with the double overtime and the guys toughed one out against a tough team and we were able to get the win," he said.
Against Wooster, Hamilton says they just kind of ran out of gas at the wrong time against the Generals. "Saturday at home I think we were a little exhausted. We weren't as prepared as we should have been, what we would liked to have been, but that is the way it goes with these double weekends you don't get a lot of time to work on that second opponent, especially when both of them are conference," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "That was my fault not having the guys ready to go. We got it close as the clock wound down, but right at the end we just ran out of juice. We couldn't execute and couldn't get the things done that we needed to to get the win."
Lexington (8-6,4-4) will be at West Holmes (10-4,6-2), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coach's poll in the large school division, on Friday night. The Knights won back in December (53-50) in overtime. Hamilton knows it will be a difficult task. "You always want to defend your own house first, but the fact that they got a win at our place makes its even more difficult knowing we have to go to theirs. They are a team we feel we can play with. They have a very good player in Brady Arnold, but the rest of his teammates are doing a nice job of doing their roles and he is doing an outstanding job of putting them in position to battle and compete and everything. So, it is no small task for us to travel over to West Holmes on Friday night and we are hoping we are up for the challenge," said Hamilton.
To wrap up the weekend, the Minutemen host the Madison Rams (4-9,1-7) on Saturday night. Madison's only conference win came against Lex (46-41) and Hamilton says they remember. "That is kind of the motto for the double weekend. We felt that we had the overtime loss to West Holmes was a game we could have won. We went into Madison with their new gym and all of that excitement and we felt we had a pretty good game plan going over there and that one didn't work out for us either. These are both games that we feel we should have a chance to win as long as we are prepared and get in there with the right mind set. These are two games we need to make up," he said.
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Lexington Must Attack
Lexington had won five out of six games going to last Saturday night when they were upset by the Madison Rams in Ohio Cardinal Conference play and now they need to get back on track.
They play at Orrville (7-4,4-2) on Friday night and host Wooster (4-9,3-4) on Saturday. The Generals handed Lexington (7-5,3-3) one of their most lopsided defeats of the season (60-45) in early December.
Against Madison, Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says they just got into some bad habits in the second half. “We went in there and we knew there would be a lot of energy and a lot of excitement with the new facility and everything. We thought we did some things well in the first half and attacked some things that they were trying to do. Coach (Tim) Mergel went with a smaller lineup and we thought that was kind of to our benefit. In the second half they made some adjustments and we didn’t handle them as well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “When we did break pressure situations we just didn’t take advantage of it. A lot of times in the fourth quarter we had a lack of execution. Give them the credit they are the ones that caused all of it and put us in those situations. We didn’t handle them to the best of our ability.”
One of the keys looking toward the rest of the season Hamilton says they must remember to attack when they see pressure, something they didn’t do very well against Madison. “Just like the Madison game on Saturday they were putting some pressure on us in the first half. We handled the pressure for the most part, but when we got it into the half court we quit attacking and we didn’t make them pay for spreading themselves out. That was something we discussed at halftime and something we discussed after the game and even (Monday) in practice a little bit. When teams want to try and pressure us and spread the floor. We have to attack and we have to make them pay when we get those opportunities,” said Hamilton.
Orrville, behind the outstanding play of senior Trevor Summers, has become a good team. Hamilton knows they will have their hands full. “Maybe just because they are father away or one of the farthest opponents they aren’t on the radar as much as they definitely should be. They have played a tough schedule so far. I believe they are currently third in the conference. Going to their place to play and they have a new gym as well. It is always a difficult place to play with a lot of history, tradition, a lot of pride on the line when they play at home. It’s another very tough opponent for us,” he said.
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Lexington Continues to Improve
With two more wins, Lexington continues to build momentum as they near the half point of the high school boys’ basketball season.
Last week, the Minutemen downed Clear Fork (59-54) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference play and Shelby (64-47) in a non-conference game on Saturday.
Coach Scott Hamilton says the wins were a big boost in confidence. “When you are a growing team and you are looking to get better every week if you can put together back to back wins that’s a good thing. It gives your kids a little more confidence and encourages them to work a little harder in practice, so we were really excited about getting two wins in a weekend,” he said.
Hamilton says they are continuing to find things out about the team and build on the good things. “That is one of the things that I have been talking about all season long and trying to figure out who we are and what we can do, our capabilities, our limitations, our weaknesses. We have a nice solid group of guys one through ten. We are just trying to figure what we can do,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I told the guys the other day that the remainder of the season our starting lineup could change just based on who is lining up against us. What matters the most is the end result and what is on the scoreboard not necessarily who is in the score book and who starts the game and all of that.”
One of the reasons Lexington has continued to improve, according to Hamilton, is the players understand their roles. “Roles is a word we use quite often in our practices and in our season. Everybody has to be able to fill their role. As we have explained to our guys that could be the guy that scores for us, it could be the guy that defends for us, it could be the guy that rebounds for us. They are all very important roles. Everybody wants to be the guy that puts points in the board, but if you don’t have the guys that defend, the guys that rebound, they guys that hustle and get after the ball, you are not going to be very successful,” said Hamilton.
Ashland (2-6,1-3) will be at Lexington (6-4,2-2) for a league game on Friday night. Hamilton says the Arrows have talent and they are going to prove that. He just hopes it isn’t Friday night. “Coach Fralich returns four solid starters. They have gone through some shooting struggles at the beginning of the season and they have played a really good schedule too. Their big man went down for a few games and wasn’t available for them. They are going to get this thing put back on course and we are hoping to be ready for them. We know that it’s going to be a battle. Any game in our conference as we have seen already is going to be a contest for us, so we are going to try and be as prepared as we can be,” said Hamilton.
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Lexington Finding Out Who They Are
It took a little time, but Lexington has again established itself as one of the top boys’ basketball teams in the area after a win over previously unbeaten Mansfield Senior last week followed by an outstanding effort in an overtime loss to Ontario.
Coach Scott Hamilton he was proud of his kids even in their loss to unbeaten Ontario on Saturday. “They expended a lot of energy on Friday night to get that game and then to be able to come back and battle with a very strong team on Saturday night, a well coached team in Ontario I was really proud of them. I thought we made some mistakes down the stretch that maybe could have won us the game, but I’m very proud of the guys and the way they played and I let them know that, so hopefully we keeping working hard and getting better,” he said.
Lexington had lost of four their first six games before last weekend. Hamilton says hard word is paying off and they have begun to identify roles on the team. “I think we are learning a little bit each time we are stepping on the floor about our guys and who can do what. With each game as coaches we learn a little bit more about our players as far as what we can do with x’s and o’s and concepts and strategy and such. It is a growing process maybe a little bit more this year than the last because we have guys that are sophomores and seniors and a little bit more distance in between the classes. We have guys that are coming from multiple sports and early on they were kind of meshing, so everyday I think we are becoming a little bit better and a better team,” said Hamilton.
Lexington (4-4,1-2) is at Clear Fork (2-4,1-2) for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night. Ridge Winand has scored more than 30 points three times this year. Hamilton says he is a tremendous player, but he is not the only player they have. “He has been a varsity caliber guys for years and this year he is looking to do everything he can to put his team on his back and carry them as far as he can. You have a nice group of guys in Kadin Chrastina and Robinette and Luers and Ridenour. Those guys are doing an outstanding job and they have a nice bench,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They can get up and they can fill up a stat sheet in a hurry. That is something we are going to try and prepare for and hopefully come up with a defensive plan to try and contain them. Ridge is not a guy you stop you just try and make sure he doesn’t have a career night against you. And all of those other guys you can’t let them go off. They have three or four guys that can score 20 points in a night.”
Hamilton says the Colts are a team that likes to run the floor and they have to limit their opportunities. “When you look at Clear Fork they want to get out and run. You can’t compare them to Mansfield, but they have some athletes that can get up and down the floor and that is for sure. We feel that we can run with some teams, but there are some teams that we don’t want to encourage that and that is one of the things with Clear Fork. They can shoot the three ball. If they get those lose balls in the open floor they can fly up and down the floor. We are going to have to be value oriented with every possession that we have and make sure we aren’t taking it lightly and have turnovers,” said Hamilton,
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Lexington Faces Two Unbeatens
You would be hard pressed to find a team in Ohio with a tougher schedule this weekend than the one that faces the Lexington Minutemen as they take on two teams with unbeaten records in Mansfield Senior and Ontario.
The opponents rank #1 and #3 respectively in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division.
Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says there is no question they will find out where they need to get better and they are looking forward to the tests. “Oh yeah, I mean we have been telling our kids all week that this week is a great opportunity for us. When the state basketball rankings come out both of these squads are probably going to be on those lists and we are excited about seeing where we can fit in and how well we can do and also possibly expose a little bit of what we need to work on to make ourselves better as the season moves forward,” he said.
Lexington (3-3,0-2) has given Mansfield Senior as much of a challenge as anyone in the Ohio Cardinal Conference the last three or four years. This is another edition of an outstanding Tyger team, they share the “OCC” lead with West Holmes, but Hamilton thinks they are even a notch above some of their recent teams. “You could say it is typical, but in a way it is not. They have 10 seniors on this squad that have been playing together probably since they were in seventh grade, at least a majority of them have. They have been looking forward to this season for a long time. I know that there are some high expectations not only for the regular season, but the post season,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It is just a solid group of inside, outside, ball handling, and post play. They just have a little bit of everything in every area. It would be easier to list what they can’t do and what their weaknesses are, which would be a very, very short list, than trying to list everything they are good at.”
A good thing for the Minutemen is they will be home for both games this weekend.
Ontario is the Northern Ohio League leader (7-0,2-0) and they are coming off a victory over Clear Fork of the “OCC” (84-79) in overtime last Saturday. Hamilton says the Warriors have a lot of experience to add to their athleticism. “Coach Balogh over there at Ontario has just had a hall of fame career in everything that he has done with those kids over there. Each year he had had a solid senior class with some underclassmen. They are off to just a great start over there. They have a lot of varsity experience returning for them. Cameron Mack and (Tyler) Boatwright have been playing since they were sophomores. That is just another tough, tough opponent for us this weekend,” he said.
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Lexington Still Tweaking Things
Lexington is still looking for some consistent scoring as they try to put things together for another run at an Ohio Cardinal Conference boys’ basketball title.
That goal took a bit of hit last week as West Holmes guard Brady Arnold scored 27 points in leading the Knights to a (53-50) overtime win. Lexington led (11-6) after the first quarter, trailed by one at the half, and led by three after three quarters. Coach Scott Hamilton says the Knights just made a couple more plays than they did. “We were in control of the game for many minutes of it and we just kind of let them get back into the game late in the fourth quarter. In overtime it was a typical Brady Arnold ending. He just elevated himself and took his team on his back and they left our place with a victory. It was definitely one we would have liked to have had. With coaches you look back there are some things that could have, should have and if they would have been done differently the result would have been a little bit different. That is the way the ball bounces sometimes for you,” said Hamilton.
Arnold broke the West Holmes career scoring record in the win.
Lexington (2-3) shown some depth on its roster this year, but Hamilton says they need more consistency from players in different roles. “We are developing, but it’s a long process and something we took on last year. We are looking to develop it as the season goes on. In each practice and each game we are getting ourselves in situations that we need to improve on,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Again with the guys we have returning that were varsity players last year we are actually asking them to be in new roles, so it is something new for them and we have mixed in some new guys that are excited to be part of it as well. We are asking them to step up to the plate a little bit and take on some responsibilities. It is kind of like all of us are in the same boat together. We are all trying to take on some new roles and establish that identity and right now it’s just a work in progress.”
Big Lex doesn’t play an Ohio Cardinal Conference game this week, but the do play at Hillsdale (1-1) of the Wayne County Athletic League on Saturday. Hamilton says they must respect the smaller school. “Coach Shenberger has a nice program over there. His history as a head coach has been productive. When we go into their place on Saturday that is definitely something we keep in mind when we are scouting them and looking at what they have. Last year they went through some changes with some kids that decided not to go out because of some pay to play and things like that. Their main guy is Mr. (Ryan) Bee inside. He is about 6’7”, but he has a nice squad bit around him. We are looking forward to getting back in the gym after our game was cancelled on Saturday and getting into another contest,” said Hamilton.
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Lexington Has to Contain Arnold
Lexington and West Holmes are two of the teams bubbling under Mansfield Senior in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and they meet on Friday night at Lexington in a big conference game.
Last week, Lexington lost their conference opener at Wooster (60-45) to the Generals. Coach Scott Hamilton thought his team was in pretty good position going into the second half, but Wooster was just too good on that night. “Going into Wooster we told our guys being our first conference game. We wanted to get off on the right foot. We hung with them for a while. They have some nice size, nice athletes, and nice shooters and stuff over there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Going into the third quarter we are down three with what we thought were the right combinations and everything and they just kind of jumped out on us a couple of times and we missed a couple of defensive transitions. It just kind of got a way from us and we walked out of there with a 15 point loss, but we were proud of our guys.”
However, the Minutemen (2-2,0-1) rallied on Saturday night to beat Mt. Vernon (47-46). Hamilton says it was another example of his kid’s never say die attitude. “They didn’t hang their heads and we got right back in it on Saturday at home with Mt. Vernon, another division one opponent and we were able to hold on there and get out of there with a one point win,” he said.
Lexington and West Holmes have developed a pretty good rivalry in basketball over the last couple of years and Hamilton says the Knights (3-0,1-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball poll in the large school division, are pretty good again this year. “It’s been really nice. Over the years that I have been involved with Lexington basketball West Holmes has always been a nice challenge. Over the last three years leading up to this year with Brady Arnold being over there he just adds a whole other level of excitement to them. It has been a nice little competition. They are far enough away where you don’t ready about them daily, but being in the conference you always have to keep a mind on them and know what’s going on and what they are capable of doing. This year they are off to a 3-0 start and coach Troyer has those guys working like a fine tuned machine. Hopefully we will be ready for them come Friday,” said Hamilton.
West Holmes has one of the best players in the league, maybe the best guard in the “OCC,” in Brady Arnold. Hamilton says he hopes they can contain Arnold. “They graduated a lot off their team from last year. He is a guy that can score 30 in a night, but he can get his team another 30, so in a 60 point game he is probably involved in about 55 of those points one way or another. He is just that kind of player and he can be very unselfish. In my book you try your hardest to try and contain him the best you can because you just not going to stop him. He has already committed to the top division two program in the country in West Liberty. I have a lot of respect for him and what he does and it has been happening since he was a freshman,” said Hamilton.
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Lexington Mixing the Old With the New
Lexington is still a little bit of a work in progress, but they have been able to remain competitive while going through that process.
Last week, they lost at home to Brunswick (55-49) on Friday and then beat Willard on the road (63-53) on Saturday.
Coach Scott Hamilton says they just got a behind early to Brunswick and could never quite catch up. “1-1 is better than 0-2, but 2-0 would be nice. With Brunswick being a new opponent for us and not knowing anything about them would be a difficult task, especially a very large school. We got off to a little bit of a slow start and dug ourselves a little bit of a hole. We battled back and got it to within six when we went into the locker room. They just came out on fire in the third quarter and we got down by as many as 18, but I give my kids all of the credit they stayed in the game and stayed focused and started knocking down some shots and confidence was building and excitement was there. We got it to within two, which we were really happy about, we just couldn’t get it any closer than that. Their best player, who is a division one commit just kind of took over,” said Hamilton.
Now on Saturday night it was a similar situation early against Willard, but the second half was a different story. “We knew going into Willard that Haas Count is a difficult place to play. Coach Long, a first year guy, is continuing where they were at last year with coach Hirschy. They have those kids just playing so hard and we knew it was going to be a battle. We got into a similar situation over there. They jumped out a little early, but we recovered quicker Saturday than we did on Friday. We just battled for a full 32 minutes and were able to get away from them with a win. We were kind of fortunate to go into their place and come away with a win. At 1-1 we feel fairly confident that we can get things turned around,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton says there really isn’t one part of the game where they are really good or really bad, they just have to raise their whole game a little bit. “Defensively we may have learned some things this past weekend. We are kind of blending some guys together. We have some sophomores that are playing. We have a freshman that is seeing a little bit of time. Then we have five seniors and a junior. The seniors are really the only ones that have solid varsity experience. We are just trying to figure out where guys are going to fit in. When the game is on the line and the lights are on you can have all of the solid scrimmages you want, but when the game is on the line on Friday or Saturday night different kids react differently,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “So, we have went through a little bit of a learning process. The nice thing is we have kids that have run our stuff before and it is more of a refresher for a lot of them, so things are moving quickly for us. The defensive side we have to be stronger in the boards. If we are open we have to knock shots down. It’s a total package that we have to work on nothing really hurt us tremendously over the weekend.”
Lexington (1-1) will be at Wooster (1-0) on Friday night for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game. The Generals beat Cloverleaf (58-41) on Saturday and they play at home against Medina Highland on Tuesday night. Hamilton says they had trouble with the Generals and they should be tough to beat this year too. “They had our number both times last year. We saw them over the summer a couple of times. Coach Martin has his guys playing pretty well. They get up and down the floor. They have some size inside in Adam O’Brien and Cam Daugherty, both are good athletes at 6’5”, 6’6”, 6’7”, in that range. Then they have some pretty quick guards that can get after you defensively in Blair and Beckett. They had a kid come off the bench and really spark them to their win against Cloverleaf. I don’t think it is one particular guy that you have to worry about. They are the type of team that on any given night they could have three or four guys step up. We have to be kind of prepared for any thing they can throw at us. Of course it is at their place and that adds a little bit to it. The last time we were up there we left there with a 30 point loss, so we have to remind our guys of that as well,’ said Hamilton.
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Lexington Looking to Find Some Things
There is some talent returning, but Lexington is still looking a little bit as to what kind of team they can be this season.
Coach Scott Hamilton says they have gone as about as far as they can with practices and scrimmages and they need to get a game. They will get two this weekend with Brunswick and Willard. “I think we are at a point to where we need to find ourselves in competition when the lights come on to see what exactly we can do. Most teams improve more between their first and second games than they do throughout the course of the preseason. I think that is kind of where we are at right now. We just need to get into some competition. We have had some good scrimmages, but game situations are much different. We are just at the point that we have so many things that we need to address and we need to attack that I think the guys are getting a little tired of hearing us talk about it that we need to get into a game situation and show them,” said Hamilton.
There are four starters back for Lexington and some other kids too, but they will have to fill other roles. Hamilton says they are still trying to figure out how the pieces fall together. “That is one of things that we really need to look at. We have a lot of experience returning from last year’s team, but we have a lot of guys that just game us a lot of different roles and what they did for us last year, so we are just trying to figure out what guys we can rely on in key situations. We have some young talent coming in that has been playing pretty well for us also. We are trying to find out what chemistry we have and the identity is really a question for us right now,” he said.
Lexington plays host to division one Brunswick on Friday night. Hamilton says it was a matter of needing a game. “I know very little really about them. We were in a holiday tournament last year when they went to a 22 game schedule and that went well we thought. Ontario thought with them going into the “NOL” it might be a little much for them to have and we were trying to pick up those two games that we had and Brunswick was also a school that was looking for a game, so we agreed to play each other without knowing anything about them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Typically Mt. Vernon is our season opener and this year they are game four. It would have been nice to play Brunswick a little farther into the season where we could have done a little a little bit of research on them, but somebody has to be that season opener and you go in blind, so that is where we are with Brunswick.”
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Lady Lex has to be Better Decision Makers
Early turnovers put Lexington behind the eight ball on Saturday night against Ontario and they hope they have solved that as they travel to Willard for a non-conference girls’ basketball game on Tuesday.
After the first quarter it was 19-4 Ontario last Saturday and the Lady Warriors went on to beat Lexington (54-42) in the opener for both teams. First year coach Michael Kathrein says they had way too many turnovers, 35 to be exact, and they have to get that rectified in a hurry. “We got off to a very poor start and had a lot of turnovers. We did play better as the game went on,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We still turned the ball over a little bit, but we were able to convert some of their turnovers into baskets, so that did help. It was not the start we were looking for, but we are in the process of getting those mistakes fixed.”
Kelly Rhodes paced the Lexington scorers against Ontario with nine points in the contest.
Lexington does not return much experience from last year and those that were on the team didn’t enjoy much success as Lady Lex won only twice last season. Kathrein, last year’s JV coach, says they have looked over their film and discussed what they need to do. “Decision making is what led to most of those turnovers. We tried to force the ball into bad situations. We came in early (Monday) morning and looked at film from Saturday’s game and sat down and hopefully we have a better understanding of what we are trying to do offensively and I think that will help them cut those turnovers down and be more patient in the offensive game plan,” said Kathrein.
Willard (1-0) beat Mansfield Madison (65-58) in their opener on Saturday. The Lady Flashes were lead by Hanna Adams and Hannah Schloemer, who both had 17 makers in the game. Kathrein says they will be facing a team that is bigger than they are and like to get out and run the floor too. “I know they are tall. They have a very tall lineup. Our assistant coach went over and watched that game. The first thing I noticed is they were really tall across the board. They play similar to Ontario in that they can get out and run. We had a warm up game for Willard I guess. We are going to work on our transition defense in getting back and make sure we are going to rebound with contact and not turn the ball over and make the same mistakes we made Saturday night,” said Kathrein.
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Lexington With Four Starters Back
Lexington went 16-8 last season and advanced to the division two district tournament and this winter they return four of their five starters.
However, the one that did graduate was Mason Willeke, who led the team by averaging more than 20 points per contest.
Second year coach Scott Hamilton says they have been making some nice progress over the first two weeks of the preseason. “We are fairly happy we what we have going on so far. It’s still early. We return enough guys that they are familiar with us and we are familiar with them to where we are hoping that things can move along fairly fast. Dealing with graduation we do have some holes to fill, so we are trying to figure out the best way we can do that right now. Overall we are fairly happy with what we have so far,” he said.
The Minutemen begin their schedule by hosting the division one Brunswick Braves on November 29.
Lexington has been at or near the top of the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings over the last half decade. They finished third last year behind Mansfield Senior and West Holmes. Hamilton says although some roles might change with the team, they have the players that know what has to be done. “We do have a lot of experience returning. I think we have five returning lettermen and four returning starters. With the guys we lost to graduation with just have to find a way. When you have a 20 point scorer on your squad it’s hard to replace that guy. We have guys stepping into leadership roles in many different ways in games and practices and bringing along some of the younger guys as well. We are kind of going through those stages right now and see what we can put out on the floor,” said Hamilton.
With Willeke gone, Hamilton says they have to replace his scoring, but it doesn’t have to be one guy that does all that scoring. “That’s what we felt going into last year. When Mason (Willeke) was a junior he was averaging seven points a game and turned in to be a 20 point guy for us last year. We have guys returning that averaged anywhere between four and seven points a game and they have the experience,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It’s just what can we do as far as our offense to get those guys open and let them try and knock down some shots. We also have to be able to stop our opponent. We play in a very tough conference and I think it is going to be even more competitive this year then it was last. There are just a lot of things on the table for us, but we are moving forward.”
Lexington Girls Will be Athletic
Lexington is coming off a season when they only won two games, but this year they will starting from scratch with a new coach and many new faces on the roster.
Micheal Kathrein, the junior varsity coach the last three years, was promoted to the head coaching position in May. He has a lot of familiarity with program and with Lexington. “I spent the last three years as JV girls’ basketball coach at Lexington under coach Uhde. Prior to that I coached JV boys’ basketball and was an assistant boys’ basketball coach at Lexington. I have coached various sports at Lexington for the past 12 years. So, I was already in the system and the administration knew what I was about,” said Kathrein.
Yes, he has worked with a lot of his players before, but he says there are going to be a lot of players that are fresh to the varsity stage. “I know some of them, the problem is we only have six girls returning from the entire program from a year ago. We have a lot of new faces and I am quickly learning what they are about as we go through the first week and a half, two weeks of practice,” he said.
Preseason practice has been going on for about a week and half and Kathrein says he believes this is going to be a Lexington team with a lot of athleticism. “They are a very athletic group of girls. Probably the most athletic I have seen at Lexington in my four years now. I think that is going to be our greatest strength our overall speed and strength and ability to do some things in transition in the open court that other teams wouldn’t be able to do,” he said.
Last year a big problem for Lady Lex was their inability to score points. Kathrein says this year they are going to have to become better shooters. “I would say shooting is a concern. Our athleticism really helps on the defensive end and can put you in some good positions offensively, but the bottom line is you still have to be able to put the ball in the basket,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We are working on some fundamental skill work shooting and then experience. As I said there is not a lot of experience coming back, but we have some really talented freshmen. I think we are all optimistic about this season.”
Lexington Still Working Hard
It was a great start to the season with a big first half lead over Ontario and then things fell apart for Lexington, and outside of a week two win over Shelby, the Minutemen have had little to celebrate this season.
They hope to change that by ruining Ashland’s post season hopes on Friday night.
Last week, Mansfield Senior, the Ohio Cardinal Conference leader, exploded in the second half to beat Lex (44-7) in a conference game. Lexington coach Dan Studer was impressed with what he saw from the unbeaten Tygers. “They might be the best team in the conference we find out this week. Coach Bradley is doing an outstanding job getting those kids playing for him. I was really impressed with the discipline of the kids. They are a great football team, they have a lot of weapons, but I was impressed with how the kids kind held themselves throughout the game. That is a testament to coach Bradley and what he is doing over there. It shows in their performance. They are going to finish up this regular season really well and I think they are going to do a lot of damage in the playoffs the next couple of weeks,” he said.
This week, the Minutemen get second place Ashland (6-3.5-1) at their place. Studer describes the Arrows as a very fundamental team on both sides of the ball. “They are really good with that spread offense. Coach Valentine has been running that ever since I have been coaching at Lex, which is seven years. The thing about Ashland, both offensively and defensively, is they are extremely well coached. Watching the film the kids are textbook in their fundamentals. Their receivers run great routes, they are always going to catch the ball, their quarterback is just phenomenal making reads and getting the ball where it needs to go and that is year in and year out. Defensively, you watch their middle linebackers, they read your alignment, they read your guards, they know where they are going,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “That’s just great coaching and that’s just the great program over there at Ashland. We really need to focus on trying to mimic that this week. We have to do everything right. We know we are the underdogs going in. It’s a big rivalry game for us, so we will have all of the hoopla and that kind of stuff. We have to sit down and play good fundamental football. We are going to coach our buts off this week and do everything we can to send these seniors out on a good note with a victory against Ashland.”
Studer says a win over Ashland would do wonders for the program in a couple of different ways. “It’s obviously been a long season for us. Coming out of week 10 with a victory going into the off season is great for the kids and the moral of the coaches too, we have a lot of planning and stuff to do. It’s just good for the school. Like I said we want send our seniors out on a positive note. We are doing everything we can this week. We are still pushing our kids. We are still working hard,” he said.
Lexington Looking For Upset
It isn’t exactly David versus Goliath, but it almost is as the Lexington Minutemen host unbeaten Mansfield Senior on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.
A win by the Tygers would give then no less than a share of the “OCC” title.
Lexington played pretty well on offense, but not so much on defense last week in a (55-33) loss to West Holmes in a conference game. Coach Dan Studer says they did some good things, but not enough. “Our game plan was to try and run the ball a little bit more. I think we were pretty successful doing that. West Holmes is a really good team. They have a really good defense. We feel like we played a good football game. Our kids went out and never quit and they tried real hard. In the end we just couldn’t hang on. West Holmes did a great job playing the game they needed to play and it came out in their favor,” he said.
Defensively, Studer says they played with some energy, but they were out of position too much. “It was kind of the same thing as it has been all year. We have to be a little bit more consistent. The special teams hurt us a little bit on Friday night too. There were two kickoffs that got taken back for touchdowns. Anytime you have something like that it is going to hurt you a little bit. We were playing pretty hard and playing physical. There were times that the kids weren’t in the right spot or they were too late getting to the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “When you have some young kids playing on the team like we do those things tend to bite you in the butt. We are working to get better and try to tune things up and get more consistent and make sure we are executing things a little bit better. We have gotten a little bit better as the season has gone on. As long as we keep doing so I think we will be happy.”
Mansfield Senior (8-0,5-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s pull in the large school division, has all the talent in the world, but Studer is also impressed by the fact that they play well together. “They are fast and athletic. Coach Bradley is doing a great job over there with those kids. He has them believing in his program now. I think everybody knew that Mansfield always had the athletes and it was just a matter of getting them all on the same page and get them executing and he has finally done that. It is showing in their performance because they are a really good football team and they are playing as a team. They kind of have that swagger that Mansfield can have when they are good,” he said.
So, what are the keys to an upset by Lexington (1-7,0-5) on Friday night? Studer says frankly there are a lot. “We really have to focus on offensively sustaining drives. We did a good job of that last week. We have to be able to run the ball and throw the ball and possess the ball. We have to have the longer drives we had last week and against Orrville. Defensively we can’t make mistakes and special teams not making mistakes. They have so many explosive players if you make one little mistake it is going to be huge gash. We can’t get into a position where they get up on us early and we are just trying to stop the bleeding. They are going to make their good plays and they have the athletes to do it, but when that happens we have to be able to recoup. We have to be able to get back to what we do. We have to play nasty like we have shown a little bit during the season. We are going to have to do that for four quarters. We aren’t naïve to think that Mansfield won’t be ready to go,” said Studer.
Lexington has to be Consistently Physical
Lexington is in the mist of a five game losing streak and they are searching for answers and one of them seems to be they need to be more physical on a consistent basis.
It looked like things were going to be pretty good for them last week when they took a 14-0 lead over Wooster, but the Generals would end the half scoring 33 straight points and going on to win (40-20) in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.
Coach Dan Studer says they just weren’t able to put 48 minutes of football together. “We started off hot and did some really good things on offense and played some pretty good defense too then we really kind of shut down for the remainder of that first half. We came back and played a decent second half of football and scored some more points, but we didn’t do that well defensively. It is what it is. They were another very good football team. Obviously we are having a rough go at things this year. We are still focusing on getting better each week and doing a better job of playing as a team. We are still working hard to compete this week against West Holmes,” he said.
The one thing that coach Studer has consistently mentioned in conversions with Swankonsports.com is they need for them to be more physical and he says that is still the case. “When we do play physical we notice it. You can see it in the game and we how we are playing and we are always playing better. In the games that we came out and played physical we stayed in and competed well. The times that we are doing it things are good. We have shown signs of that physicality, so we know we can do it. We are just struggling to put together four quarters of football,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We need to play a physical football game this week because West Holmes has a physical football team. They run a physical offense, they run a physical defense and they are going to come out ready to bash some heads in. Hopefully we can play at a high tempo this week and come out ready to go and we are playing our physical game and hopefully we can do it for four quarters against the Knights.”
It’s another big challenge for the Minutemen (1-6,0-4) his week as they head for West Holmes (5-2,2-2) for a battle with the Knights. Holmes gave unbeaten Mansfield Senior a real battle last week before losing (23-17) to the Tygers. Studer says there aren’t any secrets with the Knights. “You aren’t going to see anything new. That is something that coach Maltrich has hung his hat on in his last two jobs at Madison and Norwayne. He is running the same offense that he has run for God knows how many years. We know what we are going to see. Their mentality is this is what we are going to run and you need to stop it. They are pretty good at doing it. They have a good squad this year. They are dangerous and one of things we picked up quick from the film is they are not just your typical, bruising West Holmes team. They have some speed too. They demonstrated that against Mansfield Senior last week, one of the fastest teams in the league. A lot of times they were right there with them if not pulling away from them. It is a big challenge for us and we are excited with the opportunity,” said Studer.
Lexington Wants to be More Physical
Lexington is trying to find kids that are physical football players and they believe that is going to give them a better chance to be successful.
They had the early lead last week, but Clear Fork scored four straight touchdowns and went on to beat them (49-21) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game. Despite the differential Lexington coach Dan Studer felt they did a lot of good things. “We felt despite the score we played some pretty good defense, but Clear Fork they were strong and consistent and when ever we made a mistake they were able to take advantage of that with some big plays. Almost all of their scores were off of explosive big plays and that is a credit to them and the athletes that they have,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Offensively, we struggled a little bit to get the ball moving. We need to do a better job of establishing a run game. The passing game I thin showed a little bit of improvement last week. There were some times, especially in the second half that we were really moving the football. This week we plan to do a better job getting that run game going to open up some thing for Trent.”
Studer believes they need to get their running game going, something that was pretty successful for them last season, if they are going to be able to win games in the tough “OCC” this fall. “It’s just execution. We have been working hard just to make sure the communication is there with our offensive line. We have been kind of mixing and matching our running backs, but this week I think we have kind of narrowed it down to one guy in Ryan Cooper. He is a physical back and that is what we are looking for, especially when we are playing against Madison who is a very physical football team year in and year out. We just need to execute better and get our guys running downhill,” he said.
Lexington (1-4,0-2) plays at Mansfield Madison on Friday night. Speaking of being physical Studer knows they will have to be that and more against a Madison team that relies on running the ball. “That is kind of their thing. We did a great job last year. They had a fantastic running back in Huss and we held him to 24 yards last year, which was I believe his lowest yardage of the season. Hopefully we can do something similar this year. We have had a good week of practice. They have been the most physical practices we have had this year. They are a tough football team. They have tough kids. That is something you have to deal with when you play Madison. You know you are going to get a group of kids that like to play mean and like to come out and hit you. That is just the type of people they are over there. We know we are going to be in for a fight and we look forward to the opportunity,” said Studer.
Lexington Looking for Physical Battle
It’s the renewal of one of the more heated football rivalries in North Central Ohio on Friday night as the Lexington Minutemen play host the Clear Fork Colts.
The Colts had won the last three in the series until last year when the Minutemen won at the Corral (28-17) in Dan Studer’s first year as their coach.
Last week, Lexington (1-3,0-1) started Ohio Cardinal Conference play with a loss at Orrville (16-9,) but Studer thought they played some pretty good football. “We played a good football game against a good football team. It was a tough one on the road. We had a lot of adversity thrown at us with a couple of mistakes we made and a couple of things that didn’t go our way an of course the rain delays and all of that kind of stuff. We were happy with the way our kids played. I think we showed a new style of play of this season. I think we showed a little bit of the potential that we can be as a football team. I think our kids kind of saw that for themselves, which is a positive. I think that they have reacted well to the loss that we had. We have had a good week of practice and we are pretty excited about Clear Fork this week,” said Studer.
After allowing 48 points the previous week in a loss to Delaware Olentangy, Studer thought the defense played inspired football against Orrville and that is a step in the right direction. “It is something that we have been focusing on. We were not happy with our performance at Olentangy on both sides of the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “One thing that we really focused on going into Orrville was our pursuit to the football and just our style of play, it was nothing schematically or anything like that, just how we compose ourselves on the field and how we need to start attacking offenses. Our kids bought into that and a hard week of practice really paid off. Even though we lost we felt that our kids reached a new level.”
Clear Fork (2-2,0-1) got waxed by a pretty good Mansfield Senior team (40-0) last week. Studer describes them as being a pretty typical Clear Fork team. “They are a dangerous football team. They have a really good quarterback back there and they have some athletes they can get the ball to. Defensively they are tough just like Clear Fork kids always are. I think (Friday) night you really aren’t going to see anything out of the ordinary from either team. I think we are going to line up and do what we do. There are not going to be very many secrets out there. It is really going to come down to who wants to play a more physical style of football. That’s why we like playing Clear Fork and that’s why it’s a big rivalry game for us. There is always a lot of emotion involved in the game,” said Studer.
Lexington and Clear Fork have been squaring off since the middle 60’s and Studer says they look forward to this game more than any other. “We love the rivalry games. We love these backyard brawls. There isn’t a lot of love loss there between the two communities. When we are talking about football we really don’t like each other. That’s good, that’s why we play the game. I get excited about it. My kids get excited about it. We know the Clear Fork kids and their community get excited about it. It is one of the few times in our society where young men can go and bang heads and we can be violent and have fun doing it,” said Studer,
Lexington Has to be More Aggressive
Lexington just flat out didn’t play with enough intensity last week in their loss to Delaware Olentangy and that has to change going forward.
The Minutemen (1-2) found themselves behind 31-0 and were never in it as the Braves took them apart (48-21) last Friday.
Coach Dan Studer says they have to get after it more than they did last week if they are going to win. “We had a rough week. We really played under par at least for what we expect from our football team. There were a lot of breakdowns on offense and defense. We had a lot of missed tackles and stuff we are not very proud of. This week we are really focusing on getting back to basics. Really focusing on intensity this week in practice,” he told Swankonsports.com, “Olentangy’s no huddle gave us some problems. It’s not that we were out of shape or they really stunned us with speed or anything like that I just think we lacked a little bit of intensity last week. We just want to get out there and have our kids fly around and be more of an attacking football team. We feel if we can do that a lot better we will have a better chance of competing with Orrville this week.”
Orrville (3-0) entertains the Minutemen on Friday night in the Ohio Cardinal Conference opener for both. The Red Riders were 1-9 last year, but Studer says everybody knew they would be much better. “They have a pretty good running back. He has a lot of speed. They have a lot of kids coming back they were really young last year. We knew they would be building back up. Coach Davault has a great program. They have a little bit of a numbers problem like we do. They are still a little bit young. They are still growing. As they have progressed they are getting better and better and that has already shown with their 3-0 start,” said Studer.
The Lexington coach says Orrville knows what they are good at and this year it is running the ball. “They have beaten a couple of pretty good football teams. They haven’t done anything fancy they just do a lot of things that they do well. I think that is something we are trying to emulate. We are trying to do well the things that we do. They are doing a good job of that, which makes them scary,” he said.
Studer says if they are going to win this week they have to bring a lot more intensity to the table. “We have to execute. We have to do what we do. We have to come out a lot more aggressive on both sides of the ball and on special teams. I don’t feel like we did that at all last week. We need a better intensity level and I think our kids are buying into it. We have had two of the better practices that we have had this week. We are looking forward to starting conference play. We are ready for a fight and that is what we are going to get on Friday night,” said Studer
Minutemen Need to Finish Things Off
Lexington held a 16 point halftime lead last week at Ontario and let it slip away, losing in overtime to the Warriors.
Ontario converted a two point conversion in the overtime period to beat the Minutemen (44-43) and stun the Lexington faithful.
Big Lex coach Dan Studer says the made a lot of mistakes, especially when the Warriors scored 23 points in the third quarter, and that cost them the game. “We came out the first half swinging, sputtered early in the second half, in the third quarter did not play well at all, made a lot of mistakes offensively and defensively, had a lot of trouble just doing basic things, executing things on defense, making tackles, had a lot trouble getting key blocks to get our offense moving. We knew that Ontario had three pretty explosive players and they shined in the second half. They took control of the football game and it was just too little, too late for us. We really have to focus on playing four quarters of football if we want to stay competitive,” said Studer.
Shelby (0-1) was blasted by Madison (54-6) last week as the Whippets committed four turnovers and allowed four fourth quarter scores. They were forced to replace injured quarterback Lucas Oulsey with his backup Spencer Blevins. Studer says Blevins has the talent to do some things. “They have some athletes. The quarterback that is filling in now. We have seen the film of the scrimmage against Galion and last week against Madison, and he seems to be a tough runner. He is able to make some plays. They are trying to find what it is they are good at. Defensively we have seen some multiple fronts and some creative things they have been doing. You’re never sure what to expect. It is hard to practice for. It can be a little bit nerve racking preparing for something like that on Friday night,” he said.
The Whippets have lost 20 of their last 21 games and it can be important for an opponent to put a team such as that is doubt with some early scores. However, Studer making reference to the Ontario game, knows they have to play a complete game. “That is always a benefit. Over the last couple of years we have been good at getting that early lead, but last week goes to show you can be up by two or three touchdowns and if you let your guard down people are capable of sneaking back and biting you on the butt there. Scoring early and often, sure we will take it, but even against Shelby we need to play four quarters of football. We need to be able to finish the job and that is certainly something we are focusing on this week,” said Studer.
Minutemen Ready for Athletic Ontario
Lexington and Ontario has become quite a rivalry in football and it renews on Friday night at Copeland Stadium in Ontario.
Both schools think they will figure in their conference races this year, Lexington in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and Ontario in the Northern Ohio League.
Big Lex coach Dan Studer says they graduated a lot of talent from last year, but they have a lot of guys left that are used to the Friday night lights of varsity football. “We feel like we are in pretty good position to compete. We are fortunate enough to have a good array of veteran players, both offensively and defensively. We might not have a lot or returning starters from last year, but we have a lot of guys that have seen a lot of action. We have a lot of good senior players and senior leaders. One of the things that we always talk about at Lexington is get better every day. We need to do that to be competitive with teams like Ontario and all of the “OCC.” For week one coming in we are pretty happy where we are at. We feel like we can compete with Ontario on Friday night,” said Studer.
The Lexington coach says they have the potential to have a pretty good defense this year, which they will need against Ontario, because they have some kids that know what they have to do. “We have two of our three starters on the defensive line. We lost two really good linebackers last year, but we have our senior captain that played quite a bit last year at linebacker. He learned a lot last year and has really progressed,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “His name is Kendall Kuhn. He is a smart kid and one of our captains. We have Trent Richwine, our other captain. Everyone likes to talk about him as quarterback, but he is one of our better defensive players too, holding down that strong safety spot. We have a lot of other guys that saw time last year. There are going to be a lot of new faces with guys that have been competing for spots the last two years.”
The Minutemen railed in the second half last year to beat Ontario 34-26. They did give up 293 yards rushing to Jordan Campbell and Studer says they need to control him and the other Ontario home run hitters. “They have three players we have been looking at extensively through film, not only from two scrimmages, but from last year in Mack, Campbell and Boatwright. They are all really explosive guys. They don’t need much to make a big play. That is something I think we struggled with in our two scrimmages, eliminating that big play. Athletically I think we match up well with them, but we can’t afford to have any busts offensively or defensively. When you are playing kids like that they are going to take advantage of any mistake you make. So, we have to really eliminate any mistakes on our part. We really have to concentrate on what we do and really get down to the fundamentals of the game and not giving them an opportunity to take any big gouges out of us because they definitely have the potential to do that,” said Studer.
Lexington to Throw More?
Last year, Lexington was a team that based its offense on running the football, but they lost Andrew Hunt and Brandon Henderson to graduation, but they return quarterback Trent Richardson.
So, the Minutemen might just throw it more this year than last.
Coach Dan Studer says they will have some strength in the offensive line too. “We have a veteran group coming back. We have almost our entire stating line on offense and defense. We lost a guard. We lost an interior lineman, but other than that our big boys are pretty much in tact from last year. We have a returning quarterback. We have a lot of skilled guys with some experience that saw some time last year. Obviously we lost some pretty good running backs and linebackers and a really good wide receiver and safety. The kids that are stepping up so far this year are doing a great job filling that void. We are pretty excited so far about how we have been practicing and gains we have been making over the last couple of weeks,” said Studer.
Lexington stayed in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race for much of the season before settling for fifth place. Studer thinks they will be a factor this year too. “We feel at Lexington as long as we stay healthy and as long as we are doing the things that we game plan for and as long as we are executing at the level we expect our kids to execute we always expect to compete in the “OCC.” With that being said the competition out there is rough. Mansfield has a lot coming back, Madison has a lot coming back, and West Holmes is going to be a threat this year. Like I tell our kids all of the time every week is a rivalry week. It doesn’t have to be Ashland or Orrville or Shelby. Everybody we play on our schedule is tough and everybody comes to play each week, so we have to focus on what we are doing to stay competitive,” he said.
Studer says they are set to use their talent wisely this year and that means they are going to throw a little more. “Offensively we are really focusing on our running game this year. We lost to really good running backs. When you have an Andrew Hunt and a Braden Henderson in the backfield it takes a lot of pressure off you quarterback and it takes a little bit of pressure off your offensive line. We have some good young guys that are stepping up. We are focusing on fine tuning our offensive line play. We are taking a little bit of pressure off our running game this year with our passing game. We do have a veteran quarterback. We have a lot of receivers on the outside. We are kind of flipping our roles a little bit. We might be a little more pass prone,” said Studer.
Scrimmage action begins this Friday for Lexington and Studer says it’s a chance to find out how they stack up against somebody else. “The first scrimmage coming up is pretty much a glorified practice. We script plays. We will go with like 10 plays on offense and 10 plays on defense. But, you have that fresh meat coming in. You are not beating up on yourselves. You want to get out there and execute the things you have been practicing for the last two or three weeks at full speed,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have some really tough scrimmage this year. We have Lake coming in this weekend and then we go and play Bishop Watterson next Saturday. They are two really good football teams. A lot of tradition. A lot of great coaching. You look good against each other in inter squad stuff, but once that new teams comes in it’s like that old boxing saying everybody has got a plan until you get punched in the mouth.”
Lexington One Step From Regional
Logan Bastin’s two-run single in the first inning gave Lexington a lead they never relinquished and they went on to down Lima Shawnee in the division two district semi-finals on a soggy day at Bluffton University on Thursday.
Brody Basoline gave up only two runs and sophomore Evan Lee earned the save in the (3-2) win by the Ohio Cardinal Conference champion Minutemen.
Coach Jeff Strickler had scouted Shawnee and he knew they had to be patient and not swing at balls out of the strike zone and that paid off in the first inning. “We went into the game and wanted to be very, very, very patient to force the Wilder boy to throw a lot of pitches. We started off the very first inning with the approach that we got a strike before we started swinging the bat. We got his pitch count up quite high in that first inning and got some guys on base. Logan Bastin came through with a big two run single and kind of got it going for us,” said Strickler.
Lexington (23-4), #2 in the final Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll, has great pitching depth. Strickler gave the ball Thursday to Brody Basilone and he tuned in an outstanding performance. “Brody Basilone did a fantastic job pitching. I’m not sure what his statistics are yet, but he kept us in the game and kept them off balance. They are a good hitting team. They did get some hits off of him, but he was able to scatter them and we had some good defense behind him and kept them tot two runs,” said Strickler.
In a pressure packed seventh inning, sophomore Even Lee came in nailed down the save. Strickler says he did the job. “We made a pitching change in the seventh inning. We brought in sophomore Evan Lee. Evan did very, very well in that seventh inning. He got the first two guys out and then he game up a couple of hits. They had runners on first and second, but then he got Cory Wilder, their best baseball player, their best hitter, to pop up the right field to end the game. A sophomore coming in in that kind of pressure situation I thought he did very, very well,” said Strickler.
It was an enjoyable drive home from western Ohio for the Minutemen. Strickler says this is a group that believes in each other. “They get along very well. It’s like any family we have our disagreements and we have our spats, but they get over it. They are friends. They hang out together. They are close guy of guys and they have been close to each other for a long, long time,” he said.
Lexington will face Wapakoneta in the district final Saturday afternoon at Bluffton. The Redskins were state runners-up last year and Strickler says they have some weapons. “(Thursday) was the first time I got to see them play. I was impressed with how they put the ball in play. They hit the ball fairly well. They hit line drives. There wasn’t anything that was really, really sharp it was just more line drive base hits,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “They have some solid pitching. They have a really good left handed pitcher, who kept Bellevue at bay for quite a while. Bellevue got some runs on some defensive mistakes by Wapakoneta. They do make some mistakes and we will have to take advantage of that if they do that in our game.”
Wapakoneta beat Bellevue (14-4) of the Northern Ohio League in the first game on Thursday.
Lexington Wins “OCC”
As many good teams as there are in the Ohio Cardinal Conference it seems fitting that the baseball title would be determined on the final week of the regular season.
Lexington (21-4,12-2), #2 in theSwankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the large school division, beat Ashland (6-1) on Monday to claim the championship by a game over Wooster.
Coach Jeff Strickler says this has been a very consistent ball club this year. “They have come out to play just about every night. The way this season has gone it is kind of like we have a target on our back so they have to come out ready to play. They have been doing that and I am very proud of them with how they have handled things thins year. It has been good effort by everybody,” he said.
Senior Zach Temple turned in another strong effort on the mound for the Minutemen and he was helped out by some fine defensive wok too, according to Strickler. “Zach Temple really did a nice job pitching (Monday). He didn’t have his best, best stuff, but he scattered 10 hits and he only walked two guys. They weren’t able to put anything solid together. We did have two innings where they had the bases loaded and we got inning ending double plays to get out of it. Zach kept us in the game,” said Strickler.
This is a very good team, but it is it the best coach Strickler has ever had at Lexington? “I would say they are one of the best. You know, if they get to the regionals then I think we can say they are the best team I have had. On paper going into the season I thought they could possibly be the best team I have ever had. We are really deep in pitching and we are really good as far as hitting goes. The defense has been really solid all year,” said Strickler.
On Thursday, the Minutemen face Lima Shawnee in the division two district semi-finals at Bluffton University. Strickler knows they will be playing a team with a strong reputation. “They are a pretty good ball team. Their record is only like 14-8 or something, but they play a lot of really good teams like Wapakoneta, Defiance, Bryan and just a lot of good teams over that way. There is a lot of good competition. When I saw them play Celina last week they hit the ball well. They put it in play pretty good. The pitching was solid. I have heard a lot of things about their pitching and maybe they were off a little bit that day,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I could see when they are on they could be very, very tough. Their ace pitcher can bring the fastball and mix in his breaking stuff. It’s going to be a game where we are going in expecting a tough game and expect to play our best to keep moving on.”
Brody Basilone is expected to get the ball for Lexington in the district match-up. Strickler says he has earned it. “Brody is going to be pitching Thursday. The statistics that he has put together through the course of year. His ERA is 0.59 and teams are batting only .195 off of him. He is the best we’ve got statistically and that is why we are going to go that route. Zach is very, very good too, but he is a little bit higher statistically in some areas then Brody is. With our schedule they both see the same teams. That is why I made the decision that I did,” said Strickler.
Lexington Wins Sectional
It wasn’t easy, but the Lexington won a division two sectional championship on Monday night.
They rallied to beat the Shelby Whippets (4-3) in a sectional final at Clyde High School.
The Minutemen tailed twice in the game, but coach Jeff Strickler says they had the confidence to battle back. “We gave up the two runs in the first inning, both of them unearned. We have not been in that position very much this year, but the kids battled back. They have been playing with a lot confidence. We are very confident we can make up a two run deficit. We tied the score up and they went up again and then we came up by two and held on to the end. It was a very well played baseball game on both sides,” said Strickler.
The Lexington offense averages over 10 runs a game, but Strickler says this time it was pitching and defense that tuned the trick. “The only error we had all night was in the first inning and after that we played pretty much flawless defense. Brody (Basilone) settled in after the first inning and did a real nice job. He pretty shut then down. They only had one base runner in the last two innings,” he said.
Lexington (20-4,10-2), #2 in he new Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the large school division, has a one game lead in the Ohio Cardinal Conference over Wooster. They play at Ashland (9-13,5-7) in a league game on Tuesday. A win gives them no less than a share of the conference title. “That was one of our three goals that we had. It’s going to be a battle. Anytime you go play Ashland it is always a really hard fought baseball game between the two schools. We are over there, so we have that obstacle a little bit. The kids are confident, we are playing well. Hopefully, that goes over to (Tuesday.),” he said.
The Minutemen are blessed with a deep pitching staff. Strickler will give the ball to Zach Temple on Tuesday. “We have been fortunate that my top two pitchers you really can’t say this one is number one and this one is number two between (Zach) Temple and Basilone. Those two have pitched very, very well. This week we decided we were going to go with Brody in the tournament game and then pitch Zach in the first game against Ashland. Some of that is due to some of the circumstances that we have as far as health and that type of stuff. We just thought this was the way to go,” said Strickler.
Lexington Back in First
Lexington’s share of first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference lasted just one day as they have now returned to the top spot in the standings with a win over Orrville and a Wooster loss to Mansfield Madison.
The Minutemen (19-3,10-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the large school division, lost in Orrville (3-2) on Tuesday, but they responded to beat the Red Riders (7-0) on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Madison downed Wooster (6-5) also on Wednesday.
Lexington coach Jeff Strickler was impressed with his club’s focus, especially after Tuesday. “The kids really came in (Wednesday) and they were relaxed, they were focused, they played with a lot of intensity and they just had fun. That s what high school baseball is about having fun and winning some games along the way. It was a big win for us,” said Strickler.
The players knew what they had to do on Wednesday and Strickler says they went about their business. “I thought the last couple of weeks we might have gotten a little complacent, but (Wednesday) they went out and there was no complacency at all. The kids just played well. We didn’t have a tremendous amount of hits, but we were able to put some hits together. Some people got on base with some walks and stuff and did the things they had to do to win. After some disappointment (Tuesday) night it was very good to get a win,” said Strickler.
A key to the win was the performance of Lexington’s starting pitcher Brody Basilone. Strickler says he was outstanding. “Brody Basilone did a very nice job. He had seven strikeouts and only walked one. He hit a couple of guys. They got four hits off him and they were all just singles. He did a nice job moving the ball around and changing the eye level on hitters. He was very strong the whole game. He was in control the whole way. He did a great job,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win. Considering the loss on Tuesday, Strickler says the start of the game and getting out with no damage was huge. “Their leadoff hitter, the Johnston kid got a hit. After that Brody settled down and he got a couple of strikeouts in that first inning. He got a big groundout to Mason (Willeke) at short. We got through the first inning. In the second inning he started to cruise a little bit. The one time they did get the bases loaded, the third inning I think, he got out of it with some good pitches and got the last two outs to get out of the inning with no damage,” he said.
Now with their destiny in their own hands, Strickler says they know what they have to do. “It was great that Madison beat Wooster (Wednesday) and put us back in first by ourselves. Now we control what we do. We have to come out next week against Ashland and play well. We also have tournament next week. It is a very busy week. We have to play some good baseball to get through it,” said Strickler.
Lexington takes a Two Game Lead
Lexington seems to have all of the answers this year. They rallied to beat Wooster on Tuesday to establish a two game lead in the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball standings.
Trailing 1-0 after four innings, the Minutemen (16-1,9-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the large school division, scored three times in the fifth and four in the seventh to secure the win (7-3) over second place Generals.
Coach Jeff Strickler says they were able to take advantage when the situation presented itself. “We didn’t get on the board until the fifth inning. They were ahead 1-0 at that point. We took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth. They came back in scored two in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run homer by Daugherty. We were able to get four runs across against Buckingham in the seventh to win it,” he said.
Nick Buckingham has had an outstanding season for the Generals (13-3,6-2), #5 in our coach’s poll. Strickler believes they had a good approach and made him work harder. “It was a huge win. They are a really good team. Buckingham is a really good pitcher. They hit the ball well. The biggest thing about (Tuesday) was I thought our kids did a nice job making Buckingham throw pitches. We were able to get his pitch count up and I think that affected him a little bit later on in the game. We were able to get a couple walks and some timely hits and get some runs scored,” said Strickler.
Wooster will be at Lexington on Wednesday and Strickler knows that will be a big game, but he says they are all huge right now. “They are all big at this point. We have Wooster again (Wednesday). We have Orrville next week and Ashland the week after. We have five very tough baseball games left in our conference schedule. Wooster is going to come over here (Wednesday) and they are going to be looking for some revenge. We have to bring our “A” game in order to win again. We will see what we can do,” he says.
One of the keys to the success of the Minutemen this year is their pitching depth. Strickler thinks that was a factor again on Tuesday. “Zach Temple was our starter (Tuesday). He struggled a little bit at times as far as throwing strikes, but he was able to limit damage in what Wooster was able to do. Evan Lee came in the seventh inning and faced four batters and got the three outs to end the game. Evan did a real nice job coming in from third base to the mound and throwing strikes. It is really nice to have pitchers and guys you can count on. Not just in the pitching spot, but the other eight positions as well. I am having a lot of fun this year coaching this team,” said Strickler.
First Place Lexington at Madison
Lexington has been playing as good a brand of baseball as anyone in the North Central Ohio area this year and that has led to sole possession of first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.
Veteran coach Jeff Strickler says they have been executing in all elements of the game, including the little things. “The kids are playing very well. We are doing the things that are important to us. We are getting good pitching and playing good defense behind them. Offensively we are having kids hit line drive after line drive and people moving runners around and being aggressive on the bases. We are doing a lot of the little things right. That has added up to the wins.”
Despite the outstanding play the Minutemen have not been able to pull away from the rest of the first in the “OCC.” Ashland and Wooster have just one loss.
Lexington (14-1,7-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the large school division, plays a game at Madison (5-9,3-3) on Thursday in a game that was rained out on Wednesday. Strickler says they want the sweep, but they know it won’t be easy. “It doesn’t happen very often for either one of us. We are going to do everything we can to play the baseball we have been playing. As long as we stay focused on what we are doing and play with the intensity we have been playing with I think our chances are pretty good. The kids have a lot of confidence in what they are doing right now and that can only help us,” he said.
Lexington handled Madison (9-3) on Tuesday. However, Strickler knows there aren’t many sweeps in this series. “Coach Rickert over there does a nice job getting those kids ready to play. They play very sound baseball and they have good pitching. (Thursday) we are going to see a good pitcher in Bo. He got us last year and we will see if we can’t turn that around. Madison is always good. It doesn’t matter what their record is they come to play us and we come to play them. It’s a war,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night.
Strickler believes the rain could be a plus in that it gave some of the players some extra rest. He doesn’t believe it will curve their momentum. “Rain is never good, but it’s just one day off and that’s not really going to bother us too much. Some kids can use the rest. Everybody has two games this week. We had a doubleheader last Saturday and this past week we have played a lot of ball games already. We had a good practice inside (Wednesday) and hopefully we can get out and play (Thursday),” said Strickler.
Lexington Playing Excellent Baseball
Lexington is playing as well as any baseball team in North Central Ohio right now. Just ask Clear Fork.
The Minutemen (8-1,3-1) were in the process of taking apart the Colts (14-0) in the fourth inning and then Mother Nature stepped in like a referee in a prize fight before anyone got hurt too badly. The game will be finished prior to Wednesday’s scheduled meeting at Lexington.
Zach Steery and Brody Basilone both hit home runs, Steery’s was a grand slam, as part of an 11 run third inning for the Minutemen. Coach Jeff Strickler says it’s been a good start to the year for them. “They are putting all phases together pretty well at this moment, offense, defense and pitching. You can’t ask for much else,” he said.
Mason Willeke, Sterry, Basilone and Logan Bastin have all been hitting over .400 for the season and Strickler says the rest of the lineup is coming around too. “Our one through four are all batting .400 or better. The five, six, and seven are around the .250 to .300 mark and getting better each week. The bottom of the order they are doing a pretty good job of getting on base, whether it be by walks or moving runners with sacrifices,” said Strickler.
Starter Zack Temple limited Clear Fork to three hits, two by Ridge Windand, over three innings of work on Tuesday. Strickler says he is part if a deep pitching rotation. “We had Zach pitching very well (Tuesday). Along with him you have Brody Basilone. He has pitched a couple games already. His ERA is less than one. He threw a perfect game against Mansfield Senior. We have Evan Lee who is doing very well. He’s a sophomore. Logan Bastin has come in a few times. We have had Adam Johnson, a lefty, a junior, that has picked up some innings on the weekend. We have a lot of depth. Mason Willeke pitches, but we haven’t had to use him as a pitcher yet, which is good,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday evening, “It saves his arm to play short. I think we are a very good team. It’s blessed with a lot of good players. A lot of talented kids. They work really hard and they just love the game of baseball and it’s showing.”
Right now, Lexington shares first in the “OCC” with Ashland. Wooster, Mansfield Madison and Orrville standing a game back. Strickler says their goal is to win the league, but it won’t be easy. “That’s our goal going in. This is one of the premier baseball conferences in the state. You better be ready to play every league game if you want to be able to win this thing. Anybody can win this thing this is probably as wide open a conference race as it has ever been,” he said.
This May be the Year For Lexington
Lexington has a real chance to come out on top in the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball race this season. They return almost all of their players from a 10-18 team from a year ago.
This has been a season the Minutemen have been building toward for the last couple of years. Coach Jeff Strickler likes what he has seen so far, although like most coaches, he would have liked to have been outside a whole lot more during spring training. “I am pretty happy with were we are at. I am not very happy as far as not being able to scrimmage anybody yet or being outside on our field. I guess everybody is in the same boat as far as that goes,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have a lot of kids back from last year and there is a lot of good talent in that group. We have some good kids coming up behind them, so we are looking forward to this group.”
This is a baseball team that has the potential to score a lot of runs. Strickler says they just need a little bit more consistency throughout the lineup this spring. “We have two kids back from last year in Willeke and Stary that hit around .450 or so and several other .300 hitters with Baston and Basalone. If we can get a couple of other kids to get their batting averages up in the 300’s we will be pretty good offensively,” he said.
Hitting aside, Strickler believe the real strength of the ball club lies on the pitcher’s mound. He thinks they have great depth. “Pitching can be a real strong point for us this year. We have all of our pitchers back from last year. Temple and Basalone were our one, two last year and they are back. James Watkins is back. We have Mason Willeke. Right now, I have six pitchers that I’m not afraid to use,” he said.
Yes, the bad weather has affected everyone this year, but some more than others. Strickler believes with their experience they have a chance to survive it more easily. “A lot of it is knowing what to do, learn how to keep you focus, learn what you need to do on certain plays and what is expected of you as a player. It definitely helps in a situation like this where we haven’t been able to go up against anybody else,” said Strickler.
Lexington With a Solid Battery
Perhaps a lot has changed about softball. It is more offensive in nature, and the depth of talent is more, but one thing that has not changed is if you are going to field a good team you better have strong pitching and Lexington has that.
Lady Lex begins its season with two against Norwalk on Saturday and then against Ohio Cardinal Conference foe Mansfield Senior next week.
Coach Mike Hamman says they have been putting in the right kind of effort, but he would really like to take his team out onto the real diamond. “I can tell you I like the work ethic. The kids are working hard. We need to get outside here because the season is rapidly approaching here,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday. With five inches of snow on the ground on Monday, Hamman and the rest of the spring sport coaches in North Central Ohio are holding their breath.
Lexington was 15-13 a year ago and lost in the district tournament to Sandusky Perkins. Hamman says he has a strong group back, especially at pitcher and catcher. “We have five seniors, a couple of sophomores, that are going to be playing for us. Then we have a couple of freshmen that will be playing for us. We have our pitcher-catcher back in Abby Schro and Morgan Ziegler is our catcher. We start there and then we go out from there. Jordan Holder is a senior and Caitlin Spore is a senior. We are counting on big things from them four,” said Hamman.
The veteran Lexington coach knows they are strong inside the circle, but he says they have to be able to put together some depth if they are going to compete in the always tough “OCC” this spring. “I think you start with your pitcher and catcher and then you go out form there. You want to be strong up the middle. In the way the game is played today you really can’t have a weak player at any position. Every position is important. We are working really hard to put a solid 10, 12 girls on the field and be able to compete with anybody we play on our schedule,” said Hamman.
Lexington Faces Elida in Districts
For the second straight year Lexington will face Elida in the district tournament at Ohio Northern University.
This time it will be in the division two semi-finals on Wednesday night.
Elida beat Lexington last year (65-36) behind the exploits of Reggie McAdams, now at the University of Akron.
Lexington (16-7), #3 in the final Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, beat Upper Sandusky (55-39) last Friday in the sectional final. Coach Scott Hamilton says they were able to get a lead against the Rams and that was critical. “They are very patient, very deliberate. We knew that our possessions were going to be cut maybe not quite in half, but they were going to be reduced. Fortunately for us we had the guys ready. We jumped out to an early lead, which is always nice, but against a team like Upper Sandusky is really a plus. If you get down to a team like that it’s very difficult to come from behind no matter what kind of weapons you have. They just take so many possessions away from you. They are capable of taking the air out of the ball. We added to our lead as the game went on. We were able to hold off their lead. They made a charge in the second half. Our kids did a nice job of playing against that,” said Hamilton.
McAdams may be gone, but Hamilton says Elida (16-8) already has someone to replace him and more. “There is basketball rich history over there in that part of the state and Elida definitely fits in with that. As many people that know about Reggie McAdams there is going to be more people that are going to know about Dakota Mathias. He is a junior this year and was the sophomore point guard on the team that we played against last year. He is already exceeding what Reggie was doing as far as recruitment and interest from some of the college coaches,” said Hamilton.
Obviously, Mathias, who had 30 in heir sectional final win over Celina, is difficult to defend. Hamilton says they aren’t going to change much from what they have done on defense all year. “We are not going to be able to do anything to him that he has probably not seen in his first 24 games. What we are going to try and do is get after him and play good defense. That is what we have tried to do all year. He has got a nice supporting cast and that is one of the things when things might not be going as well for him. He is definitely capable of putting 10 to 15 assists on the board. What we are going to do I try to make things as difficult as we can on him and then not allow him to just pick us apart and find his wide open teammates for easy makeable shots,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We can’t forget about his support cast, which in the few times we have seen them we have seen multiple guys go off for double digit nights basically all him being able to create for him. It’s going to be a tall task for us, but It’s an opportunity ti go against a nice player and a good program.”
Sometimes a good theory is to make a kid like Mathias work hard on defense, so he doesn’t have as much on offense. However, Hamilton says that may be difficult to do in this case due to how Elida plays defense. “On the defensive end they play a little triangle and two and we kind of get the feeling that Dakota can be a very good defender, but they put him down below. We think that is to keep him out of foul trouble. He is not used to using up his energy on the defensive side. It’s going to be a tall task to get him to use as much energy we can on the defensive side,” he said.
Lexington Knows About Upper Sandusky
Lexington opens the tournament season with a match-up with Upper Sandusky on Friday night in the division two sectional final at Bucyrus High School.
The Minutemen (15-7), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, did not play the Rams during the regular season, but they did beat them in a tournament game last season.
Scott Hamilton, in his first year as varsity coach, says he hopes they are peaking now, but he really isn’t sure. “I guess you would have t wait till the end of the season to answer that accurately, but we are hoping so. We are trying to do some things. I have spoke with a couple of veteran coaches over the last week about what they do and how they treat the end of the season as far as practice time what they put in their plans and their schedule and just how they do some things. I have made some adjustments to try and make sure that we are rested and ready to go. Hopefully, when it is all said and done we can look back say we did they right things and we peaked at the right time and were playing our best basketball at the end of the season,” said Hamilton.
Upper Sandusky (13-10), frankly, plays like no other team around here with their deliberate approach on offense. Hamilton says it’s is not about taking time off the clock, but getting a good shot. “If nothing else you could say that coach Adams is he is deliberate on offense. He wants to the best shot that he can get. His kids believe in that philosophy and they are very patient,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “At the end of quarters and stuff they are running the clock to get that last shot, but for the most part their offense is the motion, the movement, the passing, the cutting, the screening to get that open look. If they would get that look in the first 10 seconds of their possession I’m sure they would take it. A lot of times it is coming down to 25, 30, 35 seconds into that possession or longer when they get that open look.”
Upper Sandusky is also able to hold the score down because Hamilton says they play outstanding half court defense. “Another thing he has those guys doing is playing really aggressive, solid, man to man defense. They play nice defense, not so much in the full court, but in the half court they defend very well,” he said.
It is important that you be efficient when you have the ball on offense. Hamilton says you just aren’t going to get as many shots. “You really have to value every possession in the game with them. You could probably go into a game with them and plan on maybe having half of the possessions. That would probably be a safe bet. If you are touching the ball “X” amount of times in a normal game when you get up against Upper Sandusky it is going to drop dramatically. Tuesday night Shelby had some open looks, missed some free throws, just couldn’t knock down some shots that might have gone for them in the regular season. Those become harder and harder as a team when you are playing a team like Upper Sandusky. Upper shot the ball very well, especially in the fourth quarter from the free throw line,” said Hamilton.
Another thing you can’t do is force quick shots. Hamilton says that is what Upper wants you to do. “If you get frustrated having to play defense for let’s say a minute and they get a good look on you. You get frustrated and come down and try to get that back right away. If you come down and offensively take quick shots, poor shot selection, things like that, that leads right into their hands. We are going to have the stress that we have to be just as patient on both ends of the floor and get the shots we want and then be able to set down and defend whether it be for 25 seconds or two minutes and 25 seconds. We have to make sure we are ready to defend in the half court,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Suffers Poor Shooting
Lexington has lost only seven games this year and four of them are to two teams in Mansfield Senior and Wooster.
Wooster beat Lexington (49-38) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game in which the Minutemen shot less than 30 percent from the field. The Generals had beaten Lex at their place by 30 points about a month ago.
Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says Wooster just seems to play well against them. “They just give us a tough match-up. They have some athletic guards. They have some guys that can knock down some shots. And that is not to begin to talk about they go 6’6”, 6’6”, 6’7” inside. All very athletic, all very capable. One of those guys Kubiak steps out and knocks down a three against us and that makes them even more deadly. They just give us some match-up problems. We didn’t help ourselves by not shooting the ball very well against them last Friday night,” he said.
The loss to Wooster certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Hamilton says they just couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. “I have said it all season long that my guys have been working hard. They were just working their tails off trying to get stuff to fall. We didn’t shoot the ball well from behind the arc, but we also missed a lot of wide open layups. I think going back and watching the film there were like 14 wide open threes we took and we just couldn’t get any of them to fall. I think we shot something like 11 percent from the arc and 28 percent from the field total. That included half a dozen to eight layups that we missed. When you do things like that you are probably not going to come out on the right side of the wins and losses,” said Hamilton.
Lexington (14-7,8-5), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, in a share of third place with Wooster in the “OCC”, travels to Orrville (5-16,2-11), a winner of three of their last five, for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night. Hamilton believes after some struggles the Red Riders are putting things together. “They were a little bit like us coming off of the football season they had a couple of injuries, a couple of guys that were making the transition to where maybe we had a couple more basketball guys while they had a lot of football guys. Their primary scorer and go to guy (Summers) had to have surgery on his shoulder. That was right about the time we played them in the first go around. They have a full time replacement for him because he is out for the rest of the season. It seems like their kids are starting to get a little chemistry. They are starting to believe in each other. They are starting to get their basketball legs,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I have noticed in the last four or five games they have really been able to put some points on the board. They are shooting the ball very well, especially from the free throw line.”
Orrville has a smaller, old fashion gym, at least for now. Hamilton says it has traditionally been a tough place for them. “We have not won in their place since 2006. They defend their court very well. It is going to be a special night up there because they are building a new school. They are going to have a new gymnasium in it. This maybe the last time we are going to get a chance to play on that court up there. It is going to be a special night for them, so we have make sure we have everything lined up and ready to go when we go to Orrville Friday,” he said.
Lexington will play either Upper Sandusky or Shelby in a tournament game next week. Hamilton says they need to be in top form. “I just think we want to do some things well. Whether you say that is shooting, defense, chemistry. We just want to go in doing some things well and making sure we are still doing things better. We talked this week about making sure we are peaking at the right time. Every coach is thinking right now where are you conditioning wise and where are you injury wise. We just want to make sure we are doing everything the best that you can. Everything that we can control we want to be at the top of our game,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Girls’ Getting More Experience
Lexington has struggled with some inexperience this season, but they hope to have grown enough to surprise some people in the tournament.
They meet Galion (8-14) in the division two sectional semi-finals on Wednesday night at Ontario High School.
Despite a 1-21 record this season, coach Daryl Uhde says their attitude has been very good this year. “The kids mental approach has been very, very good. They have been very positive and they come in and work hard. It’s just the inexperience this year and also numbers. We didn’t get the numbers we thought and that had something to do with it. There have been a lot of games when we have been competitive and have been winning some games that we just haven’t finished,” said Uhde.
Their record may not show it, but Uhde believes that they have shown improvement this year and the future is bright. “I think we have improved and that was my goal this year to be honest with you when I knew that about some of the kids that we would be missing that improvement was the important part. Again we are pretty young. We have a nice younger group down tin the junior high. It has been a tough year, no question about it. I think here in the next three years if the girls work hard we will be back up there,” said Uhde.
Galion has not had a winning record in basketball since the early 1990’s, but Uhde thinks this is one of the better teams they have had in that time. “They have really improved and it’s probably one their better teams in a long time. They have lost a lot of close game also. I’m not sure of their record, seven or eight wins,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I think it’s the best record they have had for a while. They have some seniors that are experienced. They have one of the better three shooters in the area, really the best three shooter, she has 64 threes, in Beachy. They are enthusiastic and they play very hard, so it should be a good game.:
One their big goals on Wednesday night, according to Uhde, is to get some easy shots whether in transition or the half court. “We have been getting better shots of transition. We are a little up tempo, but we also have to play a half court game. We are a combination of both, but they have quite a few seniors on their team. They have been playing together, so they know each other a little bit better. We can play the up tempo game. Our shooting is very important. Our shooting percentage in the last few games that we have lost has been way down. We are getting some open shots and creating some shots. They just aren’t going in,” said Uhde.
Lexington Faces Rematch with Wooster
Lexington has been one of the more consistent teams in North Central Ohio this season. They have played well every night, with one exception, a 30-point loss to Wooster five weeks ago. They get a chance to prove something on Friday night.
For the second time this season, Lexington (14-6,8-4), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in he large school division, beat Ashland by three points (54-51) this time at Arrow Arena. Lexington coach Scott Hamilton knew it was going to be tough and it was. “We were really aware of how difficult it is to win up there at Arrow gymnasium, so we tried to work with the kids and get them mentally prepared. We knew Ashland we going to get after it after we got a three point win at our place this first time. Luckily for us the kids went in there and worked hard for 32 minutes. They were prepared knowing it was going to come down to the final minute of the game. We knew we had to defend all five guys on the floor. They put in three point shooters at any given time. Our kids made some plays and knocked down some shots and defended well for 32 minutes and we were able to get the win,” said Hamilton.
Senior guard Mason Willeke, who averages almost 20 PPG, scored five in the final minute against Ashland. Hamilton says they found a way to make plays. “One of the things that we try to work on in practice is to create as many situations as we can in the execution of our plays so that when our opponent tries to react as far as a defense our kids know how to react. We know that there are a lot of good coaches out there that are scouting us and know what we try to do. We try to give ourselves other options. Last Friday some of those things came into play and the kids reacted and did a nice job,” he said.
On January 11, Wooster drilled Lexington (81-51) in a league game. Hamilton says it really wasn’t anything they didn’t do, it was more Wooster doing some things they don’t normally do. “I am not going to take anything away from Wooster because I think they played a very good game that night. Obviously I was confident in what we were going to try and do. Statistically speaking what Wooster did that night was a little bit outside of their normal, which is good and what you want as a coach,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We kind of keyed in on a couple of areas with them having two 6’6” guys and a 6’7” and not shooting well from the perimeter. Of course, that night they shot the ball very well from the perimeter and the 6’6”, 6’7” guys were just as good. Now for us we are just going to tweak some things and make sure we try to contain them the best we can in all areas of the court.”
Lexington was award the top seed in the division two sectional tournament at Bucyrus. However, Hamilton says with the balance in the sectional the seeding really don’t mean that much. “Number one to number seven as far as the seeding goes is very even. Anyone that shows up to a tournament game in our sectional and is not ready to play you are probably going to be packing your bags and going home. There is no doubt about it. We have played all of them except Upper Sandusky. There were a lot of close games, a lot of battles, a lot of history there. The kids know each other because they are either in the same conference, or play travel ball together or whatever it way be. It’s going to be a challenging sectional to get out of,” said Hamilton.
Lexington and Ashland Battle For Position
Lexington is a possible number one seed in the up coming sectional tournament and they are trying to hold onto second place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference too.
They visit Ashland to play the explosive Arrows on Friday night.
Last Saturday, they lost to conference leader Mansfield Senior (79-53) at Pete Henry Gym. Coach Scott Hamilton says the Tygers just had too many athletes for them to cover. “Everybody talks about Keon Johnson, a division one basketball player, but I’m telling you they have some athletes and basketball players at different positions, and a couple of guys coming off the bench are pretty special too. I just give them the credit for what happened on Saturday. My guys were in there working and trying to do what they can. It was just a tough match-up for us. A 6’6” guy that was on the floor last year at 6’3” Robert Jones. We play him as a post player and he steps out and knocks downs threes. That is just something that you aren’t ready for. Of course, their pressure and their full court ability. You just can not simulate that practices. You could throw seven, eight, nine guys on the court and try to pressure your team to get ready, but you just can’t simulate what they can do to you in a game situation,” said Hamilton.
In their first meeting with Ashland, the Minutemen hung on to beat the Arrows (58-55) as Ashland missed a shot in the last 10 seconds that could have given them the lead. Hamilton says the Arrows are good and they play a very different style. “It was a game that was never a big margin for either squad. They had some leads and we did. Luckily we were up when the final buzzer went off. They are team that we are fairly familiar with. We have seen them over the summer and we know some of their kids. Coach Fralich does a nice job with those kids. They really believe in the system that he wants to run over there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It is not the typical of the standard for the area. They run more of a college style offense. They are playing solid pesky defense. They want to get out in transition and for them transition is pulling up and shooting a three. We go from last Saturday when we are trying to get back and defend the rim. Now we are going to have to get back in transition and defend the three point line. They are willing to take that transition and pull up at 20 feet. They are a team that has probably shot just as many threes and they have twos.”
Right now, Lexington is (12-6,7-4), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll, and Ashland is (11-6,6-5), so Hamilton says this is game for position in the “OCC” with just a few games left. “It’s a big game in the conference. We are a game ahead of them, so we are fighting for position in the conference and also try to get the best record we can going into Sunday’s seed meeting for tournament draw,” he said.
Ashland is a team that has the potential to convert double figure three pointers in a game and Hamilton says when you can do that you are never out of it. “For anybody that watches high school basketball or even college basketball for that matter when you can consistently knock down a three point shot and they have multiple guys. They can put five guys on the floor at one time that are three point shooters. When you can consistently knock down that three point shot any lead is not safe. It doesn’t matter what the score is if there is time on the clock they have a chance,” he said.
Lexington’s Mason Willeke has become as good a scorer as anyone in North Central Ohio and Hamilton says he is getting a lot of extra attention. “Maybe not so much the junk defense, but we are seeing the best defender is face guarding Mason. Our other guys are getting respect so we are not seeing the creative junk defense, but Masson is getting the best defender. It is a little bit more physical, a little bit more hands on, which is affecting him. That was one of things when we played West Holmes they had Brady Arnold right up in him being pretty physical and then Arnold picks up his fourth foul that allowed Mason to have a little bit of room and a little bit of freedom. When he gets a little bit of rhythm, a little bit of a shooting zone, the other guys get their confidence and do their job and make sure we can get him the shots,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Faces Tough Weekend
Lexington has played some fine basketball this season, but they face their sternest test of the year this weekend as they play West Holmes and Mansfield Senior back-to-back.
Last week, it looked as if the Minutemen were going to be a victim of an upset as they played at Mansfield Madison. However, Mason Willeke tied the game with a late jumper and Lexington survived (61-56) in overtime.
Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says Madison played well, but they made the plays when they had too. “We knew going into that game if we let a couple of their shooters actually make a couple of shots and get on a roll feeling good about themselves that would be a tough game. Coach Mergel does a fine job of motivating his players to play hard. He really had those guys ready to play. Fortunately for us we were able to make some shots, make some plays, get a couple of lose balls when we needed them to come away with a win,” said Hamilton.
West Holmes beat Lexington (62-52) on the second weekend of the season with a healthy Brady Arnold, who sprained his ankle three weeks ago. Hamilton says the Knights (12-4,8-2), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, are all that was predicted. “They were a preseason favorite in the “OCC,’ along with Mansfield Senior. Right now they are sitting in the number two spot. They have had a couple of stumbles with Brady Arnold being injured they are trying to work him into the system as much as they can coming back from injury. He has sat a couple of games here and there. The more time it goes I am sure he is getting healthier and healthier and he’ll be ready to go on Friday night when they come to our place. We are expecting a healthy squad from West Holmes,” said Hamilton.
It looks like Arnold will play this week and Hamilton says he makes a big difference for them. “He runs the show for them. He gets 20 plus a night. The kid can do so much for them whether it’s creating for all of the other guys on the floor or it’s just creating for himself. When he is on the floor everybody else that is on the floor with him is that much better because of him. If you take away the best player from any squad it is going to be a different ball team, but in their situation he is really the engine that makes that team run,” he said.
Both West Holmes and Mansfield Senior are up tempo teams, but Hamilton says they play well at a fast tempo too. He says it can be dangerous to change what you are good at doing. “I don’t know if you intentionally try to slow it down. You definitely have to be aware of some their strengths and try to limit them the best that you can if that is possible. As a coach If you consider your team to be a running team, an up tempo team, sometimes you have to do what you do and then just try to handle your opponent the best you can. We feel we can get up and down the floor in transition, but we also feel comfortable in the half court. We are going to try and play our game the best we can and also take them out of their game,” said Hamilton.
Lexington (11-5,6-3), #4 in the Swankonsports.com large school poll, is at Mansfield Senior (12-3,9-0), #2 in the same poll on Saturday night. Hamilton says the Tygers, especially with Keon Johnson in the lineup are really good. “They go down to Columbus this past weekend and they play the number one team in the state for division one. They are up at halftime and they end losing by less than 10. That just speaks a lot for Mansfield Senior. They have Dayton Dunbar on their schedule, Massillon Perry, they have some quality opponents on their schedule to get them ready for tournament time. They are not a team that you want to go into and play less than your best against, especially when you are playing at Senior High. They are going to exploit your weaknesses. You have to try and limit any errors, turnovers that you might have. You have to value every possession when you get a chance to have the ball in your hands,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Does the Little Things
Lexington may not look like your typical basketball team, but boy they sure do play like one.
The Minutemen (10-5,5-3), #5 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, beat Clear Fork (66-55) last Saturday. Coach Scott Hamilton says they did it with defense. “We try to stress things that we can control. We can handle, we can deal with night in and night out. One of the things for us is on the defensive side of the ball. Clear Fork had three guys that on any given time could go off for 20 points. They are led by Ridge Winand, who had 31 and 28 earlier in the week. Those three guys were our main focus. We had some guys play very well defensively, and specifically Daniel Rinehart, coming off the bench, and played really nice defense on Ridge holding him to 12 points. We see that as a big success,” said Hamilton.
At critical moments against Clear Fork, the Minutemen were able to get some key rebounds and keep themselves in the lead. Hamilton says they have to work very hard on the glass. “We are not a very big team. We go about 6’2, 6’1” inside, so our post guys really have to work hard to get those rebounds. Clear Fork had 6’1”, 6’2” guys on the perimeter and they bring Robinette off the bench. He is about a 6’2” guy and Kadin Chrastina is 6’1”, 6’2. It was a battle of wills on the boards and fortunately for us our post guys where able to win that battle and get those key rebounds when we needed them,” he said.
Lexington is at Mansfield Madison (1-11,0-8) on Friday night for another game in the Ohio Cardinal Conference. Hamilton has great respect for the Madison coaching staff and he expects a good contest. “I have known coach Mergel for many years, back when he was a young kid. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. He is going to get those guys to play hard every night. This is one of those games where we throw out the record and just look at individual match-ups, individual potential, individual players, and this week is no different,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “I really don’t care what their record is we are going to their place and they have some athletes and they have some basketball guys. We have to be ready for them. It is one of those games that you just can’t assume when you get off the bus that you are going to win. We emphasize that with our kids every weekend.”
Even though they have won ten games, Hamilton says they are not the kind of team that is going to just kick somebody’s butt. They must win their way. “That has kind of been our M.O, all year. We are not a team that just goes out and just blows somebody away. We are a team that works and we struggle for everything we get and scratch and claw. We have to bring our lunch pail to every game. If we think we are going to have an easy night at the office it’s just not going to happen,” he said.
Lexington Faces Double Weekend
For the first time this year Lexington is facing some adversity as they lost two “OCC” games last weekend to Wooster and Mansfield Senior and face two more this weekend against Orrville and Clear Fork.
Last Friday, the Minutemen (8-5,3-3) suffered their most significant loss of the season (81-51) in a trip to Wooster. Big Lex coach Scott Hamiton says Wooster did it inside and outside. “We went up to Wooster. They are just a tough, athletic, talented team from their number one guy all the way down to their number eight or nine guy. They have 6’6”, 6’6”, 6’7” on their roster. They have athletic guards. Before we got up there they hadn’t been shooting the well from the perimeter and we noted that in our scouting report and things. We get up there and they shoot roughly 50 percent from the three point line and they rebounded well and ran the floor well, give them all of the credit,” said Hamilton.
With all-state guard Keon Johnson on the sideline Mansfield Senior beat Lexington (53-41) on Saturday night. Hamilton says the Tygers depth hurt them. “I think we played a little better game against Mansfield Senior, who is very tough and talented team. If you look at them closely they could be state ranked. Fortunately for us Keon was injured and on crutches, so we didn’t have to deal with him. Coach Reece did a nice job and some guys came off the bench and played really well and they left our place with a 12 point win after a tough battle,” he said.
Orrville guard Trevor Summers is questionable for the Red Riders (2-9,1-6) game on Friday night at Lexington. It has been a tough season record wise for the Riders, but Hamilton is taking nothing for granted. “They don’t have the size that they have in recent years, but Orrville is still kind of the same. Coach Slaughter does a nice job up there. It always seems like they have a slow start, a division three school in our conference. Then they kind of get going and he sort of ramps up and they always seem to have a nice tournament run,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We do not take Orrville lightly we have seen them play a couple of times. They have some nice kids on the team that can shoot the ball. They are more perimeter oriented this year, but they can shoot the ball and they can get after it on the defensive side. If our guys aren’t ready for the tip off it could be another long night for us.”
In the beginning the second round of play in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Saturday night Lexington is at Clear Fork (7-5,3-3) to do battle with the Colts. Lexington won the first game (56-54) at Lex. Clear Fork has won five of their last six and Hamilton says they are a different team. “Anytime you have to travel to the valley and compete you are going to expect a battle. They played a strong Fredericktown team and came away with a nice win. Anytime you play a coach Balogh coached team it’s a nice win, Ashland is in there too. The Chrastina kid the first time we played them was coming off the bench and might have had a little bit of a football injury. Now he is shooting the ball real well. Ridge is a threat. Corbin is a threat every time we knew that. They have another player too that was injured when we played them and we came away with a two point win at home. We know going down there it is going to be a full 32 minutes. They are going to make some runs, we are going to make some runs and hopefully we are up to the challenge after a strong Friday night game with Orrville at our place,” said Hamilton.
Hard Working Lexington Faces Tough Weekend
Lexington continues to play very good basketball and the Minutemen are achieving at a higher level than many people thought they would going to the season.
Wins over Ashland (58-55) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play and Shelby (64-53) in non-conference action over the weekend pushed the record of the Minutemen to 8-3 on the season.
Coach Scott Hamilton says he has a group that is willing to give everything they have to win games. “I think I am starting to sound like a broken record, but our kids are just playing very hard and doing the things we need to do to come up with a win. We are not getting these huge point spreads or anything like that. The kids are scrapping, they are working, they are busting their butts. This past weekend was no different,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Ashland is a tough conference opponent. We all know what they can do. Then traveling over to Shelby, who I think coming into the game was 7-2 to be able to take them down to the wire at their place. We had a couple of guys play a nice game, obviously Mason on the scoreboard, but we had some other guys step up and do some nice things for that maybe don’t show up on the stat board, but they just work really hard.”
In order to beat some of the teams they have and some they will need to Hamilton says they need to put on their work gloves. “We have kind of taken the attitude. I think coach “K” is credited with the comment. We aren’t teaching our teams to win, we are just teaching them to battle, compete and the wins will take care of themselves. We are just trying to make sure the kids are ready to compete for a full 32 minutes. So far we have been on the plus side more than the minus side. I’m giving the kids all of the credit once the ball is thrown into the air,” he said.
Lexington (8-3,3-1) plays at Wooster (6-4,3-2) in an “OCC” game on Friday night. Hamilton says Wooster is blessed to have good players in the post and on the perimeter. “They have all of the areas covered. There is no doubt about that. Their lineup they can go 6’6”, 6’6” and I believe they a 6’7” kid that comes off the bench. They have a solid power game inside with Grant Stokes. They have athletic perimeter guys in Blair and Preston. They have shooters in Becket and Tomlin. Their lineup just goes on and on and on. I think they struggled a little bit at the beginning just putting things together, but the way it looks now they are starting to get everything figured out and they are starting to put some teams away,” said Hamilton.
On Saturday night, the Minutemen host “OCC” leader Mansfield Senior (7-2,4-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball poll in the large school division, in another conference game. Like always, Hamilton says the Tygers have players all over the floor. “I think every coach has their little things that they put in and coach Reece is no different. He has taken what they have, their talent and everything, and is trying to put them in the best position he can. A lot of times when you have a player like Keon Johnson you can just give him the ball and let him create for the other four guys on the floor. You have a guard like Mario Davidson that has played numerous years at the varsity level. Samueles is another starting perimeter guy. Robert Jones and Bensen have played a lot of varsity games in pervious years,” says Hamilton.
Senior High coach J.T. Reece is in his first year, like Hamilton, and the Lexington coach says Reece knows what he has. “For us this weekend it’s a tough game and then it gets even tougher. Mansfield always has just a ton of basketball talent. Coach Reece coming in his first year was kind of given the keys to a Porsche. He has a lot of good basketball players over there. They have a lot of experience. I think they played six or seven sophomores at the varsity level last year,” he said.
Lexington Continues to Play Well
Lexington has a chance to keep itself in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race with a win at home over Ashland on Friday night.
Right now, the Minutemen trail conference co-leaders Mansfield Senior and West Holmes by a game in the loss column. They will be playing their first conference game in three weeks.
Last Saturday, the Minutemen beat Ontario (58-50), who was without one of their better players in Cameron Mack. Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says wins over Ontario are always to be treasured. “Ontario-Lexington is a rivalry that goes back and coach Balogh has been part of that for many, many years. Anytime you can go over to Ontario and get a win against coach Balogh and his staff that is a huge win for Lexington,” he said.
Ashland (6-3,2-2) has lost its last two conference games to the co-leaders, but Hamilton says they are a young team that has a lot of talent. “Coach Fralich I believe is in his third year over there. He has instituted a system that the kids enjoy to play in. They get up and down the floor in transition. They shoot the three ball,” he told Swankonsports.com, “He is very young. This year I believe he starts three of four sophomores. Those kids are very excited about what they are doing over there. They can just come out and play. They have a lot of guys that can shoot the ball well. They get after you on the defensive side. Being perimeter guys they can all handle the ball.”
Yes, Lexington (6-3,2-1) might have an advantage inside on offense, but Hamilton says that comes with its disadvantages too. “They play a lot of perimeter guys. They have maybe only one or two post guys on their roster at the varsity level. That should be an advantage for us. On the down side when you put the big post guys on the floor and try to take advantage of that now you have a post guy that has to match up with one their perimeter guys in the half court and transition. It’s a catch 22 you have to figure out which is the better deal,” said Hamilton.
Lexington and Ashland are two teams that are knocking on the door in the “OCC” and Hamilton says this would a big win for them. “We knew who the favorites were coming into the season. After those top two we knew every team was going to be a battle for position after that. Ashland is definitely one of those types of games. There a team that can come out and play every, very well. When they play a team like Norwalk, they kept them to within 11. Then there are nights when those three balls aren’t falling so well for them. They just played Mansfield, which is the top team in our conference. I believe they were tied going into the fourth quarter and it ended up being a 10, 11 point game,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Faces Ontario
Lexington plays its third straight game at the O-Rena at Ontario High School as they play the Warriors Saturday night after competing in the Ontario Holiday Classic last week.
The Minutemen (5-3) lost to unbeaten Norwalk (57-42) and crushed Hillsdale (83-38) on Saturday night.
Coach Scott Hamilton says they knew that Norwalk, #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, was a going to be a very tough challenge. “We knew that Norwalk coming in was a huge obstacle. They return a lot of solid, quality players. Then you factor in good coaching from coach Gray and coach Foster, his assistant up there, who has been around a long time. We knew that was going to be a big obstacle for us. Those guys just have all kinds of size and they’re lengthy. In their defense they really get after it,” said Hamilton.
On the other hand, Hamilton says that Hillsdale has had some personnel issues this year that are really due to finances. “On Saturday night, coach Shenberger over at Hillsdale has been hit pretty hard by pay to play this season, so he is going through some growing pains now trying to develop some kids that are in certain roles that maybe he didn’t expect in October,” he said.
Lexington had to remake itself this season after the graduation of a number of players off a district finals team from a year ago. Most have thought they have done a great job. Hamilton says they have gotten outstanding play off their bench. “The guys are doing a nice job they are working really hard. We are getting after it on defense. I have said it before, we have some quality kids that are filling some roles right now that maybe they haven’t filled in the past. We really think from the front of our bench to the end of our bench and from the beginning of our roster to the end of our roster we have some quality guys,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We really try to use all of them. We have had a lot of guys step up and give us some spark off of the bench. We have had some injuries and maybe some guys that were going to be bench, role players, have become starters in a couple of games. I am excited about the process, but we are no where near where close to where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Ontario (6-2), #1 in the Swankonsports.com small school poll, will be another tough opponent for the Minutemen. Hamilton says history tells us that. “Ontario is always a solid team and that is just because of the program that coach Balogh has built over there. I have a lot of respect for coach Balogh. I have known him for many, many years, even before he was at Ontario. He does an outstanding job. Probably one of the most organized coaches in the area. He knows what he wants. What he wants to get out of his kids. He has gone through about anything as far as clinics, experiences and situations. He knows who he wants to have the ball in their hands. Anytime you play them it’s a tough match, but when you have to go to their place you have to expect to play 32 minutes for sure,” said Hamilton.
What about tempo? Hamilton says he’s not sure it really matters to either team. “We both go deep in the bench and we have both shown some signs, at least we have, I haven’t seen all eight of their games, where we have tried to force the tempo a little bit. We want to get out in transition, but at the same time both of us can play in the half court. We have a little bit of an arsenal as far as defense and offense. I think it is just going to be whatever team can force their tempo that they want at the time on the other team. I think both are comfortable in transition and both are comfortable in the half court it is just which one can make the other one uncomfortable,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Understands Challenge
Lexington has been using depth to win basketball games over the first three weeks of the season and that has led to a 4-2 record for the Minutemen.
Last week, they won both of their games in topping Mansfield Madison (51-42) on Friday in an Ohio Cardinal Conference match-up and then Galion (68-53) in non-league play on Saturday.
Coach Scott Hamilton says they may have caught Madison at the right time of the season. “Coach Mergel, we have a lot of respect for him. We know he is going to get his kids to play hard no matter who the opponent or what their record is or where they are at in their season. He had a couple of kids step up for him that we were not so familiar with. He has a couple of freshmen that are getting some quality minutes with him,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “He has a couple of other kids, maybe coming off the football season and a couple of injuries that they have had in the early going has kind of scrambled his line up a little bit, but we knew that they were going to come to battle for 32 minutes. We tried to do the best we can to handle that battle, but we will always be ready for Madison with coach Mergel at the helm.”
Lexington doesn’t have any superstars in the lineup, but they appear to have a number of very good players they can put on the floor. “We knew going in that we were going to have a lineup of guys. We have a 12 man roster and we knew that we were going to be able to dip into that roster fairly deep into the bench. So far in the season we have had different guys come off the bench and maybe create some spark for us on the offensive or defensive side. We have been pleased for the most part so far this season and hopefully we keep getting better and better as we go on,” said Hamilton.
Lexington plays in the Ontario Holiday Tournament on Friday and Saturday. They will face Norwalk on Friday and Hillsdale out of the Wayne County Athletic League on Saturday.
Norwalk (6-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, beat Marion Harding (63-36) on Tuesday night. The Truckers have won 26 straight regular season games. Hamilton says they are big and talented both. “With their lineup they are starting 6’7”, 6’5”, 6’3”, 6’2” and 6’1”, which is something we are not used to in this early season. Their 6’7” kid Fetheroff is going to go to Findlay. They have two juniors that are getting some looks from some division one programs. They have some talent in their starting line up and then they have some nice guys coming off the bench. They haven’t seen a whole lot of challenges in their regular season last year, going 20-0. Then this year adding two more games and trying to up their schedule a little bit, according to coach Gray. We have a tall task in front of us over at Ontario on Friday night,” said Hamilton.
Norwalk coach Steve Gray has been known to throw a lot of defensive looks at a team. Hamilton says they must be ready for anything and everything. “In a couple of games that we have seen with coach Gray’s team they change the tempo fast. They can play a solid half court game, but they also get out after it in a couple of different ways as well whether it be zone pressure or man pressure in the full court. He has some talented players up there. Coach Gray has been around for a while and has a lot of experience and even coach Foster, his veteran assistant, has seen a lot of different things and been able to handle a lot of different situations over their years combined and separate. I think they are going to be able to throw about anything they want to at us to disrupt us,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Continuing to Mature
Lexington is continuing to learn how to win at the varsity level and they are doing some winning in the process.
The Minutemen (2-2,1-0) again won one and lost one over the weekend, both in Ohio Cardinal Conference play. The beat rival Clear Fork (56-54) and lost at West Holmes (62-52) on Saturday. Coach Scott Hamilton says they just like those close games it seems. “If you have been at our games this year you would think we don’t like to deal with leads and deficits. We like to keep it kind of tight. We were in another couple this past week with Clear Fork and West Holmes,” he said.
By outscoring Clear Fork 16-0 in the third quarter, the Minutemen were able to hang on for the win. Hamilton says they made the right adjustments at halftime. “Keith Corbin had an outstanding first half. We went into the locker room and made some adjustments. They tried to make some adjustments as well. It worked out for us in the third quarter. We were able to basically hold on for that one on Friday night,” said Hamilton.
On Saturday night, Hamilton says they just got behind by too much early in the game. “On Saturday we really dug ourselves a hole to begin the game and battled back and made it fairly even at the half. The entire second half it was always close or within reach. With about two minutes to go I think we were down four with the ball in our hands. It just wasn’t met to be. We had a turnover and they went down and scored. Then we got ourselves into a fouling situation where we had to put them on the line. They knocked down some shots there in the end that made it a ten point win for them,” said Hamilton.
On the first week of the season the Minutemen were plagued by poor free throw shooting. Hamilton says they have now answered that question. “We knew that we were a solid free throw shooting team in practice and such and we just needed to bring it out. Hopefully we have turned the corner. When we went down to West Holmes we got to the line 22 times making 18 of them for over 80 percent. We feel we are a good free throw shooting team. I think that might have been one of the learning curves with the younger players. They just have to step up and knock them down when the pressure was on,” said Hamilton.
The Minutemen host Mansfield Madison (1-2,0-1) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night. Hamilton says the Rams are inexperienced, but he knows they will end up a pretty good basketball team. “I think Madison with coach Mergel over there in his first year I think they are very similar to us. They had a lot of seniors last year that played a lot of minutes for them. He has had to bring in some guys that were maybe tagged as varsity players last year, but didn’t see the floor that much as well as bringing in some younger guys that were JV, or freshmen, that are just learning on the job,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “With them getting a little bit of a late start because of football I think it compounds it a little bit more. I have no doubt that coach Mergel is going to have his team working extremely hard everyday in practice and when they hit the floor they will compete no matter what the score or the quarter.”
Perhaps the team that avoids the long valleys without scoring will win this “OCC” game on Friday night. “In an ideal program situation you can bring back four or five guys every year that have those calming consistencies with them and they can teach the less experienced or the younger guys. With us and Madison specifically we are in the same boat as far as bringing in a lot of players that we are counting on, at least at Lex, to give us quality minutes. I just haven’t been in this situation before, so what we are hoping is right now we are seeing these valleys and are being challenged. We are battling and fighting through it. Hopefully that is valuable experience that will start paying off the more games we get into down the road,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Searching For Consistency
Lexington is just a whisker from being unbeaten on the season, but they are just as close to being winless.
The Minutemen are 1-1 going into their Ohio Cardinal Conference opener on Friday night at home against Clear Fork. They lost to Mt. Vernon (56-54) and beat Willard (58-54) in their first two games last weekend. Coach Scott Hamilton says they need to be more consistent and make a better percentage of pressure free throws. “After Friday night’s game one of our focuses was to put four solid quarters together. We came out in the third quarter against Mt. Vernon and really laid an egg. I don’t know how else to say it. We just couldn’t get things done and got out scored 17-2. In the fourth quarter we turned it around a little bit and battled back to make it a close game just came up a little short. On Saturday we came out and played a little bit better game, but down the stretch we were a little soft from the free throw line, not able to knock down free throws when we needed to. We were still able to pull out a win against a solid Willard team,” said Hamilton.
Practice sessions this week have been focused on the things the Minutemen need to be better. Hamilton believes the players understand what those issues are. “Once you get on the floor for your first couple of games I think the kids really see it and understand what you are talking about when you try to touch on some things. The free throws we work on everyday, but the kids realize that there are going to be some pressures in the game that you just can’t put on in practice. You just need to calm down a little bit and step up to the line and knock them down. When you get a couple of games under your belt things are a little different in practice, especially with kids that have never played at the varsity level before,” he said.
Clear Fork (1-0) comes into Friday’s game after a (69-36) triumph over Crestview last Friday. Hamilton says the Colts have a solid team made up of some veterans. “Coach Bechtel does a nice job down there. He brings back quite few guys with varsity experience. They have some solid guards and Evan Van Orman inside has been a player for him for multiple years now. Corbin at the point guard is a nice lefthander and very quick, aggressive player. Ridge Winand probably gets tagged as their best perimeter player. He does a nice job scoring and defensively,” Hamilton told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “He has some younger kids that really step up and do a nice job whether they are on the floor at the beginning of the game or if they are coming off the bench. Steve is known for solid defense. He just has his team ready on the defensive end every time they step on the court.”
Hamilton believes that the Colts are going to try and push the pace of the game on them a little bit. “I think Steve does a nice job of doing what he needs to do with the players that he has. With a lot of guards returning that allows him to maybe speed the game up a little bit both from the defensive side and the offense. He has guys that can run the floor very well. I mentioned Van Orman, he is not really a towering post guy, but he is an athletic boy. He can run the floor very well with those guards,” said Hamilton.
Lexington a Younger Team
Lexington has claimed at least a piece of the last two Ohio Cardinal Conference titles, but this year’s team is much more inexperienced than the last two have been.
The Minutemen open the season at Mt. Vernon on Friday and then host the Willard Flashes on Saturday night.
First year coach Scott Hamilton says they have had some preseason injuries, but they have been able to overcome those things. “We have had a lot of kids putting a lot of time in making changes and we have come up with some injuries through our scrimmage schedule. We are trying to work to get everybody healthy before the season starts. We feel pretty good where we are at. Unfortunately, like everybody else, we are going in kind of blind. You are getting ready for your first couple of opponents not knowing what they have. That is something that is on our mind as well,” he said.
Hamilton says the season as really come pretty quickly and he hopes they are ready come the weekend. “Being a first year coach when you are trying to put some things in we really are focusing on what we want to do and what we want to hold our opponents from doing. Unfortunately when you get Kurt Kaufman down there, who has been there for a few years. He is probably a little more settled in with his kids in what they want to do night in and night out. We are introducing some things to our kids. So that puts us at a little bit of a disadvantage,” said Hamilton.
Lexington kids certainly have the winning attitude and have been successful at other levels. Hamilton hopes that positive approach will overcome some of the lack of experience that some of his kids have coming into the season. “We have one guy returning form our starting team last year and two other guys that earned their varsity letter, but actually started the season on the JV team,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Of our 12 varsity guys right now we really have one guy that saw the floor a lot last year. We have a great group of kids, and I’m not just saying that, and they have been working their buts off to get better and learn for the must part a new system. They do have some experience at other levels with winning and things like that. At the varsity level there is big difference from JV. That is what we are trying to prepare the guys for.”
Hamilton was the JV coach for the Minutemen last year and was promoted to the top job this summer.
Lexington Girls Getting Better
Lexington is working with a lot of players that are new to varsity action and they have been getting better during the preseason.
They get their first real test this Saturday when they play the Ontario Lady Warriors in their regular season opener.
Coach Daryl Uhde says he likes the improvement he has seen in the players that are going to be making up the varsity unit. “We have had three scrimmages and a preview so far so we have learned a lot about the team. We are still pretty young. We don’t have the experience we have had in the past, but I like what I saw. We’ve had pretty good scrimmages and our effort was great. We had a nice preview over at Shelby last Friday. We looked pretty good and did a lot of great things,” said Uhde.
At least early in the season, Uhde thinks they are a team that is going to rely a lot on what they do on defense. “Right now I think we are ahead on the defensive side. I think we have played some pretty good defense. We had a pretty good scrimmage down at Olentangy Liberty on Saturday. We played a division one school and also a couple of division two and three schools that are usually state type of teams. I would say we are a little ahead on defense,” he said.
Lady Lex featured an all senior starting line-up a year ago and this year they are a little thin and they don’t have a lot players with much varsity time to begin with, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. “The thing is this year we have five new starters. We have our sixth man back. Experience wise we are very young, but again I like what I see. We are also a little short on numbers this year. We are going to be swinging some kids from junior varsity team up to give us some help,” Uhde told Swankonsports.com on Monday.
Lexington hosts Ontario on Saturday in the first game for both. There is little time to do scouting in the preseason, but Uhde says they do know something about the Lady Warriors going in. “We played them last year and we also played them in the summer. They are pretty good and pretty athletic. If I remember right they have quite few starters back. We do have the film from last year and that is basically all we are going to get to see because I think we are their first game also. We will watch a little film from last year and we will go from there. I’m concerned with out team first and the things we have to do to be successful,” said Uhde.
Lexington Relying on the Same Things
Lexington is the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion and district finalist from a year ago. The Minutemen have won basketball games the old fashion way and they plan to do the same thing again.
They have a new head coach in last year’s junior varsity coach Scott Hamilton. He says he likes what he sees so far as they get ready for the season. “The kids have been working really hard. We have had a decent turnout in the summer months with kids that are playing in multiple sports here at Lexington. We have held our tryouts. We had our first scrimmage this past Saturday and we have been happy with what we have seen so far, but we all agree we have a long way to go until our first game on November 30,” he said.
Not that Lexington doesn’t have any good scorers, they do, but Hamilton says to have the kind of success they have enjoyed the last few years they must concentrate and defense and rebounding. “We are not going to have the size that we had last year and the year before, so one of the things that we really want to focus on is our rebounding. To stay at the level that we were at we are going to have to work that much harder and rebound from the guard position. Also what we want to emphasize again is our defense and try to have the defense really set the tone and help us with some scoring opportunities from the other side of the ball,” said Hamilton.
Over the last half decade, Hamilton says those two things have been drilled into the Lexington players as keys to success, especially against teams that may be more athletic. “I think it something that we have just hit. This goes back a couple of coaches. We have always worked on defense and worked on solid rebounding. I can remember back even working with coach Weaver that was an emphasis, but when Jamie (Feick) with his history as being a rebounder and being known as a rebounder. That was definitely something that he laid out there that we will do,” he told Swankonsports.com, “The emphasis was put on if you are a solid rebounding team the game can be won or lost. We have continued that. We have a couple kids returning that still have that mentality. It is something that we hit almost every day in practice. We make mention of it constantly that rebounding is a key role in winning and losing games.”
Lexington shared the “OCC” title last year with Mansfield Senior and Hamilton knows the Tygers, and West Holmes, will be pretty good this winter too. “I think probably the top teams returning, Mansfield Senior, of course, they are always towards the top. They bring back a lot of younger players. They had as many as five or six sophomores constantly contributing last year along with Keon Johnson, who is a division one recruit. West Holmes I think has a couple of really good basketball players that have been at that level for the last couple of years with Brady Arnold over there with coach Lindemen. After that I think it is really going to be a solid conference. Wooster returns quite a few guys. Looking at Clear Fork, Ashland, Orrville, Madison and us we are bringing in some new guys that maybe saw more time on the JV side of the ball last year. I see it being a real competitive conference as normal,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Girls Rebuilding
Last season was a good one for the Lexington girls’ basketball team and this one has that possibility too, it just might take a while.
Lady Lex finished 13-9 last year and lost to Clyde in the division two district semi finals.
Coach Daryl Uhde says this year’s team is going to be made up of many of last year’s JV players and they are going to be pretty inexperienced at the beginning of the season. “We have gotten some kids back from soccer and obviously volleyball. We give them a few days off. We are going to be a very young inexperienced team this year. We lost all five starters from last year, so it’s kind of wide open for almost all of the positions,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We are going to have to compete. I like the kid’s attitude. They are great kids. They are really smart kids. I think the effort and the attitude are going to be really good.”
The season tips off for Lexington on the Saturday after Thanksgiving against Ontario. Uhde thinks the time between now and then is going to be pretty important for Lady Lex. “We started our scrimmages here this week. It’s going to tell me a lot this next week and a half when we have almost all of our scrimmages. We have been working hard on just fundamentals. We are basically starting over. Almost all of them came off the JV team. Inexperience is one thing. I told the kids to come in with a positive attitude and come in with great effort and that can make up for a lot of things,” he said.
The depth in the Ohio Cardinal Conference in girls’ basketball is tremendous and Uhde knows that from the top to the bottom there are a lot of solid teams in the league. “There is no question the league is going to be very, very good, especially West Holmes who played in the state finals and have all five starters back. I think they are going to be a tremendous team and the whole league is going to be very deep this year. I think Senior High, Ashland are both going to be much improved and obviously Orrville and West Holmes on top. Clear Fork, everybody is going to be a little bit better, so there are no easy games in this league,” said Uhde.
Banged up Lex Needs Better Defense
Lexington and Ashland play at Community Stadium on Friday night with both eliminated from the Ohio Cardinal Conference race and the postseason this one is for bragging rights.
Red hot Mansfield Senior beat Lexington (40-21) last week to stay in first place in the “OCC.” Coach Dan Studer says they just ran out of gas and in some cases players against the Tygers. “We had a rough game. We played a really good Mansfield team. They have a ton of athletes. Coach had a good game plan for us. We were able to kind of stall them up in the first half. We did some things well offensively and defensively. Towards the end of the game we had some key injuries that kind of held us back. They just kid of took over there in the second half when we didn’t have enough in the tank to make it a game,” he said.
How much Lexington quarterback Trent Richwine will be available against the Arrows is unclear at this point. He was injured in a loss to West Holmes two weeks ago. Studer admits that has been a hardship for them. “It’s tough, it is real tough. He is a leader for us both offensively and defensively. Obviously he is our quarterback, but he is also our quarterback on defense. He is responsible for a lot of the calls in the defensive backfield. When you lose a guy like that us lose a weapon, but you also lose one of your big leaders,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “He played a little bit in the second half last week, but he just wasn’t full go. He really couldn’t play off his back foot to make the throws that he needed too, so we had to make some adjustments there. It hurts you. You have to find ways around it. We are pretty happy with the guy that stepped in to try fill that void, but it just wasn’t enough to get win against Mansfield.”
Lexington (5-4,3-3) and Ashland (5-4,3-3) have the same record overall and in league play this year. Lexington, however, has relied on its running game much more. Studer says the Arrows are one of the more athletic teams they have played this year. “They have athletes and they have great coaches. This is a big game for us just because it’s a big rivalry. We haven’t beaten them in a little while. To end the season on a high note is important to us and important to our program. When you look at the schedule they have beaten and lost to the same teams that we have, so I think it’s going to be a good match-up. It’s going to be a tough game and we are excited for it. We are just doing our best to get ready,” said Studer.
A big key in this game for the Minutemen is going to be tackling. Studer says they are going to have to be better than they were last week. “We have to execute. We have to get balance on offense. We have to be able to run the ball. We have to be able to throw the ball. Nothing new there. We have to find ways to do that. That will be a challenge especially with the guys that we have hurt. Defensively we have to tackle better than we did against Mansfield that was one our biggest problems last week. A lot of times we were in position to make plays and we didn’t make them and that’s not the style of defense that we play. We have kind of prided ourselves in our defense this year. We have to come out and play with good fundamentals and make tackles,” said Studer.
Lexington Plays Mansfield Senior
Lexington has played an outstanding brand of football this season and they have the kind of attack that could give Mansfield Senior trouble. We’ll find out on Friday night as the Minutemen are at Arlin Field to meet the first place Tygers.
Last week was not one of Lexington’s better performances of the season. West Holmes kept the ball out their hands and the Knights (21-7) handled Lexington (5-3,3-2) in an “OCC” game. Coach Dan Studer says West Holmes ate up the clock and when they did get it, they didn’t do much. “They limited us on offense is probably the easiest way to put it. They did a great job of attacking us offensively and attacking us with special teams and keeping the ball out of our hands. We had a very limited amount of series. We had a very limited amount of offensive plays. That is because they played so well offensively and on special teams,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We had a couple of turnovers that killed us. When they got the ball they sustained long drives, just the way they do. We played right into their game plan and it worked out for them. They came out and played a great game and we didn’t. You can’t win football games doing that.”
Mansfield Senior (7-1,5-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, leads the “OCC” by game over Mansfield Madison and West Holmes. Lexington trails by two. Studer says the Tygers are playing more like a team. “I just feel like they have the athletes like they usually do. I think finally they just found a rhythm and found things that they are good at doing. It’s seems like they are playing more as a team, which I think they haven’t done in the past. I think the coaches over there are doing a great job of getting the players railed behind them. Their athletes are performing well and they are doing it as a unit and that’s hard to beat,” he said.
Lexington features a versatile running game behind Andrew Hunt and Brandon Henderson, but Studer says this is maybe the best team they have played this year. “Watching the film they are a really good football team, a talented football team a tough football team. Right now they deserve to be at the top of the conference because they are playing that way. We know we have a really tough game ahead and we are doing our best job trying to prepare for that. This is our biggest game of the season. We are just going to do our best to prepare, do our best on Friday night and see what happens,” said Studer.
Lately behind the efforts Keevon Taylor Mansfield Senior has been more successful running the ball and Studer says that make them more difficult to defend. “They are more of a balanced offense. They have a couple good backs. They have a bunch of really good receivers. They also have a quarterback that can throw the ball and run the ball. I also think their offensive line needs some credit too for their running game, which is something they kind of lacked in the past. They have some guys up front that are kind of pushing people around, both offensively and defensively. That is scary as well. We are excited to have the opportunity to play and hopefully we can compete with them,” said Studer.
A Lexington win make a tight “OCC” race even tighter with a week to play. Studer says to that they are going to have to find a way to move the ball against a very good Senior High defense. “They have a couple of veteran guys up on their defensive line, some guys that had really good years last year. They also have linebackers behind them. One of the first things that kind of stood out for me is how quickly they get downhill and how quickly they fill their gaps ands how fast they are to pursue. Their defensive linemen do a good job of holding up the offensive lineman. The guys behind them have so much speed they get hats to the ball. They are definitely a force to be reckoned with,” said Studer.
It’s the Biggest Game of the Year for Lexington
Lexington has already had a better season then a lot of people thought they might have and they have a chance to get part of their first Ohio Cardinal Conference title since 2008.
They play West Holmes this week, Mansfield Senior next and finish with Ashland. They will probably have to win all of those games to accomplish that goal.
Last week, Andrew Hunt scored five times and Lexington (5-2,3-1) beat (44-28) what coach Dan Studer feels was a pretty good Wooster team in conference action. “It was a tough game on the road against a really good Wooster team. Like I said last week they are a lot better than their record reflects. We went up there and played a pretty good game and a much better second half. They have a lot of talent up there. They have some skill on the outside, especially on the offensive side of the ball and a tough defensive front. We were happy to go up there and kind of squeak away with a win. It was a tough game, but our kids kind of persevered through it. A win is a win and at this point we are going to take it,” said Studer.
With some pretty good performances at the beginning the season, the Minutemen started well, but coach Studer believes they have improved too. “We have gotten better each week and we have done a good job of learning from our mistakes, but I also think we are not where we need to be. We try and get better each and every week. We have to be a better team this week against West Holmes than we were against Wooster and we are going to have to be a better team next week against Mansfield Senior. The way our schedule was I think we were kind of fortunate to have progressively more difficult opponents as we went on. As a coach it is something you want to harp on and keep working your kids on,” he said.
On Friday night, West Holmes (6-1,3-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, comes to Lexington to play the Minutemen. Studer says he knew the Knights were going to be very good. “I have told a lot of people this when coach Maltrich went over there he has had his offense that he has perfected over the years. He ran it at Madison, in his time there, and before that at Norwayne. We just kind of knew it was a matter of time before his kids over at West Holmes got used to running that offense. Now that they have had two of three years doing it they are running it really nice. They have some athletes in the backfield and they have some big guys up that like to push people around. We are looking for a physical football game against a well coached team and that’s always scary,” said Studer.
It’s a must win game for the Minutemen and Studer feels they are in the right frame of mind. “We have had a good week of practice and we feel our defense is prepared. We have done a good job of slowing down or containing the run games of the teams we have played before. We are comfortable where we are at and feel we have a good chance to compete. It’s our last home game, it’s homecoming. It’s a big game for us and it’s one of the games we need to win. I don’t think we won the game we should have won or that we needed to win to define ourselves as a football team,” said Studer.
The Lexington coach has confidence that his players, his linebackers in particular, will be able to dissect the West Holmes wing-t offense and its complexities. “He’s got that quarterback back there and he is faking and spinning and doing everything he needs to do. He has two or three backfield sets going on and a lot of misdirection. You have to read you keys. I think our kids are pretty comfortable on that. In my opinion we have two of the better linebackers in the conference and one of the reasons is they are so good at reading and they are smart kids,” he told Swankonsports.com, “They watch a lot of film. They should be prepared on Friday night. If you come out and you are not mentally prepared they are going to gauge you and gauge you big. They are going to keep doing it until you stop it.”
Fundamentals Key for Big Lex
Lexington lost its first Ohio Cardinal Conference game of the season last week in heartbreaking fashion to Mansfield Madison and now they must face one of the more explosive offenses in the conference.
Madison scored with less than 30 seconds to play to beat Lex (14-10) last week. Coach Dan Studer says they just didn’t capitalize on some of the things they should have. “We played a very good Madison team. We came out and played a good first half of football. We played four good quarters of defense. We couldn’t get the ball moving offensively in the second half. We really needed a score and didn’t get it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We had a couple of mistakes on special teams. We had some calls that didn’t go our way. Madison did a great job of capitalizing on that. They are a really good football team. They were able to pull it off there in the fourth quarter. It was one of those tough losses that you have to get past.”
Studer feels it was a lack of execution that cost them the game against Madison and those are areas the must improve if they are going to beat the good teams left on their schedule. “We knew they had a real good defensive front. We knew they had some guys that were going to fly around and hit you and close up those gaps. We thought we had a great game plan going in and still thought we had a good game plan. Defensively we played a great game. We held down their rushing game and that was a goal going in. It came down to field position and we kind of made some mistakes. We had a couple of opportunities in the first half that we didn’t capitalize on when we got down in the red zone. If we want to beat teams like Wooster, West Holmes, and Mansfield Senior we are going to have to clean that up,” said Studer.
Lexington (4-2,2-1) is at Wooster (2-4,1-2) on Friday night in “OCC” play. Studer says the Generals have some gamebreakers. “They have a lot of skill. The first thing I told our kids this week is their record is not an indication of who they are as a football team because they are a really good football team. They have a lot of threats. They have shown that with their competition. It’s going to be a tough week for us and we will do the best we can to prepare for it. They have some explosive players and an explosive offense. We have to be able to deal with that on Friday night,” he said.
Studer says they have to get back to the things that made them good at the start of this season and if they can do that they have a pretty shot at winning the game. “We have to do a good job of playing the second half this week. That is something we excelled at at the beginning of the season. We really kind of hung our hat on coming out and playing well in the second half. We need to play four quarters of football and execute what we do. You know, running the football and opening up some passing lanes so we can throw a little bit. We need to get back to those fundamentals that we are always preaching to the kids. We think if we do that we will be in good position to compete,” said Studer.
Lexington and Madison to Battle in Trenches
In a game between contenders in the Ohio Cardinal Conference Lexington plays host to the Mansfield Madison Rams on Friday night.
Lexington is 2-0 in the “OCC” after wins over Orrville (30-8) and Clear Fork (28-17) and the Minutemen are tied with West Holmes and Mansfield Senior for the top spot in the league. Madison is just a game back.
Last week, Lexington dominated the final three quarters and they beat rival Clear Fork in a conference game. Coach Dan Studer says once they figured out what was going on they got down to business. “Yeah, you know, defensively and we had to make some adjustments early on because they showed us some things we hadn’t seen before and that gave us some problems. As soon as we got adjusted to that we played really good defensive football for the rest of the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Offensively I think we played well the entire game. We just had a couple of turnovers, two fumbles and an interception all on drives that should have been scoring drives. Once we got that ironed out in the second half we started playing our style of football and it went pretty well for us.”
Madison (4-1,1-1) beat Wooster (49-42) last week as Kale Huss set a school record for rushing yards in a game. Studer says Madison has a great running game. “They have the guys up front to be able to do that. They have to running backs to be able to do that. The quarterback is a threat too, the Smith kid can run too. He can get out and run it and he can throw it. They will run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, and lull you to sleep and when you ain’t looking they drop a deep one on you. That is just something we have to prepare for. We aren’t focusing 100 percent on the run because we know they can get you through the air too,” said Studer.
Lexington’s run game has been very good too behind Andrew Hunt and Brandon Henderson. Studer says the big hogs up front are going to decide it. “I think this game is going to be won in the trenches. They have a good, big offensive line. They have a good, big defensive line. There guys fire off low. They play with tenacity. They are a ruff group and that is exactly what you want in your offensive and defensive lines. We have to rise up to the challenge. We have to come out and the big boys have to play physical, play sound and know their assignments because that is definitely where the game will be won,” said Studer.
With a tight and competitive “OCC” race Studer knows this is an important game for them and there will be the additional benefit of playoff points. “We are in the “OCC” now and I think everybody at this point is contending for the “OCC” championship. You have to go out there and take it week by week and play the best football you can play. It’s also a big game looking into the future for playoff points. Whoever wins this game is going to get a ton of playoff points. It’s a big game on many levels and there is a little bit of rivalry between us and Madison. That is something we enjoy and look forward to on Friday night,” said Studer.
Lexington Needs to Keep Pace
Lexington has been one of the more surprising teams in North Central Ohio this year, but that is more likely because those that predict such things underestimated the level of talent the Minutemen have this year.
They routed Orrville (30-8) last week and they have won three of their first four games this year. They made some big plays in the second half last week and coach Dan Studer liked the way they kept their noses to the grindstone. “We were pretty happy with the game obviously. A big win like that over Orrville is always an accomplishment because they have such a good program. We made some mistakes early in the first half that we need to get tuned up this week. I was happy with the way we played in the second half,” he told Swankonsports.com, “I am still looking forward to the game when we can put together four solid quarters of football. I don’t feel like we have done that yet. Hopefully we get that opportunity this week with Clear Fork. If we can eliminate a lot of the little mistakes that we made.”
Lexington (3-1,1-0) has a very solid backfield that in running backs Brandon Henderson and Andrew Hunt. Plus, Studer says quarterback Trent Richwine can be a difference maker for them. “He is a great runner and a real tough kid. He is really smart with his reads when he is throwing the ball. We have some threats at wide receiver that we kind of wanted to focus on last week with more of a passing game to just balance things out a little bit. It’s hard to do when you have two really good running backs. We have a lot of faith in Trent he has done a great job so far. He is one of those kids that s going to keep getting better each week. We are hoping down the line to put a little bit more weight on him, especially when they are going to be targeting Henderson and Hunt,” said Studer.
This week, Lexington plays at Clear Fork (2-2,0-1) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game. Studer believes the key will be competing with the Colts at the point of attack. If they can do that he thinks they can be successful. “They are big up front. They are a Clear Fork team and that’s what they are good at. They always have a good offensive line and they are well coached. They have a good defensive line, they are well coached there too. We think that is where the game is going to be won or lost. If our big guys show up and play physical football like they did against Orrville last week in the second half I think we will do well. They are Clear Fork kids so they are always going to be tough. We are looking for a hard hitting, smash mouth football game. Those are the kind of games that we enjoy, so this should be a fun Friday night,” said Studer.
Lexington looks like they have the talent to compete for an “OCC” title this year, if that is true, a win Friday night is a must. “The conference is really tough this year. I think it is up in the air. I think anybody can win on any given Friday. I have always said that about the “OCC” and I think it holds true this year. We better show up to play on Friday night. If you want to win the conference this year, you better be ready to play every week. There are a lot of good teams out there with great athletes and you can’t take any team likely,” said Studer.
Lexington Ready to Battle Back
Those that were counting Lexington out of the Ohio Cardinal Conference race before the season even started look pretty foolish at this point.
The Minutemen (2-1) have played pretty sound football this year, including a 35-21 loss to state ranked Olentangy last week. Coach Dan Studer says they have play better when the game is on the line, something they didn’t do last week. “We just need to play consistent football. We have to battle through the fourth quarter. We need to overcome so adversity. We saw a lot of that in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter. We got some bad calls, or calls that didn’t go our way I should say. We have to be able to overcome that,” said Studer.
One thing that is key for the Minutemen is to not let this loss linger and lead to a loosing streak. “We need to be able to carry on and bounce back from a loss. That’s important and that’s why this week is such a big week for us,” said Studer.
Orrville (1-2) comes calling in the first “OCC” game of the year on Friday night. After starting the season with a win over Canal Fulton Northwest (24-20) the Red Riders have lost consecutive games to Wooster Triway (29-20) and Copley (34-28) last week. This is pretty young football team, but Studer says it is still a pretty good one. “They are young, but they have athletes. They have kids that can make a lot of plays. Above all of that they are Orrville. We have a ton of respect for coach Devault and all of the work he does and his program. Over the years it has always been classy and top of the line,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We are ready for a young Orrville team, but we are ready for a good one. Those guys are going to put those kids in the best position to win. It’s not going to be an easy game by any means or something we are taking lightly. We are ready for a battle. It’s going to be a good one come Friday.”
It seems Orrville is almost always athletic and Studer says this year is no different. He says they must limit big plays. “They have a lot of talent and they have some speed. They have some guys that are going smack you in the mouth if they get a chance to. Defensively this week we have to be sound. We have to have all our gaps covered. We have to make good reads, especially at the linebacker spot. We feel pretty confident that our guys can do that. In the defensive backfield we have to be sound there too. If you make a mistake against Orrville they are going to pop you quick and you will end up chasing them if you are not careful,” said Studer.
Lexington to Face Biggest Challenge so Far
Lexington has played excellent football so far this year averaging more than 30 points a game in the process. However, they are going to face their toughest test yet this Friday night.
Last week, they shut out Shelby (29-0) in their best performance on defense in more than a year. Coach Dan Studer says they did a super job on both offensive and defense. “We were pretty happy with both sides of the ball last week,” he said.
Studer believes this is a team that has relied on its defense over the last half decade and he thinks this year’s defense is going to be pretty good too. “Historically since I have been part of the program at Lex we have always thought of ourselves as a defensive school. We put a lot of pride in it. After week one that was something we weren’t satisfied with. We don’t like to have 200 yards rushing against us, let alone 300 like Ontario did. So, we really focused last week on fundamentals. We have some explosive players and a really good set of linebackers. Even our two deep linebackers are pretty good players that we are confident can come in and play at any time,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Our safeties have a lot of speed and we have some experience back there, with Switzer and Rudy, those guys have been playing for two or three years now. Another thing we have been running the same defense for the past four or five years. These kids have just reped it so much they feel comfortable with it. It’s just something that we have hung our hat on and it’s paid off.”
On Friday night, Lexington plays at Olentangy (2-0). The Braves have beaten two good teams in Worthington Kilbourne (17-14) and rival Olentangy Liberty (28-16) so far this season. Studer says the Braves are a team that plays very hard all of the time. “They are really good football team. The thing that stands out most about them is they are going to play for four quarters. They have proven that in their first two games. Their first two games they played two really good football teams. They very easily could have lost both of those games, but they persevered through a lot of things. Their kids are very well coached and they are disciplined. They play to the end of the whistle every play. You don’t see guys walking around and you don’t see guys taking plays off. That’s scary. We are not taking these guys lightly by any means,” said Studer.
This is the first time the two teams have played in football, at least in a while, and Studer knows this will be a big challenge. “This is probably our toughest opponent yet, our toughest test yet, especially being our first road game. We are really excited about going down there and playing them for the first time. We are going to see how it turns out, but we are looking forward to a smash mouth football game,” he said.
Lexington Not Taking Win For Granted
Lexington put together two fourth quarter touchdowns to pick up a win in week one of the season. Now they would like to win another and get on a roll.
The Minutemen ran for 318 yards in a win (34-26) over Ontario on week one. Coach Dan Studer, in his first year as the head man, was happy with how they reacted to game situations against Ontario. “It was a great football game. Ontario came in and they are great football team. They played really hard and our kids showed a lot of heart and they showed a lot hard work. They faced a lot of adversity there in the second half. I am really proud of them for playing through all of that stuff and be able to pull off the win,” he said.
Despite the win, Studer understands that there elements of the game that need to be refined if they are going to continue to win games. “There is also a lot of fundamental stuff we need to get back to. I said all last week that if we wanted to have a chance to beat Ontario we had to play fundamental football. We didn’t do that a lot in the second half,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We didn’t tackle very well and I think it showed with especially how much they rushed. I mean they had a guy rush for almost 300 yards there. We have to work on our passing game. It didn’t look as good as it should have on Friday night. We are happy with the win, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Lexington had three backs go over 80 yards rushing against Ontario. Studer says those guys are three different kinds of backs and that makes them difficult to stop as a team. “We knew going into the season we had some kids that could run the ball. We knew we had some kids that run the ball differently. Henderson and Hunt and Richwine all run the ball a little bit different style. Brandon has a lot of speed, Hunt is a power back that can get right at you, and Trent is really deceptive on really how fast and quick he really is. We just try to put our kids in the best position,” Studer said.
Lexington plays host to Shelby (0-1) in non-conference play on Friday night. The Whippets, coming off an 0-10 season, were blasted 31-6 by Mansfield Madison in their first game. However, Studer believes the Whippets are a pretty good team. “Last year with Shelby was a big transition year with them having a new coach come in and I’m sure there were a lot of changes. This year, you know, not a great start against Madison. It was a tough game for them, but it’s still Shelby and they are still Shelby kids. They are still a football town. They still have tough kids over there. We aren’t taking these guys lightly for sure. I mean we have always had great games with them. Year after year they come in and are ready to fight you and hit you right in the mouth and that’s what we are expecting,” said Studer.
Lexington Ready to go
Dan Studer makes his debut as the head football coach at Lexington when the Minutemen host the Ontario Warriors in a non-conference game on Friday night.
It is the renewal of a rivalry that dates back to the 1960’s, although this is first time the schools have played in five years.
Studer believes they are prepared for the game. “We have had a really good preseason. Our kids are coming together really tight. We are playing like a family, playing like a unit. We made our little mistakes in our scrimmages, which are kind of expected,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We had a couple of fumbles last week, which we weren’t too happy about, but we don’t feel that is something our running backs do. It was just a fluke. Besides that we are executing well. Our kids are coming along both offensively and defensively. We are pretty happy with where we are at right now.”
Studer says they have a lot of players with exciting potential, but he likes the leadership the whole team has shown even more. “We have some veteran running backs. We have some veteran defensive safeties. We have some guys who have seen a lot of playing time that aren’t necessarily seniors on our defensive and offensive lines. We have some leaders out there. The leadership that they are showing right now is a big positive to us. There is that since of unity that I think coaches strive to find. We saw that early in the preseason, but we have a long way to go. If we keep building on that I think we are going to be in a pretty spot,” said Studer.
Ontario is one of the favorites for the black division title in the North Central Conference. Studer says they have some big play makers on offense. “Offensively they have a good quarterback. They have a good running back. They have some skilled guys out wide. They have a veteran pair of tackles that look pretty good. They look dangerous offensively,” he said.
On defense, Studer says the Ontario linebackers in particular are very good. “Defensively they look aggressive. I am really impressed with their linebacking corp. They have four linebackers that all look pretty good. They all have different characteristics that are good, some have speed, some like to hit,” he said.
Studer expects that the game Friday will be an excellent one. “I think it’s going to be a damn good game. I am excited about them coming here. I’m excited about the rivalry. I don’t think by any means it’s going to be easy for us. I think they have a real good football team and if we don’t come to play they are going to punch us in the mouth,” he said. Studer believes execution is the key for a win for them. “We have to execute and we have to eliminate mistakes. Just like any football game we have to stick to our game plan. I think our kids are prepared, but Friday night when you get out underneath those lights it’s a whole different ballgame. We have to execute as unit. If we do those things and don’t give up the big mistake. Ontario is going to get their plays. They have explosive players. We just have to minimize them and minimize our mistakes and play the best football game we can play. That’s really all we can ask for,” said Studer.
New Lexington coach Not New
Scott Hamilton, the new Lexington boys’ basketball coach is not new to the program, in fact, quite the opposite. He has been with the program at various levels for more than a decade.
Hamilton told Swankonsports.com that he already has a strong relationship with many of the players that are expected to form the nucleus of the boys’ basketball team next year. “I have worked under the last three head coaches in coach Mauck, coach Weaver and coach Feick at the high school or the junior high level with the past two years working with coach Feick as his JV coach. So, most of the guys in the program, especially the older guys, I have known them from the Friendly House days,” he said.
There were 37 applicants for the job at one of the more tradition rich programs in this part of the state. Hamilton says he just wants to continue what is a good thing. “After spending the time that I have with the kids and with the program and I am a community guy living in the Lexington area. It was just something that I wanted to throw my hat into the ring because of the dedication that I have given to the program,” he told Swankonsports.com, “It is kind of like what we have asked our kids to do, especially the last couple of years with coach Feick, we have really asked the kids to commit and be a part of it and work hard. I thought it was kind of my time to do the same to make sure that I commit myself. If it worked out and I was lucky enough to be brought on by the board as the head coach I would continue to work hard to make and build this program. If not I would look to consider helping out someone else that would come in.”
Lexington has won two straight Ohio Cardinal Conference titles, sharing it last year with Mansfield Senior. Hamilton says they just had a lot of key ingredients that added up to a lot of success the last two years. “The positive attitude that Coach Feick brought in really worked well with the talent and the kids that we had the last couple of years. They really bought into what coach Feick was wanting to do as well as the rest of the staff with coach Guth, coach Lesch and myself. Of course, when you are winning games it is a lot of fun. Just some the things that he brought in. The communication with the kids and the freedom. Not that the coaches before him didn’t do that, but there was definitely a special relationship between coach Feick and the players we had over the last couple of years,” said Hamilton.
At the base of the Lexington program the last couple of years as has been the willingness of the players to play hard on defense and go after the rebounds. Although the Minutemen will not be as tall nor physical this year, Hamilton still believes they can do those kinds of things on the basketball floor. “A lot of the things that we have been doing over the last couple of years as far as some of the practice schemes and a lot of the stuff with the offense and defense we aren’t looking to change. If it isn’t broke you don’t need to fix it. With graduation we were hit with this month we lost some really good size and some talented basketball players. Next year’s squad is really not going to have that size,” he said, “We are going to have some talented basketball players there is no doubt about that. It is going to be a different type of roster. We are going to have to make some changes, and of course, I am going to have some different ideas that I want to put into the program. For the most part we are going to try and make it as smooth as transition as possible.”
He says that rebounding and defense are more a sense of working hard and positioning rather than just how tall you are. “With all my teams that I have coached at every level my commitment to the defensive side of the ball and to rebounding has always been very strong. I have always been a firm believer that the team that wins the boards is going to put itself in a very good position at the end of the game. We are going to stay with that mentality as far as aggressive defense and strong rebounding. I am also a firm believer that you don’t have to be the tallest guy on the floor to lead the rebounds. I think rebounding has a lot to do with being intelligent as far as their position on the floor and their heart,” said Hamilton.
June is a month in which the OHSAA allows basketball coaches to have 10 contact days. Hamilton says they are trying to find out quickly what they have for next year and how to put them together. “We tried to do as much as we could to keep things going, but there were a lot of things that we just couldn’t do until there was an official announcement as to who the coach was going to be obviously, with a new coach coming in. It’s just been crazy trying to make contact with kids, college coaches for shoot outs, team camps, making those plans. The month of June is extremely important trying to get these guys in the gym and trying to get them to work on some stuff. Plus, you are looking to share kids with football, soccer and baseball programs as well,” said Hamilton.
Lexington Has a Score to Settle
Last year, Lexington’s baseball season ended with a heartbreaking loss to Bellevue in the district semi-finals and Thursday the Minutemen have a chance to avenge that loss in the division two sectional finals at Clyde High School.
The Minutemen (10-17) advanced in the tournament on Saturday when Zach Temple fired a no-hitter at the Willard Flashes. Coach Jeff Strickler says Temple was in total control the whole game. “Zach Temple really did an outstanding job throwing the no-hitter. He did a great job mixing up his fastball with his breaking stuff and changing the location of the pitches. He kept the ball down low,” he told Swnakonsports.com on Wednesday afternoon, “Along with the seven strike outs that he had he got 11 ground ball outs. The infield was very busy and they did a fantastic job supporting him. They had one pop to the infield and one lazy to fly to the outfield with the very last batter of the game. It was really a fantastic job all the way around by Temple.”
At times this season Lexington has had some problems pushing runs across the plate. However, the pitching has been solid and Strickler adds they have gotten pretty consistent defense too, especially lately. “Yeah for the most part. We probably average two errors a game. Here lately we have been putting up a lot of games with zero errors for a ball game. Every once in while we will have our moments and throw the ball around unnecessarily and that type of stuff. I have been telling these kids all season long our pitching and defense will keep us in games. It has and with some runs we can win some,” he said.
Bellevue (19-4), #3 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the large school division, shared the title in the Northern Ohio League with Norwalk and Tiffin Columbian. Strickler says he knows that Bellevue is a very good team. “Bellevue is always a challenge when we play them. We don’t play them during the regular season so the only time we get to see them is in the tournament, usually the district. They are an outstanding team. I was not able to see them play this year, but from what I have heard they have great pitching. They have played solid baseball all the way around. They will be quite a challenge,” said Strickler.
Last spring, Bellevue beat Lexington (8-6) in ten innings in the district semi-finals. Strickler says his team remembers that and he hopes this time things turn out a little bit different. “We lost last year’s game in the seventh inning. We had it won. We were down to the final out. It takes 21 outs to end the game and we able to get that 21st out. They came back to score the winning run to win. We have had some really outstanding games with Bellevue over the years. I remember the first time I played them. It was 2002 in the district final and that game went 11 innings. It has been close games every time we have played. I can’t see why (Thursday) would be any different,” said Strickler.
Lexington Looking For Another Tournament Run
Last season, Lexington surprised many with a run to the division two district tournament and the Minutemen may be poised to do it again.
Last year, Lexington beat Willard (16-4), upset top seed Norwalk (7-5) and lost to Bellevue (8-6 in 10 innings) in the district semi-final.
This season, Lexington (9-16) has played two of the best teams in the area, the state for that matter, very tough this week. Losing Ohio Cardinal Conference games to Ashland (7-0 and 4-3) and losing to Ontario (11-9 in nine innings on Thursday night). Coach Jeff Strickler says he is very happy with how his team ins playing right now, despite the tough losses. “The past week we have been playing really good baseball. The pitching has been good and the defense has been outstanding in my mind. We are starting to get some timely hits by everybody in the order,” he told Swankonsports.com, “The top part of the order has been producing all along, but now we are starting to get something from the bottom half. I have been really pleased with the way things have been going. We have been playing some really tough teams with Ashland this week and I thought we played well both games. I feel real confident about things.”
Strickler says his team is confident and they remember what it was like to beat Norwalk last season and they would like to get that taste again. “The thing is they want to. They realize the importance of keeping their intensity up for the whole seven innings and playing aggressive, but smart baseball. The kids that are on the team, that were on the team last year, haven’t forgot what it was like to beat Norwalk to win that sectional and be able to participate in the district. It’s a good feeling that you don’t get too many other places,” said Strickler.
Lexington plays Willard for the second straight year in their sectional opener. This time Saturday at Clyde High School. They will likely see tough lefty Kyle Fluharty. However, Strickler says with the pitchers they have seen lately they will be ready for him. “He is really good and has been pitching really well at this point. I think this is another thing that goes in our favor is who we have been playing these last two weeks. We have seen some really good pitchers and that has been helping us get ready to face another on Saturday morning. We have faced them twice, we split with them, but it’s a whole new season come Saturday morning, we’ll see what happens,” he said. Lexington won 14-3 on April 9 and Willard returned the favor 10-6 a week later.
It is difficult to do, but Strickler says they have to make Fluharty attack them on the plate and that is difficult against pitchers with good stuff. “We have a philosophy of how we want to face each at bat and the main thing is be patient and wait on your pitch. You have to realize the rules give us three strikes before we are out. If we are patient and wait eventually we are going to get a pitch to our liking. If he is doing a really good job of mixing it up and keeping it in the strike zone the he will force us when he gets two strikes on us to hit his pitch. I don’t know too many high school pitchers that can do that on a consistent basis,” said Strickler.
Lexington Building Momentum
Lexington shut out Ashland on Tuesday in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game and Lady Lex is one of several teams in the up coming division two sectional tournament that could make some noise.
Lady Lex (11-11,5-6) has been up and down this season with some freshmen playing key roles. Veteran coach Mike Hamman says his team is just a whisker from being a much better team record wise. “We are a young team, but we are getting better. A lot of people probably don’t know that we have lost six one games this year. If you flip those around we have a pretty record, but as it is we are around .500. We are trying to get better and get ready for the tournament,” he said.
Tournament play begins Saturday at Lexington as Lady Lex plays Willard (11-8) in an upper bracket semi-final. In lower bracket semis on Saturday Mansfield Madison plays Galion and Clear Fork meets Tiffin Columbian. Hamman says it is a very balanced sectional. “We had our tournament draw on Sunday. I think all of the coaches were sitting there talking about any team in the sectional could win it. It’s peaking and getting hot at the right time and getting the clutch hit and the clutch pitching and good things can happen for you like it did last year for us,” Hamman said. Lexington advanced to the division two regional last year.
Tournament success is something the Lexington program is used to. Hamman says some of his players understand what it takes and the others are going to learn quickly. “I hope we have kind of built that tradition in. We have girls that have experienced it last year and the young ones are going to get baptized pretty soon whether they want to or not. It’s all a learning process that goes on. You find out when tournament time comes around everything gets amped up and you better bring your “A” game or you will be going home,” said Hamman.
In terms of their record this is not one of Lexington’s better teams, but coach Hamman says they are improving and he likes the potential in the group he has this year. “I think we have all of the pieces to the puzzle it’s just a matter if we come focused and ready to play. We are the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type. If we play well and do all phases of the game I think we can play with almost anybody, if we don’t anybody could beat us. The last couple of weeks I have been saying let’s not beat ourselves. You know, if a team is going to beat us, they are going to have to beat us. We can’t give teams extra outs and we can’t make silly pitches or have a bunch of errors. If we do that we are pretty tough. If we don’t anybody from any team can beat you,” said Hamman.
Lexington Trying to Figure Things Out
Lexington has fallen on some hard times and the Minutemen need to get it together if they are going to be any kind of a factor in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race this year.
The Minutemen (6-11,3-5) have lost their last five games in a row to Mt. Vernon (5-4 in both ends of a doubleheader), Willard (10-6) on Monday, and Wooster in back to back “OCC” games (6-3) on Tuesday and (4-2) on Wednesday.
Coach Jeff Strickler says the pitching and defense has been just fine, but they have not been able to hit the ball. “Over the last week or so the pitching and defense has been pretty good. It’s been keeping us in ballgames. We just haven’t been able to put together some hits in bunches to get some runs scored. We struggled a little bit against Mt. Vernon. They had some pretty pitchers throwing against us. Of course, McGee from Wooster was really good on Tuesday. The Daughterty kid (Wednesday) threw really good for Wooster as well. Our kids have been throwing well too. We have played pretty good defense and stayed in games. We have to start getting more hits,” said Strickler.
The bottom part of the Lexington order has failed to produce much. Strickler says the younger players are trying to adjust to varsity level pitching. “A lot of it is their approach. The top part of our order has been doing a very good job. They have been hitting the ball pretty well. The bottom half of the order, guys that haven’t played varsity baseball before, they not used to seeing the type of pitching that they are seeing now,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It boils down to the approach they take when they are up at bat, especially when they get deeper in the count. When you get more strikes on you, you have to take a shorter swing and just put the ball in play. We have a couple of kids that are struggling doing that. We just have to keep working at it.”
Lexington has played some good teams over this stretch, but Strickler says they can’t make excuses they have to go out and play some sound baseball. “Wooster and Mt. Vernon are pretty good and so have been a lot of the teams that we have played this year. Sometimes you have to make your own breaks and we haven’t been able to do that. Sometimes things just go against you. Just like (Wednesday) my third baseman had a ground ball that hit something and popped up over his head and (Wooster) scored two runs on that and that may have been the difference. Sometimes you have to go out and make the breaks. The biggest thing right now is these guys are young. They just have to keep believing that if they keep working hard good things are going to start happening for them,” Strickler said.
Lexington took a little break from practice on Thursday, but Strickler says they going to hit the diamond on Friday and try to polish those skills. “We have a little bit of break in our schedule. We don’t play again until next Tuesday. Thursday the kids came in and we just did some work on our baseball facility. With the high winds we had last week it had our whole right field wind screen flapping in the breeze. We will get back out on the field on (Friday) and get some hitting in and defense in. Work hard in practice and get ready for Orrville next week,” he said.
Lexington Still in Race
Although three games behind “OCC” leader Ashland, the Lexington Minutemen are starting to put some things together after a rough first week of the season.
They rode an outstanding pitcher effort from Rudy Basilone and beat the rival Madison Rams (9-2) on Wednesday evening. Coach Jeff Strickler says the way Ashland is playing (a 10-2 winner over Clear Fork Wednesday) they have to put some kind of a streak together. “Ashland is playing very well at the moment and you can’t get far behind them at all if you want any chance to catch up. We have an up hill fight being three games behind them already at this point. We are not going to be able to let games slip away like we did (Tuesday) and keep playing like we did (Wednesday),” he said.
After losing a tough one in nine innings to Madison on Tuesday night, Strickler says Basilone put them in position to stay in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race. “We got a very good pitching performance from Rudy Basilone. He pitched very well and had a shutout going into the seventh inning. He got two outs before they finally got a couple runs across and we had to make a change. We also got a real good pitching performance (Tuesday) out of Zach Temple. We just made a few mistakes in the field that allowed them to get back into the game. I am really pleased where the pitching is going,” Strickler told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the win over the Rams.
In the first week of the season, the Minutemen lost four times to West Holmes and Norwalk, who have lost only one game between them. Since then Strickler says, outside of some errors, they have played some pretty good baseball for the most part. “This first week we played West Holmes and we had a doubleheader with Norwalk, two very good teams. They beat us pretty good. Over the past week and half we have gone 4-2 over that span. The two games that we lost we basically in my mind kind of gave it away with defensive mistakes that shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Kids are trying to make plays and just couldn’t finish them. Other than that I have been very pleased with how we have been playing,” said Strickler.
Lexington (6-6,3-3) travels to Mt. Vernon for a doubleheader on Saturday against the Yellow Jackets. They play Wooster in their “OCC” series next week.
The coaches for the two schools that shared the Ohio Cardinal Conference boys’ basketball title have resigned their positions.
Both Jamie Feick of Lexington and Mansfield Senior’s Effie James have stepped down.
Feick resigned due to family obligations. He and his wife are expecting twins this summer and he feels his responsibilities lie there. He said he came to that realization only after coaching in the News Journal all-star game last Friday. However, there were rumors to that affect since before the season even began.
Lexington won an outright Ohio Cardinal Conference title in Fieck’s first year last year. They were eliminated in the first round of last year’s division two tournament by Mansfield Madison. They lost in the district finals last month to eventual state runner-up Elida.
James, who was 69-21 in four seasons as the head coach, says he was shocked when the Mansfield City Board of Education said they didn’t want him back. “I have decided to resign as head basketball coach st Mansfield Sr. I regret that it had to happen this way, but at this time the district has decided I’m not the best fit for this position. The most important thing to me was the development of my players as young men, then as basketball players. Who I am as a person conflicts with leadership in the school district. That’s unfortunate. I love all my players like my own sons and hope nothing but the best for them and Tyger Basketball. God Bless,” James said on his facebook page this morning.
Mansfield Senior advanced to the division one super sectional finals this year before losing to unbeaten Norwalk.
The Tygers won three “OCC” titles in James four years as coach.
Lexington Ready to Compete
Lexington is a softball team that really never has to rebuild they just reload. They are doing it again this season.
Lady Lex has won four of its first five games this season with their only loss last Thursday to Sandusky Bay Conference Favorite Edison (10-1) in game in which they were competitive through most of it. Coach Mike Hamman says they just lost their focus a little bit. “Well, we are getting better and that’s what you want as a coach. Edison is loaded. They have everything. They have all of the pieces of the puzzle to be a good team,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We had a nice ball game with them for about five innings and we kind of just lost our composure. Our mistakes, that’s what a good team is going to jump on you and that’s what happened.”
Lexington (4-1) has been doing that with a pretty young team too. Hamman says they are playing freshmen at both pitcher and catcher, which is something that doesn’t happen very often. “I am happy that our freshmen are contributing. Abby Scrow is one of our freshmen and she is going to be doing most of the pitching for us and she has been doing a great job. We have a girl named Ziggler, we call her Mo, that has been doing our catching. She is doing a great job for us. You are asking two freshmen to play the two most important positions on the field. They are doing a great job for us and we are very happy with them,” said Hamman.
Lexington was scheduled to play Clear Fork, the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion, in two conference games this week. However, due to a death in the Lexington family those games have been postponed to a later date.
When the two schools do play it is something that Hamman always looks forward too. “Well, it’s our back door rivalry. For the 20 years that I have been doing this anytime Clear Fork and us get together it’s a nice rivalry. Jeff does a great job with his kids and they are always ready to compete. When we get together I’m sure that is going to the same,” said Hamman.
A win or two over Clear Fork would certainly give Lady Lex a big boost, but as he said last week, Hamman believes the “OCC” is going to be really balanced this year. “You would like to think that, but at the same time you have to be ready and come to play and that isn’t going to change when you are playing any of the “OCC” teams. I believe that every night if you don’t go out and play your best you could get beat by any team in the “OCC,” said Hamman.
Lexington Forced to Battle From Behind
Lexington did not get the conference potion of their schedule started the way they wanted to and they find themselves two games back in the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings in first week of the season.
West Holmes beat Lex on Tuesday (6-0) and Wednesday (11-0) as the Minutemen really struggled offensively against the Knight’s pitching staff. Coach Jeff Strickler says on Tuesday West Holmes was able to keep them off balance. “West Holmes played very, very well. I was very impressed with what they did defensively. They took advantage of situations when they got on base. They put a couple of hits together. They bunted kids over. They were able to advance the runners. The Baird kid really did a nice job of pitching against us. He’s a left hander. He mixed up his breaking stuff with a hard fastball. They were very impressive,” said Strickler.
When it comes to hitting, Strickler says they were trying to do too much with the ball. He says they need to be able to chance their approach at the plate and hit the ball where it is pitched. “I think a lot of it is the approach. This kid was keeping the ball outside on us and if he is going to keep the ball outside then we have to be able to take the ball to the opposite field. If you try to pull it you going to either hit a weak grounder or you are going to pop it up in the air and that’s what we did. We need to do a better job of hitting the ball where the pitcher is putting it and go from there,” said Strickler.
Lexington has talent on the roster and Strickler says they were able to get the job down with the gloves and make some quality pitches, but they just have not been able to do anything with the bats. “For the most part I thought we played okay defensively. We made a few mistakes here and there. Our pitching wasn’t bad at all. It was just that West Holmes was able to put some things together. My biggest disappointment was we didn’t hit the ball worth a hoot (Tuesday) with only two hits. We are going to have to do better than that if we are going to be competitive in this conference,” he said.
Speaking to Swankonsports.com before the loss to West Holmes on Wednesday, Strickler commented about the importance of a split for his team. “You have to get back even with at least West Holmes. You really can’t afford to get two games down in the first week in this conference because then it’s a long up hill battle. Just for our own kid’s confidence in what they are doing we need to play well,” he said.
Lexington plays rival Clear Fork (2-0), who swept to Mansfield Madison in “OCC” play, next week in their conference games. They play defending Northern Ohio League champion Norwalk in a doubleheader on Saturday. The Minutemen knocked the tops seeded Truckers out of the sectional tournament last spring.
Lexington off to Solid Start
Lexington picked up a win in their Ohio Cardinal Conference opener on Tuesday night as they downed the West Holmes Lady Knights 6-1 in the opening game of a two game series.
Veteran coach Mike Hamman says he liked what he saw on Tuesday, especially when it comes to the approach his players had to the game which resulted in them playing well in all areas. “I am happy the way the girls came out with a little bit of energy. Usually that’s a long bus ride down there, but we got off the bus and played some good ball, hit the ball, and had good pitching. It was an enjoyable win,” he said.
Lexington advanced to the regional tournament in division two last year, but Lady Lex lost some key players to that softball team to graduation, but Hamman says they have been able to find a mix of youth and older players to fill those holes on the roster. “We had three big players last year that left. Pitcher, catcher and third base are all big positions that you have to fill. We are doing that this year with a couple of freshmen and a senior first year player. Hopefully, the kids will keep improving and we will see where it goes,” Hamman said.
However, despite the strong effort versus West Holmes on Tuesday, Hamman knows if there are to accomplish some of the things that past teams have done, they have to continue to grow as a team as the short softball season unfolds. “I don’t think we are good in any area quite yet. We have young players at key positions and I think we need to keep on improving. We are by no means a tournament team yet, but if the girls keep coming in and working hard this will be an enjoyable group to work with,” said Hamman.
Over the last half decade or a little better the “OCC” softball race has been the Lexington and Clear Fork show. Madison beat Clear Fork in 10 innings on Tuesday and Hamman believes this is a much more balanced group of teams than it has been in the past. “Personally from the last few years when there has been one or two teams at the top I really believe if you don’t bring your “A” game and play well the top tier teams in the “OCC” are going to be able to beat you. It won’t be a situation where you have one or two I think there is four or five,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “Orrville is going to be strong, Madison is strong, Clear Fork will always be good, Jeff does a great job with them down there, Ashland always has good softball players. Four or five teams in the “OCC” this year could all be fighting it out at the end for that championship.”
Lexington returns home for the re-match with West Holmes on Wednesday, weather permitting. They play unbeaten Edison (4-0) on Thursday and meet Norwalk, of the Northern Ohio League, for two on Saturday.
Lexington in the Mix
Lexington is another team you can add to the mix of strong baseball teams in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this season.
The Minutemen advanced to the district tournament a year ago and they have quite a bit of talent back from that squad. Coach Jeff Strickler says they have some pretty good pitching, strong defense and some good hitters at the top of the order. “I have been pretty pleased with most things. We have a lot of kids back from last year even though we are still really young. We only have three seniors, but we have seven lettermen back,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Pitching in the two scrimmages that we have had has been pretty solid for the most part. Defense has been very good. We have been getting some timely hitting, especially in the top half of our order. The bottom half has been putting the ball in play, but hasn’t been as sharp as the top half.”
It is the fundamentals of the game that Minutemen are going to be working on this week. Strickler says they have to be able to move runners into scoring position. “Tuesday night we really didn’t execute very well bunting wise and that part of the game we have to work on. There are just little things. This is a team that has been playing baseball together for a while and it’s the little things that we have to keep working on and getting better,” he said.
With new bats this year in high school baseball, there probably won’t be as many runs scored and that is going to emphasize other elements of the game. Plus, Strickler says they can’t strike out, especially in RBI situations. “I keep preaching to our kids that baseball is game of inches. We have to do whatever we can to get our inches. With the new BB-core bats the ball is not flying as far or as fast. You still have to put the ball in play and those types of things haven’t changed. Those little things do add up,” he said.
Ashland, Madison, Wooster will all field string teams too. In fact, Strickler believes there is going to be a lot of balance this year in the “OCC”, just like in the other sports. “I think every week is going to be a war on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the conference. You better come ready to play. I don’t care who you are if you are a team in this conference you better come ready to play because anyone can beat you. It’s going to be very, very competitive. I know I am looking forward to this season, the kids are looking forward to the season to see what we can do against this kind of competition. I think it’s going to be a pretty exciting spring,” said Strickler.
Lexington Must be Big
Lexington, the Ohio Cardinal Conference co-champion, has advanced to the division two district tournament and will play Lima Bath on Wednesday night at Ohio Northern University.
Lexington (18-3) broke an Upper Sandusky 12 game winning steak by stuffing the Rams (50-40) in a sectional final game played last Friday night at Bucyrus High School. Big Lex coach Jamie Feick says it was critical that they got the lead in the game because then they were able to make it their tempo. “That was very important with that game. We stressed that by saying we can’t let this team get the lead because they are a different team when they get the lead. They control the tempo then. We wanted to control the tempo and control the game. I think we controlled the game for the most part and never surrendered the lead. They made a couple of runs at us and our guys did a good job of holding them off. They are very good team, a very disciplined team and do all of the things you need to do to win. I just felt our guys just stepped up and played big and even when we had some guys in foul trouble we were still bale to hold onto the lead and grad the victory,” said Feick.
Lima Bath (16-6) needed double overtime to subdue to Van Wert in their sectional final at Lima Senior last week. Feick says the Minutemen will be facing a very skilled team that has three outstanding players that they count on. “I have seen them play a few times and seen some film. They are a very good team. They play in a tough conference where they beat on each other all year. There are some good schools in that conference. Elida is in our district as well. They beat a good Van Wert team to advance and get to us. They are really a well balanced team. They have a kid by the name of Davis that is the coach’s son. He is the school’s all-time leading scorer. He’s a two guard. He obviously shoots the ball very well and is good off the dribble,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have a big kid by the name of Hefner who just works his rear end off and works for everything that he does. He is a good rebounder and good in the high post area. They also have a kid by the name of Sullivan. He is 6-3. He is a wing man, very athletic. They are similar to our team. They can play a variety of styles. They can slow down. They can get out and run. They can play pressure defense. They have been known to change their defenses quite frequently. It looks like a good match-up.”
In comparing the Wildcats to a team fans may be more familiar with. Feick believes Bath favors Ashland, a team that beat them once in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this year. “The style that they play in the half court is similar to an Ashland or maybe even a Clear Fork. They play a 2-3 with a high post. They cut everybody off the high post. They aren’t as big as us, but there really aren’t a lot of teams around here that are. They are similar in height to an Ashland. They have a two of three guys that are 6-3, everybody is between six foot and 6-3 and they have a lot of three point shooters,” he said.
The formula for a win is a familiar one for Lexington. Feick says they have to take advantage of their height and get on the glass. “We are going to have to key on three guys I mentioned in Davis, Sullivan and Hefner. Like every game we are going to have to use or size and strength and try to take advantage of that. We have got to own the boards. Rebounding will be huge. Just be physical with them. Just play our style. Play inside out,” said Feick.
Lexington Ready to be Patient
It’s a battle between two teams ranked in the Swankonsports.com basketball power among larger schools as #2 Lexington challenges #4 Upper Sandusky in division two sectional final at Bucyrus High School on Friday night.
Upper Sandusky (17-3) is the outright champion of the black division of the North Central Conference. Lexington (17-3) coach Jamie Feick says the Rams are on a significant roll and will be bringing a lot of confidence into the contest. “They are having a great year. They have been on a roll here lately they have won 12 straight games. They are a very good team, winning their conference and playing well here going into the tournament. We know we have our hands full. They are a number three seed in our sectional and they chose our side of the bracket. They thought they could match-up better with us,” he said.
Games involving Upper Sandusky are like no other played this side of Holgate. Feick says the Rams are extremely patient when they have the ball and they just are not going to pull the trigger until they get the shot that they want. “They play a real deliberate, slow paced game. They know what they can and can not do. Each player knows their limitations, they know their limitations as a team. They know what they have to do to win,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You don’t win 12 straight games unless you do the things that you need to do to win. They get after loose balls, they play good, solid defense. They make the most out of every possession they have they wait on the right shot, the good shot. They try to go inside out. They hit their free throws. They are very well coached.”
Last season, after winning an Ohio Cardinal Conference title, Lexington was beaten in their first tournament game by Mansfield Madison. Feick says they remember that are using that loss as motivation. “Obviously this is a big game for us. We still feel the affects after last year in losing our first game. We are kind of trying to thrive on that a little bit and us that as motivation for the team,” said Feick.
Against Upper Sandusky you can’t lose your focus. Feick says if you gamble too much they will burn you. “They know that is their best chance of winning a game is keeping it in a low possession game, a low scoring game. We have seen them hold the ball for seven and a half minutes before. They don’t care, the lower scoring game the better chance they think they have to win. Obviously, a key for us is defensive patience. There will be long periods of time when we are playing “D” and we can not relax. We have to keep that intensity during the whole possession. As soon as you relax for one section, as soon as you break down, they are going to take advantage of if and more than likely score. Defensive intensity for long periods of time is a huge key in this game,” said Feick.
Another thing is as a basketball team you have to be more efficient on offense because you just won’t get as many chances to score, according to Feick. “We like to run when we can, but we are by no means a running team. We like a half court game too, especially with our size. We like that and we kind of expect that out of this game. We have some good length, some strong guys, some athletic guys. I think a half court game plays to our advantage as well,” he said.
Lexington Understands the Task
Lexington will play an excellent team in the division two district tournament on Thursday night at Bucyrus High School when they take on the Clyde Lady Fliers.
However, playing very good teams is nothing new to Lady Lex. They are a member of perhaps the best girls’ basketball league in this part of the state in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.
They beat another member out that league in Mansfield Madison (52-39) in the sectional final last Saturday night. It was the third time they had beaten the Lady Rams this year and coach Daryl Udhe knew this time it was going to be a little tougher. He says they took care of business. “Yes we did and I’m glad of that. We didn’t start out so good. Madison came in fired up, which I expected that they were going to. We beat them handily during the season and sometimes when you play them for a third time I don’t think we were quite ready for their intensity,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “In the second half thought we got back to the way we have been playing with more intensity and little more controlled offense as far as getting the ball inside. Overall, I’m happy, we won by 13, and Madison is and improved team, so pretty happy to just get the victory.”
Clyde (20-1) finished as the outright champion in the tough Sandusky Bay Conference, not losing a single conference game in the process. They finished number one in the Swankonsports.com basketball power poll. Uhde knows how good Clyde is. “They are awful good. I think they are rated number three in the state. They are 20-1. They pretty much have everything. They probably have two All-Ohio players. One of them being the Cahill girl, the coach’s daughter, and the other is Smetzler, their point guard. The people around them are very good too. We did get them scouted and I saw them also. It’s going to be a challenge. I think it’s going to be an opportunity too. We are going to have to play our best,” said Uhde.
This not the first outstanding team Lexington (13-8) has played this year. Uhde says they have been challenged quite a bit already. “They are one of the top level teams that we have played. We have played West Holmes and Wooster that I consider very good teams in our conference. I would say that they are on the level with them. We also played Olentangy and they were rated in the top 15 in the state in division one, a real tall team,” he said.
Also, Lexington tested Clyde last season. The Lady Fliers qualified for the state tournament in 2011 and Lexington took them to the wire in the districts before losing (64-56) by eight.
Uhde says Clyde has all of the elements of a great team, but he has confidence in his players. “It’s going to take our best effort. They have outside shooting and they have size inside. They are pretty tall team, they are an athletic team, and obviously a very good team,” said Uhde.
Lexington Hungry For Win
A win over Orrville on Friday night means no less than a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title for the Lexington Minutemen. It would be their second straight title.
They are tied with Mansfield Senior for the lead in the “OCC.” The Tygers play at home against Wooster on Friday night.
Lexington (16-3,10-3), #2 in the Swankonpsorts.com basketball power poll among larger schools, beat the Generals (63-57) last Friday to maintain their share of the conference lead. Coach Jamie Feick says they finally got off to a fast start in the first quarter, something they had not been doing this season. “They are very good team at home. Finally we got off to a good start. I think we started out is was 22-5. We knew they would make some runs and get back into the game and they did. Preston is a pretty good player for them. McGee, their senior, hit some pretty big threes for them early in the first half. I thought our guys, we did what we needed to do. We pressured them and tried to get the ball inside,” he said.
Orrville (7-12,5-8) has been playing more competitive basketball over the second half of the season as some their perimeter players have gotten more experience. Feick says Orrville is certainly a dangerous team. “They started off the season a little slow, but if you look at the second half of the season they have been pretty good team. They have played some good teams right down to the wire. Obviously they have some size with Winters inside at 6-10. They have some athleticism with Brenner. We think he might be the best athlete in the conference,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have good guard play. They have a couple of shooters in Landis and Summers and Rey, of course, their point guard does a good job running their offense. They are good balanced team, good guard play, good inside play.”
Orrville handed Lexington one of just three conference losses (41-40) on January 24 in Orrville. Feick says he and the players remember how they felt after that loss. “They match-up well with us. We had a good game at their place. We were up six points with just a couple of minutes left and we ended up losing the game. Obviously that is still in our guys heads,” he said.
Orrville features 6-10 junior center Devon Winters, who has come into his own this season and is the Red Riders leading scorer. Feick says they can’t let him just catch the ball on the block and score. “We have to do our work early. We have to beat him to the block. We have to take control of the block and we can’t let him get good position on us. They like to lob it up to him. When you get 6-10 and have long arms that is tough to stop. It’s going to take a great team effort. We are going to need great weak side help. They look to go to him a lot more this year. They run a lot more sets for him. Even when the guards are penetrating they look to dish it off to him,” said Feick.
The Lexington coach says they obviously understand the importance of the game and they will be ready to play Friday night. “It’s a game we have to have. We have a lot at stake. We have an “OCC” championship on the line. I believe we have a 19-game home winning streak. It’s our last home game for our seniors. So, it’s a special night and we know that Orrville is going to want to ruin that night and we can’t let that happen,” he said.
Feick won two state titles as a player at Lexington and he says these are the kinds of games that you want to be involved in. “That’s what I tell the kids. This is why we play the game, is games like this. It’s a chance to win a championship and this is why you put in all of the work, the work in the off season. This is why we play. Mansfield is a good team, we don’t expect them to lose, and I don’t think they are going to lose. They have been a great team all year and they are just as deserving as us for the title. So, we just have to take care of our own business,” said Feick.
Lexington Doesn’t Want to do it Again
Big fourth quarter comebacks are nice and exciting, maybe thrilling for the fans, but the Lexington boys’ basketball coach would rather do without the dramatics.
The Minutemen share first place with Mansfield Senior in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and they are doing all they can to hang on.
They scored the last 17 points of the game to rally and beat Ashland (59-55) last week. Coach Jamie Feick says his players just played extremely hard and they made a few changes in strategy too. “We knew we had to something different. We tried a bunch of defenses against Ashland there. They are a very good team. They are a tough match-up for us because we are so big and they have so many good guards that can shoot. We just had to try something different,” Feick told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It was kind of desperation time there are the end of the third quarter when we were down 14, 15 points, what do we do? So, we decided we are going to turn up the pressure a little bit against them and really get up in them and force some turnovers, get some deflections. Just try to get some momentum going in our direction. I told the guys we need to push the ball a little more and get into an early offense and get more into a rhythm and more into a flow we don’t have a lot of time to run our sets. That’s what the guys did, they pressured and really just turn it up a notch.”
Feick says he laid it on the line for his players during the quarter break and they were up to the challenge. “They just fought back. I told them look, you have one quarter left to leave it all on the floor. I mean this is it. If you want part of the conference championship and be a back-to-back champion, you have one quarter to lay it all on the line. I’ll tell you every one of them stepped up and they stepped up big,” he said.
Lexington is the top seed in the division two tournament at Bucyrus High School and Feick knows the experience of winning the Ashland game could have future benefits. “I think it helps us for the tournament to know we can win a game like that. That we can come back and close games out. You are going to have games like that in the tournament. So, to know we can do that gives us some confidence going into the tournament,” he said.
Lexington (15-3,9-3), #3 in the Swankonsports.com basketball power poll, plays at Wooster (7-10,5-7) in an “OCC” game on Friday night. Feick says Wooster is a tough place to win a game. “Wooster is a good team, a very balanced team. They have good guard play and good inside scoring. They have a pretty good freshmen post and good quick guards. They play very well at home. I think they have lost maybe one home game this year and that was to Mansfield and that was only by a couple of points. It’s a tough place to play. It’s a big gym, wide open. It’s a D-one school, it’s a conference opponent and it’s on the road. This is a huge test for us. We have to have it. There are no excuses we have to have this game if we want to have a chance at the title,” said Feick.
They have proven they can make a great comeback and win, but Feick says he would rather the Minutemen get off to a good start. “That’s not the position that we want to be in. It gives me a lot more grey hairs when we do it that way. I would rather we constantly have a lead. Typically this season we have kind of just not played poorly, but just played average in the first half. In the second half we have seemed to turn it on. I would really like to see us get off to a good start. I have been saying this all year and it really hasn’t happened, but I really want to see it,” said Feick.
Lexington Owes Ashland Something
It was Ashland handed Lexington their first loss in the Ohio Cardinal Conference about a month ago and they are not about to let that happen again.
Ashland visits Lexington for a crucial conference match-up on Friday night. They beat the Minutemen (76-45) in one of the biggest upsets in the area on January 6.
The Minutemen (13-3,8-3) are tied with Mansfield Senior for first place in the conference standings. While Ashland pulled another upset by beating the Tygers (74-66) last Friday night, Lexington was able to hold serve with two wins over West Holmes (64-55) on Friday and Wooster (50-37) on Saturday. Coach Jamie Feick says they did what they had to do. “It was a good weekend for us. Two big wins. West Holmes is playing very well, Wooster is playing good. Two solid wins. We finally got all of our guys healthy. Everybody is feeling good and ready to go here towards the end of the season,” he said.
Lexington, obviously, is a very talented team, but they really aren’t a very deep one. Feick says injuries and illnesses hurt them more than some of the teams. “Depth is a problem for us. Anytime we lose one of our starters that really hurts us. We have had two starters at different times of the season this year both having mono. I think they are over it. They are getting close to 100 percent. We are still not a deep team, but at least we have our core group back,” he said.
Ashland made 10 of 18 three point shots in the first game and Feick says they can not let that kind of thing happen again if they are going to win this time. “Well, obviously, the three point shot. They are a well balanced team. Not a real threat inside, but have some really great guards, good shooting guards. They run a lot of guys in and out. They play 10 guys and they all want to run up and down the floor. We have to contain that three point shooting this time,” said Feick.
Rebounding has been a key to the success of the Minutemen the last two years. They won the conference title last season. Feick says they got out rebounded by Ashland and that can’t happen either. “They have some good athletes and they like to get out on the break and spot up on the three point line looking to get a quick, easy three point shot. Obviously that is a concern of ours, transition defense and contesting the threes. Actually the last game we played them they out rebounded us. It was one of the only times this season we got out rebounded and we got beat pretty good, so rebounding is going to be a key for us as well,” said Feick.
It’s not that they can’t make shots because the Minutemen certainly have some capable shooters, but Feick says this is a team that has to win the boards. “That is one of our focal points rebounding along with good, solid defense. We feel like if we can consistently out rebound opponents we will have a chance to win or be in every game that we play. That is the plan this weekend. We have a size advantage and we have to take advantage of that and pound the ball inside,” he said.
Lexington Knows the Assignment
After a loss to Mansfield Senior in an Ohio Cardinal Conference showdown last Saturday, the Lexington Minutemen are likely going to have to win the rest of their conference games in order to have a chance to share the title.
In the battle of at the time co-leaders in the conference Mansfield Senior hung on (49-45) to win last Saturday night at Pete Henry Gym. Lexington coach Jamie Feick says he was proud of the effort he got from his kids and if the ball would have bounced their way they would be the ones in first place. “It was a good game. I thought both teams played extremely hard. Our kids fought back. A couple of times we got down there, one time by eight points, it was actually nine points in the second half and we fought back hard,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We got down again in the fourth quarter and we fought back. We put ourselves in position to win the game and just missed the shot. Really not a lot of complaints here as long as the kids are playing hard like that and give themselves a chance to win. You know, Mansfield is a good team. We are both good teams and it was a good game.”
Lexington (11-3,6-3) travels to West Holmes (8-5,5-4) for a meeting with the Knights on Friday night. West Holmes won their third league game in a row when they downed Mansfield Madison (66-58) on Tuesday night. Feick says they the Knights have been running a little more in their offense which is led by an outstanding point guard. “You have to focus on Brady Arnold. As a team they have really stepped up the tempo a little bit the past few games. They have played very well. They have averaged around 70 points, which is unusual for a West Holmes team. They have changed some things and they have tried to get out and run a little bit. We do match-up pretty evenly. They have some good size inside and they have good guards, so it should be a tough road conference game for us,” said Feick.
With Mansfield Senior holding a one game lead with five to play Feick, and the rest of the Minutemen for that matter, know they have to win the rest of the games to have a chance. “We have six games left, five conference games. They are all must wins for us to even have a shot at the conference title again. We can’t worry about anybody else though. We just have to control what we do. We would love to get some momentum going into the tournament,” said Feick.
Lexington plays host to Wooster in an “OCC” game, which is a make up from a couple of weeks back, on Saturday night. They play the Generals (5-7,4-4) twice over the final weeks of the season.
The Time is Now For Lexington
With losses in two of their last three Ohio Cardinal Conference games, the Lexington Minutemen have fallen into a tie with Mansfield Senior for first place in the conference.
Lexington (10-2,5-2) lost at Orrville (41-40) on Tuesday night. After trailing early in the game the Minutemen battled back to take the lead, but coach Jamie Feick says they let it slip away with some mistakes they don’t normally make. “Obviously it was a tough loss for us. It puts us back into a first place tie with Mansfield in the conference. We still control our own destiny here. It was tough when you were playing without your leading scorer and going to Orrville is a tough place to play,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I thought our kids really fought hard. We played well, played well as a team. I thought we grew as a team. We were up by six with two minutes to go in the game. We had every chance to win. We were in position to win it. We made some costly turnovers. We didn’t get some calls that maybe we should have. That definitely hurt us going down the stretch. We had every chance to win it, we just didn’t get it done.”
Lexington played the game without its leading scorer in Raseed Brooks, who was sidelined with an illness. Feick says they rest of the team really stepped up their game. “I was proud of the group we had out there. I think we did grow as a team. We know we can play even without our leading scorers. There were some positives, but unfortunately we lost. We have got to bounce back and no better weekend than this to do it against two good teams like Madison and Mansfield. Both teams have great athletes. Year in and year out they put great athletes on the floor. They don’t do anything complicated. We know what they do. They just kind of turn them loose and let them play. They have some great guards and obviously our guard play is going to be important,” he said.
Lexington plays two of the upper division teams in the conference this weekend and they have a chance to pull away again or really make things tight over the final month of the regular season. They host Mansfield Madison (5-5,4-3) on Friday night and travel to play Mansfield Senior (9-2,5-2) on Saturday night. They beat both teams the first time the played them. They beat Madison (69-62) on the road and Mansfield Senior the next week (73-61) at home.
Fieck says Madison likes to create a lot of chaos in the game and they have to be able to handle that. “I am sure both teams will pressure us hard this weekend. They usually always do. We don’t expect anything different. They will pressure us and try to get up in us and try and force turnovers in a full court game. Madison likes to play ugly. It’s their style. They like to scramble around and make it a hectic game. They can slow it down and run some offensive sets and try and control the tempo, but against us I think they will pressure us and try to get up in us,” said Feick.
Mansfield Senior has relied a lot on its perimeter shooting this season and Feick knows they have to have hands in faces in order to slow the Tygers down. “They are starting to get a little more balance. They have a kid or two back that they didn’t have at the beginning of the season, some bigger guys. They are still a guard dominated team. They are going to be looking for the outside shot. They have three good perimeter players in Keon, Jabree Lindsey and Jalen Jones. They are going to be our focal point. On offense we are going to try and pound it in. Inside strength is what we have, so we are going to try and pound it in against them,” said Feick.
Lexington Still Working Hard
Maybe with a two game lead in the conference standings it would be easy to become complacent and believe the title is yours, but the Lexington boys’ basketball coach won’t allow that to happen.
Jamie Feick, as member of two state championship basketball teams at Lexington (1989 and 1991) says they are not taking anything for granted. “It’s a little bit of comfort, but not much. It is a very tough conference this year. We have a tough game coming up against Ashland on the road. So, we are not too comfortable. We are going to approach every game like we are down, like we have to fight to get the conference lead. We have to ready to play every night,” said Feick.
Lexington (8-0,4-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com basketball power poll in the large school division, beat West Holmes (48-43) last week in Ohio Cardinal Conference action to gain a two-game lead on Mansfield Senior, Mansfield Madison, Clear Fork, West Holmes and Wooster. Feick credits West Holmes, but felt they did not play their best against the Knights. “I thought West Holmes was going to be the best match-up for us. They match-up better against us than any other team, so I knew it would be a tough game. We did not play very well at all. We really haven’t played well since the Mansfield game. We didn’t play well against Ontario and we didn’t play well against West Holmes. Against West Holmes we had 18 turnovers. No knock on West Holmes, but their pressure isn’t near what a Mansfield’s is. We just made some careless turnovers, made some bad decisions and we just need to be smarter with the basketball. Not make passive turnovers, make aggressive turnovers,” said Feick.
Lexington hits the road for Ashland (2-4,1-3) on Friday night. The Arrows are very much better than they were last year and Feick believes they are another team that is better than their record. “They are very dangerous. Their record is very deceiving. Two of their losses are by two points, one coming in a buzzer beater against West Holmes. There other two losses are to a very good Norwalk team and a very good Mansfield team,” he said.
Ashland has at times shot the ball very well from the perimeter this season and Feick knows the Minutemen have to get out and get a hand in the face of those shooters. “They are very balanced in scoring. They have five or six guys are capable of double figures any night. They are a three point shooting team. They shoot between 20 and 22 three pointers a game. That’s a lot and obviously that’s going to be a key in the game contesting their threes and transition defense. They want to run. They tried to run against Mansfield so we will have to get back and contest their shooters,” said Feick.
Lexington Girls Have to Pick it Up
With a vast amount of experience and the ability to shoot the basketball the Lexington girls’ basketball team was expected to compete for the Ohio Cardinal Conference title, and they still may, but they have to get going quick.
They broke a four game “OCC” losing streak with a win over Clear Fork (55-36) last Thursday. They trail Wooster by four games and coach Darryl Uhde says they can’t afford to lose any more. He says they have to pick it up now. “We better be because we have Madison on Thursday night and then Senior High coming up. We play one on the road and one at home. It was a tough stretch and I think it affected up a little bit, more mentally than anything else,” said Uhde.
Lexington (4-4,1-4) lost three league games to the top three teams in the league on the road in December. Lady Lex lost at West Holmes (58-46), at Orrville (48-45) and at Wooster (61-48) and they were competitive in each. Uhde says the loss at Orrville was the most frustrating. “The Orrville game was the most disappointing because we had the lead the whole game until the last two minutes. We played very well up there for three quarters and half of the fourth quarter. Playing on the home court of those three schools I knew was going to be tough, but we competed in all three of them. The was lost at Ashland and they are quite a bit better than what they have been in the past, but we didn’t playing anything close to what we are capable of. These upcoming games are very important to us,” said Uhde.
In order to win games against tough teams Uhde says they have to start shooting up to their potential and they must start competing better on the boards. “Our shooting percentage has really been down from last year. In the last game we wanted to go inside quite a bit and we did. It really helped us out getting the ball inside a little more,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Last year, we had quite a few threes we made and we aren’t shooting the same percentage. Defensively, I think we are pretty good. Rebounding is another aspect that was really disappointing in a couple of games. We mentioned at the beginning the season that was going to be the main concern.”
Lexington visits Mansfield Madison (3-6,1-4) in “OCC” play on Thursday night. Uhde says Madison is athletic and can run the floor well. “They press quite a bit and they push the tempo. They have some good guards with Thompson and Hood that can handle the ball. Then they have Kochis on the wing that can do a lot of things. She can shoot, she drives, and she rebounds. They have a couple of other players that can rebound for them. They are a pretty young team, but at the beginning of the year when I saw them I was impressed. The have a well rounded team with guards, forwards and centers,” said Uhde.
Lexington Faces Similar Team
Lexington sits alone on top of the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings this year after only three games the Minutemen are the only team with an unbeaten league record.
After beating Clear Fork, Mansfield Madison and Mansfield Senior this year in “OCC” play, the Minutemen play at team who’s makeup is a lot more like their own when they host second place West Holmes on Friday night.
Lexington (7-0,3-0) won a non-conference game with Ontario (59-47) on Tuesday night, but coach Jamie Feick was disappointed in the overall effort of his team. He says they just didn’t execute up to standards. “It was an ugly win for us. It was probably the worse we have played all year. It was our first Tuesday night game and it was during the break. I mean you can think of all of the excuses in the world, but we just didn’t play well. We did win and that is the most important thing. A win is a win whether it is ugly or pretty. I thought Alex Shut has been playing extremely well for us, he plays real hard. Raseed’s shot was on. Defensively, Balogh hit some big threes against us and we had a tough time with him on the perimeter,” said Feick.
West Holmes (3-2,2-1) is coming off a last second victory over Ashland (54-52) in league play last week. Feick says they look a lot like his own team does and he looks for an outstanding match-up with the Knights, led by super sophomore Brady Arnold. “I don’t think there is any one player that is more important to an “OCC” team than Brady Arnold is to West Holmes. Everything goes through him,” Feick told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “He is the floor general. He is averaging 17, 18 points a game. The thing about them this year is they have good balance inside and outside. They match-up well with us. This could be a good test for us. I think they are going to battle us pretty good and it’s going to be a great game. They have good inside play, good wing play, good guard play. And that’s us, we have good inside play and good guard play.”
For Lexington, the defending “OCC” champion, it has been defense and rebounding that have been the difference and Feick says that will be the case again with West Holmes, especially rebounding the ball. “Obviously rebounding is big for us every game. We haven’t been out rebounded yet this year. This game worries me a little bit. They have the size. They are a physical team. Our guards have to do a good job of rebounding and we have some length on the perimeter with Raseed and Johnny. We have Zach Kimble that comes in there and Tanner Kearns has been playing the wing some for us. Those guys have to rebound too. Our bigs have their hands full inside,” said Feick.
Lexington Wants to Deliver Big Punch
Lexington is the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion and they have a chance to put themselves in pretty good position if they can beat Mansfield Senior at home on Friday night.
A win would put them two games in front of the Tygers, one of their major contenders.
After downing Mansfield Madison (69-62) last Friday in a conference game, the Minutemen got off to a great start and beat Galion (53-32) in non-conference play on Saturday night. Coach Jamie Feick says it was really the only time this year they have played well in the first quarter. “We were pleased it was nice to go on the road and I think at end of the first quarter it was 15-2. It makes things a little bit easier for you as a coach, not as stressful. We were able to play some of the bench players and give them some time. It’s a comfortable feeling when you are able to get off to a good start. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and we have been finishing well,” said Feick.
With a significant early lead against Galion, the Minutemen were able to get some of their bench players in the game for significant minutes and Fieck believes that will be a big plus in the long run. “That is what has happened to us here recently with our point guard Mason Wilkee out for the past three games. What that has done has given some other guys some minutes and some experience. I think in the long run, down toward the end of the season, it’s going to make us that much better. When Mason comes back, obviously, we have another weapon there,” he said.
Mansfield Senior (5-1) has suffered only a loss to Madison in overtime two weeks ago and Feick knows that once again the Tygers are loaded with great talent, in fact their guards are improved over the last couple of years. “I don’t see why they would be singing the blues, they are having a pretty good year. They have beaten some top division one teams. There are no surprises with Mansfield. There are the same athletic, transition type team that we have seen in the past,” he told Swankonsports.com, “They have a couple of more scorers in that backcourt. Everybody tries to key on Keyon. But I think Jalen Jones and Jabree Lindsey are the keys to their success. We have got to contain them. Jalen Jones is having a great year. I got to see both of these players quite a bit last spring. They played on an “AAU” team we put together. Jabree is a very talented defensive player and Jalen can shoot lights out.”
Lexington has been successful the last couple of years because they have been able to play defense and rebound better than anyone else. Feick says that will difficult against the Tygers. “The outside shooting has opened things up for Donavan Benson inside and he is having a pretty good year. All three of those guards and capable of shooting out to 25 feet and shooting consistently. I think Jalen is shooting 45 percent from the three and that is incredible. We have to contest them. We have to take advantage of our size and use that length on the perimeter to contain those shooters. Obviously rebounding is going to be the big key for us. It always is. This is kind of a must win for them. They don’t want to fall two games behind in the “OCC” to us. We know they are going to come in ready to play and we will be ready to play,” said Feick.
The Lexington coach knows it is going to be good to get home where the home crowd is behind them. “You always have to defend your home floor. We are coming back from a four game road trip I like to call it. Kind of like when I was in the NBA we would go on long road trips. Now we are back home for three games. We had a good road trip, we won all four games. During the Christmas break where they can concentrate on basketball and family and we are excited to be home,” he said.
Lexington Not Play to Potential
Lexington has all the elements a very good basketball team and they have been successful in all three of their games so far, but their coach knows they must improve a whole lot to beat the good teams on their schedule.
A 20-1 third quarter lifted the Minutemen to an easy 48-29 win over Clear Fork last week. Despite the 19-point win coach Jamie Feick thinks his team really didn’t execute very well. “We did have a good third quarter. We were a little sluggish in the first half. We missed a lot of easy shots. We rebounded the ball well. We came out with a little more intensity in the second half. I don’t know that our defense was really that great. Clear Fork just didn’t shoot the ball very well. To be honest with you, we just haven’t played very well all season. I know we might be 3-0, but that is a little misleading. I just don’t think that we are playing as well as I know we can,” said Feick.
Defense and rebounding are what led Lexington to an Ohio Cardinal Conference title last year and that has been the key this year too. Feick feels they are not working together well on offense. “I think our defense has been good when we have our intensity it has been really good. It has been being able to keep that intensity through the entire game. We have little lapses and we have little breakdowns,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Offensively I don’t think we have been clicking on all cylinders. There is no flow. We are dribbling the ball a lot and forcing some bad things. It’s going to take some time. These guys really haven’t played together that much. I know we have some seniors, but they have all been involved in some other sports. As long as we can continue to play the defense and rebound at least we are going to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Lexington has some great individual players, but Feick says basketball in not an individual sport. “That has been a problem for us. We have been standing around watching somebody else. Whether it is Rasheed dribbling in one spot. It’s a double edged sword, he is standing dribbling in one spot, which he shouldn’t be doing, but he feels he has to because nobody else is moving and creating and giving him options,” said Feick.
Lexington plays at Mansfield Madison (1-2) on Friday night in “OCC” play. Feick, like a lot of others, is trying to figure out why the Rams haven’t looked better this year. “I think it is strange because we predicted them to be the best team in the area by far. They return their three best players. They have exceptional guard play. We thought for sure, they were district champions last year, we thought for sure this was the best team in the area. I’m not sure what is going on there. There record is also a little deceiving. They are much better than a 1-2 team. We know on Friday night we are going to get their best,” he said.
Lexington won the two regular season match-ups last year, but Madison knocked them off in the sectional tournament. Feick says there will be no problem with motivation this week. “I think with this group they know. I don’t need to remind them, they know and they know how bad that hurt. I know they are going to be motivated on Friday, so we don’t need to remind them,” he said.
Payne Steps Down
Lexington football coach B.J. Payne has resigned his position with the district.
Payne, at Lexington since 2006, says he has other offers in the profession that he would like to pursue.
He took Lexington to new heights as a coach, including an Ohio Cardinal Conference title and playoff appearance in 2008, but he also became embroiled in some off the field allegations that became the source of controversy within the community.
Payne was 37-26 at Lexington, including 5-5 this past fall.
He led the Minutemen to an 11-1 record in 2008.
There has been no comment from the school district.
Lexington Doing Things Well
Lexington is the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion and the Minutemen are playing like they don’t want to surrender that title.
They open their defense on Friday night at rival Clear Fork.
They beat Mt. Vernon (52-39) and Willard (60-41) last week. Coach Jamie Feick was happy, but certainly not overly so with the play of his team. “Yeah, we are pleased. It was a lot better start than last year when we went 0-2 in our first two games against the same two teams. We didn’t play well on Friday night. We struggled at times, but improved as the game went on,” he told Swankonsports.com, “Saturday night, I thought we played well. Willard is a tough place to play. We shot the ball well. Mason Willke came on strong on Saturday night. We had a good balanced attack inside and outside. They ran zone against us a lot and that’s going to be tough to do when we knock down shots like that.”
Lexington does have the potential to score in the paint and beyond the arch. “We have to be unselfish. When we pounded it in they doubled down on us inside and we have to willing to kick it out. That’s what we have been doing. The chemistry is coming together,” said Feick.
Rasheed Brooks has been touted as one of the best players in this part of the state. Feick says Brooks has worked hard at refining his game. “He’s a much improved player. He has had to take on more of leadership role with our team. He is capable of taking over a game. He is a very unselfish player. Last year, he led us in assists and is probably going to do it again this year. He loves to pass the ball. He is very long and a very good rebounder. He is getting a lot of looks from division one universities,” said Feick.
On the negative side, Feick wants his players to get off to a better start in the first quarter of games, so they don’t have to use so much energy to get back into the game. “We have got to get off to quicker starts. We haven’t been bad, but not as good as we are capable of. Even in our scrimmages we got off to bad starts,” he said.
Lexington and Clear Fork have been basketball rivals dating back to the 1960’s. However, some at Lexington have said that rivalry has faded from their perspective. But, not for Feick. “Anytime you go down to the valley it’s going to be a tough, physical game. The game has a lot of meaning for a lot of people involved with our team. All of my family is from Bellville, my wife graduated from there. We get excited for this game,” he said.
When facing the Colts, Feick feels like they have an advantage in the post and they want to throw the ball in there a lot. “They play great defense. They shot the ball pretty well. They have a sophomore in Ridge Winand who is pretty good. Fields is going to be one of their go to players. We have to attack inside against them. We got off to a slow start last year down there,” said Feick.
Lexington to Find Out What They Are Made Of
Lexington has played very well so far winning all of their games, but things are going to get tougher beginning Thursday night when Lady Lex visits two-time defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion West Holmes.
In non-conference play so far Lexington owns wins over Ontario (53-29), Willard (57-39) and Tiffin Columbian (60-37) on Tuesday night. “So far our defense has been really good, especially the Willard game. Defensively, I think we have played very, very well. Offensively we have a lot of fire power. We have been a little off offensively, but I think the rebounding and defense will carry us through the first month,” said Lexington coach Darryl Uhde.
West Holmes has went unbeaten through what has been a pretty good “OCC” the last two years and Uhde says they are very good again this season, no question. “They are a very, very good team. Obviously, they have dominated the league. I have them scouted. They have a nice team. They are still a young team,” he told Swankonsports.com, “They have some great players. That program down there, they start them very young. I told the girls the test is starting right now. We go from West Holmes to at Orrville and Wooster, so the next three games are very important and we will find out how good we are.”
For many years, West Holmes (2-0) ran a very patient offense and it appears they are doing some of that this year. They have beaten Dresden Tri-Valley (44-34) and Wooster Triway (47-37) in their two games so far. “They are a defensive, passing type of team. They change defenses quite often. They are going back to, not a deliberate style, but they are not a high scoring team. They throw more passes. They are not a run and gun type of team. They are a little bit smaller this year. I think they are a little bit quicker,” said Uhde.
Anytime you face a team that has had the consistent success that West Holmes has had, you know they are going to be confident. Uhde knows his girls have to have that same mindset. “They do have a lot of confidence because of the success of their program. I tried to tell the kids this. We are starting five seniors that have played together quite a bit. I’m expecting us to play a very good game. It’s going to take a very good game. An average game or an okay game is not going to beat West Holmes. I think it’s possible that we can accomplish this. We are going to need to play the defense we have been playing, but we need to shoot a little bit better,” said Uhde.
Lexington Must Improve
Lexington won its first game of the season, but they know they have to play much better if they are going to start the season 2-0.
Lady Lex downed Ontario 53-29 in their opener on Saturday. They held the Lady Warriors to just 26 percent shooting and forced 25 turnovers. Lexington coach Darryl Uhde says it was definitely defense that did the trick against Ontario. “I think our defense was the key to the game. When you hold a team to 29 points you have done a very good job. We didn’t shoot well, especially in the first half. I’m happy with the game, when you win by 24 points, something good had to happen,” he said.
In a preview scrimmage against Mansfield St. Peter’s on November 18 Lady Lex shot the ball very well and they certainly have that potential. Uhde knows that isn’t likely to happen every night though. “I told the girls afterward even though we didn’t shoot well defense and rebounding are going to get us through some of the rough sports because we are a perimeter shooting team and some nights you just aren’t going to on. If we play good defense we should be able to stay in most games,” said Uhde.
Lexington has a lineup that is made up almost totally of seniors, and at least three of them have been playing on a regular basis in varsity games since they were freshmen. “We do have a great senior group,” Uhde told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We do have some great shooters on the team. It just seemed like we might have had some nerves in the first half, but I think it was excitement more than nerves because being senior laden they have been through it before.”
Lexington travels north to meet Willard (1-0), of the Northern Ohio League, in a non-conference girls’ game on Tuesday night. The Lady Flashes beat Mansfield Madison 66-56 in their first game on Saturday night. “They are a very good team. When we played them last year, we played one of our better games. They have one the best scorers back in the Graham girl. She is probably one of the best shooters in the area. They have some height. They have a 6-1 girl in Danhoff. They also have Lillo at 5-11. They have size and speed. They have a young point guard that did well according to our scouting report,” said Uhde.
Aly Graham had 22 points and Laura Danhoff had 21 rebounds for Willard in their win over Madison.
Uhde believes they need to continue to get better in order to compete in the rough Ohio Cardinal Conference and he feels they will need better execution to beat Willard too. “They are going to be tough to beat. We are going to have to play better this week to pull out a victory,” he said.
Could This be the Year For Lexington?
Lexington has the pieces to the puzzle and they have the experience too. This has the makings of a very good Lady Lex girls’ basketball team this year.
They have a senior laden group this year that has played a lot of varsity basketball, some since their freshmen year. Darryl Uhde, in his second year with Lexington, likes what he has seen so far in scrimmage action and in practice from his players. “We’ve had three scrimmages and we are a senior orientated team. We have seven seniors out this year and obviously the experience is a plus for us. The kids know each other and have played together for many years,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “In our scrimmages I have been more positive than anything else. There are some things we need to work on. I would say rebounding is going to be the key for us this year.”
Lexington may not have a superstar this season, but they have number of good, solid players that are threats to score. Uhde thinks the balance will be a big plus for them this season. “We have a very potent offense in the fact that we have a lot of different scorers, not just one or two. I think we have good knowledge of the game. The kids played quite a bit of basketball in the summer. Just size wise we are pretty small. We have to become a little tougher inside,” he said.
Lexington has the potential to compete for the Ohio Cardinal Conference title this season, no question about it. However, Uhde knows this will be a tough league once again and they will have to be ready to play each and every week. “Everybody’s good, some are better, even the seventh and eighth place teams are going to be competitive. I don’t think you can have any off nights. You have to know every league game is going to be very tough. It’s going to be a fun league to watch, but it’s going to be tough every night,” said Uhde.
Lexington Counting on Same Things
It was defense and rebounding that led Lexington to an Ohio Cardinal Conference boys’ basketball title last season and they hope to those same elements of the game will lead to a repeat this season.
Second year coach and former star player Jamie Feick says right now he and the coaching staff are trying to put together a team that he hopes will get along well and be team goal oriented. “I think potentially we can have another very good team. We lost a lot to graduation with Robbie Reinhart and Travis Gross, we lost some good seniors. They are going to be tough to replace, but we have some good talent this year. Colin Michael is playing this year. He is looking really good. Rasheed Brooks has improved. We have had some guys step up into leadership roles already. We have some good role players. I think the most important thing right now is how well these guys jell together. We have some guys getting varsity experience that have never had it,” he said.
Feick built his own playing career on rebounding and defense and he told Swankonsports.com that those are the things that are going to make the Minutemen a good team, just like last year. “It won’t be any different. Those are two things that we think will keep us in most games. One no more important than the other, they are equal. We plan to play good, strong, aggressive defense and attack the boards just like we did last year,” he said.
Lexington won the “OCC” title, but the Minutemen were beaten in their first tournament game by Madison. Feick says they will use that to sort of motivate the kids this season. “If there was any positive from that, that’s what it is. We will use that as a driving force to motivate our guys. Our first goal is the “OCC” championship and trying to defend that title. Once the tournament comes we will reinforce what happened last year,” said Feick.
In football the “OCC” was just very, very balanced and Feick believes that will be the case in basketball as well. He thinks the conference will be better overall than it was last season. “I see the league being very strong this year. It would tough to pick a favorite. Madison has a lot returning. They have good guards. Ashland has a lot returning. West Holmes should be good. They were young last year and now they have some experience. Mansfield is always good. There will be tough games every night. I think this league is tougher than it was last year,” he said.
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