One team’s learning experience is another team’s confidence booster. Russia pulled away from Jackson Center in the fourth quarter to get the early advantage in the Shelby County League race.
Russia—It could only happen in the Shelby County League.
In very few leagues would a matchup on the second Friday night of the season be considered a showdown—it’s December 9th for crying out loud!
Whenever the Jackson Center Tigers and the Russia Raiders get together, it is considered exactly that—a showdown. And for good reason.
The Raiders won 21 games and the league title last season, while the Tigers went 24-5 and advanced all the way to the State Final Four. Both teams suffered significant graduation losses, but the cupboard is hardly bare at either school.
Friday night at the Clair Naveau Gymnasium, the teams defended every shot, every pass, seemingly every breath. When the jostling subsided after 32 minutes, the Raiders had defended their home-court with a 41-31 win, and claimed the position as early favorite in the SCL race.
“It was a grind, and we knew it would be,” said Russia coach Spencer Cordonnier. “We told our guys all week that this would be a battle, because Jackson is a good team and they make you earn everything you get. We made some plays down the stretch when we had to, and that was the difference in the game.”
“Obviously,we have to score more than 31 points,” said a disappointed Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert. “That’s not going to get it done. We were happy with where we were at halftime, but we didn’t respond very well in the second half. We had that one flurry to tie it up, but they seized the momentum right back. They played very well defensively and made it hard for us to get into anything.”
Russia took control midway through the first half, using a 12-4 run to open up a 7 point advantage. The Tigers scored the final 3 points of the half and trailed 16-12 at the break.
Down 7 midway through the third quarter, the Tigers went on their only run of the game. Trent Platfoot and Corbin Murphy hit back to back threes to cap a 7-0 run and tie the game at 24 late in the third quarter.
It would be nearly 7 minutes before the Tigers scored again.
Junior Hunter Cohee broke the tie with a pair of free throws (a rarity on this night) and that started an 11-0 Raider run that sealed the game. By the time Brady Wildermuth snapped the drought, the game had been decided.
“We trained the kids all week not to guard anybody not named Wildermuth, Sosby, or Platfoot,” Cordonnier explained. That’s why Booser (Gavin) hit the wide open three at the beginning of the game. Wildermuth is one of the better players we will see all year. You have to try and take their best player away. We held him to nine points for more than three quarters, so we kept him from going crazy on us.
“These guys don’t get rattled too often. Jack Dapore, Cole Tebbe and Dylan Cordonnier are used to playing in these types of games. You know, when you control the boards and you defend, that’s a pretty good recipe for success.”
“We have to expect teams to pay a lot of attention to Brady every night,” Elchert said. “We have to have a combination of guys to step up and take up some of that slack. We need to get more out of Bryce (Sosby) than we did tonight. We have to find some level of consistency there.”
Cole Tebbe led the Raiders with 12 points, while senior Dylan Cordonnier added 10, eight in the second half. 6-4 sophomore Daniel Kearns added 7 for the Raiders, now 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the SCL.
Wildermuth finished with 16 for the Tigers, but had just nine through 3 and a half quarters. Junior guard Bryce Sosby, who scored 20 points Saturday night in a win at Columbus Grove, was held scoreless by the Raiders swarming defense.
Team numbers were not pretty, either. Russia finished 16 of 39 for 41% from the floor, compared to the Tigers chilly 12 of 34 for 35%. Jackson was 4-12 on threes, the Raiders just 1 of 8. Things were really ugly at the free throw line. Russia cashed in just 8 of 18 for 44%, while the Tigers were even worse at 3 for 9 for 33%.
Jackson out-rebounded the Raiders 21-17, but had 13 turnovers, 9 in the second half, to 9 for the game for the Raiders.
“I have always been an offensive kind of guy,” said Cordonnier, a 1,000 point scorer when he wore the Raiders uniform. “But seeing the way teams have been winning the last few years, that’s what we drill into our kids heads. If they rebound and defend, they will have a chance to win every game.”
The Raiders woes at the charity stripe did not escape the head coach’s notice.
“Free throw shooting is another story,” he said, shaking his head. “We are 16 of 36 our last two games and we have got to get that cleaned up. We did the same thing last year. It will get better, but I hope it does before it costs us a game.
“Scott (Elchert) does a tremendous job with his kids. They always do a great job of guarding you. They guard everyone different. We knew we were going to have to stay the course and just grind it out. It was tough to find a way to score at times for both teams.”
Cordonnier said the win, his teams fourth straight over the Tigers at Russia, would be a big confidence booster for his kids.
“They were devastated after losing to St.Henry Saturday night (A 60-57 loss in overtime). St Henry is a good team, but we really thought we should have won that game, and let it get away. We are going to play a lot of games like tonight. Maybe not score-wise, but games where you just have to grind to win. Our guys don’t like to lose, and winning tonight will do nothing but help our confidence.”
“This is a learning experience for us,” said Elchert as he got ready to head for the bus. “There is no doubt that we are a work in progress, and we are going to have to learn to adjust to different things that we see. Every team will probably have a plan to stop Brady, and it will probably be very different from one night to the next. That’s why we play 22 games. I am confident we will get this figured out and get this thing headed in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, the Raiders prepare for visiting Arcanum tonight, the Raiders fifth game in 9 days.
“I don’t think those kids know how to get tired,” Cordonnier said with a grin. “They might show it at practice sometimes, but they know they have to bring it every game night. Because if they don’t they are going to get beat. They work hard in practice every night, they come to play on game nights, and they are going to be successful because they deserve it.”