Joey Hurless (TB file photo)
BY JIM COX
Times Bulletin Correspondent
VAN WERT - The two Highway 224 neighbors haven't met since the 1976-77 season and, of course, never in the sparkling new L. W. Heckman Gymnasium. Van Wert (1-1) and Ottoville (1-0) clash Friday night, and neither team knows what to expect in its second weekend of play.
Although the Big Green suffered through a 3-18 season in 2011-12, they started this year with a strong defensive effort in a 42-29 win over Cory-Rawson. On that same night, the Crestview Knights were exposing some chinks in the Cougars' armor during a 50-43 victory in the first round of the Van Wert Hospital Tip-Off Classic. Although the Cougs bounced back on Saturday with a 59-35 consolation win over Lincolnview, coach Dave Froelich has some concerns going into the Ottoville game.
"I thought our effort in the opening weekend was very good, but there are many areas we obviously need to improve upon," said Froelich.
"The most glaring area is our team rebounding (Crestview out-boarded Van Wert 36-27, and Lincolnview also won the battle on the glass, 24-23). We did an overall good job of playing defense on the initial attack and held our opponents to under 35 percent field goal shooting, but we got hurt on the offensive glass. In addition to that, we didn't do a very good job of securing the basketball either off the glass or on a loose ball situation. Each of those situations is an extended opportunity for our opponents to score, and we can't let that happen as often as we did. Ball possession is valuable and we must have a mindset to get better with it."
The team, other than senior veterans A.J. Smith and Joey Hurless, struggled mightily shooting from the field. Smith (13 of 24) and Hurless (11 of 19) were accurate, but the remainder of the team shot a woeful 15 of 48 (31 percent). The Cougs, other than Smith (6 for 6), were also cold from the stripe -- 13 of 28 (46 percent). "Our offensive execution was solid, but we didn't shoot it as well as we are capable of, and that will improve as the season goes on," added Froelich. "We have a lot of new players at the varsity level, and the speed and athleticism of this new level is something they have to learn. If we continue to attack correctly, we will get open looks, and I'm confident that shots will fall. Having said that, I'm very disappointed in our free throw shooting efficiency. We shot it poorly and we are much better shooters at the line. We can't give away those points."
Smith (16.5 points per game) and Hurless (15.0 ppg) have accounted for 62 percent of Van Wert's points in the two contests, a situation that the Cougars must soon remedy. The team's third leading scorer is Matt Bidlack (8.0 ppg), but no other player is averaging more than three.The team rebounding has been even less balanced -- Smith is averaging 10.5 rebounds, but the next rebounder is Nik Wolford at 4.0 rpg.
In the assists department, point guard Hurless has picked up where he left off last year -- averaging double digits at 10 per game.
"Ottoville is coming off a nice win for them, and we have to travel to their place and handle that new setting of being on the road," said Froelich. "They are a balanced team on offense and will run a lot of high post back-cut action. They do a good job of change of direction on offense and take away pressure with basket cuts. We will have to work hard not to overextend our defense, and to pressure the ball while keeping it in front. Our goal is to try and up-tempo the game, but in order to do that we must force them to take bad shots and then rebound so we can run."
In the win over Cory-Rawson, the Big Green got double digit scoring from Ryan Honigford (14) and Derek Schimmoeller (12).J