Call Sports Editor
The Piqua boys basketball team is entering an NBA-like part of the schedule, playing seven games in 11 days.
And Indians coach Heath Butler knows they can’t get ahead of themselves.
“We are just focused one game at a time,” Butler said. “It is a killer (stretch) in the schedule. But, all our focus is on Sidney right now. After that game we will turn our attention to Tipp (Tippecanoe) and after that we will worry about Bethel.”
Piqua, 8-4 overall and 4-2 in the GWOC North, will not have to leave Garbry Gymnasium for the first three games, hosting Sidney Friday, Tippecanoe Saturday and Bethel on Tuesday.
That will be followed by four games in five days, beginning the following Friday.
The Indians won the first meeting with Jackets 77-65 at Sidney.
Storm Cook came off the bench to score 23 points in that game, while Tate Honeycutt continued a history of success against the Jackets. He was a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor and scored 19 points. The Indians leading scorer Colton Bachman added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Cameron Gallimore had 17 points for Sidney, while Eric Beigel scored 14 and Darryl McNeal added 11.
But, Butler knows this is not the same Sidney team.
While the Jackets are 3-10 overall and 0-5 in the GWOC North, those three wins have come in the last four games against Stivers, West Carrollton and Lehman.
“They are playing really good basketball,” Butler said. “They are playing with a lot of confidence and we know it is going to be a tough game.”
Bachman, a 6-3 sophomore, leads the Indians with 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds, while Cook, a 5-11 freshman, averages 10.1 points.
Sidney is led by 6-4 sophomore Lorenzo Taborn, who averages 12.0 points; while 6-0 junior Eric Beigel averages 11.6 points per game.
“The thing about these (GWOC North) games is there are no secrets,” Butler said. “You have to come up with counters to what you normally do. You have to rebound and you can’t leave shooters open.”
Things won’t get any easier for Piqua in the next two games.
Tippecanoe, coached by former Piqua coach Marcus Bixler, is 10-1.
The Red Devils only loss is to Bellefontaine.
Six-foot-four senior Ben Stucke leads Tippecanoe.
He averages a double-double with 16.6 points and 10.0 rebounds; while 6-foot senior Sean Ford averages 12.1 points and 4.1 assists.
Six-foot sophomore Nathan Shirley and 5-11 junior Zack Blair both average more than nine points, while 6-4 senior Michael Landwehr averages 7.9 points.
“They are really solid,” Butler said. “They have two strong post players and three good guards. They don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
On Tuesday, Bethel will visit.
The Bees are the second-ranked team in Division IV.
Bethel is 11-1, with the only loss coming to Miami East and the Bees are led by the high-scoring Patrick Bain, who recently went over 1,000 points.
“We may be dropping down a a level in Division, but we are not dropping any in the competition we are playing,” Butler said. “Bethel is one of the top D-IV teams in the state. They are a very athletic team.”
And as Piqua heads into this stretch, they can build on the fact they have a three-game winning streak, accomplished in a variety of ways.
After beating rival Troy by opening a big lead early, they rallied from a double-digit fourth quarter deficit against St. Marys and recovered from a slow start against Vandalia-Butler last Friday.
“We gave up 20 points in the first quarter,” Butler said. “But, we chipped away at the deficit and were able to get the win. We only gave up 34 points the last three quarters. That is the kind of intensity we hope to bring for four quarters Friday night.”
And get their NBA portion of the schedule off to a good start.
Rob Kiser can be reached at 773-2721 ext. 209 or on twitter@kizedawg