Genoa basketball coach Jeff Overmyer and Eastwood coach Todd Henline both
expect a better basketball game when the two teams meet for their second go-around.
On December 11, one would have thought gridiron coaches Mike Vicars and Jerry Rutherford were in charge, and the game was being played at Freedom Field or Comet Stadium. The Eagles managed a 52-48 victory in a physical battle on their home court.
“It was very rugged,” Henline said. “Both of us looked like we were coming off of football season. We weren’t really in basketball mode yet.”
Overmyer, the dean of SLL coaches, promises basketball fans will see a different game when the two teams clash on the Comet’s court this Thursday.
“It was so early in the season and both teams had a late start because of football and both teams had guys so banged up and nursing some football injuries and things,” Overmyer said.
“So, I mean both teams are going to be much better basketball teams now than they were the first time around. I think we are going to see a much better played basketball game.
“The first game was well contested, but the quality of play wasn’t real high just because of the lack of practice time both teams had. Because of the rivalry there was great intensity. I think the intensity is still going to be there, but I think the skill level of both teams will have improved immensely.”
Maybe part of the reason the two teams clash like they did on the gridiron is the play of the two big men. Six-foot-9 Genoa senior Richard Wonnell and 6-7 Eastwood senior Clay Rolf were both award-winners at defensive end and tight end, and often found themselves personally involved in physical grudge matches during the football season. That carried over.
“They had a real nice battle the first game,” Henline said. “Both of those guys are forces down low, and they’ve had good battles over the last couple years.”
They are 1-2 in leading the SLL in rebounding — Rolf at 12 boards per game and Wonnell at 8.8. Wonnell is scoring at 18 points per game, which is second in the league behind Gibsonburg’s Lee Renner (17.3), and Rolf is third at 16.6.
“Actually, both of them have been putting up pretty good numbers in rebounding and scoring. That should make for a good match-up,” Overmyer said.
Henline said Eastwood needs to be prepared for whatever strategy Genoa pulls out of its hat. He says the Eagles have been caught off guard before.
“Ultimately, they surprised us with what they were doing defensively and if we make some adjustments there we will be alright,” Henline said. “It’s always a game where the players decide the outcome. The players have got to make plays.”
Overmyer says his team needs to start shooting better from outside the 3-point arc. The Comets are connecting on 48.4 percent of field goals from inside the arc, but 28.1 percent from outside.
“We really need to shoot the ball better from the perimeter. The games we have struggled this year we have not shot the ball well from the perimeter. That’s one area where we need to improve and we have as the season progresses. We will definitely need that,” Overmyer said.
To get past his team’s better opponents, Henline says his Eagles need to begin stopping other teams’ from shooting well outside the arc. In losses to Central Catholic (56-49), Rossford (71-61), and Elmwood (54-44), the Eagles were burned by their opposition’s 3-point shooting.
“(Central) was a good test for us. We actually played well,” Henline said. “We played really well in the first half, but in the second half they made some adjustments and their 3-point shooting got us a little bit. I like having those games on our schedule because they make you better.
“Central beat us pretty good, and Rossford and Elmwood beat us with their 3-point shooting. Both teams made eight or nine 3-point shots. Rossford is dangerous. When they are hitting their three’s they are tough to beat, and the night we played them they were hitting their three’s. We’ve just got to find a way to shore up our defense I think we can get it back under control. Hopefully, we’ll be heading in the right direction.”
The Comets had no trouble with Elmwood, blasting them 69-42 on Dec. 17 as Wonnell scored 22 points, Jon Lester had 19, and Matt Bassitt 12 for Genoa. That night, Genoa had four treys — two by Bassitt and two by Cole Welsh.
In a 79-42 rout over winless Cardinal Stritch last week, Wonnell scored 24 points and Stephen Clark added 22, while Justin Staler scored 14 and Kyle Hatfield had 12 points for Stritch.
After Genoa defeated Gibsonburg, 74-51, Tuesday, the Comets were 6-4 overall, 3-2 in the SLL. Lester scored 22 points, Wonnell had 18, and Bassitt scored 14 to lead Genoa, which outscored the Golden Bears 27-7 after leading only 34-32 at halftime. The Comet defense held SLL leading scorer Lee Renner to eight points, which included two 3-point goals.
Eastwood defeated Lake Tuesday 41-37 to improve to 6-4, 4-1, one game behind Otsego (6-4, 5-0).
Genoa hosted Elmwood Friday (Jan. 22) and has Otsego at home Tuesday (Jan. 26). The Eagles faced the Knights Friday night, which may have added to the relevance of any remaining games.
“Truthfully, we have a big game on Friday against Otsego. If we don’t beat Otsego, they have a two-game lead on everybody,” Henline said last week.
Otsego narrowly defeated Genoa 49-47 in their first meeting, but until Friday had two games left with Eastwood.
“Otsego’s team is playing really good basketball right now,” Overmyer said. “They have Matt Weisenborn (averaging 15 points), a point guard who is playing extremely well and they have guys who are playing their roles really well, and they won a few close games. You know, we didn’t vote this year before the season, but they are playing extremely well and right now they are at the right at the top of the heap.”