By Rob Kiser
Piqua and Tecumseh find themselves in similar positions heading into Thursday’s first round matchup in the Red Bracket of the Buckeye Insurance Group Holiday Classic.
It will be the final of four varsity games Thursday, scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. tip.
Both teams bring 1-5 records into the game.
And both teams matchup similarly as well.
“We are both in the same situation (1-5) and looking to get things going,” Piqua coach Heath Butler said. “We are going to come out and try to establish offense quickly. I look for them to play uptempo as well and do the same thing. So, it will just be whoever is able to do that.”
The Arrows are led by 5-foot-8 junior guard Clay Mastin who averages 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals.
Inside, the Arrows have 6-4 senior Reid Hale and 6-6 senior Ross Warren.
Hale leads the team in scoring at 11.8 points and pulls down 5.5 rebounds per game.
Warren averages 6.0 points and leads the team with 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.
“They have an outstanding guard (Clay Mastin) who makes them go,” Butler said. “They have some size inside, but one of the things we were able to do against Troy in the second half is pull the ball out and hit some shots from outside.”
Piqua has relied heavily on the 6-3 senior post Nate Monnin and 6-1 junior guard Ben Schmiesing all season.
Schmiesing leads the team with a 13.8 scoring average to go with 7.8 rebounds per game.
“Ben (Schmiesing) is a tough, gritty player,” Butler said. “He came score from outside and can go inside and battle.”
Monnin averages 11.0 points per game and is among the GWOC leaders with 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.
Against Troy, Piqua got some explosive offense from 6-1 senior Gage Smith and 5-10 junior Devon Brown as well.
Smith was five of seven from 3-point range in scoring 15 points, while Brown had his second-straight double figure game with 16.
“That is going to help Nate (Monnin) inside when those guys can score,” Butler said. “It can take pressure off when Gage (Smith) is shooting the 3-pointers like that and he has a lot of range. Devon (Brown) is a guy who can score in different ways. He is very good at scoring in transition.”
And while Piqua finished the first round of GWOC North play at 1-4, Butler says there is a lot of basketball ahead.
“Every game but the Sidney game was a close game,” Butler said. “We are all pretty close together. Right now, we get a break from the GWOC North and start playing our crossover games with the GWOC South (which count in the GWOC American standings).”
And Butler would like nothing more than to go into that stretch with the school’s second B.I.G. Classic title.
“We have on the tournament once (in eight years),” Butler said. “We have had several second place finishes. We didn’t play very well in the tournament last year. We have a chance to go out and win a championship.”
The other semifinal in the Red bracket will pit Tippecanoe and Belmont, with the consolation and championship games Friday.
“I think all four teams are evenly matched,” Butler said. “You never know how things are going to turn out. It is a chance to go out and get two wins that can help you at the tournament draw.”
And build some momentum heading into the January schedule.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.