By Rob Kiser
The Piqua boys basketball team, 8-14, will be in for a big challenge Friday night when the Indians play 14-8 Centerville in first round Division I sectional tournament play at the Vandalia Student Activities Center and look for a first-round upset of the fifth seed.
The Elks finished second in the strong GWOC National East behind Springfield and are coming off a win over Wayne Friday night.
“They are a little different than some of the teams we have played in that that don’t rely on one guy,” Piqua coach Heath Butler said. “They put the ball in a lot of different guys hands. They have a lot of different athletes out there.”
The Elks are led by 6-3 senior Keegan Saben, who averages 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds, while 6-5 guard Sam Lash averages 8.5 points per game.
“It starts with the (Keegan) Saben kid,” Butler said. “What can you say about a kid who is All-GWOC two years in a row. He is going to D-II West Liberty State and is a really nice player. The (Sam) Lash kid is a good kid too. One of the toughest things with those two is they are a tough matchup with their size.”
Piqua has found success being more deliberate in recent games, a style Centerville plays as well.
The Elks average 54.1 points per game, while Piqua averages 51.9.
“They do play a little more deliberate style,” Butler said. “They are a little more patient and make good decisions with the basketball.”
Piqua is led by Ben Schmiesing, a 6-1 junior who averages 15.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Nate Monnin, a 6-3 senior, averages 11.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, while 6-1 senior Gage Smith averages 8.5 points per game and can catch fire from 3-point range.
Indians 6-3 junior point guard Hayden Schrubb has really picked up his play of late and is coming off a double-double against Greenville and a strong performance against Troy. He dishes out 2.7 assists per game.
Piqua has won three in a row and four of its last five.
“With the success we have had recently, we have been willing to be a little more deliberate and keep the game in the 50s,” Butler said.
And the Indians aren’t exactly strangers to the floor at the SAC.
In a game there earlier this season, Piqua made just nine of 43 field goal attempts and was four of 30 from 3-point range in a 55-35 loss to the Aviators — something that can’t happen Friday night.
“When we played there during the season, we didn’t shoot the ball real well,” Butler said. “We know we have to get some touches inside early and get off to a good start. We have to get some good shots in the rhythm of the game and the kids understand that.”
Because Centerville is not a team you want to play from behind on.
“We have to get into the game early,” Butler said. “We can’t afford to get 10 or 12 points down early.”
If the Indians want to have any chance of pulling an early upset in D-I tourney action — and continue their late-season success.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.