Sports round-up 11.26.08

Written by David Green.

ZACK CRAIG: It’s about 280 miles from Morenci to West Liberty, W. Va., but that doesn’t stop Nelly and David Craig from watching their son, Zack, play basketball with West Liberty State College.

With a fast internet connection, the Craigs can sit at home and watch games through live internet streaming.

And there’s a lot of action to watch.

The Hilltoppers are known nationally for their high scoring games and they’re back at it again this season.

They opened play with a 125-62 victory over Salem International and followed that with a 119-50 win against Ohio University Eastern.

Craig, a 6-foot-5 206-pound guard, was injured early in the season last year, but he’s making an impression this year as a red-shirted freshman.

In the opening game, Craig scored 16 points in 12 minutes on the floor, shooting 57 percent overall and 48 percent from three-point range.

In the second contest, he tied for second leading scorer with 17 points, shooting 60 percent overall and in three’s. He also collected eight rebounds in the game.

Craig was a four-year starter at Morenci and broke his father’s scoring record to establish a new school mark with 1,606 points. He averaged 22 points a game and shot 50 percent from the perimeter.

The NCAA Div. II Hilltoppers led the nation in scoring last season with an average of 97.5 points a game. They broke the hundred mark in 13 contests.

West Liberty isn’t known only for its three-point shots, said Matt Watson of the college athletic department.

“We don’t just shoot the three,” he said. “We make the tempo really fast and force turnovers with our full-court pressure. We also are among the nation’s leaders in assists and steals each year.”

FAYETTE BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW:With six letter-winners returning, five of them seniors, Fayette’s boys coach Todd Mitchell has some good experience on the floor this season.

He has some talent on the bench, as well, with a nine-man rotation and plenty of competition for starting positions.

“It makes practice a lot more competitive when they know they’re all going to play,” Mitchell said.

He aims to use his strong bench to his advantage to run an up-tempo game with plenty of fresh bodies to put on the floor.

“We should be able to be more aggressive with nine guys,” he said.

He expects the squad to put the pressure on at times.

“Defensively we’re really improved,” Mitchell said. “We’ll continually improve at the defensive end and the offense will come.”

Mitchell is also seeing an improvement in ball handling skills from the past season.

Senior Austin Hylander (6-2) returns as the top scorer, backed up by classmate Coty Griffiths. Both are second-year letter-winners.

Senior Shelby Franks is also back for a third varsity season and Eliott Richardson (6-3) returns for a second year. Ben Kovar is the fifth senior.

Mitchell will look to newcomers Evan Stoltzfus and Jason Rodriguez, plus sophomores Tyler Keefer and Darrell Randall to fill key spots on the team. Rodriguez and Keefer put in enough time with the varsity last season to win letters.

Three other players will see time on both the junior varsity and varsity: junior Travis Kline and sophomores Nelson Barnhiser and Hunter Colegrove.

“We played well in scrimmages against Wauseon and Hicksville,” Mitchell said.

An additional practice is scheduled at home Dec. 2 against Emmanuel Christian.

Coach Mitchell is looking forward to the BBC schedule because of the parity he expects to see.

“This should be one of the more balanced years in a long time,” he said. “It’s wide open.”

North Central has a freshman to watch—a kid who could dunk the ball as an eighth grade student. Pettisville and Stryker lost personnel through graduation, but still have good talent. Hilltop should be improved.

It’s going to be balanced and competitive, Mitchell said, and every league game should be a challenge for most everyone in the conference.

First on the Eagles’ agenda is to avenge a loss to Morenci last season when the two teams resumed an old cross-border rivalry.

The Bulldogs traveled to Fayette to post a win last year; Coach Mitchell intends to turn the table this time around.

The league season opens at Stryker Dec. 11.

FAYETTE GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Fayette girls basketball coach Ashley Oyer knows the challenge for her squad this year: Put more points on the scoreboard.

She was generally pleased with the Eagles’ defensive intensity last season—Oyer’s first with the squad—but offense was another story.

“We were getting the shots off,” she said. “They just were getting them through the basket.”

She’ll add one more complaint on the offensive side—far too many turnovers last season—but the criticism ends there.

She has seven letter-winners back, four of them seniors, and she believes she’s seeing an improved squad.

“I’ve been pleased with the way we’ve held our own,” Oyer said following a scrimmage last week at Swanton. “I think we’ll be a lot more fun to watch this season.”

She’s not forgetting something she liked the most about the Eagles last season: They never gave up.

“These are tough-nosed kids who are never going to back down,” she said. “They take pride and they play hard all night.”

Last season’s leading scorer was guard Rachel Seiler who started as a freshman. Junior forward Katelyn Downing was close behind, followed by senior guard Danni Wyse, a three-year letter-winner.

Other seniors returning to the squad are two-year letter-winners Trish Bates, a forward, Mara Raker, guard, and Brittany Seiler forward. Junior guard JeriAnn Lewellen is also back for a second season.

Three juniors have moved up from last year’s junior varsity team: 6-foot forward Heather Cuff and two guards, Elisha Hartman and Jacy Lewellen.

Two sophomores will alternate between varsity and junior varsity: guard Andrea Canfield and forward Amber Scott.

Oyer looks for her squad to run a faster-paced, more aggressive game. The team has also worked to improve its perimeter game.

Coach Oyer figures that Pettisville is the team to beat this season in the BBC, but Stryker still has good talent returning. She’s hoping to see the Eagles in the race, as well.

Fayette opens the season Friday with a non-league contest at Liberty Center. The league season gets underway at home against Edon Dec. 5.

Update: Katelyn Downing suffered an ACL injury and will miss the season.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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