Three of the four teams involved in the Division III boys basketball regional tonight at Bowling Green State University's Anderson Arena have overcome strikingly similar scenarios to reach the semifinals.
Archbold, Elmwood and Woodmore all lost crucial players to injury but still won league championships and remain alive in the tournament.
Archbold (23-1), champion of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League, faces co-Suburban Lakes League champion Woodmore (22-2) at 6:30 p.m. Elmwood (19-5), which tied the Wildcats with a 12-2 record in the SLL, takes on Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (18-6) of Cuyahoga Falls at 8:15.
Elmwood lost its leading scorer, Chad Reynolds, to an ankle injury on Feb. 14. Woodmore saw Joe Nowak, its second-leading scorer, go out for the season with a broken foot on Feb. 11. In the 16th game of the year, Archbold's top defender and assist leader, Josh Johnson, went down with a torn ACL.
"Both teams have a lot of similarities," said Archbold coach Doug Krauss. "Both teams have lost a key starter. But both have a dominant scorer and a bunch of others who pitch in an awful lot. They play solid defense. I'm looking for a very good contest."
While Krauss was speaking about his seventh-ranked Blue Streaks and Woodmore, he also could have been talking about Elmwood. The Royals lost Reynolds, a senior who was averaging 16.3 points per game, when he dislocated an ankle at practice on Valentine's Day.
"Everyone has stepped up and reached down in themselves," Elmwood coach Doug Reynolds said. "That has carried over into the tournament. These kids have a lot of heart and they believe it can continue."
Chad Reynolds was sidelined just three days after the Royals' critical upset of Woodmore.
"We've had a real up and down season," said Woodmore coach Don Christie. "We had that infamous game against Otsego where the brawl occurred and we lost. Then we won 16 in a row. Then in the next game we lost Joe Nowak to a broken foot and we lost to Elmwood."
Christie said he wasn't sure how his players would react.
"Fortunately some kids stepped up for us," he said.
He said 6-4 senior Tyler Rosenberger took his game to another level, while juniors Derek Speaker and Brennan Lowery have hit big shots. Junior forward Brian Perkins has been a major presence inside and has averaged a double-double in the postseason, according to Christie.
"It's nice to see that the kids didn't let an injury to their second-leading scorer ruin the rest of the season," Christie said. "We've had a couple great wins against some great teams."
One of Elmwood's biggest wins of the season came in that 55-52 triumph over the Wildcats.
"Everyone picked us to finish fifth in the league," coach Reynolds said. "That helped us fight harder. We wanted to prove we were in the top part of the league. Things fell together and then we ended up tying for the league, which was fantastic."
Reynolds said point guard Al Tyson, a senior, picked up his scoring and assists in the absence of Chad Reynolds. Eric Wansitler and Andrew Marsh also have helped fill the gap. Wansitler has been great defensively and Marsh is a "warrior on the boards," the coach said.
Krauss has a similar story regarding how his Blue Streaks reacted to Johnson's injury.
"He was the head of our defense," Krauss said. "But we made a few adjustments and we've gone to a seven-man rotation. Everyone has had to pick up the slack. And that is what good teams do."
He said that the void has been filled "by committee." But Dan and Dave Borcherdt have played particularly well.
Dave, who was a sixth man, now starts in place of Johnson at point guard. Dan Borcherdt, the school's all-time leading scorer, helped lead the team to the final four two years ago. Defensively, Brad Hurst and Patrick Shannon, both 6-2, have replaced Johnson and now guard the opposition's top perimeter player.
A great matchup tonight will feature Dan Borcherdt against Rosenberger, who outplayed New London's Erik Marschall, the media's D-III player of the year, in a district semifinal.
"Tyler looks at it as a challenge going against another great player," Christie said. "We plan on matching Tyler up on Dan. I think Tyler is one of the only players around that can match up athletically with Dan. Our goal is to control him. It seems like when Tyler is challenged defensively, he also plays better."
But Krauss said Dan Borcherdt will not guard Rosenberger.
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