COLUMBUS - There is the underdog facing the overwhelming favorite.
There is David versus Goliath.
And then there's Archbold against Cincinnati North College Hill.
The Blue Streaks will face a mind-boggling challenge in their Division III state semifinal boys basketball game, which tips off at 5:15 p.m. today at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center.
North College Hill is ranked as the second-best team in the country. The Trojans are 24-1, with their lone loss to Virginia's Oak Hill Academy - the top-ranked team in the nation. Among North College Hill's victories is a two-point win over Canton McKinley, Ohio's top-ranked team in Division I.
Led by juniors O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker, a pair scouts consider sure-fire NBA draft picks, the Trojans have outscored opponents by an average of 30 points per game. In five tournament wins, the margin of victory has ballooned to 47.6 points.
"They have two great players who probably will make it to the next two levels," Archbold's David Borcherdt said. "All you can do is prepare to do the best you can, and when the time comes you have to compete.
"It's going to be a big challenge for us."
The first challenge, according to Streaks' coach Doug Krauss, is dealing with the physical talent of Mayo, Walker and their teammates.
"I think the first thing we have to understand is the level of athleticism they bring to the table," Krauss said. "The first part of the game is going to be huge. We have to understand how big, how fast, and how athletic they are.
"If we can get over that shock early, that will help us."
Versailles coach David Peltz, whose team lost to North College Hill in the regional final, said Archbold's chances to beat the Trojans would improve if the Blue Streaks can be patient - and successful - on offense.
"You have to value possessions and take uncontested shots," Peltz said. "They are looking to make dazzling defensive plays, so they can be lazy and gamble in the passing lanes.
"People will be open if you are super-intelligent with the ball. But you also have to make those open shots."
North College Hill's athleticism allows it to put pressure on the ball and create turnovers. But turnovers that lead to a loss of possession aren't as bad as turnovers that lead to 3-on-1 fast breaks - and slam dunks.
"If we're going to be successful, we have to slow the game down and not commit dumb turnovers," Archbold's Gene Goering said. "When they get into a fast break, it's over. So we have to take good care of the ball."
Peltz said Versailles tried a variety of defensive gimmicks to slow down Mayo, a talented guard, and Walker, a high-flying dunker.
"We tried a 2-3 zone, and we tried to shade Mayo's side because he's a good 3-point shooter," Peltz said. "Then we used a triangle-and-two, but the rest of the team shot so well.
"[Damon Butler] is a good dribble penetrator who hit three 3-pointers against us, while [Paul Leary] was 2-for-3 on 3-pointers. You have to have a night where their other guys aren't scoring."
How well did this plan work for Versailles? The ninth-ranked Division III team in the state lost to the Trojans 97-52.
"We felt we could win the game," Peltz said. "I don't think we were intimidated. And in the NCAA tournament you see upsets all the time. But Archbold is basically playing an AAU team - a good AAU team.
"There's one thing Archbold will have in its favor: everyone at that game will be rooting for them, that's for sure."
Contact John Wagner at:
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