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David v Goliath

February 3, 2013 - Al Stephenson
When I was playing high school basketball in the late 1960's in Attica, the thought of playing a game against Tiffin Columbian never entered anyones mind. Likewise, when I was a teacher and coach at New Riegel for thirty years, no one ever suggested that playing a game against Columbian sounded like a good idea. A little county school going up against the much bigger city school seemed like a preposterous undertaking.

So when New Riegel actually engaged TC on the Jackets home court last year, a few eyebrows were raised. The rematch took place on Columbian's home floor a week ago and I had a prime seat for the festivities. Before I went to the game, I wanted to know how it came about, so I talked to both school's athletic directors.

Though several reasons were mentioned for the matchup, the overriding one seemed to be openings on the schedule. Columbian had a few spots available due to defections from the NOL. When Upper Sandusky, Fostoria and Galion left the league, Columbian had several openings. New Riegel is heading for similar straits soon as league shakeups on the local high school level are mirroring those on the collegiate landscape. Add a couple of extra games that the OHSAA allowed to every school (22 contests now make up the basketball season) and scrambling to fill the schedule became a way of life.

There were other considerations. Money is always at the heart of the matter. The cost of travel and the desire to schedule a school that will bring fans to add to gate receipts were taken into consideration. The fact that New Riegel kids had been playing in the Columbian summer league for years and knew the TC athletes very well, made the matchup a natural.

So something that had never been considered became a reality. David would indeed take on Goliath. Let the chips fall where they may.

A talented New Riegel squad won a close game a year ago and last week the two schools met for the rematch. Here are some thoughts I had as I watched the game.

The New Riegel kids didn't feel like they were David. If you watched the faces of the Jacket players, there was no fear, shock or other feature that indicated that they felt they had little chance. They knew they could compete with the Tornadoes and that they did. A close game for a half, New Riegel slowly opened up a lead in the second half and went on to win by 14.

Strong defense was played by both teams. Much was made about the low score (42-28) and the lack of scoring efficiency, but I think that may have been due in part to some stingy defense. I had the chance to watch Andrew Hohman playing D right in front of me at one point. He could have been watching his opponent's feet or the ball, but instead his eyes were glued to the midsection of the TC player. That is good fundamentals folks. The player can fake with his feet, the ball and even his eyes, but his stomach will go where he goes. Not all players learn that lesson though.

A defensive struggle is not always the best game to watch for many fans, but I enjoyed the action as the former coach in me smiled at both teams efforts. On the other hand, I was disappointed when Columbian scored a hoop with less than a minute to go as the score of 42-26 had a personal meaning for me. That was the score in the last high school game my team won, though it was the halftime score, as Attica was leading Danbury-Lakeside in the Super Sectionals at Heidleberg in 1968. The final score was 78-68. We actually scored 69 points in our last game (one less than TC and NR combined for) which we lost by 31 to the eventual state champion.

Where has the scoring gone? Part of the reason for less scoring might be the fact that we played on David-size floors whereas most gymnasiums are Goliath-sized these days. The days of 116-96 and 111-99 games may be over. In case you were wondering those scores would be Attica at Thompson my junior and senior seasons. Then again so is the days of fans standing outside the school doors for an hour in freezing cold to make sure they got a seat for the game in those small gyms.

The view from my seat suggests that Tiffin Columbian's baskeball program is a little down right now. New Riegel is flying high. That will not always be the case. For now though, I would suggest you take in the next NR-TC matchup. The schedule calls for at least two more years of competiton.

Whether it is David v Goliath or just two local schools knocking heads, the competition is keen and worth the price of admission.


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