boys_basketball_150This week’s ‘Game of the Week’ will be considered the ‘Game of the Year’ in terms of impact on the final Midwest Athletic Conference standings.  The Fort Recovery Indians and Marion Local Flyers have both weathered tough conference slates all season long and after each suffering one loss in MAC play, everything will come to a head on Friday night in Maria Stein as the winner will be crowned as this season’s MAC champion on the boys’ side.  “Any time you have a chance to win an MAC championship, I would call that a good season,” Fort Recovery head coach Brian Patch explained.  “If you can win it when you have the chance the season becomes great, but unfortunately for us we lost to a very hot St Henry team and with it went the opportunity to win a share at our place in front of our crowd.  We still have a chance at winning it outright – now it’s just all or nothing.”

The Flyers enter Friday night’s battle at 16-4 overall and are riding a three-game wave following their setback to Spencerville on February 8.  The Flyers are led offensively by Luke Knapke, who averages a little more than 13 points and seven rebounds per game.  Adam Bertke has been grabbing 7.5 rebounds per contest, while also leading the team defensively with at least two steals each time he takes the floor.  “The obvious thing that stands out is Marion Local’s size,” Patch pointed out.  “When you can start 6-10, 6-7, 6-6, at the high school level and have Division I-type of athletes that is impressive.  Then you throw in the shooters they have on the floor, it becomes very difficult to guard.  We understand the task is a big one, but it is one that we have to accept and try to overcome the odds if we want to win a championship.”

The Indians look to not only capture the outright league title at Marion Local this weekend, but also look to get things heading back in the right direction after suffering setbacks in three of their last four games, including their first conference loss last weekend to St. Henry.  Elijah Kahlig continues to pace the Indians in the scoring department as he has all season with more than 21 points per game.  The senior standout is also one of the tops in the league in rebounding and leads the MAC with more than 45 three-pointers this season.  “Every coach’s first concern is finding a way to slow down Elijah Kahlig, plus they play so well together that we need to find a way to limit their easy baskets,” Marion Local head coach Kurt Goettemoeller pointed out.  “We will also have to handle full-court and half-court pressure well in order to come away with the win.”

A triumph for the Flyers will clinch their first outright conference title since 2001, while the Indians are looking to get back to the top of the league alone for the first time since 2011.  “We knew going into last week that we controlled our own destiny, but we were really focused on upcoming opponents Coldwater and Parkway,” Goettemoeller explained.  “An outright title would be a little sweeter, but we were just focused on controlling the things we could control.  The only major difference in Fort Recovery’s loss last week is that they missed some open looks they normally make. The game was much closer than the score indicated – St. Henry spread the floor on them, but that’s not what we’re suited for.  We have an opportunity to win a championship Friday and we will use everything in our arsenal to win the game.”

By Robb Hemmelgarn