During Fort Recovery’s victory over Minster on Friday night, there were times it was difficult for Indian fans not to acknowledge what was being announced over the loud speakers. When periodic updates were made indicating Delphos St. Johns’ growing lead over Marion Local, it became evident that the Indians were going to be alone at the top of the Midwest Athletic Conference when the evening was through. Fort Recovery head coach Brian Patch was unaware how much more significance his teams’ victory held immediately following the game. “I was so focused on our game that I didn’t hear the scores being announced,” he admitted. “That usually happens during quarters or timeouts and I am talking with the team. People had asked if I heard the score afterwards and I hadn’t, so that was great news.”
This week the 13-2 Indians will try to remain unblemished in league play when they travel to Auglaize County to square off with the 9-8 New Knoxville Rangers. The Rangers have been searching for consistency and head coach Kort Fledderjohann hopes a pair of wins last weekend over Parkway and Lima Temple Christian will provide the first steps in doing that. “Hopefully they are something we can build on – going into our last five games, we are really looking for that positive consistency,” he commented. “In the games we lost recently, we have had too many turnovers and allowed too many points in the paint. When we keep our turnovers down and play solid defense, we are very competitive. Offensively, Andrew Arnett and Jalen Fullenkamp had good games last weekend. They need to continue to look for their open shots and get their teammates involved when the defense collapses on them. Defensively, Ryan Lageman has done a nice job defending the other team’s better players.”
The Indians have quietly put together one of the best seasons in the MAC this winter, as their last loss was back on December 20 against Franklin Monroe. Since then, Patch’s boys have rolled to nine straight victories and are 5-0 in conference action. Elijah Kahling has led the conference in scoring at more than 22 points and eight rebounds per game, while Ben Dilworth, Alex Kaiser, and Darian Sheffer have also been difficult for opponents to contain. “Ft. Recovery is a very good team that plays very hard – their full-court pressure can be relentless,” Fledderjohann explained. “They are a guard-oriented team and my biggest concern is stopping them from getting into the paint. They have multiple players who can get to the basket off the dribble and are very unselfish players. Throw Kahlig, who can score from anywhere on the floor, into the mix and you have a very tough challenge for us Friday night.”
Being alone at the top of the conference and controlling their own destiny doesn’t mean anything to Patch other than each game from here on out becomes more important if not more difficult. “Every road game in the MAC is tough and I most definitely feel New Knoxville is better than their record,” he remarked. “I thought they would be one of the many favorites coming into this year – they have a lot of skilled kids who know the game of basketball. Their scoring capabilities concern me with great shooters, as well as kids who can beat you off the bounce and finish at the rim or on pull ups. This is a game we will have to play really hard if we want to win and we need to execute on both offense and defense to earn a victory – nothing is given inside “The Barn”.
by Robb Hemmelgarn