boys_basketball_150The 14-3 Fort Recovery Indians have enjoyed almost two weeks in the driver’s seat of the Midwest Athletic Conference standings, and a victory over St. Henry this Friday will secure at least a the share of the conference trophy with a monster game in the final week with Marion Local looming.  Head coach Brian Patch understands the importance of the final two league battles, but is taking them one at a time.  “Our seniors have done a great job of keeping the team focused and repeating the message to one another,” he explained.  “All year long they have been focused on one team at a time – we don’t mention or prepare for Saturday’s night game until Saturday.  We created that mind set early in the year so now it is no different for us.”

The Indians, who are currently riding a wave of ten wins in their previous 11 outings this season, are looking to snap a four-game skid over the past three years against St. Henry.  The Indians had won ten straight this season before a setback last weekend against Clayton Northmont, but that defeat wasn’t one that Patch wants his players to dwell upon.  “We don’t talk about winning or losing – that way no matter who we play we feel that if we execute our game plan individually and collective as a team that winning takes care of itself.  We never want to lose a game, but losing on the road on a Saturday night to a Division 1 team isn’t devastating to us at this point.  We know we didn’t play our best game, but at this point we just move on and get ready for the next game.”

This season, the Indians have been led by senior Elijah Kahlig, who is one of the tops in the conference with more than 22 points and seven rebounds per game, including more than 40 three-pointers.  The Indians game-plan goes deeper than just Kahlig though – they have three other players who are averaging nearly double-figures in the scoring column each game as Patch has been getting noticeable contributions over the past few weeks from Brandon Schoen, Kyle Schroer, and Ben Dilworth.  “Fort Recovery plays excellent defense, they are tireless workers, and they are very, very good at getting to their spots on drives, which leads to easy lay-ups, pull-ups, or open jumpers for their teammates,” St. Henry head coach Eric Rosenbeck praised.  “Elijah Kahlig is my favorite player I have ever coached against – he is awesome and does things the right way.  He doesn’t show boat, he picks up/helps his teammates, he is unbelievably fundamental and works like crazy to get better every year – most important, he is a leader.”

The Redskins enter Friday’s battle out of contention for the league title, but Rosenbeck and his players understand a victory over the Indians would put a wrench in the title race while giving an outstanding shot of momentum heading into the upcoming post-season.  At 12-7 overall, the Redskins have won five of their last six games and are led in scoring and rebounding by Ryan Mikesell who is hitting for more than 22 points per game while snagging a league-best 9.2 rebounds each time he takes the floor.  “We made a few adjustments to our defense to allow Mikesell to hang around the rim more,” Rosenbeck pointed out.  “He is an excellent shot-blocker and he alters multiple shots a game as well. We have also made more of a commitment to being solid on defense instead of trapping as much as we did earlier in the year.  We have talked about getting better and growing as a team – we are nowhere near a finished product and we only have three games left in the regular season.”

Following a loss to Delphos St. John’s two weeks ago, St. Henry has strung together four straight victories in league play against New Bremen and Parkway and non-league wins over Western Buckeye League opponents Celina and Van Wert.  “St. Henry is a good team – obviously Ryan Mikesell stands out as being a player who can beat you himself, but they also have had other guys step up with big games to help ease the scoring from Mikesell,” Patch remarked.  “Defensively they have run a lot of things so we will have to be prepared for anything they throw at us in order to come away with the victory.”

by Robb Hemmelgarn