2015 14th District Tournament Preview
Coming into the season Bowling Green was pegged as the district and region favorite with Warren Central running just behind. South Warren was considered the dark horse with Warren East and Greenwood bringing up the rear. And now three months later…. that's pretty much where we’re at. For the fifth time in the last six years we have a tie at the top, with both Warren Central and Bowling Green finishing at 7-1 in the district. It was suggested at the district meeting that a different method for breaking the tie be used in the future, but this year we had the standard. Each coach flipped coins, and whoever came up with a heads while the other had tails got to draw an envelope. Bowling Green’s D.G. Sherrill won the toss but drew the 2 seed, handing Warren Central the 1 spot. The rest of the district shook out easily with South Warren, Greenwood, and Warren East falling in that order with no ties. Warren Central and Bowling Green are the favorites, but each has been pushed at times by their potential opponents. And with the snow wiping out the final week of the season, who is to say we couldn’t have something crazy?
To the matchups…..
14th District Tournament at South Warren High School
#4 Greenwood vs. #5 Warren East – Greenwood entered February in control of their own destiny to escape the 4/5 game, but could not come up with the necessary win over South Warren, and then fell by 20+ against both Bowling Green and Warren Central. Warren East had their chances as well, starting their district slate with a win over South Warren, but repeatedly coming up short afterwards, losing seven straight district games – including a 1 point OT loss to Greenwood and a 4 point loss to South Warren to cement their fate. And so each team finds themselves in the unenviable position of needing to win twice just to reach the region tournament. As to the matchup, the season’s matchups were tight contests, each won by the Gators, by 7 and the aforementioned 1 point game in OT. The two games were just two weeks apart, and came in a stretch for the Raiders where they only played one game in between. It was also part of a two week span that saw the Gators playing their best ball of the year, winning six of seven games. Outside of that span, Greenwood has gone 3-17. Based on the season results, the Gators should be favored, but honestly, the Raiders are the better team. And the third time will be the charm.
Prediction: Warren East by 8
Predicted Matchup #5 Warren East vs. #1 Warren Central – If you’re just looking at the scoreboard, the Dragons dominated the Raiders in their two matchups this season, winning by 20 and 21 points. In the case of the first matchup, that was pretty much the story. The Dragons led by 13 at the half, and after a 14-0 run in the third quarter put the game away fast. But the second game at Warren East, the Raiders were right there in the fourth quarter. After trailing by 11 at halftime, Warren East opened the third with a 15-4 run to tie the game, and trailed by just 3 entering the final frame. But one possession undid it all when Jared Savage was fouled going for a dunk and East’s Antwan Gilbert received a technical. Savage hit four free throws then Rajee Anderson hit a three to complete a 7 point play, and that was that. The point being that Warren East showed in that game that they could stand toe to toe with the Dragons, even if the final score didn’t show it. Eli Brown did not play in the first game, and has shown in his sophomore and senior years to be an inside presence that the Dragons struggle with, especially defensively. The Raiders are a streaky three point shooting team, and you can never count out three point teams. The perimeter game is where the Dragons are vulnerable as they have typically run a 1-3-1 zone in the last two months, daring teams to beat them from behind the arc. Warren East shot 6/14 from three against Central the last time out, and if they can match or better that clip, they have a chance.
Should Greenwood advance out of the 4/5 game they have shown a bit of fight themselves against Warren Central, mostly in their initial matchup. For years the Gators have known that their best chance of pulling the upset is to slow the tempo and ugly up the game. They hit the blueprint perfectly in the first half of their first game against Central, hitting 5 of 12 threes, including 4 of 7 in the first quarter. That enabled them to get up on the Dragons and force them into their style. It led to a 22-12 first half lead and 24-18 halftime score. But in the second half, it all melted away, and they were unable to duplicate that success in the second game beyond a slow paced first quarter. Against Greenwood the Dragons have turned more to their full court press compared to calling it off against other teams, and the Gators have not handled it well. Should these two meet, expect that to continue, and if the perimeter game is more like the second matchup (4 of 19), don’t expect Greenwood to compete.
Prediction: Warren Central by 10 over Warren East or Warren Central by 19 over Greenwood
#2 Bowling Green vs. #3 South Warren – In choosing between the potential draws, this was the one that South Warren was probably wanting. They lost by an average of 25 points against Warren Central, but against Bowling Green, they lost by a combined 11 points. Plus, the Spartans get to host the district tournament for the first time ever, giving them a chance to finally get a district semifinal win from the comforts of their own homecourt. Neither Warren Central or Bowling Green really wanted to be put into that situation, but it is the Purples that face it. Not that they have overwhelming fear – they’ve never lost to the Spartans in 11 all-time meetings. And though the margins were close, the Purples by and large outplayed South Warren for around 6.5 quarters of the 8 they’ve played. The first game they jumped out to a 14 point halftime lead and mostly maintained from there, never letting it get closer than seven. In the second game Bowling Green was all over South Warren early with a 15 point lead in the second quarter and 10 point lead at halftime. But in the third quarter it all went wrong as South Warren exploded for a 23-9 advantage and led by as much as seven in the fourth quarter. But at the midway point, Bowling Green did what Bowling Green does, getting to the line, turning the Spartans over, and they held on for the win. Setting up this game, neither team is liable to change their formula all that much. Bowling Green is going to utilize fierce man to man D and full court pressure to try to force the issue with the Spartans. The Purples have a great inside out game with Tucker Sine knocking down threes from the perimeter while talented sophomores Terry Taylor and Kyran Jones can get to the rim. Meanwhile South Warren is likely to lean on their perimeter game from Dayton Gumm and Michael Hicks in particular. The Spartans shoot just under 38% from three as a team and have four players that have hit more than 22 threes on the year, led by Gumm with 54 makes on 55.1% shooting. Brandon Stacker’s height will lead to some inside looks and Gumm and Marquise Walker can slash inside, but they’re going to need to continue to shoot well from three to have a shot at this. They combined for 17/35 (49%) in the first two games, and they’ll need all of that to finally break through the glass ceiling. And you know what? This is the year… no, can’t do it.
Prediction: Bowling Green by 7
Predicted Matchup #1 Warren Central vs. #2 Bowling Green – You might think it lazy or just simply lacking daring to predict this matchup year after year, but you have to play the odds. These two have met in the last seven district tournaments, and five of those matchups came in the district finals. No other district team has beaten them in the district tournament since Greenwood knocked off Bowling Green in the 2007 district semifinals. You have to figure the day will come where one will falter but how can you in good conscience pick that? Especially when the two are in the clear cut top 3 of the region (along with Monroe County)? No, this is the matchup you expect until someone else proves otherwise.
Going by the scoreboard, Bowling Green’s win over Warren Central was more impressive than the other way around, but the games were pretty similar. In the first matchup at Warren Central, the Dragons could never fully shake the Purples loose, but Bowling Green never led for a single second, even though it went to overtime. Bowling Green struggled with the length of Central in that game, and it was only a furious rally from six points down in the final minute capped with a buzzer beater putback that sent the game to OT. Jared Savage and Kobe Caldwell turned in magnificent performances for Warren Central, combining for 46 points, while the Purples struggled outside of Terry Taylor’s 5/7 shooting for 14 points and Tucker Sine’s five three pointers. In the second game, there were lead changes, but Bowling Green stayed on top for the most part, erasing a small halftime deficit in a flash, making their first five shots of the second half, four of which were threes. Warren Central managed to stay in shouting distance, with several possessions down 1 or 2, but much like Bowling Green in the first game, they couldn’t get over the hump to take the lead. Consequently, the chance passed when the Purples made their final four shots of the game, including back breaking threes by Deangelo Wilson and Terry Taylor to put the game out of reach. In all, the Purples shot 9/15 from three in the game, including 6/7 in the second half, and shot 60% from the floor.
In setting up a potential district final matchup, let’s get this out of the way – if Bowling Green shoots as well as they did in that second matchup, there’s not a team in the region that will beat them. They have shot on average 31% from three for the season and have only made more than five three pointers in nine games. The Purples have typically relied on their strong inside game, ability to get easy baskets off of pressure turnovers, and get to the free throw line at will. As a team they average 53% shooting from inside the arc, so if they are feeling it from the perimeter, it is over. For the Dragons, that’s a dangerous proposition because as mentioned earlier, much of their defense has been predicated on daring teams to beat them from three. In the first game, the Purples could not (5/14), but they did in a big way the second time. It will be interesting to see if the Dragons stray from their 1-3-1 to try to take the open threes away, but if they do, it opens up the lanes for slashers like Perry Ayers and Malik Carothers. For Warren Central offensively, they’d like to get the ball worked inside as much as possible. Bowling Green has typically shown them a man to man defense, one of the few opponents that do not zone the Dragons. In the first two games Central has had trouble getting Chris Amos established on the inside where he makes almost 60% of his shots. Contributions from him would be a huge boost to draw attention from the big guns, Jared Savage and Kobe Caldwell. Caldwell is the type to drive to the rim or do a pick and pop off a screen while Savage can do just about anything on the floor. In the second game Savage did a lot of posting which led to inside shots and frequent trips to the free throw line. The inside game has to get established because this is one of the weakest three point shooting teams ever for Warren Central, posting just a 30% average from the perimeter. In their matchups with Bowling Green they went just 5-26 from three. But inside the Dragons are fairly consistent, and were in their two matchups this year with Bowling Green, shooting between 40-45% from the floor in each game and hovering around 50% from inside the arc in the two matchups. It’s Bowling Green that wildly fluctuated, and ultimately, that’s going to be the key to the game. If Bowling Green is knocking down open looks, they win. If not, fortune favors the Dragons. Sounds simplistic, but really, that’s the key. And this being a neutral floor, the bet here is that the shooting regresses from the torrid pace the Purples had at home, leading to….
Prediction: Warren Central by 3
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