Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
KINNIKINNICK — After taking 11 days to get ready for Fairfield Union in a Division II district final, Zane Trace has just two to get prepared to play New Philadelphia in a regional semifinal.
But that’s OK. In fact, it may be the best thing for the Pioneers.
After winning their first district title in 49 years, coach Gary Kellough’s crew seems immediately ready to take the next step towards a Final Four berth. But with a formidable group of Quakers standing in the way, more than anything, they have to focus on the current task at hand.
New Philadelphia comes into the matchup at 21-4 overall with notable wins over Meadowbrook, Dover and East Liverpool. The Quakers’ four losses have come at the hands of Dover, Canton McKinley, Zanesville and Meadowbrook … by a combined seven points.
“I think the best thing they do is player movement without the basketball,” Kellough said of New Philadelphia. “They’re very good, they’ve been taught well, and they’re very intelligent players. They know where they’re going and they know who they want to end up with it. So we have to be aware of their shooters and we have to now allow them to grind out an offense where we have to play defense for thirty seconds at at time.”
That’s close to the game plan Zane Trace put together to beat the Falcons this past Sunday. In that game, they had to try and halt the production of both Huston Harrah and Evan Conley.
Now, they’re keyed in on the Quakers’ top two scorers in Nate Voll and Brock Chumney.
In a preparation sense, it’s hard to look past the similarities between this week and last. Like the Falcons, the Quakers are a guard-heavy team that likes to hurt opponents with the deep ball. With not much size in the post, New Philly relies on its speed and athleticism on the perimeter.
They also like to run a Princeton offense … which the Pioneers are extra familiar with.
“We’re one of the few teams that doesn’t run the Princeton offense,” Kellough said. “We face it almost every game. Today is a repeat of the last 18 games. The things you see on sets and stuff is what we’ve seen on the board for the last 18 games, you know? The difference is, when some teams don’t have post kids that can defend the perimeter. When you’re playing at team that likes to go five-out, you’re in trouble. We’re confident in our kids, all of them, to defend the perimeter.”
As for Zane Trace, which also enters the contest at 21-4 overall, Kellough says his team is ready for battle. If nothing else, that’s because they’ve bought into their assigned roles.
As usual, guard Cam Evans will be the focal point of New Philadelphia’s defense game plan. Evans was doubled for much of the district final win and still found a way to score 23 points. Nick Nesser added 12 points to Evans’ 23, while Triton Davidson posted eight points.
“I’ve always structured my team to where everybody knows their roles,” Kellough said. “For us, we plug that in. We plug kids into their roles. Colby [Swain] is the defender of the point, Triton is the defender of the post, Cam is our must score, Nick is our next guy that has to score. Then, the rest of the guys, are all role scorers. They can step up at anytime, but they know what we need them to do for us.”
The Pioneers and Quakers have a scheduled 8 p.m. tip time, Wednesday night at the Convo. Kellough is confident in his kids, confident they’ll perform and confident they know their roles.
“Our kids are on a high right now,” Kellough said. “We’re peaking at the right time. Our kids are doing things better than they normally do which, at this time of the year, you have to have. We have guys making plays. I see that happening. But we have to stay fine-tuned. We’re confident as a team, we’re confident as individuals and we know our roles.”