Game of the Week: Spartans-Rockets doubleheader
MCCONNELLSBURG - Usually, when Class AAA basketball teams meet up with Class A teams, the bigger school would be favored.
But that's not necessarily the case for James Buchanan when it heads to McConnellsburg for a boys and girls doubleheader on Saturday.
Both of the Rockets' squads are in a bit of a lull, with the girls all but eliminated from playoff contention and the boys losing four of their last five. The Spartans, on the other hand, are both in full-on postseason preparation mode.
"I think facing a school like this toward the end of the season is going to let us know if we're ready for district play or not," McConnellsburg girls coach Brent Seville said. "Being an AAA school, even if they aren't as good as you think they are, you never want to take them lightly because the matchups they face are not the matchups we face."
And even though these teams are in different leagues, and even different counties, there's still some serious bragging rights involved.
"Believe it or not, this is a rivalry game for sure," Spartan boys coach Dane Pollock said. "We play summer league with them, and we don't really like each other. We always seem to play tight games with them, and when you play them in the summer, you know them and they know you."
The JB girls also have a close familiarity with the Lady Spartans, as Rocket coach Jen Lauthers was a longtime coach at Fannett-Metal, which is in the Sideling Hill/Inter-County Conference with McConnellsburg.
"I'm expecting a tough game," Lauthers said. "I've been around them a long time, so I know what to expect and what not to expect. Obviously everyone knows that Bronwyne (Mellott) is the top scorer in the area, so you have to be aware of that. They have the capability of scoring outside, too."
The Spartans (12-6) are led by Mellott, who is averaging just over 25 points per game this season, but they have also had recent double-figure contributions by both Kellyn Perry and Bridgette Ritchey.
"Bridgette Ritchey has been playing awesome defense, and she's starting to get us some scoring," Seville said. "Kellyn Perry, a sophomore, has also been stepping up, and Justice Seville has had a couple nights where she's really on."
JB also has a slew of tough shooters. Charity Miller (15.2 ppg) and Rachel Martin (10.3) are both averaging in double figures, while Tristen Amsley isn't too far behind with 7.4 ppg.
The makeup of the boys game is almost opposite - Ryan Hege is a big inside threat for JB with a handful other players who could make some noise, while McConnellsburg boasts more depth.
"We had four guys in double figures (Wednesday vs. Tussey Mountain), and that's the way I want to play," Pollock said. "Hopefully we're getting back to sharing the basketball. When you scout us, you can't focus on one player. Tussey tried to run a triangle-and-two, and it blew up pretty quick because we don't have just two guys you can focus on."
Jake Boehme leads the Spartan offense with 12.8 ppg, while Chase Novak (11.6) is another offensive spark. Ian Cheatle averages 9.1 ppg, and both Quintin Miller and Landon Richards have contributed more than seven points per game. Miller has missed the last two games with an injury, and may or may not play on Saturday.
The Rockets are led by big man Ryan Hege, who has scored 12.0 ppg and has posted countless double-doubles this season. Gage Piper is also just over 10 points per game.
"We've been really focusing on boxing out," Pollock said. "When we get beat on the boards, we usually get beat. We're going to be undersized, and we'll have to try to keep Hege off the boards. He's hard to move, because he's huge and he's fundamental."
The result won't count in the District rankings for James Buchanan, but the Rockets will also be using this a tune-up for the District 3 playoffs. The boys were ranked 17th prior to Thursday's games.
Editor's note: James Buchanan boys coach Larry Strawoet could not be reached for comment.
Game data: James Buchanan Rockets at McConnellsburg Spartans ... Saturday doubleheader, girls at 4:30, boys at 7:30 ... Non-league games.
Media: Follow @liziarbogast on Twitter for updates from the boys game.
Teams: Before Thursday's games, JB girls were 8-11, and McConnellsburg was 12-6 ... On the boys side, the Rockets is 12-8, and the Spartans were 15-3 prior to Friday's game.
P.O. pick: McConnellsburg sweep, in a pair of single-digit victories.