Simply put, Wilmington’s game Saturday night at Cincinnati Moeller is just another quiz on the way to the final exam. While beating Moeller is the goal, WHS head coach Michael Noszka realizes the outcome is just part of the process.
“We will take lessons learned, win or lose, from Saturday night,” said Noszka. “Just like last year beating Moeller in December, beating Wayne, didn’t guarantee us anything. We have to keep everything in perspective. Whatever happens, you move on. This is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. It’s all learning phase. But it’s exciting.”
It is expected to be a raucous atmosphere at the Moeller gym as two of the best Div. I teams in Southwest Ohio, in fact, two of the best in the entire state lock horns.
Prior to games Friday night — WHS hosts East Clinton and Moeller plays at arch-rival LaSalle — the Hurricane stands 13-0 while Moeller is 14-1. The Crusaders are ranked No. 3 in this week’s AP Div. I poll while the Hurricane is No. 5. The only loss for the Crusaders is to Seton Hall Prep, one of the top five teams in New Jersey, according to MaxPreps.
“This game is going to be important for seeding,” Noszka said. “Right now, Moeller has been No. 1 in the Enquirer all year. If we have any desire to be the No. 1 seed in Cincinnati, we have to win this game. The bigger deal is how well we play, being able to defeat a team of that caliber.”
Moeller brings plenty of height to the table for Saturday’s game. On the MHS roster, there are seven players listed 6-4 or taller. The tallest is Sam McCracken, a 6-7 senior, who averages 8 points and 5 rebounds per game.
Trey McBride, a 6-1 senior, is the top scorer for the Crusaders. He averages 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists per game. He shoots nearly 60 percent from the field. McBride had 14 points in Moeller’s district title game win over Wilmington last season.
“They have all their guys pretty much back from last year,” the WHS head coach said. “They just don’t take bad shots. They are very disciplined and structured in what they do. And they are very, very good at what they do. I saw them on tape, the last time I saw them live was at Cov Cath and they pretty much dominated that game.”
Moeller defeated Covington Catholic 64-51 while Wilmington edged Cov Cath 57-55. Both games were held at the Cov Cath gym.
Moeller has good balance on offense. Five players average 7 points or more this season on a team that averages almost 58 points per game. The Crusaders shoot it well, 51 percent as a team from the floor and almost 38 percent from beyond the arc.
“You have to grind against a team like Moeller,” Noszka pointed out. “We beat a lot of teams because we force them into a lot of mistakes. Moeller is not going to make many mistakes, so you have to beat them.
“They (Moeller) beat teams 39 to 37. Just the way it’s going to be, especially at their place. We have to outgrind them and that’s not going to be easy. Their transition defense is really, really good, so we’re going to have to score in the half court. A championship team has to be able to play at difference pace, different levels.”
The downfall for the Hurricane in last March’s meeting with the Crusaders was its poor shooting. Wilmington simply couldn’t buy a basket, hitting on just 13 of 48 field goal attempts. WHS was 4 for 23 from beyond the arc.
Moeller’s defense is strong again, having allowed no more than 51 points in a game this season.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.
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