SECTIONALS: Battle of State-Ranked Powers in Class 2

Gainesville's Braden Voss (#50) anchors the post for the high-scoring Bulldogs. (Staff Photo)

CLASS 2 BOYS STATE SECTIONAL

#5 Hartville (25-2) v. #9 Gainesville (21-5)

March 5 / 6:00 PM

Site: Lebanon High School

The Eagles and the Bulldogs were supposed to play a key Summit Conference game on Feb. 17 that was cancelled due to snow. Now the stakes are even higher, as the winner of this showdown between state-ranked teams advances to the state quarterfinals on Saturday. Familiarity will not be an issue in this one.

“Gainesville is a good basketball team,” said Hartville head coach Brett Reed. “Any game once you get to the playoffs is a big game, no matter who you are playing. Playing another team from our conference just makes the rivalry even better.”

Gainesville's Thomas Ritter (in red) (Staff Photo)

“It will be an exciting atmosphere,” said Gainesville head coach Pat Rapert. “With our conference game getting cancelled, I am sure the anticipation is even higher.”

Both teams know how to put the ball in the basket, as Gainesville enters the game averaging 73.6 points per contest, while the Eagles average 66.9 per outing. Both teams feature balanced attacks, with the Eagles getting key contributions from players such as senior Richie Wilson and sophomores Deric Jones and Dune Piper. Fellow starters Grant Dedmon and Jamison VerPloeg round out a balanced starting five for the Eagles.

Gainesville also has a deep and talented lineup, with senior sharpshooter Thomas Ritter leading the way. Ritter, who is averaging 22.9 points per game, makes nearly half of his shots (48%), and is capable of exploding for 30-plus on any given night. The Bulldogs also get plenty of production from sophomore Treydon Rackley, who contributes 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest, as well as from 6-foot-4 junior post player Braden Voss, who adds 10.4 points and 8.3 boards to the Bulldog cause.

“Thomas is a very good player, but our team takes pride in their defense, as well,” said Reed. “Whomever has the job of guarding Thomas will have his hands full.”

Execution and limiting mistakes will be a key for both teams, as will rebounding. “”We will have to take care of the ball and value possessions,” said Rapert. “We will also have to contest shots and rebound well. At this point in the season, teams may try to do a few things different, but it comes down to execution of what each team does to the best of their strengths. Teams may need a little luck or a break to go their way.”

“To win this game, we must execute on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor,” said Reed. “Rebounding will be key, as well. The team that makes the least amount of mistakes will most likely prevail. Our boys know what it is like to play in these big games, as our schedule has tested us for that. We are going to play hard and enjoy this time of year. This is what we practice and prepare for all year long.”

This marks Hartville’s third-straight district title. The Eagles lost a heartbreaking 63-62 game to Final Four-bound Strafford in the state quarterfinals a year ago. Meanwhile, this marks Gainesville’s second-straight district championship. The Bulldogs had their own heartbreaker last year, as Gainesville lost an 84-80 three overtime thriller to eventual state runner-up Iberia in the Sectional round.

Hartville features a balanced lineup. (Photo courtesy of mansfieldschool.net)

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