Delta girls try to shake long layoff

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Senior center Jodi Menz averages 18 points per game for Delta, which enters tonight's sectional game with a 20-5 record.

Delta first-year coach Mark Verticchio is a little concerned that his team has not played a game in almost two weeks as it heads into today's Class 1 sectional against Tuscumbia.

Delta did not participate in a district tournament because the only other team in its district, Scott County Central, canceled its season due to a lack of players.

"I think I'm more concerned, to be honest with you, not about them [Tuscumbia] as much as I am about this layoff," Verticchio said. "Everybody said it's great not [to have to play in districts]. I disagree 100 percent. ... Not playing, and most of the coaches agree with me, is just a big disadvantage. Our kids are tired of practicing. It's almost like starting the season all over. It's a long layoff."

Delta (20-5) will play Tuscumbia (20-6) today at 7:45 p.m. at Park Hills Central High School.

Delta earned second place in Class 1 last year during its eighth straight year in the state playoffs. Tuscumbia lost in the quarterfinal round last winter.

"People will say, 'Well, you take that time off at Christmas,'" Verticchio said about his team's two-week hiatus. "Well, there's a big difference. One, a lot of other teams do, too. Two, you're not walking into a one-and-done game. I am hoping the first quarter is going to tell us a lot."

Delta has two returning starters, Jodi Menz and Taylor Smith, from last year's final four team. Menz averages 18 points per game while Smith averages 17.

Verticchio said he scouted Tuscumbia last Friday night and thinks his Bobcats match up fairly evenly with Tuscumbia.

"They've got a nice all-state point guard that I think is going to match up with Taylor," Verticchio said. "Probably their second-best player is going to match up with Jodi. She's about 5 foot 9. One of the big differences is that they start four seniors and a junior where we start one senior, three juniors and a sophomore. So we're younger and much less experienced. Their whole team basically went to the quarterfinals last year where we only had two girls who ever even played postseason ball."

Tuscumbia runs a press defense.

"You've got to hope that we can handle that," Verticchio said. "They're a similar press to what we saw against Kelly."

Verticchio said he thinks his first season as Bobcats coach is going well. He said the girls are adjusting well to his system and to their roles. He made some important position changes during the season, including inserting 5-4 sophomore Sam Bartels into the starting lineup. Bartels scored 24 points against Chaffee on Feb. 25.

"She's probably our best shooter," Verticchio said. "It relaxed her a lot and it brought other girls, who I thought were better at coming off the bench, it gave them more formidable roles and they've handled it well -- very, very well."

Verticchio is looking for both Smith and Menz to help the inexperienced underclassmen, who he said appeared nervous during practice Monday.

"They're vital," Verticchio said about Smith and Menz.

Verticchio said that how well his team shoots the ball will be a key to winning tonight.

"That's the one thing you can't predict," he said. "I think defensively we'll be fine. I can honestly say that after learning to play against Kelly -- we learned how to [play] presses. But the shooting is going to be vital. And after a [two] week layoff and from what I understand -- I've just been told -- [we[']re] going to a gym that has a different type background."

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