Braves, Bobcats prep for Hornets

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

SCC boys, Delta girls will play St. Elizabeth squads in tonight's Class 1 sectional round

The Scott County Central boys and Delta girls will get sectional shots tonight against St. Elizabeth when Class 1 playoff basketball resumes.

The District 3 champion Delta Bobcats will face the surprise District 4 champion Hornets at 6 p.m. at Park Hills Central High School, and the boys game will follow at 7:45 p.m.

Tonight's winners will play in Saturday's quarterfinal round at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Delta (18-8), which reached the quarterfinals last year, is playing in the sectional round for the ninth consecutive year as it seeks its first state championship. Scott County (24-2) is after its record 14th Class 1 championship.

Scott County Central vs. St. Elizabeth

The Braves defeated St. Elizabeth 105-77 in last year's sectional on their way to the Class 1 title. The final score was a little deceiving as Scott County led just 51-50 early in the third quarter.

St. Elizabeth (17-9) returns junior point guard Caleb Heckemeyer. The 6-foot Heckemeyer scored a team-high 23 points in last year's game, hitting six of the Hornets' 12 3-pointers.

"He can shoot and drive to the hole," Scott County coach Kenyon Wright said. "He's a good all-around player."

With Heckemeyer leading the way, the Hornets were able to repeat as district champions. However, St. Elizabeth was the only team in District 4 with a winning record. They beat an 8-17 Chamois team 69-48 in the district final.

The Braves defeated 10th-ranked Richland 84-46 in the District 3 championship game.

Scott County returns a potent duo from last year's title team in 6-foot-8 junior Otto Porter and senior point guard Bobby Hatchett, a pair of Division I prospects. Porter averages 29 points and 15 rebounds a game, while the play-making Hatchett averages 22 points.

The Braves drop off substantially on offense after that twosome with junior Trey Johnson third in scoring at nine points per game. Johnson is second on the team in rebounding with eight boards per contest.

Wright, succeeded longtime coach Ronnie Cookson after last season and managed his first district title as a coach after winning two as a player at Bell City. While the top-ranked Braves will not be satisfied with anything short of another state title, Wright said his players are focusing on each step of the journey.

"Bobby and Otto both have been up there and understand what it takes to make it that far," Wright said. "You have to take it one game at a time and you can't take anything for granted. Each opponent you're playing has won a district themselves and they're all quality opponents."

Wright said St. Elizabeth likes to press and run, an up-tempo style that fits the Braves' feverish pace.

"We'll have to be ready for anything," Wright said.

Delta vs. St. Elizabeth

The Bobcats needed just one win to claim the two-team District 3, drubbing Scott County Central by 49 points.

St. Elizabeth (8-18) had a tougher time as it stunned top-seeded Chamois (18-7) in the District 4 final. Chamois had defeated the second-seeded Hornets two times during the regular season but fell 44-41 in the title game as St. Elizabeth rallied from about a 15-point deficit.

Delta coach Mark Verticchio was on hand for the upset by the Hornets, who he said have a deceiving record because of numerous close losses.

"I thought it could go either way," Verticchio said. "They were pretty evenly matched."

Verticchio said the Hornets will be taller than his squad, which is nothing unusual since his team tops out with 5-foot-10 sophomore Tori Burton.

St. Elizabeth features 6-foot freshman Erin Struemph, who averages a team-high 13 points. Verticchio said Jaycine Bax-Brown, who averages 10 points, is probably the Hornets' top overall player, while point guard Megan Holtmeyer (9 ppg) is the team's best outside shooter.

"They play a match-up zone, and to be honest we're not crazy about playing against that," Verticchio said. "You don't see a lot of that."

For Delta, senior Taylor Smith, who started for the Bobcats when they finished second in the state in 2008, averages a team-high 17 points. Freshman Machela VanGennip follows at 16 points.

The Bobcats, who have four final four appearances with two state runner-up finishes, are trying for their third straight quarterfinal appearance.

"They'll be a tough matchup for us just because they're fairly big," Verticchio said. "Obviously we'll hope to run them out of the gym with our running game."

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