BASKETBALL: Wapak faces early test in Elida

By all appearances, the Western Buckeye League is going to the dogs in 2011-2012.

The Bulldogs.

Namesakes Elida, Defiance and Celina are the preseason favorites in the league, with Elida at the top of the list by most estimates.

The Wapakoneta Redskins will find out where they fit into the mix when they travel to the Elida Fieldhouse on Friday night to tip off the WBL season.

Elida added Shawnee transfer Cory Royster to an attack that already featured the league’s top player in University of Akron-bound Reggie McAdams and arguably the league’s best point guard in Dakota Mathias.

“Those three are a really nice nucleus,” Wapak coach Matt Bradley said.

Throw in three-point ace Aric Thompson, son of Elida coach Denny Thompson, slasher Mike McDonald, defensive specialist Evan Stratton and an athletic Jeremy Newby off the bench and you’ve got a team most pundits consider the best in the league.

“Their seven guys are really, really good,” Bradley said.

Wapak is coming off a disappointing home-opener 70-55 loss to the Ada Bulldogs last week, a game that saw the Bulldogs shoot a phenomenal 67 percent from the floor, including 14 of 21 on 3-pointers.

Bradley said the Redskins lacked the defensive intensity he was looking for and challenged his squad to turn that around against Elida.

“That’s my job as a coach, to get them ready to play and to play hard,” Bradley said on Monday. “This week is going to be all focused on intensity and toughness and energy and work.

“And if the guys who have been eating the majority of the minutes aren’t getting it done, we’re going to go down to that bench and maybe the JV team to find some guys who are willing to work hard.”

Bradley missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday as his wife Jeni gave birth to their third child, a daughter, on Tuesday.

Offensively, the Redskins also showed signs of a lackluster effort. Wapak only shot five free throws in two trips to the foul line in the entire game.

“It’s good news and bad news,” Bradley said. “The bad news is, why aren’t we playing hard? The good news is that’s something we can control.

“There’s not a lot of things in basketball that you really can control. Your effort is one of them. If we play harder, we’re going to put ourselves in a better chance to win than we did Friday night.”

Elida comes into the WBL season with a 4-0 record, sweeping the annual Tip-Off Classic before knocking off Spencerville and Delphos St. John’s last weekend. Royster and McAdams both scored in double figures in both games.

To beat Elida, it will take effort, and then some.

“Everybody, one-through-five, has to defend,” Bradley said. “We can’t focus just on stopping Reggie because they’ve got four other very capable scorers on the floor. Everyone on the floor has to be focused and locked-in defensively. That’s in help, that’s in talk, ball-pressure.

“Offensively, we can’t turn it over. And we can’t give up runs. We’re down one at the half against Ada Friday night and we give up a 7-0 run right at the start of the third quarter. And that’s your game.”

Rebounding will be a key to the game with Royster in the middle.

“He is just a man on the boards,” Bradley said. “We’ve got to be able to keep him in check.”

Jake Buzzard leads Wapak with 5.3 rebounds per game. Kaleb Vondenhuevel is averaging 5.0 boards per contest.

Travis Bertram is averaging a team-high 16.7 points per game. Buzzard is next at 14.7.