Following a stirring comeback to knock off rival Napoleon on Saturday in their season opener, the Bulldogs of Defiance will get a chance to make it three-for-three in the season’s first three contests with a Friday trip to Paulding before returning home Saturday to take on Rossford.
Both opponents are teams Defiance has had success against in recent years, with the Bulldogs having won 11 straight against Paulding and 12 wins in the last 14 years against Rossford.
Despite falling into a 30-12 hole in the first half, the Bulldogs exploded late in the second period to make things competitive before taking the lead for good in the second half. That resilience does breed some confidence, said DHS coach Kirk Lehman.
“It can give you confidence from the standpoint of showing some fight and some determination and never giving up,” explained the DHS mentor. “ As you look at the film, you can see why we had good spells and bad spells. It started at the defensive end. When our pressure ticked up, so did our success.”
Defiance at Paulding
Friday’s contest will send 1-0 Defiance to “The Jungle” in Paulding to take on a 1-1 Panthers squad finding their way early on in the 2018-19 season.
Paulding won its season opener against Continental 49-46, holding the Pirates to nine fourth-quarter points to rally from a three-point deficit through three periods. The Panthers dropped their county rivalry clash in overtime Saturday against Antwerp, 67-58.
The main impetus for the Maroon-and-White this season has been 6-1 senior Jaret Miller, who tallied 26 and 22 points against Continental and Antwerp, respectively, including seven total 3-pointers made. With four seniors and a sophomore in the starting lineup, but no one taller than 6-3 on the roster, the Panthers will provide an interesting non-league test for Defiance.
“When you go on the road for the first time, you’ve always got concern about how your kids will come out,” noted Lehman. “Paulding’s very guard-oriented and they can really shoot the basketball. Miller’s obviously a great player and a really good scorer. One thing he does great is he’s a great passer and he’s very unselfish with the basketball.”
Rebounding has been an issue so far for Paulding, which was outrebounded by five against Continental and by 10 at Antwerp. With DHS junior Tyrel Goings snaring nine boards against Napoleon to help earn the win and 10 total offensive rebounds by the Bulldogs, the battle on the glass will be key.
“We look forward to (the matchup),” said third-year Paulding coach Brian Miller (19-29). “It gives us a better idea of where we’re at. (Defiance) does a lot of things well, they have good size. Kirk does a great job with them.
“I think playing Antwerp was a pretty good game to set us up for Defiance. Antwerp has good length and size across the board. They’re a good team, maybe not quite as physical as Defiance. You’ve got to work for it.”
Joining Miller in the starting five for Paulding will likely be sophomore point guard Cade McGarvey (5-10, 9 ppg, 13 points vs. Antwerp), senior guard Carson Shull (5-10, 9.5 ppg, 11 points vs. Continental), 6-1 senior Bailey Manz (2 ppg) and 6-1 senior forward Fletcher Cook (7.5 ppg, 12 points vs. Antwerp).
“I’d say that we learned quite a few things (from the first two games) but mainly that we still have a long way to go,” explained Miller. “We settled too much for the 3-point shot, especially Friday night. We do have to get more balance. We’ve got to get everybody involved and make sure we’re hitting the open man and creating for one another. I think we’re trying to do too much at times.
“I thought (Defiance) started slow against Napoleon but their defensive intensity picked up and that brought them back into the game. That’s something we’ll have to deal with. We tend to think that if we shoot the ball better than we have the first two games, we can hang with them.”
Paulding will look to snap an 11-game losing streak in the series against Defiance, dating back to a 64-59 win over the Bulldogs on Feb. 10, 2007. DHS is 56-13 all-time against the Panthers.
Rossford at Defiance
While Defiance has had just one taste of varsity action so far heading into the weekend, their opponent Saturday will be plenty tested as Rossford enters Friday’s action 0-3 with a Northern Buckeye Conference tilt at Elmwood set for Friday evening.
The Bulldog defense will get a test against a Rossford roster that will let the 3-ball fly early and often. The Maroon Bulldogs, which are playing all their games this season on the road or at neutral sites as construction continues on a new school and gymnasium, have made a whopping 30 3-pointers in three games this season.
“Any time you play a Brian Vorst team, they’re going to fight and battle,” said Lehman of his opponent, a program he coached from 1993-97. “They’re still very, very young as they were last year but they’ve got a really quick point guard and they can really score the basketball.”
That point guard is 5-8 junior CamRon Gaston (13.3 ppg), who netted a game-best 27 points in a 70-60 opening loss to Bowling Green. None of the team’s four double-digit scorers are seniors, most notably 6-5 junior Ethan Dewese (14 ppg, 27 in 68-63 loss at Liberty-Benton).
Freshman guard Ben Morrison (6-2, 12 ppg, 9 3-pointers made) and 5-11 junior forward Reed Murphree (10.7 ppg) also average double figures to date, as 27 of Murphree’s 32 total points this season have come on nine made treys.
“This early in the season, we’ve just got to continue to get better,” explained Lehman. “We had some chances to build a lead against Napoleon and didn’t take real good care of the basketball. We were really good the last three minutes of the half but other parts of the game were a real struggle.”
Leadership from the program’s upperclassmen was key in the win over Napoleon as Goings netted 23 points, backed up by standout efforts from senior point guard DJ Dobson (6 points, 10 assists, 6 steals), Caden Kline, Buzz Naton (6 points, 3 offensive boards) and Nas Mitchell (8 points, 4 rebounds). Junior Jack Vanderhorst added five key free throws in the fourth quarter, including making all three from the line to give DHS the lead with 1:16 to go against Napoleon.
Defiance will hope to get junior sharpshooter Will Lammers going this weekend after the Bulldog sniper shot just five times against Napoleon and scored three points.