Beating Piketon sure is
easier on paper than it
is on the hardwood
Happy New Year
B y   S h a y n e   C o m b s ,  S V C s p o r t s z o n e . c o m
In a recent email, I was asked two things pertaining to Piketon. One, the Piketon fan was wondering if I
thought Piketon could go undefeated, and two, as a former coach what is the game plan that would work
best when trying to give his Redstreaks a game.

To answer the first question, I would have to say yes. I have felt from day one of the season that it would
take a lofty upset for Piketon to lose a league game. Now that they have survived tough road tests at
Mifflin and Waverly (the two toughest opponents on Piketon’s schedule in my opinion with the
exception of Zanesville), that would only leave two non-league games. They have a tough home game
against a good Zanesville team. This is probably their biggest obstacle in terms of a perfect season. They
also have Vinton County on a neutral site, and although Vinton County is a good team, they are not nearly
as talented as they have been over the past three or four years.

The second part of the email was a fun one to think about. I would say it is fun because I get to just play
coach rather than try to actually play Piketon. The funny thing about all coaches is that they always feel a
scouting report can equal a win. I know I always convinced myself on the scouting report sheet that we
could win. Unfortunately, when you start playing the game – especially against teams like Piketon –
things have a funny way of being tougher than you thought on paper.

The first thing to think about in a scouting report is tempo. You have to take the tempo you want to play
and decide if you are able to play Piketon in that tempo. With the exception of Zanesville (and maybe
Mifflin and Waverly who Piketon already beat), I do not see a team on Piketon’s schedule that could
run with them athletically. A slower tempo would be great, but Piketon is going to force tempo with
defensive pressure of all kinds and unless you have incredible guard play you are going to be limited on
how slow you can play. I do not think you can get Piketon in a game in the 40s, and you do not want to
play Piketon in the 70s; therefore, the best shot at an upset is to play a high 50s/low 60s game.

In order to do this, a team is going to have to play even or better in the categories of turnovers and
rebounding. Piketon’s talent is going to score. What you can't allow is Piketon to get extra
possessions. Piketon is at their best when they are turning their opponent over in the backcourt and
playing in the open court. If a team can limit turnovers, force Piketon to play offense in the half court, and
then hold them to one shot and out, playing a game in this scoring range is possible.

In Piketon’s most recent win – a 68-67 win over Waverly, the Tigers almost had the game in this
tempo, but foul trouble to their point guard in the first half and a lack of depth just didn’t allow
Waverly to pull it out. The reason Waverly almost got over the hump is because they have a unique talent
in Jake Kretzer (who scored 34 points Thursday night) who can individually carry a team offensively.
After watching this win, it proves to me that Piketon can also win a close game. It also proves that
Piketon can have a team make a run at them in the second half and still answer with a run of their own.

Another key to Piketon is obviously Evan Legg. Legg is accounting for about half of Piketon’s 76-
point per game offense in terms of his points and assists, so you better have a plan for him. When playing
against a great player like Legg, the key is to not get frustrated when his great ability hits tough shots and
you must take away his easy points. The stats that scare me the most with Legg would be his near six
assists and near seven steals per game. First of all, if he is recording more than four steals in a game, it is
probably leading to more than 10 easy points on the other end. This makes the score higher and the
tempo faster – both spelling no chance to beat Piketon. You have to keep Legg off the foul line, and
force him to make tough-twos throughout the game. You can give up 20 or more to Legg and have a
chance as long as you limit him to fewer than five steals and five assists.

I thought Waverly did some nice things against Legg Thursday night, but it just shows you how good this
kid can be. Legg dominated the first half from behind the three-point line, and then late in the game,
Waverly couldn’t keep the ball out of his hands and he put the game away at the charity stripe. As
mentioned earlier, Waverly survived some of this because they have a 6’6� offensive stud on the
other end that can match Legg. Most teams do not have this and most teams that try to play Piketon in a
game with this tempo in which Legg scores 33 is going to lose by a lot.

The final factor to me is the willingness (or ability) to play at least eight or nine deep. Piketon plays such a
chaotic tempo that it just wears teams down in the second half. There have been a few league teams hang
with Piketon for two quarters, but these teams have been completely blown out in the second half.
Piketon’s tempo forces teams to get tired and forces teams into foul trouble. In order to beat Piketon,
you must be able to get some bench production in all four quarters.

Well, here I am playing coach, and it seems easy enough on paper. All you need in order to be in the
game with Piketon is great guard play, a depth chart that goes eight or nine deep, an ability to handle
Piketon’s size and athletic ability on the glass, and the ability to make plays down the stretch to pull
the upset. Seriously, when you start to try to put together a scouting report, you realize just how realistic it
is for them to run the table. It is one thing to write it on paper, but it is another thing to find high school
teams that have enough of these characteristics to compete with elite teams.

I will say one thing that comes to mind in terms of SVC opponents. Unioto’s team probably is the
closest thing to being able to do some of the necessary things to beat Piketon. This makes the two head-
to-head match-ups between the Redstreaks and the Shermans somewhat intriguing. Unioto can play eight
or nine (if healthy) guys. Unioto has experienced guard play and Coach Hoops can put line-ups on the
floor that contain five guys that can dribble, pass, and catch. Ball handlers such as Cole Murray and
Corbin Hill give Unioto a realistic chance to limit “live� turnovers. I say “live� turnovers
because those are the ones that result in fast break points for Piketon. All turnovers hurt because they cost
you chances to score, but travels, five second calls, or throwing the ball out-of-bounds at least gives you a
chance to get back and force Piketon to play in the half court.

Other characteristics that Unioto contains include versatile scorers in Brick Davis and Christian Dunkle
which gives Unioto a chance to score in a variety of ways. Unioto also has the athletes to compete on the
boards and for loose balls, and defenders like Cody Strange gives Unioto a chance to make Legg work
hard for what he gets as a scorer. The reason I emphasize this again is because a team has no chance of
beating Piketon if guys like Craigen Moore, Jacob Braniff, Jamie Helton, and Keenan Brush get involved
in a balanced attack for Piketon.

The thing that makes the upset so hard is the fact that you have to execute for 32 minutes. If you handle
the ball well against Piketon for 27 or 28 minutes you will lose by 10. You must handle it well from start to
finish, make shots, and hope you can force the Redstreaks to play offense in the scrimmage area.

It is so hard to go undefeated. Someone will likely duplicate Waverly’s effort and get into the fourth
quarter with a chance before the year comes to an end. At that point, it will come down to the little things
that all close games come down to in the final few minutes. When – and if – this happens, it will be the
perfect test to see if Piketon can be perfect. I was on a team that pulled one of the biggest upsets in SVC
history, so I will never say never; however, I can guarantee you beating Piketon is easier on paper than it
is on the hardwood.