Ripley High School will be the site of the first meeting between county rivals for the 2009-2010-basketball season this Saturday, January 23.
As the Vikings prep to host the Class AA No. 3-rated Red Devils (8-0) under head coach Mick Price, Coach Craig Harmon’s squad will look to push the blue crew’s recent success over Ravenswood to three games in a row, dating back to last season, where Ripley was able to sweep the ‘Hardwood Hatchet’ series, first with an 80-53 spanking at home and then a 53-47 edge at the Pit.
PLAYER TO WATCH: CHASE FISCHER- Fischer will look to pace the high-scoring Vikes as he leads the team with 32.3 points per game. Inside or out, the 6’4” junior guard can literally score from anywhere in the half court. His athleticism allows him to create shot opportunities in the lane and get to the foul line, where he is an 84% free-throw shooter on the season. Beyond the arc, he averages 3.4 three’s a game for a shooting percentage of 37, while carrying a 43.5 FG%, averaging 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and a team high 2.9 steals.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: MARK DAVIS and CHAD SMALL vs. KYLE HARPOLD- A big man is a crucial piece to any winning formula, whether on offense or defense. The matchup between these three will tell the tale of victory when it’s all said and done. Ravenswood’s duo of Davis (6’1”, 223) and Small (6’1”, 240) add a little more size to the Red Devil rotation as each is averaging eight boards per game, with Davis contributing six points per game and Small five ppg.
For the Vikings, Harpold (6’3”, 185) has the ability to leap out of the gym and has greatly improved his game over the last four outings. Through the first four contests (2-2 record) Harpold averaged just 4.9 rebounds (.92 offensive boards) per game for a total of 21 (13 offensive). Since then (3-1 record), he has stepped up averaging seven boards (3 offensive) per game for 36 total rebounds (15 offensive) in that same span. He currently leads the team with 67 (7.4 rpg), and also averages 5.9 points per game.
KEYS TO VICTORY: Ravenswood as a team averages 64 ppg, a stat that’s improved from last year’s championship squad (59.3). Murray (19 ppg) heads the offense along side Benson (17 ppg), who has improved his long range game, as well as become more physical under the basket (7 rpg). However, its Ravenswood’s defense, that allows just 45.6 ppg, that will have to step up to limit Ripley’s shot opportunities and keep Fischer in check to hold them under the Vikings’ scoring average of 70 ppg. If that task wasn’t daunting enough, Fischer has a solid backup plan in junior Derek Mullins. As the point guard, Mullins has ran the floor for Ripley finding teammates in the right place for a team high 49 assists (5.4 pg), not to mention his ability to put points on the board as the second-leading scorer averaging 11.4 per game.
For Ripley, the old saying of ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it’ will hold true on Saturday as the Vikes should look to repeat the game plan from last year. Fischer must create penetration to score, draw the foul, or kick out to the perimeter where Mullins has also proved to be a three-point ace nailing 21 treys (2.5 pg) for an astounding 40.8% average. On defense, the Vikes must disrupt the Devil’s timely orchestrated offense and not allow second chance points. Holding down Murray or Benson can help, however matching Benson’s physical nature in the lane is not always successful.