Panthers finding their groove, winning streak at 4

Eddie Mowen Jr.

January 21, 2014

Twin Valley South is starting to find its groove.

For years, the Panthers’ calling card had been their offense, but this year’s edition is relying on its defense, and coach Tony Augspurger was quick to point that out after a pair of impressive wins last weekend in the Cross County Conference.

South limited Bradford to just three points in the first half, en route to a 59-20 win on Friday, Jan. 17, then limited Miami East to just 35 points on Saturday in winning 48-35.

The Panthers (9-6, 6-2 CCC) have now won four straight.

“We ran our winning streak to four largely behind an outstanding effort defensively on the weekend. On Friday night we held Bradford to three points in the first half and 20 for the game, two points off the school record for the best defensive game point wise,” the veteran coach said. “We did an outstanding job of playing with defensive integrity throughout the game. We pressed some early and played quality man in the first quarter and then switched to our zone and moved and covered in it really well. Bradford is a team that is obviously struggling, but we showed the increased maturity that we are striving for in terms of getting a lead but continuing to defend for 32 minutes.”

Augspurger said individually, Wes Cole had an outstanding offensive game shooting 10-for-15 from the floor in scoring 23 points. Cole and Mike Green (10 points) each had seven boards and J.J. Utz (10 points) went 3-for-3 with four assists and three steals. Seth Baker chipped in with 8 points.

As a team, South knocked down six 3-pointers.

On Saturday, South played what Augspurger called one of the “marquee” programs in Southwestern Ohio.

“Saturday night was a big win for us,” he said. “Miami East is one of the marquee programs in all of southwestern Ohio and Allan Mack is one of the better high school basketball coaches around. They came in much like us in that they were playing better and better after a slow start.”

South led 21-19 at the half, but took control of the game thanks in part to strong third quarter, where the Panthers outscored the Vikings 16-7 to take a 37-25 lead heading into the final quarter.

“I thought we once again did a great job defensively. We held them to 10 points or less in each quarter and looked as good defensively as we have since our last really good team in 2008. East played a triangle and two and after a slow start we had a really big second half from Seth Baker (he finished with 19) to step up and make them pay for chasing Wes and Mike,” Augspurger said. “We were outstanding on the offensive boards, and that’s something I haven’t been able to say very often in the last couple of years.”

Augspurger said Jake Osborn, who is playing his role for the team very well, led the team with five offensive rebounds. J.J. finished the second weekend in a row of taking much better care of the basketball as he had seven assists to only one turnover.

Cole and Greene each scored 10 points on the night.

“I think a huge key for us both nights was the play of Mike Green. Too often in the past I believe Mike has let how much he has scored be too important and in a weekend where he didn’t get as many shots as we are normally looking for him to get, he just played outstandingly in all other facets,” Augspurger said. “He was a force defensively and on the boards and did a great job talking on D. If he continues to play like that for us, it will really help in terms of turning us into a dangerous team. Not to mention, he followed up his first career dunk on Friday night with an even better one in the fourth quarter on Saturday.”

The Panthers will be tested again this weekend when they play a pair of home games. On Friday, Arcanum is scheduled to visit and then Saturday Franklin-Monroe, co-leader in the CCC, pays a visit.

“We have a huge double weekend coming up again this weekend,” Augspurger said. “It would really be nice to start seeing some community support for this group of kids, whom I think are starting to gel as a team at the right time.”