WEST LIBERTY – WL-S and Versailles.
It’s a narrative that’s played out countless times on the softball diamond, soccer pitch and track and field.
But when it comes to the hardwood, this game doesn’t spell “rivalry” to WL-S Girls Basketball Coach Dennis McIntosh.
Indeed, the Tigers and Tigers have never met on the basketball court in these seniors’ four-year careers, so the names on the back of the jerseys will look foreign – even if fans recognize the names on the front.
“They’ve got a few kids that have been this far before,” McIntosh said. “We haven’t played in a tournament game like this. If we can get into some offensive sets and get some good looks and hit some shots, I think we can be right there.”
Both squads play tenacious defense, with big posts inside and quick guards on the perimeter. That will make it even more imperative for WL-S to get open offensively.
“I think we have a lot of similarities – especially defensively,” McIntosh said. “I think it’s going to come down to which team can execute better on the offensive end.”
In that, West Liberty-Salem might have an advantage. The WL-S Tigers are versatile and have a variety of scoring options. Sometimes it’s just Jamie Peterson and another player in double digits, as was the case in the district final when Lily Yoder went off.
Sometimes it’s just five girls with six, seven or eight points each.
“Our main seven that play have been in double figures at some point during the season, so we’ve got people that can score,” McIntosh said. “Our offense needs to run through Jamie. She still needs to get her touches.”
That versatility had the coaching staff and some members of the community excited about the season.
“I told them before the season started that I thought this was a special group of kids. We’ve got shooters. We’ve got ball handlers. We’ve got the big post kid,” McIntosh said. “It’s not often we’ve had all that on the same team. So far they’ve proved us to be right.”
WL-S played with Madeira last Saturday mostly with great defense, which will be a point of emphasis against Versailles – as it has all season.
“A lot of our stuff has been based on what the other team is doing offensively. We’ve got good enough people to cover the outside, and if they run by somebody, good luck shooting over a 6-foot-3 girl,” McIntosh said. “I’m not sure which way we’re going to start yet. But I’m sure at some point we’ll play man to man and we’ll play zone. We know they’re bigger than we are, so that’s a concern.”
Bigger? Maybe. But better? Fans of both Tigers’ squads get to find out Wednesday in a Division III regional semifinal. Tip-off at Springfield High School is slated for 8 p.m.