The Mansfield boys basketball team is ranked No. 9 in the Division I poll this week and is set to take on No. 4 Warren G. Harding on Saturday. But first, the Tygers are focusing on Friday's tilt against Wooster.
Curt Conrad checks in with a look at Mansfield's full weekend schedule.
MANSFIELD – T.J. Lindsay celebrated his 18th birthday Wednesday, but Mansfield Senior’s standout guard wouldn’t mind if his gift arrived a few days late.
“What would be a good birthday present? Beating Wooster on Friday and Warren Harding on Saturday,” Lindsay said. “We¹re doing our best to keep our focus on Wooster, because that’s an Ohio Cardinal Conference game, but it’s a little tough because Saturday’s game is such a big game.”
Just how big?
Warren Harding is 11-0 after Tuesday’s 77-56 win over Youngstown Ursuline.
The Raiders were ranked fourth in this week’s state poll while Mansfield Senior (11-1) was ninth.
“It might be the biggest game since we moved into the new gym,” senior forward Di’Nero Ramseur said. “It¹s definitely the biggest game I’ve ever played in.”
The Tygers are 36-0 at the new Pete Henry Gym since moving into the state-of-the-art facility before the 2004-2005 season.
“You don’t want to be the team to lose the first game,” said Ramseur, who is averaging 16.3 points and 7.7 rebounds a game. “There’s pressure that comes with (the winning streak), but it’s a good pressure. We’ve been dealing with it for a while now.”
The Tygers and Raiders met early last season in Warren, with Harding pulling out a 70-69 win in double overtime. It was one of two regular season losses for Mansfield Senior.
“I missed some free throws at the end of regulation that could have won it,” said Lindsay, who averages 16.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.5 steals a game.
“What I remember most about last year’s game is the atmosphere,” Ramseur said. “It was packed and it was an intense game. “They had a great team then and they’ve got just about everybody back from that team.”
Harding coach Steve Arnold said he expects more of the same Saturday afternoon.
“Mansfield is a hostile place to play,” he said. “Their kids play tremendously hard. They are fierce competitors.
“Our kids play pretty hard, too. There are some similarities between the teams. We've probably got a little more size.”
The Raiders are led by Damian Eargle, a versatile 6-foot-7 forward who is headed to UNC-Greensboro. Eargle’s offensive rebound and putback in the closing seconds lifted Harding to a 60-58 win over state-ranked Zanesville at last weekend’s Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic at Value City Arena in Columbus. He had 18 points and 15 rebounds in Tuesday¹s win at Ursuline.
Junior guard Sheldon Brogdon scored 18 points against Ursuline, while 6-4 junior guard Desmar Jackson led the way with 20 points. The Raiders also boast 6-8 forward Chris Henderson.
“I saw them play Ursuline and they are a very talented team,” Mansfield Senior coach Gregg Collins said. “They are big and athletic and they create a lot of matchup problems for us.
“I understand what Ursuline was trying to do. You have to try to take something away from them and (Ursuline) was trying to take away the inside. But then Jackson hit about four 3s on them.”
Mansfield Senior snapped out of a two-week shooting slump last weekend. The Tygers were 18-of-38 from the floor (47 percent) in Friday¹s 62-53 win at Ashland and connected on 33-of-52 field goals (63 percent) in Saturday¹s 85-55 win over Clear Fork.
“Our shot selection was a lot better last weekend,” said Lindsay, who was a combined 10-for-21 from the field in the two victories. “We struggled for a while, because we thought we just had to get a shot up. Now we’re trying to be more patient.”
Ramseur, 6-3 forward Pierre Smith and 6-6 center Brendan Bonham all were in foul trouble last week at Ashland. Ramseur said the trio can¹t afford to be sitting on the bench Saturday afternoon.
“It’s very important that we avoid foul trouble,” he said. “They have got great size. We”ve got to stay down and play defense.”
Collins said the Tygers can’t afford to overlook Friday’s game at Wooster.
“I don’t like looking ahead,” he said. “I understand that everybody is talking about Saturday’s game. At the beginning of the week, when we met with the team, there was some talk about Warren Harding. We nixed that right away.”
Still, the Tygers have an eye on Saturday’s matinee.
“We’ve had this one circled on our calendar,” said senior point guard Adam West, who scored 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and handed out 10 assists in Mansfield Senior’s two wins last weekend. “We know it’s a big game, probably the biggest of the season so far.”