"Win four more and complete the chore."
The simple _ yet poignant _ slogan adopted by the Mogadore girls basketball team shows just how close the Wildcats are to realizing the dream of a state title.
The high-tempo offensive and relentless pressure defense of the Wildcats has already earned them a place in Mogadore history. After knocking off Crestwood to claim the Portage County League title, the Wildcats won four straight tournament games to capture a Division IV district title.
They have now advanced to the regional, a feat only accomplished once before in Mogadore girls basketball history (1985-86).
In their past five games (the PCL championship and four tournament games), Mogadore has been on fire, scoring 73 points a game. This run-and-gun style will be put to the test on Thursday at 8 p.m., when the Wildcats (21-3) meet Leetonia (16-7) at Massillon Perry in a regional semifinal.
Dave Kornbau and his Leetonia Bears are the polar opposite of the Wildcats. Led by senior Katie Stambaugh, who turned in a 57-point performance this season, the Bears are indeed large. The Bears' starting lineup has two 6-footers, a 5-foot-9 player, and one at 5-11. The first player off the bench is also big at 6-1.
"They are huge," said Mogadore coach George Tompkins. "They are bigger than Crestwood. If we let them slow us down we are in big trouble based on size alone."
Not only can Leetonia cause Mogadore problems with its slow halfcourt style, but the Bears must be concerned as well. The speed and pressure of the Wildcats could easily derail a team like Leetonia.
"I told the girls that if I was Leetonia's coach I'd be concerned about stopping our fastbreak and get into a halfcourt game," said Tompkins. "If we play our game we will run them off the floor."
One Wildcat who will be under some considerable pressure is center Jen Lutz (16 points per game). The Mogadore senior will have her work cut out for her against the big front line of Leetonia. Tompkins is not too worried about Lutz.
"To be honest, I don't see any big person who is better than her," said Tompkins. "She plays so hard, and she is very quick for 5-11."
Mogadore will have to have big play from its guards if it plans on running against Leetonia, and big play is the norm for Wildcat guards. Tiffany Tompkins (18 ppg) and Michelle Tompkins (13 ppg) have led an outstanding cast of guards, which almost comprises the whole lineup.
"Our guards are definitely the strength of our team," said coach Tompkins. "Lutz is a big part, but on some occasions we have four guards and Lutz on the floor."
A Mogadore win would set up a regional championship on Saturday at Massillon Perry against either Kirtland (11-13) or North Robinson Colonel Crawford (22-2). The winner would then advance to the state tournament at Ohio State's St. John Arena in Columbus.
The last time Mogadore sent a basketball team to Columbus was when the boys squad qualified in 1964. The Wildcat girls are only two wins and six days from qualifying for the trip.
"Our five seniors have been playing basketball since third grade and talking about going to Columbus," said coach Tompkins. "You think that (the state tournament) is so far away, but we are only a week from getting there."