This year's Metro Division season opener was not kind to the Ravenna Ravens, but that early setback does not seem to have slowed the two-time defending league champions.
A relatively inexperienced Ravenna team seemed overwhelmed by the stage in a 51-41 road loss to an experienced Norton squad, but the Ravens have since won six of their last eight games as young players like Deja Sanders, Ja'Lynn Starks and Taylor Geib have meshed well with seniors Moe Moe Smith and Fallon Schwab-Davis.
The trick to beating Ravenna is handling their defensive pressure and slowing the pace of the game down, but that is easier said than done. On Saturday, Field was taken out of its comfort level by the Ravens' pressure from basically the opening tip in a 54-33 loss that was not even as close as the final score indicated.
No one player is averaging double figures for Ravenna this year as Sanders' 9.8 points a game is tops, but more people are touching the ball than in previous years and it has been fun to watch their young players develop seemingly every time they take the court.
The Ravens will get a golden opportunity to see just how far those young players have come this Saturday when Norton travels to Ravenna for a rematch.
Ravenna head coach Sonny Tilden said he is happy with the way his team has progressed since that loss and getting Norton -- as well as most of the Metro's other top teams -- at home in the second half of the season could not be a better situation.
"We have all the teams like Norton, Kent and Field coming to our house for the second half of the season," Tilden said.
If we're able to beat Springfield (tonight), we'll be 6-1 in the league through the first half and I'm really happy with that," Tilden said.
TAKE NOTICE OF THE BOMBERS
The Windham Bombers made a major statement on Saturday when they defeated the Southeast Pirates, who were previously perfect in the County Division, 59-43.
If you're looking for the major difference between the two teams -- at least on Saturday afternoon -- it would be in how effective Windham was in sharing the wealth.
Four Bombers players scored nine or more points -- led by 16 points from sophomore guard Jessica Isler and 15 from freshman Brittany Knight.
Southeast has maybe the best one-two punch in the PTC at this moment in seniors Shayna White and Brittany Butcher and the two played well, combining for 32 of the Pirates' 43 points. Butcher, in particular, continued her hot shooting with a game-high four 3-pointers.
But diversity in the scorebook is probably the Pirates' biggest problem at the moment.
Southeast is absolutely going to be in the title hunt at the end of the season -- and is still alone in first place with just one loss -- because there are few teams in the County that can match the inside-outside duo of White and Butcher.
Windham, however, has plenty of options in Isler, Knight, sophomore forward Dari Heller and junior Morgan Schreiner who can either score, crash the boards or do both and Bombers coach Gregg Isler did a great job utilizing those pieces on Saturday for a major win.
METRO DIVISION ACTION
The spotlight match in the Metro Division tonight sees Kent Roosevelt travel to take on the Norton Panthers.
Kent Roosevelt (7-5, 4-2) has struggled this season to replace a number of seniors from last year's squad, but the Rough Riders do come into tonight's game with consecutive wins over CVCA and an impressive 59-36 Metro Divsion win over Crestwood.
Norton (9-3, 6-0) remained undefeated in the Metro Division after a narrow 62-56 win over a two-win Streetsboro (2-9, 1-5) team, but it's not always possible to win big with the target that the Panthers have on their back.
COUNTY DIVISION ACTION
Southeast looks to get back to its winning ways tonight as it plays host to the Rootstown Rovers.
As it record indicates, Rootstown (4-5, 3-3) has played well at times this season with wins over Garfield (57-48) and East Canton (42-36), but has also struggled in losses to league leaders like Ravenna (53-35), Waterloo (61-45) and Windham (55-44).
The Rovers have some good talent in Cayanne Breznak (16 points, 10 rebounds in a win over Garfield) and guard Jalynn Myers (game-high 21 points in a loss to Ravenna), so they could be a good shooting night away from giving Southeast a real test -- and really making the second half of the County Division race an interesting one.