Friday, January 21, 2000

No. 1 Purcell vs. No. 1 St. X

State poll leaders square off tonight

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's a rare matchup of unbeaten Cincinnati basketball teams, each ranked No.1 in the state, that is unlikely to happen again soon.

        At 7:30 tonight at St.Xavier, the Bombers (12-0), No.1 in the Associated Press' Division I poll, play the Purcell Marian Cavaliers (12-0), No.1 in Division II.

        “I told the kids that a game like this won't happen too often,” Purcell Marian coach Mike Gergen said. “They should enjoy and appreciate what's happening. It should be a tremendous experience for them.”

        The two teams have contrasting styles. Purcell Marian prefers the up-tempo pace, while St.Xavier likes to keep it slow, turning the game into a half-court struggle.

        “They're an athletic team that looks to apply pressure on 84 feet of the court,” St.X coach Scott Martin said. “They have two exceptional players and will be the quickest team we'll play.”

        Martin was referring to the Cavaliers' duo of Jaime Cooper (19 points) and Keith Jackson (14.3 points), players St.X must contain on the inside.

        “In a game like this, the team that takes the lead has the upper hand,” Gergen said. “But it won't be a tremendous concern for either, because both teams are playing with a lot of poise and confidence.”

        St.Xavier is a team without a star player; Martin uses nine or 10 every game. Senior center Andy Larkin is the scoring leader at 13.3 points a game.

        “This makes St.X awful tough,” Gergen said of the Bombers' balance. “Every St.X player understands their role, whether it's taking the 3-pointer or getting the rebound.”

        St.Xavier and Purcell Marian both won home games over league rival Elder in the last week.

        The Bombers rallied from a 14-point, third-quarter deficit to defeat the Panthers 46-42 last Friday. Purcell Marian sank a last-second shot to beat Elder 57-56 on Tuesday.

        The winner tonight will take a two-game lead and emerge as the favorite in its respective Greater Catholic League division — St.Xavier in the South and Purcell Marian in the North.


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