Saturday, March 18, 2000

Purcell to meet its match

XU recruit leads Dayton Christian

Enquirer contributor

        One win away from a trip to state, Purcell Marian figures to finally get a straight-ahead test today.

        The Cavaliers (22-3) meet the No. 1-ranked team in Ohio Division II, Dayton Christian (24-0), in the regional finals at 3 p.m. today at University of Dayton Arena. The winner advances to the Division II state Final Four.

        Purcell will be looking to make its first trip to state since winning a state title in 1985.

        Opponents in Purcell's last six games have tried to slow the Cavaliers by playing zone defenses. Purcell coach Mike Gergen said there's a good chance that string will be broken in today's game.

        “They'll play some zone, but they're also going to play a lot of man-to-man, and they'll press,” Gergen said. “That makes preparation slightly easier, because that's how we practice every day.”

        Top billing in the game goes to a matchup of two of the state's most athletic players, 6-foot-4 Dayton Christian senior Romain Guessagba-Sato and 6-4 Purcell junior Keith Jackson.

        Sato, a Xavier University recruit, led Dayton-area scorers at more than 26 points a game. He can shoot from 3-point range and is a high flyer going to the basket. Jackson is a jumping jack who Purcell counts on to make plays on an otherwise undersized front line.

        “I don't think we've seen a better athlete during the season,” Gergen said of Guessagba-Sato.

        The question is whether that athleticism will overwhelm the trapping defense that has been the staple of Purcell's success this season.

        “We're going to play our game,” Gergen said. “We'll go up and down the court with them and see what happens. I don't doubt the way we press we'll give some things up, but the whole idea is to get the tempo up where we want it.”

        Point guard Joe Deister is an effective counter to Guessagba-Sato, taking advantage of open looks created by attention paid to his teammate. Craig Walder, a 6-2 forward, is also an offensive option slashing to the basket, and Dayton Christian sometimes employs 6-8 senior Fidama Dotte as a defensive threat around the basket.

        Jaime Cooper, Purcell's 6-3 senior swingman, might prove a difficult matchup for Dayton Christian.

        “This is our 26th game of the year — we're not going to change much,” Gergen said when discussing what his team worked on Friday with just one full day to prepare. “We did some talking, some walk-throughs, and put in the game plan. We're just working on small adjustments based on personnel.”


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