Saturday, March 17, 2001

West Hi, Elder play for trip to state

Regional title at stake tonight

By Carey Hoffman
Enquirer contributor

        Tonight's Division I regional title showdown between Elder and Western Hills comes down to the “Battle for the Bus Ride.”

        On Friday, buses will be somewhere on the west side of Cincinnati, fueled up for the trip to Columbus for the Division I state Final Four. Whether they head up Glenway Avenue to Elder or less than 2 miles away down Ferguson Road to Western Hills depends on the outcome of today's 7:30p.m. game at Xavier's Cintas Center.

        It's hard to come up with a more anticipated scenario for a regional title game. This is a neighbor vs. neighbor, public school vs. parochial school game in the part of town where tradition and loyalty is most revered. Fans began lining up at 7a.m. Friday at Elder to buy tickets, even though the game is general admission.

        On court, the plot lines run thick as well. Western Hills (21-4 with a 15-game winning streak) is playing in the regional final for the first time in school history, thanks to the leadership of three Division I college signees — center Danny Horace (Miami), forward Darryl Peterson (Akron) and point guard Malcom Andrews (Wright State). Elder (19-6) has an edge in history, with four regional and three state titles in its past, but has no bona fide star — just a cohesive group of solid players.

        “In spite of all those differences, the one thing I think both teams have in common is having really good kids and, in particular, really good seniors,” Elder coach Joe Schoenfeld said.

        Elder has been the only team in town with Western Hills' number recently. In the last two years, the only games West Hi has lost to Cincinnati teams have been regular-season losses each year to Elder, and a sectional tournament loss to the Panthers last year. Overall, Western Hills coach Lannis Timmons is 0-7 vs.Elder.

        Elder's defense has frustrated Western Hills by denying passes to the interior, and Elder has been able to rebound with the strong 6-foot-6 tandem of Horace and Peterson.

        Western Hills' m.o. in the tournament has been to jump on opponents from the outset. The Mustangs had a 20-3 lead against Vandalia Butler in the regional semifinals before the Aviators knew what hit them.

        “I think we're only playing at about 75 percent,” said Horace. “I don't think we've peaked yet. We are coming out the same way every game.”

        Said Schoenfeld: “We have to take away what Western Hills does best, and No.1 on that list is offensive rebounding. The alternative (to not doing that) is not good — they've steamrolled everyone they've played.”

        In this year's 69-58 Elder victory Jan.8 in the Elder Pit, the key ended up being depth, with Elder holding a 21-2 edge in bench scoring.

        The winner of tonight's game advances to the state semifinals in Columbus at 6p.m. Friday. It will face the winner of the Columbus regional final between Columbus Brookhaven and Dublin Coffman, which will be played at 7:30p.m. today.

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