BATH TOWNSHIP — After defeating Elida on Saturday night, Bath’s boys basketball team got exactly one day to think about and celebrate its first district title in school history.
On Monday, the players were back to the grind at practice, knowing they were still four games away from their ultimate goal.
“Everyone’s really positive right now,” Bath’s Taren Sullivan said. “We’re really trying to keep each other pumped up and ready to go. We want to prove to everybody that we deserve to keep playing and give people a chance to see us at state.”
Bath will take on Cleveland Benedictine (10-16) at 8 p.m. Thursday at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center. It is Benedictine’s ninth trip to the regional semifinals since 1999.
The larger-than-life crowd and atmosphere likely won’t bother the Wildcats, with Bath getting its fair share of intense Western Buckeye League audiences, none bigger than what they won in front of last Saturday night against Elida at Ohio Northern University in the district finals.
What will feel new to Bath is the anonymity of the kids in the opposite jerseys, something that could be beneficial to the Wildcats.
“I think there was a lot of pressure on the fact that our district final game was against Elida,” Bath coach Doug Davis said. “I think we’ll play a little bit more relaxed against kids we don’t know. I think now that we’re going to regionals against an unknown opponent, we’ll be able to focus on what we do best.”
Because of that unfamiliarity, preparation this week is a different process compared to the earlier rounds of the tournament. Without the luxury of a previous meeting against Benedictine, Bath’s practices have been a learning process, studying film and getting a first look at what they’ll see on Thursday night.
“We’re definitely taking it slow,” Sullivan said. “We want to make sure we know how they run things and how they like to play, and see how we can get them off-balance and cause turnovers.”
Sullivan is Bath’s leading scorer and rebounder entering the regional tournament, averaging 16 points and six rebounds per game. Sullivan also leads the Wildcats in steals (60) and blocks (14).
“I feel a lot of pressure, but I like going out there knowing that people are expecting me to do what I have to do to help my team win,” Sullivan said.
Benedictine entered the tournament with a 6-16 record, after spending its regular season competing against many of the best teams in the state. Among their losses are Shaker Heights, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Garfield Heights, Mentor, St. Ignatius and Huntington Prep, W. Va.
The team’s biggest threats are inside, where two 6-foot-7 players will look to control the post. Benedictine is led by junior guard T.J. Steele (12.8 ppg, 2.3 apg), junior forward TySean Powell (7.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and senior forward Wesley Parr (11.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg).
Benedictine’s offense is a half-court, slower-paced style of play. The team is averaging 54.8 points per game.
This is where the Wildcats’ uptempo offense will look to control the game, while its defense will try to make passing the ball inside as difficult as possible.
Playing in its first regional tournament in school history may have other teams in awe of its surroundings. Bath, however, has no semblance of a one-and-done mentality.
“I think the players are pretty focused and ready to go,” Davis said. “They aren’t satisfied with winning districts. They’re looking for more. I think we’ll all be a little nervous going into the game, but we’re also really excited to keep playing.”