While Marietta High has plenty of offensive weapons, its defense has been its strong suit all season long.
And, a shutdown is probably what it's going to take if the J.D. Secrest-coached Tigers are to defeat visiting Portsmouth High in a scheduled Southeastern Ohio Athletic League boys basketball game at Sutton Gym at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.
When MHS (12-4 overall, 5-4 SEOAL) can hold an opposing team under 50 points, like it did in SEOAL wins over Logan (62-46) Tuesday and Gallia Academy (56-37) last Saturday, it increases it chances of winning the contest.
Of course, Portsmouth (12-4, 6-2) will be coming into the game with other ideas. The Gene Collins-coached Trojans are in a virtual must-win situation as they contend for the SEOAL crown. After beating Ohio Division II, No. 5-ranked Chillicothe, 52-42, Tuesday night, they are only one game behind the frontrunning Cavaliers (13-3, 7-1) and Warren Warriors (13-1, 7-1), who both share the top spot in the league standings.
A Trojan loss to the Tigers Friday night would certainly make the bus trip back to Portsmouth a long and silent journey.
For Marietta, which lost to Portsmouth in the first meeting last month, there really isn't any pressure. Right now, the Tigers are thinking about postseason play later this month, and trying to notch as many regular-season victories as possible.
"We need to get these (SEOAL) wins for tournament seeding and get as good a seed as possible," said Secrest after the Gallia Academy game.
At Logan's Jim Myers Gymnasium Tuesday night, MHS took care of business, beating a scrappy Chieftains ballclub. The win was the Tigers' second in a row since falling to Chillicothe 60-45 last Friday night.
Wes Riley paced the orange and black with a game-high 23 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Tim Grosel chipped in with 16, 12 in the first half, and three-point threat Cody Kriechbaum netted eight markers for the winners.
Late in the opening half, the Tigers trailed the Chieftains 27-25, but then went on a 10-0 run, which spilled over into the third quarter. The orange and black never looked back after that.
Jon Sewell and Nathan Williams are expected to be Marietta's other two starters against Portsmouth. Look for Eli Lenington and Braden Riley to be the first people off the pine.
MHS will be facing a Portsmouth team that's coming off a huge win over Chillicothe. The Trojans should be brimming with confidence.
PHS junior pivot player Dion McKinley sparked the winners with a game-high 19 points, including three-of-seven shooting from the arc. He was also one rebound shy of a double-double.
Now, this is where it gets interesting for Marietta. What will the Tigers do defensively when the Portsmouth big guy steps out to the perimeter?
Chillicothe center Malik London held his ground in the paint, and elected not to defend McKinley on the outside.
Taking advantage of the mismatch on the perimeter, McKinley was able to tee up and drain some downtown shots, which both surprised and hurt Chilli.
Sewell, Marietta's 6-foot-11 center will also probably not follow McKinley to the outside, if the PHS pivot player positions himself there.
Marietta's guards will have to deny McKinley the ball, and get a hand in his face if he does get it behind the arc. Look for 6-4 Nathan Williams, 6-3 Braden Riley or 6-6 Nat Thompson to get a crack at the outside-shooting of the PHS big guy.
Thing is, McKinley's not Portsmouth's only offensive threat. Not by a long shot.
Wayne Evans is very capable of putting up big numbers. In an 81-53 win against Logan in January, the Trojan junior tallied 26 points.
Against Chilli Tuesday night, Evan had 13 markers.
Andrew Bendolph is another Trojan who the Tigers will need to contain. A four-year starter and good ballhandler, he missed some games earlier in the season due to OHSAA rules violations. Returning to the team in early January, Bendolph netted 16 points in the win over Logan. He only had six points against the Cavs, but five of those were in a row during a fourth-quarter surge.
Bendolph was not available when Portsmouth dropped a 58-48 decision to Chillicothe in the first meet. The Trojans' only other league loss was to Warren.
Tre Underwood and Zaide Whitley are a couple of other Trojans to keep an eye on.
After Portsmouth, Marietta is slated to play at Warren in a big school Washington County showdown at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night. The Tigers suffered a 59-56 setback to the Blane Maddox-coached Warriors last month.