NEW LEBANON – The day-long series of games between the Dixie and Arcanum basketball teams concluded with the varsity boys game, which the Trojans won 45-30.
The two schools had been battling all day, and there was a little league pride on the line as well with Dixie representing the Southwestern Buckeye League and Arcanum representing the Cross County Conference. It may have been the cold night or something with the first weekend of games after the holidays, but the game started slowly but grew hot in the second half.
Arcanum has had a slow start to its regular season. But things have taken off for the Trojans with the new year. One of their resolutions had to have been to get that first win, which they did on Friday night with a victory over Ansonia. The team wanted to keep that momentum against a Dixie team that had just lost to Madison the night before and needed to get back that winning track. The Greyhounds were 3- 1 to start the season but were riding a six-game losing streak.
It is not unusual in high school games to see low first quarter scores. Each team is getting a feel for the other, coaches are probing and adjusting. But generally each team will find an offensive rhythm and the points will start to accumulate. But that was not the case on Saturday night. Both teams were playing stiff defenses, and neither team could get their shots to fall until later in the game.
Arcanum played in a shell offense and man-to-man defense most of the night. Meanwhile Dixie mixed things up on defense, using man-to-man, a full-court press and a half-court trapping 1-3-1 defense. Dixie used a flex type offense and another 3-2 set.
Dixie had decent height as compared to Arcanum but couldn’t seem to establish any kind of inside game. Dixie’s press got a few turnovers in the early going, but Arcanum was able to adjust, and it was not that effective.
So at the end of the first quarter it was just 6-5, and at the half it was a football like score: 14-13. Neither team was able to get their offense running.
Something had to break, and finally it did when Carter Gray gave Arcanum its first decisive lead of the night with a 3-point shot that made it 24-18. That spark seemed to set a fire under the Arcanum shooters. Wade Meeks put an exclamation point on the Arcanum run when he made it a double-digit lead with a 3-point shot close to the end of the quarter. It was now 30-20 in Arcanum’s favor as the last quarter started.
The team would drain a total of six 3-pointers in the second half – so when the Trojans found their range, they made it count. Just that output alone surpassed their first half scoring.
And when Dixie tried to foul at the end, Arcanum shot well enough from the line that the Hounds could not close the gap. The Trojans shrugged off a half-court trap – Dixie simply could not find anything to counter the Arcanum momentum. Arcanum was able to grow their lead in the last quarter and executed a stall for another win 45-30.
“This was our best week of prep this season,” Arcanum coach Marcus Bixler said. “Today was the same as yesterday; the team was very business-like as we went through our walk-through this morning. We did what we needed to do. I thought we executed very well. I was very enthused defensively with what we did the entire game. Offensively we struggled early on, but once we started moving the ball around we got some wide open shots.
“We rebounded extremely well. We boxed out and kept them away from the ball. And we got our fair share of offensive rebounds, too. Those second chances really helped us out. Rebounding is something we have to work at; it doesn’t come easy.
“Wade got things going by attacking and penetrating – no matter what defense they threw at him. Then when they started focusing on him, he began distributing the ball. Gray did a great job shooting the ball tonight. Brandon Kinney and Devin Burns need to be commended for what they did defensively on Devon Worley. He is their go-to-player. Whatever he scored tonight, he really had to work for.
Next up for the Trojans are the Tri-Village Patriots.
“I think a little difference in attitude and making some mental adjustments,” Bixler said about the change in his team for the second half of the season. “We have a new focus now, and I think it shows on the court.”