Fairlawn's Gillem is averaging 23 ppg with a
taped shooting hand. (Photo: Todd Acker)
One of the comments I've heard several times since the Piqua sectional tournament draw a couple weekends ago, is how easy the bracket will be for the Jackson Center Tigers. According to these basketball folks we might as well just put the #1 team in the state into the regional tournament because no one is going to challenge the Tigers until then anyway. Isn't this why we play the game? I believe 20-0 Jackson Center can be challenged in Piqua and I'm fairly certain that challenge will come from the 6-14 Fairlawn Jets. Laugh if you must, but let me give you some things to consider in the days leading up to the start of tournament play this weekend...
I watched Fairlawn win their last regular season game of the year on Friday night against Russia. Leading scorer Anthony Gillem had his shooting hand wrapped from a broken wrist injury earlier this season, but never mind that. The kid still scored 23 and has good range from around 25 feet. I saw him stretching that wrist a few times during dead balls, so it's a little scary to think he's not even 100% healed yet. This week off should help. By the way, in the four games since he's been back from the injury he's averaging an even 23 ppg. Gillem's sidekick is Trey Everett, a really good guard who can dribble, drive and shoot. He can also electrify the Fairlawn crowd with a rim-shaking dunk just like he did against the Raiders on Friday night. Those two guards together remind me of another duo Fairlawn used to have named Andy Francis and Richie Beard. If you remember, the Francis & Beard show took Fairlawn to the regional tournament with a supporting cast pretty similar to Gillem & Everett. Wells, Cummings and Hughes know their rolls for the Jets and it worked well against Russia.
Don't pay any attention to Fairlawn's #7 seed. They play the #6 seed Mechanicsburg Indians on Saturday, a team they just beat on the road two weeks ago 61-58. Waiting for the winner is #8 Riverside, who also lost to Fairlawn in OT back in early January when Gillem was out with the broken wrist. I predict those first two games will be close, exciting and Fairlawn will prevail. That puts the Jets in the sectional final game against Jackson Center who will roll over Mississinawa Valley and Bradford to get there. My question is how ready will Jackson Center be for the high-flying Jets? The Tigers played with a target on their back the entire month of February. They obviously handle pressure very well and stayed sharp when every team gave their best shot. Keeping the Jackson Center kids up for the first two rounds will be a challenge for Coach Elchert. I wouldn't bet against the Tigers in the sectional finals come March 3rd, but I would bet there could be some March Madness in the air!