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Dakota will be relying on junior forward Brian Orr (5) in its district game against L’Anse Creuse North. (Photo by Dave Angell)

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BOYS BASKETBALL: Crusaders, Cougars clash again

Basketball rivals meet at district

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Dakota has been frustrated in its two games against L’Anse Creuse North, but gets a shot to bring the Crusaders down on a much bigger stage.

The third time the rivals meet will be in a Class A district semifinal game at LCN on March 6. The Crusaders have beaten Dakota twice by exact 69-60 scores.

“This will be the third time playing LCN and we feel we played well against them for only one half in both games,” Dakota Coach Paul Tocco said. “We need to put together an entire game of consistent play to have a chance at victory.”

L’Anse Creuse North Coach Jay Seletsky knows he can’t put another win over Dakota into his pocket before the game is played.

“Facing any team a third time is tough to do, especially when it is such a big rival that has a lot of firepower such as Dakota,” Seletsky said. “They obviously have a ton of motivation coming into our gym for state tournament play.

“Both times we played them they were highly competitive games and I expect nothing less for the final matchup on Wednesday. Coach Tocco does a great job of preparing and it is going to be a war.”

The pressure would seem to be on the Crusaders and not just because they are going for the season sweep. LCN advanced to the state semifinals last season, raising expectations for another long run.

“I think there are a lot of people expecting big things from us on a daily basis,” Seletsky said. “We discuss the talk of outside pressure and verbalize that we can only control what we do by working hard to improve and get better daily. I think our guys have the proper mental makeup to realize we need to take each possession and each game at a time.”

Tocco also downplayed the pressure factor on the Crusaders.

“LCN had a great run last year because they played together as a team through the playoffs,” he said. “The only pressure LCN is feeling is to achieve that chemistry again. I promise that Dakota is trying to achieve that same goal.”

Tocco targeted what the Cougars need to do better based on their first two games against the Crusaders.

“They are a very good team and we need to try and control the defensive glass and create more offensive opportunities from our defense,” Tocco said. “We also need to shoot the ball well to keep the game in range come the fourth quarter.”

Seletsky analyzed his team’s play.

“We are playing well right now, sharing the ball and defending really well,” he said. “The key is to peak at the right time like we did last year and that is hard to do. But with our senior leaders, and our overall preparation, we are cautiously optimistic moving into post-season play.”

Both teams have their obvious standouts. For the Crusaders, players such as Ramone Griffin, Tyler Conklin and Robert Hopkins are key. For Dakota, Brian Orr and D.J. Lazarus draw much attention.

Both teams, however, also possess some valuable players who don’t get the limelight. For LCN, Seletsky pointed to senior Aaron Schienke.

“He has really accepted his sixth-man role and improved in all categories, especially his aggressiveness on the glass,” Seletsky said. “He can really stretch the defense and has hit some big shots for us down the stretch. If he continues to do the little things, he could be the X-factor for us moving forward.”

Tocco targeted senior guard Quavon Irby and senior forward Connor Wonsowicz.

“They do a lot of the little things on defense and rebounding that are vital to a team victory,” Tocco said.

Anchor Bay, which drew a bye, gets the winner of the Port Huron-Port Huron Northern victor in the other semifinal. The district title game is scheduled for March 8.

Chippewa Valley is hosting a district. The Big Reds drew a bye and advance to the semifinals March 6 against Lake Shore. The teams have no common opponents.

The winner of the L’Anse Creuse-Sterling Heights game will meet Roseville in the other semifinal. The final is set for March 8.

Eisenhower is at the Stevenson district. The Eagles meet Rochester Hills Stoney Creek in the opener, with the winner meeting Stevenson in the semifinals. In the other semi, Utica gets the winner of the Ford-Rochester game.

Contact Brian Marshall at (586) 716-1800, ext. 303 or at bmarshall@voicenews.com

Last Updated: 2/25/2013 10:28:45 AM EST