BELLAIRE-Onaway and Bellaire are the two standout teams in the Ski Valley conference this year, with both teams tied for first place.
Tonight's match-up between the two teams could very well decide this year's conference champion.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. in Bellaire.
In many ways, Onaway and Bellaire size up with each other quite well. Onaway (7-1, 5-0 Ski Valley) utilizes a fast-paced offensive attack that forces opponents to maintain a similar pace.
Bellaire (8-0, 5-0 Ski Valley) plays a slower, more deliberate, style of basketball that is designed to slow the rhythm of a game and test the patience of more uptempo teams.
"We're going in there to play a very good, patient team. Bellaire does not make many mistakes. That's one thing that they've never done. They take care of the basketball and we have to stay on pace defensively as well as offensively," Onaway coach Eddy Szymoniak said.
Bellaire is currently ranked fourth in class D and is the only team to beat the North Star League leading Hillman Tigers, 59-50.
The key to offsetting Bellaire's more considered approach is to force it into the quicker tempo basketball that has brought Onaway to the top of the Ski Valley.
"They almost try to put the defense to sleep and get it play lazy. We just have to stay aggressive throughout the game and play our type of game, a fast paced offensive game," Szymoniak said.
Onaway will also have to break the man-to-man defensive approach that has consistently helped the Eagles limit its opponents' offensive success.
"They're not scoring a pile of points and blowing teams out, but they put a lot of pressure on the ball defensively. They utilize a press and a lot of traps, so we just need to move the ball, stay patient offensively and look to get the ball up the court," Szymoniak said.
The Cardinals will turn to several key players tonight. Key to the Cardinals' offensive assault will be senior Joe O'Bradovich. O'Bradovich currently averages 22.8 points and 10 rebound per game and is easily Onaway's top scorer.
Another key cog in Onaway's success is senior Carlos Bautista. Bautista is currently averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds per game. His rebounding skills could be vital for preventing second and third scoring opportunities for the Eagles.
Andrew Prow's prowess as a three-point shooter could open up the inside game for Onaway, as Bellaire's defensive shifts to shut down perimeter shots.
Defensively, Onaway will need to shut down Denny Hall. Hall is Bellaire's leader on the court and its top scorer.
"Denny Hall is the best player that they have. We're looking to control him defensively. We're not going to single him out, but just try and stop him and limit his ability to take over a game," Szymoniak said. "To me, it looked like they had two scorers that they looked to. We just have to stop them from putting up those big numbers and just hold them to a decent game."