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No. 1 Indians face No. 2 Ritchie

by Danny Carpenter

ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

BRIDGEPORT -- It's a game that matches the top two teams in girls Class AA basketball and two all-state point guards.

But when the Indians (20-0) and Ritchie County (18-2) meet in Bridgeport tonight, even Bridgeport coach Dave Marshall knows it could be a preview of the Region II final to determine a state tournament berth. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.

The game pits Bridgeport all-stater Erica Rome against Ritchie's all-stater, Missy Spangler. But Marshall says it's more than the two top point guards.

"It's a nice matchup, but really, and Erica would tell you the same thing, it's not necessarily a matchup between them but a matchup between two really good teams," Marshall said.

Rome leads the Indians in scoring at 16.5 points, while Theresa Melko averages 14.8 points. Lauren Kerr, Angie Handschumacher and Jaclyn Ross each average more than six points.

Spangler is the Rebels' sparkplug. She averages 26.5 points, 11.7 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 7.7 steals. Lucinda Hoffman and Mendy Barnes also concern Marshall.

"Hoffman is big and strong inside and gave us fits up there last year rebounding," Marshall said, "Barnes is a lefty and a good shooter. Spangler does a good job setting her up."

Marshall said the key is limiting 5-foot-5 Spangler's opportunities, especially off the offensive glass.

"She just has a nose for the ball," he said.

Handschumacher will line up against Spangler, and Marshall believes she can handle the challenge.

"Angie is going to 'quote, un-quote' guard her, but we're going to have a lot of other people checking off on her and helping her," Marshall said. "And we know regardless how we do it, (Spangler) still is going to get her looks, but we're hoping to limit her looks and make her make the outstanding plays."

If the thought of Spangler doesn't haunt Marshall, his team's sluggish play may.

Liberty gave the Indians fits for three quarters before Bridgeport used a big run in the fourth quarter to claim the win. On Friday, Bridgeport went to overtime to pull out a win with Grafton.

"I just think it's been a long season," Marshall, whose team won the girls division of the Coal Classic two weeks ago, said. "We've been struggling a little bit, but we had a talk yesterday, and the kids seem to respond to it.

"And I think the fact of who we're playing (tonight), we won't come out sluggish."

In other girls action, Philip Barbour travels to Lewis County in a Big 10 clash, Lincoln is at Tucker County, Robert C. Byrd faces East Fairmont and Doddridge County goes to Magnolia.

In boys action, Notre Dame plays host to Calhoun County.

Assistant sports editor Danny Carpenter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at dcarpenter@exponent-telegram.com.

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