By Steve Ruman
Throughout the Mahoning Valley, teams have struggled to score points during the 2012-13 season.
Last weekend, there were 27 games which involved teams from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana Counties. In those games, 19 teams scored 45 or fewer points, including 11 which scored less than 40 points.
On Tuesday, 13 area teams scored 45 points or less, including six which failed to score more than 35.
Why the low numbers?
Bob LaRicca believes he has the answer.
LaRicca coached at Warren Western Reserve and Warren G. Harding from 1980 until 1997. He owns a career coaching record of 296-103. His teams won 11 league championships and six district titles. Now retired, LaRicca conducts basketball camps for grade school and middle school athletes, and remains an avid follower of the high school game.
LaRicca believes the decrease in scoring is in large part the result of a generation of athletes who have always played with the 3-point field goal.
“Very few teams take the ball inside anymore,” LaRicca said. “They don’t go after the easy two points. Instead, you have players who have no business shooting 3s firing up long-range shots from every angle imaginable.
“What’s even worse is that every now and then one of the shots goes in. Now all of a sudden the kid thinks he can make them all.”
LaRicca said that teams’ 3-point shooting averages often reflect that “statistically, the shot is counter-productive.” When the 3-point field goal was introduced into the high school game in the late 1980s, he recalls attending clinics which taught coaches how to use the shot to their advantage.
“I remember Rick Pitino stressing that coaches should only allow certain players shoot the 3,” LaRicca said. “It serves a purpose, but it shouldn’t take away from the inside game.
“I’m not sure that a lot of teams would be able to defend a strong inside game, because they don’t use it themselves. They never see it in practice.”
With less than a month remaining in the regular season, area league races are beginning to take shape.
Springfield (12-3, 11-0) now owns a two-game lead in the Inter-Tri County League (Tier One) thanks to its win earlier this week over Mineral Ridge (11-6, 9-2). All other teams are at least four games back of the Tigers, who can earn at least a share of the crown with a win Friday against Crestview.
McDonald (14-2, 10-1) sits atop the ITCL (Tier Two), ahead of Wellsville (13-3, 8-2) and Lowelville (11-4, 8-3). The Blue Devils on Friday travel to Leetonia. They travel to Wellsville next Friday.
Poland (14-1, 6-1) and Canfield (12-2, 6-1) share the lead in the All American Conference Red Division. Earlier this month, the Cardinals handled the Bulldogs 54-35. The two teams meet again next Friday at Canfield.
The AAC Blue Division will host a key contest Friday when LaBrae (11-3, 7-3) hosts Newton Falls (7-8, 6-1). In late December, the Vikings handed the Tigers their only league loss.
A total of 50 players and 23 coaches have been ejected in boys games statewide during the current season. ... In girls basketball, 23 players and nine coaches have been tossed from games. ... The Ohio High School Athletic Association prohibits players from participating in non-interscholastic basketball (CYO, etc) during the season. This past week alone, the OHSAA issued three infractions resulting in ineligibility. ... Just 3.3 percent of high school players will continue their career at the collegiate level. ... Just 0.03 percent of high school players will go on to play in the NBA.