Landon Hormann approaches every tournament game like it’s the state championship.
“If you don’t take it as a state championship game, then you overlook a game and end up not giving it what you should,” Hormann said.
That attitude will be more necessary than usual at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at UD Arena. Hormann and his West Liberty-Salem teammates will play for a Division III district title against top-ranked and defending state champion Cincinnati Summit Country Day.
“That’s how I like to take every game,” said Hormann, who leads the Tigers in scoring with an 18.7 average. “I don’t think anybody’s scared of them.”
Summit (23-1) is rich at the guard position with Cincinnati-bound senior Kevin Johnson, who is the Southwest District player of the year and averages 19.4 points a game. Johnson, who is 6-foot-2, is joined in the backcourt by 6-0 junior Antonio Woods (14.3) and 6-1 sophomore MaCio Teague (14.4). Both are considered Division I college prospects.
“It’s a task that our kids are certainly looking forward to and excited about,” Tigers coach Aaron Hollar said. “We don’t get a chance to play against top-notch talent like that all the time.”
The last time the Tigers did was in the 2005 district final against eventual state champion Cincinnati North College Hill and future NBA players O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker. A win for the Tigers this time would send them to regionals for the first time since the 1970s.
In the tournament, the Tigers (20-5) have played what Hollar says is the best defense they’ve played all season, holding three sectional opponents to an average of 39 points. Hollar said having only Friday games the final three weeks of the regular season finally gave the team time to focus on defense after a late start because of a football playoff run.
“Everybody likes to score, of course, but we started to realize that you can’t just rely on scoring because you can have off nights,” Hormann said. “That really hurt us some games during the season.”
Part of the strategy has been defensive competitions in practice. Win, and the other guys run. Lose, and you run.
“Nobody likes to run,” Hormann said.
Hollar plans to use different combinations to defend Summit’s guards, including the 6-5 Hormann. Summit’s tallest player is 6-3.
“Landon’s length and quickness could be big for us, trying to get those guys to shoot over top of somebody,” Hollar said.
Summit’s quickness will also pose a challenge for the Tigers’ offense.
West Liberty-Salem vs. Summit Country Day, 5:30 p.m. Friday, UD Arena