Eagles, Blue Streaks to battle for first in CVC Lake Division

Jan. 18—First place in the Chagrin Valley Conference Lake Division boys basketball race is at stake on Friday in Madison.

The Blue Streaks are scheduled to host Geneva in a battle of 6-1 conference teams.

"It should be a great atmosphere," Madison coach Nick Gustin said. "Border rivals ... playing a game to put themselves in a good position going into the second time around in the league."

Eagles coach Eric Bowsher is also looking forward to the game.

"We expect a hostile environment Friday when we travel to Madison," he said. "Their fans always support the program very well, and a conference battle like this with a neighbor school will only feed the energy in the gym."

Both teams enter the contest on winning streaks.

Since an 82-76 overtime loss to the Blue Streaks in the first meeting on Dec. 13, Geneva (11-2 overall) has rattled off nine straight wins.

It has included a 70-68 triple-overtime win over Edgewood, a 53-51 decision over Kirtland and 53-50 victory over Perry.

"We continue to build off of our momentum," Bowser said. "The guys have committed to the defensive end of the floor and are putting in the work at practice to continue to improve.

"That defensive effort will keep us in any game and when we are able to knock down some shots, we're a pretty good squad."

Luke Barbo and Luke Smith lead the Eagles in scoring at 14 points per game each, while Caden Proy is at 12 points per outing.

"From afar, Geneva seems to be winning all types of style games," Gustin said. "They have won some close games and that breeds confidence."

But even with three players averaging double figures, Bowser has been pleased with others picking up the scoring slack.

"I think one of our keys is our balance with other contributors averaging 8, 8 and 7 [points per game] as well," he said. "Those kind of numbers can make up for someone having an off-night here or there and keep defenses on their toes."

Madison is on a five-game winning streak with big victories over Jefferson 57-56 and Edgewood 69-67 in overtime.

The Blue Streaks also defeated Perry 63-55 in double-overtime earlier in the season.

"Madison's battle-tested, winning some close games making it through the first round of the conference schedule with only one slip up [a 59-50 loss to Lakeside on Dec. 16] so far," Bowser said. "JP's obviously a phenomenal talent and the rest of the guys have adjusted and learned to play very well off his playmaking abilities."

JP Dragas, a West Liberty University basketball signee, leads Madison at 28 points per game. He scored 50 points against the Warriors on Friday.

Seth Negin and Mac Steel are averaging 7.5 points per contest.

"We have been sharing the basketball really well the past five games," Gustin said. "That has led to more consistent team scoring."

With two evenly matched teams, both coaches highlighted areas to watch.

"The winning team will need to limit the defensive mistakes and execute on offense," Gustin said. "Then, a player will need to make a couple of plays at the correct points in the game."

Bowser added, "It will take a solid effort on the defensive end of the floor to be successful. Good shot selection is important and limiting their second chance opportunities and our turnovers will be key."

Even though the winner will take over first place in the CVC Lake, there are more games to be played.

Perry (3-2), Edgewood (4-3) and Jefferson (3-3) are also still in the mix of the conference race, and could provide challenges down the road.