The Midland Athletic League may be history, but two of its teams still are intent on making it.
The two best teams in the MAL this season will meet this evening at the Elida Fieldhouse, as Carey and New Riegel face off for a spot in the Division IV Regional Finals.
The teams in MAL played Dec. 19, when the Blue Devils won 46-37. Carey went on to run the table in the league and win the conference, while the loss was the only one the Blue Jackets suffered in the MAL this season.
But while the Blue Devils won the only other meeting between the two teams, Carey coach Phil Vaughn said he knows New Riegel will be different this time around.
"I have not seen them in person," Vaughn said. "I know they've just gotten better and they're playing very good basketball right now."
New Riegel comes into tonight's contest with a 22-2 record. Its only other loss in the regular season came to Arcadia the team the Blue Devils beat in Saturday's district finals.
New Riegel comes in on a roll, having won four straight and dismantling its district opponents Buckeye Central and South Central - by a combined 69 points.
No doubt about it, New Riegel coach Steve Lucius said, the Blue Jackets are at their best right now.
"I definitely feel we are," he said. "We're putting things together last two or three weeks; we were finally able to get some practices in. For a while it was game, practice, snow day."
New Riegel's strength also is Carey's strength: balance.
"I think we have four or five kids lead us in scoring in (different) games this year," Lucius said. "You like that balance. That's ideal. You need that balance to be efficient offensively."
Kara Scherger, Taylor Arbogast, Lauren Ladd and Taylor Kirian all average more than 10 points a game. Ladd, Arbogast and Kirian are among the league leaders in rebounding, with Ladd averaging eight a contest.
"New Riegel has such a great balanced team, a number of girls averaging double figures," Vaughn said. "They're a complete basketball team, we have to be ready for that."
Of course, Carey doesn't just lean on one player either. Sydney Wentling has had a fabulous year, averaging better than 13 points a game and leading the league in
assists, but the Blue Devils also have Ali Rymer (who hit the game-winning shot against Arcadia in the district finals and is averaging more than seven boards a game) as well as Logan Johnson (6.2 rebounds a game) and Makenzie Wentling (34.4 percent from 3-point range).
"I don't think in either case you can concentrate on stopping one person," Vaughn said. "The entire team on New Riegel, you have to be ready for them to score, and I like our balance too."
Lucius said boards will be critical.
"Their a strong rebounding team, that's a key stat for any game," he said. "Boards are huge."
Other than that, Lucius New Riegel will be looking for the same things today it has looked for all season. He's not expecting the stage of regionals- which his program is familiar with - to be much of a factor.
"Our kids have been down there, it's a big place, Lucius said of the Elida Fieldhouse. "We just focus on the game itself shut out all the other distractions. I think our kids are a mature enough bunch, I think they're ready."
Carey comes in 22-2. Vaughn said the Blue Devils are taking a simple approach.
"You can't get ahead of yourself, we have to go one possession at a time on them," Vaughn said. "Basketball is a game of runs. It's not just the run, it's how you respond to it."
Tipoff is at 6 p.m.