United, Orville have some similarities

HANOVERTON – With the United preparing to face the fourth-ranked Orrville in tonight’s regional semifinal girls basketball matchup, many are anxious to see what differences the two teams have on the basketball floor. The answer could be not much.

Both teams enter the game with 24-2 records. They also hold long winning streaks entering the game Orrville has won 17 straight, while United has a school-record 16 consecutive wins. Both teams are also searching for their first state championship.

Beyond the stat sheets, United and Orrville play a similar style of basketball.

“They’re very like us,” United coach Sam Mathias. “They love to run up and down the floor and score in bunches, but they also use defensive pressure to force second-chance shots.”

The Red Riders compete in the Ohio Cardinal Conference. They finished conference play at 11-2, with both of their losses coming to league champion Millersburg West Holmes. West Holmes is ranked third in the Division II state poll and was the state runner-up last season..

Orrville is led by senior guard Hannah Plybon, a prized University of Akron recruit and a three-time first-team All-Ohioan. Plybon averages 24.6 points and scored her 2,000th career point Saturday in the Red Riders’ 58-51 district championship victory over Canton Central Catholic, their second district title in the past three years. Plybon has scored 639 points this season, second most in school history.

“They’re very athletic, very fast. The guard they have is really good.” United guard Emily Zehentbauer said. “There’s no room to be nervous though.”

Coaching Orrville is Mark Alberts Sr. Alberts has 33 years of coaching experience in boys basketball Danville, Fredricktown and Wooster as well as five years as Orrville’s girls basketball coach. He plans to retire after the season. Alberts has 543 career wins. The Red Riders’ win in the district championship marked 100 victories for Alberts while at Orrville.

Orrville has a record of 597-310 in 34 seasons of girls basketball. Just like United, the 24 wins Orrville accumulated this season are the most in school history.

United is led by the senior Zeheutbauer, who scores 15.4 points per game this regular season. Senior Courtney Hydrick follows at 11.0 points and junior Mackenzie Gatchel at 9.8 points.

This is United’s second straight regional semifinal appearance. Last year, the Golden Eagles fell 45-29 to Smithville.

United is coached by Sam Mathias, who is 44-5 in two seasons.

United will face Orrville at 8 p.m. today at Cuyahoga Falls High School.