June 26, 2013
By Andrew Vogel
Wooster Daily Record
After more than three undefeated seasons in the Dawg Days Summer League, Taggart Law Firm has already seen its winning streak come to an end this season.
With its three-year reign on the line in tonight's Final Four, the real story will be if a team can knock off the champs for a second time this summer.
The Dawg Days Summer League is in its fourth season under director Morgan Wenger, and in each of the three previous seasons, TLF has cruised to a title. In fact, from 2010-2012, TLF won all 28 games and rolled to three league championships. The law firm goes for its fourth title tonight, but will have to get past arguably the deepest slate of teams in the league's four-year history as TLF (6-1) plays Lights Out (6-1) at 7 pm in the second semifinal. The earlier semi features Hiland Alumni (7-0) against 79 Entertainment (4-3) at 6. The two winners will face off in the championship at 8 pm. All games will be played at Village Green Park in Dalton and, in the event of rain, the contests will be moved to the Orrville-Dalton YMCA.
After having success with his annual 3-on-3 tournament, which began in 2006, Wenger decided to put together a summer league in 2010. Each year, the talent in the league improved and it's now the top summer league in the area, attracting many top players from outside Wayne and Holmes Counties as well.
"It's evolved into an even better league than at the start," said Wenger, "because people like the competition and the league gets better every year."
Look no further for evidence of the league's increased depth than the fact that TLF actually lost a game this summer, falling to Hiland 63-59 on June 12. Prior to that setback, TLF had won its first 31 league contests.
The law firm's success is due to the Zacour quartet, as brothers Paul, David, Daniel and Stephen combine to give TLF the most balanced squad in the league. Wenger said Paul (6-foot-4) is a lock-down perimeter defender, while 6-5 Daniel (27.0 points per game) is the league's second-leading scorer. Stephen (6-3) and David (6-4) give TLF a quartet of starters 6-3 or taller.
"They have a lot of size and they play good team defense," said Wenger. "Paul's so good at slowing down the other team's big scorer."
Hiland, meanwhile, has put together a formidable group of its own, led by Seger Bonifant, Jason Mishler, Josh Miller, and Joel Miller. In Hiland's win over TLF, Mishler exploded for 27 points and, at 5-7, showed the quickness to get around Paul.
"They're different from the Zacour brothers in that they try to outscore you," said Wenger. "They're not worried if you score a basket or two because they think they're going to outscore you over the long haul and in most cases they've been able to do that."
One key factor for Hiland will be the health of Bonifant, who scored 12 in the victory over TLF two weeks ago. Bonifant is nursing a sore ankle and Wenger is unsure of his availability for tonight's games.
Given that Hiland is responsible for TLF's lone loss in 35 contests, it's tempting to predict a rematch. Wenger, however, is wary of discounting either 79 Entertainment or Lights Out.
Seventy-nine Entertainment is made up of players mostly from Dover and New Philadelphia, but boasts arguably the best player in the league in Ricky Jackson, who hails from Canton.
"Ricky is a load inside," said Wenger. "Jackson is the MVP of the league and you never count out the best player."
Lights Out, meanwhile, has a few players from last year's runner-up team, D-Block, which lost to TLF 93-64. In that game, Jacob Bolyard had 26 points and the former Orrville star gets another shot as the leading scorer for Lights Out. Bolyard also leads the league with 27.6 ppg. Wenger said Bolyard going up against Paul Zacour will be a fun matchup to watch.
"You have one of the best wing defenders on one of the best wing scorers," said Wenger.
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