It’s that weekend of the year: district semifinals for Division III and Division IV at the Convocation Center on the campus of Ohio University in Athens. Four Scioto County’s best will represent southern Ohio this weekend with a chance in the district finals on the line, and one of our two remaining girls’ teams will face a top ten ranked team in Division III for a district title. We preview those four games below.
Division III District Final: Wheelersburg (21-4) vs. Eastern Brown (23-2), 12 p.m. at Waverly’s Downtown Arena
By now, the Pirates have to be getting used to knocking off physical teams with more size than them, right? After beating Fairland by a 55-45 final in overtime this past weekend, Wheelersburg will face another battle-tested team in Eastern Brown this weekend … only this time, with chance to go to the Sweet 16 on the line.
The Warriors feature three capable scorers in Camryn Pickerill, Allison Malott and Morgan Reynolds while 6-foot-1 senior Alexa Pennington patrols the paint. After the Pirates’ win over Fairland, ‘Burg coach Dusty Spradlin said, “Eastern Brown has some similarities to Fairland because they have size. But they’re even bigger and stronger.” He’s not wrong. Eastern Brown boasts of wins against quality opponents this season in the likes of Lynchburg-Clay (twice), North Adams (twice), Georgetown and Western Brown, among others.
As for Wheelersburg, they also bring a strong resume into the contest, thanks to the likes of Abbie Kallner, Kaylee Darnell, Ellie Kallner and Alaina Keeney; a foursome that have handled most of the team’s scoring duties this year. When that’s mixed in with the defensive pressure from Lauren Jolly and Lani Irwin, as well as solid minutes on the floor from senior Karlie Estep, you’ve got something special.
The Pirates are no stranger to being underdogs as they’ve embraced that role throughout the district tournament run. If Abbie Kallner and Darnell get hot, the Pirates certainly have a chance in this one. What goes unnoticed is Wheelersburg’s ability to rebound … even with that smaller lineup. The recipe for success is a simple one concerning the Pirates. Keep the Warriors off the glass, nail down open shots and take care of the basketball.
Division III District Semifinal: Wheelersburg (23-0) vs. North Adams (18-4), 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center
After facing a somewhat unexpected test from eight seeded Meigs last Friday in Jackson in the sectional final, the Wheelersburg Pirates (23-0) will move on to the Convo in Athens for the Division III district semifinal game against the North Adams Green Devils Saturday evening at 6:15 p.m.
North Adams will be heading to Athens for district tournament play for first time since the 2012-13 postseason, a six year drought from the Convo. To do so, the Green Devils topped the Piketon Redstreaks 58-41 in their sectional final matchup in Waverly last Saturday.
Elijah Young and Austin McCormick led North Adams in scoring last Saturday with 15 points apiece and will be two players to watch in order for the Pirates to avoid an upset bid.
Another thing the Pirates will need to do to avoid a potential upset as a number one seed and the third ranked team in Division III in the final AP poll of the season is a bad start. When they trailed Meigs 12-0 to start last Friday’s sectional final, they were able to get good looks at the basket, but were unable to convert on any basket for nearly six and a half minutes of game action. Not that they were taking bad shots, they just weren’t falling. For the game, Wheelersburg committed just five turnovers in their win over Meigs last Friday.
A fast start and continuing the things they’ve excelled at so far this season will help Wheelersburg secure a spot in next Saturday’s district final.\
Division III District Semifinal: Valley (9-15) vs. Alexander (15-8), 8:15 p.m. Saturday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center
Let’s call a spade a spade: Valley isn’t even supposed to be playing in this game. During their tournament run, the Indians have silenced their critics with wins over Paint Valley and Eastern Brown, both higher seeds.
Guess what … the Indians certainly have a chance to continue their run against Alexander, who upset Fairland back on Feb. 23 by a 49-26 final. The Spartans, however, do have good wins to show for, including victories over Vinton County (twice), Nelsonville-York and, as mentioned, Fairland. They’re also no stranger to SOC II basketball, having beaten Minford and losing to Oak Hill.
On the opposite side, Valley brings in momentum and a charge that’s being led by, well, a different character every night. Tanner Cunningham and Andrew Shope are more than capable of scoring while Tyler Mitchell, Mason Zaler and Kayden Mollette have also made significant contributions down the stretch. While, again, the No. 10 seeded Indians won’t be favored to win, they, again, don’t care. After their sectional title win over Eastern Brown, coach Eric Horton said his team is enjoying playing the Cinderella role. So far, that glass slipper has fit perfectly.
Division IV District Semifinal: South Webster (13-10) vs. New Boston (17-6), 2 p.m. Sunday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center
The third matchup between South Webster and New Boston in the last 364 calendar days has the chance at being the most hyped to this point.
In their first matchup, South Webster came out on top 48-41 in the district finals a season ago in New Boston’s first district semifinal appearance since 2000.
Earlier this season on December 1st, in the Tigers second game of the year and South Webster’s first game of the year, both teams played at an incredibly high level. In the end, due to three missed free throws in the final seconds by senior Tyler Caldwell, South Webster escaped an extremely tough test from a hungry New Boston squad to win 63-61.
For the Tigers, this postseason, they’re prepared to show southern Ohio they mean business, and a win at the Convo Sunday would do just that. Kyle Sexton is one of the biggest threats on both ends of the court in the district, and his supporting cast of Caldwell, Marcus Saunders, Malachi Potts, and freshmen guards Grady Jackson and Jerome McKinley make New Boston a real threat against any opponent thanks to their diversity. If the Tigers execute in the half court as well as they get out in transition off of forced turnovers, New Boston will position themselves nicely for a win.
On the other hand, South Webster returns nearly all of their players from last season’s district final team including standout senior Shiloah Blevins, great shooters in Brayden Bockway and Tanner Voiers, and more senior leadership in Jacob Ruth and Samuel Holstein. If the Jeeps play their best game defensively against a team in New Boston that likes to get up and down, there’s a decent chance they’ll be playing next Thursday with a district title on the line.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT