Viola: Linsly Teams Streaking
WHEELING -Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the basketball teams at The Linsly School have been streaking.
Figuratively, of course.
The two squads have combined for 27 consecutive victories so far this season.
With the OVAC tournament looming, they couldn’t have picked a better time to go on a run.
You see, this tournament means more to Linsly than any other high school in the Ohio Valley.
If the Cadets boys or girls want any shot at calling themselves champions, this is it.
They don’t have a state tournament to look forward to. It’s the OVAC or bust.
”The stakes are so much higher for us because we have to be in that top four,” fourth-year Linsly boys coach James Wallace said. ”For us to win a championship, we have to be darn near perfect. We know that. We embrace it. Some nights, if we just don’t have it, we have to overcome that.
”I think this group thrives on pressure. The more pressure you put on their plate, the more focused they get, the more sharp they get and the better they execute.”
The boys certainly must have been feeling the pressure escalating after a 1-3 start.
”When you play some of the teams we do early on, it forces our sophomores and juniors to learn what it means to play real varsity basketball,” Wallace said. ”Going through those tough early games really made us grow. It really forced us to embrace the roles we were in.
”We laid it out there and said ‘if we want to be successful, you’re going to have to embrace the role that we need you to embrace every single night.’ Our guys have done that.”
The Cadets (11-3) have ripped off 10 consecutive victories and find themselves in the fourth spot in the Class 3A standings with some distance between themselves and fifth-seeded Buckeye Trail (9-7).
All this following a season where the club went .500 and missed qualifying for the tournament.
”We’ve done a great job of just finding ways to win and understanding that the pressure has been positive for us,” Wallace said. ”A lot of teams may have felt that pressure of coming back and answering the bell. Our guys love that. They love to have to answer the bell. They enjoy tight games down the stretch. Sometimes they enjoy it a little too much and forget to put teams away.”
The Cadets will play host to Trinity Christian tonight. With today serving as the boys OVAC cutoff day, a Linsly victory would more than likely seal a playoff berth.
While the boys are still hoping for an invitation to the tournament, the girls have already mailed in their RSVP.
Coach Erica Hall’s squad, which has won 17 straight since a season-opening loss to Steubenville on the road, is the No. 1 seed in the girls’ Class 3A bracket.
Because of weather, however, their first-round matchup with No. 4 Magnolia (9-6) has been postponed until Wednesday night at the Stifle Fieldhouse.
Should the Cadets reach the title game, they’ll have to defeat the winner of No. 2 Fort Frye (13-2)/No. 3 Shenandoah (10-6) to claim their first OVAC tournament championship.
The boys are looking for their first title since they won the Class 2A championship in 2012.
Tony Viola can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.