Matchups for OVAC Girls’ Tourney Announced

BELLAIRE — The path to an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference girls’ basketball championship has been revealed.

The pairings for the 11th annual Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls’ Basketball Championship, which opens Monday at the higher seeds’ gymnasiums, were officially set Tuesday morning at the conference office.

Along with the championship pairings being finalized, all of the teams that didn’t qualify in the top four of their respective class received their consolation tournament assignments.

The survivors of Monday’s 10 semifinal games will trek to Ohio University Eastern on Feb. 10 to play for the championship. The order of those games is Class 2A (10 a.m.), Class 3A (12:15 p.m.), Class 4A (2:30 p.m.), Class 5A (4:45 p.m.) and Class 1A (7 p.m.).

Here’s a look at each class:

CLASS 5A

Some interesting matchups are slated for the big-school division. Indian Creek, which has been one of the area’s Cinderella stories of the season, pocketed the top seed by virtue of a 14-3 record.

Creek won the first three big-school titles under this format, but hasn’t reached the title game since.

The Redskins won’t have an easy task of getting to the final this season as defending champion and talented Wheeling Park (10-5) awaits. The Patriots, who rolled past Parkersburg South for the title last year, have also won three titles on the OUE court. In its history, Park has won 13 OVAC titles, which trails only St. John Central’s 15 for the most of any school.

The other half of the bracket finds what will be a rematch. Two Rivers Athletic Conference foes Brooke and Parkersburg South will clash on the Bruins’ court in Wellsburg for the second time in three days. South comes north Saturday for the regular-season meeting.

Brooke earned the two seed at 12-3. The Bruins have never played in the championship game and have only escaped the consolation pool in the inaugural season of the event.

As for South, it is a solid 13-3. The Patriots have been to OUE on the regular, qualifying four times for the final in their relatively short history with the OVAC. However, South has just one title (2014) to show for it.

CLASS 4A

Cambridge, which dropped down to 4A this school year, wrapped up the top seed on the strength of a 14-2 record. The Bobcats, who are led by standout senior Lily Ritz, have never won an OVAC title in girls’ hoops. This is only the second time the Guernsey Countians have qualified for the top four.

To get to its first title game, they’ll need a victory against fourth-seeded St. Clairsville. The Red Devils got into the field Monday with their win over Steubenville and Harrison Central’s loss to Brooke. Coach Stacey Agnew’s team, which is the only team of the 20 to reach the semifinals to have a sub-.500 record, reached the 4A final last season, falling to Union Local. St. C., which hasn’t won an OVAC title since 2007, has played in three finals.

Second-seeded Buckeye Local is aiming for its second trip to OUE. The Panthers, who are led by their dynamic back-court duo of Emily Holzopfel and Alaire Destifanes, are 11-6 . Buckeye won its only title in 1992.

A semifinal date with Steubenville awaits the Panthers. Big Red is 8-8 and is coming off that loss to St. Clairsville. They have claimed five OVAC titles, including one in the playoff format in 2013.

CLASS 3A

Arguably the strongest field in the OVAC resides in this class with all four teams having at least 11 victories.

For the second straight season, Bellaire is the top seed. The Big Reds have been impressive, posting an 18-2 mark en route to a point average of 63.2, which trailed only Indian Creek in the entire conference.

Coach John Farrier’s team was upset by Linsly in the semifinal last season. The Big Reds haven’t won an OVAC title since 2006 and have never played in the championship game.

The path to a crown isn’t easy once again. Buckeye Trail, which knocked off the Cadets in that title game last season, qualified for the tournament after Union Local fell to John Marshall on Monday night. The Warriors are 11-5 and have played a challenging schedule inside the Inter-Valley Conference as well as against its OVAC opponents. All told, Trail owns three OVAC titles.

Wheeling Central — the reigning 2A champion — is the second seed. The Maroon Knights, despite dealing with injuries and illness, have been impressive with a 15-2 record. Coach Penn Kurtz’s teams have won three conference titles in the playoff format and the school owns 10 titles in all.

A perennial playoff entrant awaits, however, in Fort Frye. Coach Dan Liedtke’s well-drilled squad is the third seed at 14-3. The Fort owns five tournament OVAC titles and nine all together.

CLASS 2A

With Wheeling Central having moved up a class, 2A will also have a new champion.

Steubenville Central, which has been ranked in the Division IV Associated Press Poll most of the season, garnered the top seed with a 15-3 record. The Crusaders are seeking their first OVAC title since 1989. They fell to the Maroon Knights in last season’s title game. That was their second appearance in the final.

To make it a third trip to OUE, the Crusaders will have to contend with River, which has gotten hot late to propel itself into the field as the fourth seed. The Pilots are 10-7 and fought off Clay-Battelle for the final bid. River, which hasn’t won an OVAC title since 2004, has come up empty in three trips to the title game.

Shenandoah pocketed the second seed after completing the pre-OVAC portion of its schedule with a 13-5 mark. The Zeps won their only OVAC title in 2006 and have never played in the conference final in three appearances in the top four.

The Zeps’ path to St. Clairsville won’t be easy as Shadyside earned the third seed with a 14-5 record. The Tigers own seven OVAC titles and claimed hardware twice under the current format (2011 and 2013).

Neither of the semifinal matchups in this class occurred earlier this season.

CLASS 1A

A new champion is guaranteed in the small-school division since Frontier failed to qualify.

Cameron grabbed the top seed thanks to a 14-1 record. The Dragons haven’t reached the semifinal round of the OVAC since 2010 and have never won a conference title.

The Dragons will host Madonna, which is 8-9. The Blue Dons own 11 championships, but they won only once in the new format despite four title-game appearances.

The other half of the bracket finds Beallsville as the two seed. The Blue Devils have a solid 11-5 mark and are seeking their fourth trip to OUE. Of the six pennants they’ve claimed in hoops, two have come under this format. They went back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.

A challenging task with 8-8 Trinity Christian awaits the Monroe Countians. Trinity won its only OVAC title in 2012.

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