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Cancer Research Classic Boasts Stellar Lineup

Photo by Seth Staskey Dr. Gregory Merrick, center, the director of the Schifler Cancer Center at Wheeling Hospital, was presented a check by Frank O’Brien, left, the Executive Director of Wheeling Convention Visitor’s Bureau and Wheeling City Manager Bob Herron for sponsorships of the upcoming Cancer Research Classic, which is scheduled for Jan. 4-5 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. Merrick founded the event and also serves as it’s director.

WHEELING — It’s gotten to the point where it’s almost like a broken record.

Each summer, when Dr. Gregory Merrick announces the lineup for the annual Cancer Research Classic, you can almost set your watch to it that Merrick will proclaim that it’s the best lineup of teams to date.

And ever since the event’s inception, Merrick hasn’t been exaggerating when he says it.

With the 12th annual event beginning Friday, Merrick was eagerly awaiting the release of the latest USA Today poll late last week.

“We have seven teams in the top 13, including the top four,” Merrick, the director and founder of the CRC, said. “Our (scheduled) teams have done remarkably well in the early part of their seasons.”

Included in the rankings are the entire top four, with three of those teams — La Lumiere (No. 1), McEachern (No. 2), DeMatha (No. 3) and Montverde Academy (No. 4) — will be on the court at WesBanco Arena this weekend on each of the two days of the event, which will feature 12 games.

The premier game of the weekend is slated for 3 p.m. Saturday and it’ll be a rematch of a game contested earlier this month in Hawaii. La Lumiere won, 58-51, in the semifinals of the tournament, which it went on to win.

“If you’ve even heard of basketball and don’t show up for that game, there’s something wrong,” Merrick said. “It’s a grudge match with limitless proportions.”

La Lumiere has three Wheeling connections on its roster. Doug Wojcik — a former college coach and Wheeling Central graduate — sends both of his sons, Paxon and Denham, to the school, which is based in Indiana.

And just this past week, Merrick’s youngest son, Milos, enrolled at the school after being at IMG Academy and joined the team for its trip to South Dakota this weekend.

Montverde, which lost its entire starting five to graduation from last season, hasn’t missed a beat. Actually, its head coach Kevin Boyle believes this is the best team he’s ever had.

“He has 16 Division I players on his team,” Merrick said.

Before their Saturday encounter, La Lumiere will take on Bishop Gorman from Las Vegas at 4:20 p.m. Friday and Montverde will follow at 6 p.m. against Norcross from Georgia, which is led by Class of 2020 USC commit Daniel Ramsey.

First-time CRC participant Sunrise Christian, which is located in Kansas, will play on both days as well. It will take on Imhotep, which is a defensive-minded team from Philadelphia, at 7:45 p.m. on Friday and then play Findlay Prep from near Las Vegas at 1:20 p.m. on Saturday.

Sunrise features 7-foot junior N’Faly Dante, who is ranked ninth nationally in his class. Sunrise features three other Division I signees, including Jordan Turner (Baylor), Grant Sherfield (UCLA) and Austin Crowley (Vanderbilt).

Another game on the Saturday lineup to keep an eye on will be DeMatha, which is a powerhouse from Washington D.C., against Norcross.

DeMatha is coached by Mike Jones, who is a high-ranking mentor in the USA Basketball program and features a junior-laden lineup that includes junior Hunter Dickinson, who has been a force in the CRC in his prior two appearances.

The complete schedule for the Cancer Research Classic looks like this:

Friday

1:00 p.m. — Wheeling Park vs. Moon (Moon Township, PA)

2:40 p.m. — Findlay Prep (Henderson, NV) vs. McEachern (Powder Springs, GA)

4:20 p.m. — La Lumiere (La Porte, IN) vs. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, NV)

6:00 p.m. — Montverde Academy (Montverde, FL) vs. Norcross (Norcross, GA)

7:45 p.m. — Imhotep (Philadelphia, PA) vs. Sunrise Christian (Bel Aire, KS)

Saturday

10:00 a.m. — Wheeling Central Catholic vs. Butler (Butler, PA)

11:40 a.m. — Roselle Catholic (Roselle, NJ) vs. First Love Christian (Washington, PA)

1:20 p.m. — Findlay Prep (Henderson, NV) vs. Sunrise Christian (Bel Aire, KS)

3:00 p.m. — Montverde Academy (Montverde, FL) vs. La Lumiere (La Porte, IN)

4:40 p.m. — Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, NV) vs. Gonzaga (Washington, DC)

6:05 p.m. — DeMatha (Hyattsville, MD) vs. Norcross (Norcross, GA)

7:45 p.m. — Imhotep (Philadelphia, PA) vs. McEachern (Powder Springs, GA)

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