OVAC Boys’ Tourney Has Tough Act to Follow

Josh Strope Sports Editor

The Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls’ Basketball Championships concluded Saturday at Ohio University Eastern with four exciting finals filled with incredible performances.

Congrats to University, Beaver Local, Bellaire, River and Beallsville on capturing titles.

Now it’s your turn, fellas. Good luck following that act!

The boys’ tournament tips off at gyms across the Ohio Valley on Tuesday for semifinals. The finals are Saturday back at OUE.

Like last week, The Intelligencer, Times Leader and Herald Star will have you covered on all the action this week.

You can also check out photos from the action on our slideshows at www.theintelligencer.net.

Now, I hate to toot my own horn, but last week, I correctly predicted four of the championship games, as well as four champions.

So naturally you are on the edge of your seats to see who I am predicting to win the boys’ titles.

Despite my predictions, good luck to all the teams!

Class 5A

Morgantown at Wheeling Park. Steubenville at University.

Talk about big-time programs playing big-time games. This is going to be an interesting bracket.

If you would have asked me last week, I would be big time riding the Wheeling Park train. The Patriots were on a roll, but suffered three losses in four days last week.

One of those losses was a road setback to Morgantown in overtime.

The rematch takes place at the Palace on the Hill and Coach Michael Jebbia will have to get his reeling Patriots ready to take on a Mohigans team that could possibly also stand in their way of making the trip to Charleston for the state tournament.

This is a hard one to predict, but Wheeling Park is too talented to not get it together. Alex Vargo, Keondre’ King and De’Vaughn McWhorter make up a solid trio. I am going to pick the Patriots to get off the schneid, hold home court and earn a victory against the Mohigans.

University better be ready for a physical battle when it welcomes Steubenville. Coach Mike Haney’s team was at the top of the conference for most of the year before slipping down to the No. 3 seed. And it is not like Big Red went on a free fall. Losses to Wheeling Park and Meadowbrook are nothing to be ashamed of.

Still, University is a state title contender and I will go with the home team.

That puts the Hawks and Patriots into the middle game Saturday and a rubber match at that. The teams split their meetings with each winning on their home court. This one will be on a neutral court (although much closer for Wheeling Park).

Often when I make these predictions, I go with the best player on the court. That is University’s Kaden Metheny.

And if you know how good Vargo and King are, that should tell you something about Metheny. If you haven’t seen this young man play, be at OUE at 2 p.m. I predict he takes over in the fourth quarter and the Hawks earn a third straight championship.

Final: University 73, Wheeling Park 64

Class 4A

Of all the semifinal matches in the tournament, the one I am most interested in is St. Clairsville at Oak Glen.

These are two of the most balanced teams in the valley. Both feature players that can take a game over (St. Clairsville’s Matt Busby and Craig Bober, and Oak Glen’s Ethan Travis and Sean Smith), as well as extremely talented second options.

I have gone back and forth on this one probably five times. I expect this to come down to one possession, a buzzer-beater, overtime.

When in doubt, go with the home team. Oak Glen escapes.

On the other side, Meadowbrook begins its swan song in the OVAC against East Liverpool. The Colts are leaving the conference after this season and are the three-time defending champions.

They have wins against Steubenville and Wheeling Central. They made a run to the state tournament last season and looked poised to do so again.

The Colts walk out the door with one final trophy.

Final: Meadowbrook 79, Oak Glen 65

Class 3A

One of the hard things as a reporter is there are so many teams in the OVAC to keep track of. Especially some of the ones that are a little farther away that don’t report scores to us. That being said, I know very little about Shenandoah and Fort Frye, the top two teams in Class 3A.

I haven’t even come across them during my referee travels.

That makes picking the winner of this tournament a little tough.

Barnesville will oppose Fort Frye in one of the semifinals, while Monroe Central gets top-seeded Shenandoah.

The Shamrocks’ Luke Powell is a dynamic scorer. Barnesville athletics director Mark Cook is as good as they come and a Notre Dame fan. And honestly, if I went chalk for every bracket, what fun would this be?

This is my upset pick of the tournament. Barnesville wins its first OVAC title.

Final: Barnesville 59, Shenandoah 57

Class 2A

I think most people would be shocked if top-seeded Toronto and No. 2 seed Wheeling Central weren’t playing in the nightcap come Saturday night.

These are two of the more balanced , well-coached teams in the valley.

Still, don’t sleep on Wellsville or Shadyside.

I had a chance to referee a game featuring Wellsville this season, and let me tell you, these guys are as athletic as they come and can jump out of the gym.

Shadyside is Shadyside and most nights they are going to have a chance to win just because of veteran Ed Andes’ coaching. (On a side note, congrats to Coach Andes on recently earning win No. 300, joining Wheeling Central’s Mel Stephens, who also reached that mark this season).

Not to be boring and like everyone else, but Toronto and Wheeling Central just seem to be on a collision course.

Wheeling Central has won six straight OVAC championships (last year’s 3A title, the previous five in Class 2A). It is the defending state champion and looks poised to make another run. In fact, the Maroon Knights just hammered the top-ranked team in W.Va. Class A Notre Dame by 19 points.

No one knows how to prepare his team for big game situations like Stephens. And until someone in the OVAC knocks them from that perch, it is hard to go against them. A wise man once said, “to be the man, you have to beat the man.”

Final: Wheeling Central 61, Toronto 50

Class 1A

Last season, Trinity denied Cameron its first boys’ basketball championship with a 52-40 victory.

Trinity should have no problem with Frontier, while Cameron must play a game Beallsville squad that will be playing with a lot of emotion following the girls’ team’s win.

Still, I expect Coach Tom Hart’s Dragons to pull through and set up this rematch with the Warriors.

Trinity has won two of the past three titles. The Warriors have an impressive resume this season with a win over Wheeling Central at the Undo’s Tournament. Of their five losses, two have come to top-ranked Notre Dame, two to No. 2 Greater Beckley Christian and one to No. 3 and undefeated Webster County.

Another thing the Warriors have is an 88-57 win against Cameron.

Final: Trinity 80, Cameron 67

Josh Strope can be reached at jstrope@theintelligencer.net

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