There is a Buckeye 8 showdown scheduled for tonight as the St. Clairsville Red Devils (11-1, 13-3) look to wrap up the conference championship when they travel to Martins Ferry (10-2, 12-4) to take on the Purple Riders.
The Riders may have different ideas, as a win tonight would give them a chance to win the prize. Both teams play their final Buckeye 8 contest on Friday with the Red Devils hosting Edison and the Purple welcoming rival Bellaire.
Here are the scenarios:
If St. Clairsville wins tonight the Devils lock up the title.
If St. Clairsville loses tonight but defeats Edison and Ferry loses on Friday the Belmont county seat will be crowned.
If Ferry wins tonight and Friday and St. Clairsville beats Edison the two will share the championship.
The Riders win tonight and then defeat Bellaire and the Red and Grey loses Friday then head coach Jeff Sabatino’s bunch is the lone champion.
Martins Ferry beats St. Clairsville and both teams lose on Friday the two will spilt the championship.
The Riders were put in this position due to the Edison ordeal as the Purple lost a conference game to the Wildcats a few weeks back. However, the Riders were given the win with Edison being forced by the OHSAA to forfeit its first 12 games.
Both teams are coming off sluggish performances on Tuesday night, but each resulted in a triumph. The Purple started slow against Union Local, but pulled away in the second half for a 55-37 victory over an undermanned Jet contingent. Meanwhile, the Red Devils went on the road to Cadiz to defeat the Harrison Central, 66-55.
The Riders received good inside play from senior Josh Bable (11 points) and sophomore Jordan Burress (14 points), which eventually was the difference in the contest. Senior Tony Sabatino (12 points all on treys) got free for some open looks from distance and cashed in thanks to the inside/outside game. Senior guard Derek Edwards (10 points) was hampered with foul trouble for the majority of the night. The Riders were down 20-18 in the waning seconds of the first half when Josh Bable got a jump hook to fall to knot the game at 20, which swung momentum heading into the third stanza.
The Red Devils received 19 points including five triples from senior Anthony Vincent and 12 counters from senior Dustin Hynes in victory. The Red and Grey found itself down three after one and deadlocked at 26 by intermission. However, the Devils used a 23-13 third chapter advantage to pull away for victory.
The initial contest between these two squads, which was a 42-34 Devils win seemed like it was moons ago. Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the first meeting, but some of that was attributed to both teams playing solid defense.
These two teams have a history of splitting with each other over the past eight years. Many close games have been played when these two get together. It’s usually a physical, low scoring battle. Expect much of the same tonight if the first match up was any indication.
Both teams have quality guards, however, St. Clairsville has more depth at this position. Inside, the Riders have the advantage with size and depth. Don’t be surprised if Sabatino uses four bigs in the paint tonight with the aforementioned Bable and Burress along with seniors Steve McIntosh and Lance Rossini.
To me, the clear advantage in this game is St. Clairsville’s overall team quickness and speed. Edwards has above average quickness for Ferry and Clay Francis has adequate quickness, but the Red Devils are blessed with loads of athleticism, quickness, and speed. Vincent, Hynes, sophomore Daniel Slavik, senior Michael Bigelow, and juniors Ryan Jarvie and Kaz Pata can all get out and run the floor. Again, a definite advantage for coach Kim Clifford’s unit.
This game comes down to tempo. If Ferry is able to keep this a half court encounter the Riders will have a good chance for victory. That has to be top priority for the Purple nation. The Red Devils, obviously, want to force a frenetic pace allowing for easy transition buckets. Half court game will favor Ferry, while up-tempo gives the Devils a certain advantage.
Martins Ferry is unbeaten at home this season between “the stage” and the two games at the new gymnasium.
St. Clairsville is (7-1) on the road this year with the lone setback coming to Weir (WV), 87-74.
Both teams are in the hunt for the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Tournament next week. St. Clairsville was ranked first in the latest standings, while the Riders are sitting in the three spot.
This game was scheduled for January 15, but inclement weather forced it to be cancelled.