With the final, regular-season Friday of southeast Ohio boys’
basketball in the books, it is time to scan the southeast part of the
Buckeye State for all the conference champions. The list has many
perennial names – however, some new faces have found their way to the
championship circle as well.
Shayne Combs has more.
The first stop would have to be in the Southeast Ohio Athletic League where you find a pair of Division II state title contenders in Chillicothe (SEOAL South Champion) led by its fine All-Ohio guard Anthony Hitchens and Zanesville (SEOAL North Champion). These two powerhouses have already collided once this season with Chillicothe coming from behind to win, but Saturday’s first-place game in the SEOAL’s Day of Champions will serve as the rematch and a winner-take-all in terms of conference supremacy.
Canal Winchester – a team that is not in the southeast but plays in a Mid-State League Buckeye Division that is made up of several southeast members – ran the table holding off southeast power Logan Elm to capture the MSL title. Canal is led by Buckeye-bound B.J. Mullins, and is another major final-four contender in the Division II tournament.
Coach Matt Combs and his Vinton County Vikings ran the table in the Tri Valley Conference’s Ohio Division to win VC’s fourth league title in five years. If VC can win at Waterford Saturday night in a non-conference battle, the 19-1 mark for Vinton County would make the Vikings 39-1 in the past two regular seasons and winners of 45 of their last 46 regular season games. The maroon and white are led by the inside-out combo of center Dustin Guthrie and sharp-shooter Ryan Stewart.
Staying in Division II, the Muskingum Valley League championship goes to Tri-Valley High School. The Scotties has only one blemish on the season record, and they capture the MVL by a pair of games over the Tornadoes of West Muskingum.
The SCOL was a conference title that was still a little undecided entering Friday night. Madison-Plains had already clinched a share of the league, but they got knocked off by Washington Court House opening the door for Greenfield McClain. Coach Rick VanMatre’s McClain team took full advantage beating London 60-47 to force a share between the Golden Eagles and the Tigers.
Division III talk in the southeast this season has started with the Scioto Valley Conference champion. This title belongs to Coach Rick Uhrig’s Huntington Huntsmen. The Huntsmen finish the season at 18-2 – their only hiccups came at Zane Trace and Friday night in the season finale against Adena – and have been a mainstay in the Division III top-five all season long. The Huntsmen are responsible for Vinton County’s only loss this season, and they also have wins over Division II teams Circleville and Waverly as well. The green and white are led by senior point-guard Josh Kellough. Kellough, a near certain to be named SVC Player-of-the-Year for the second straight season later this weekend, has dominated the league averaging well over 20 points per contest.
Another trio of Division III teams that will compete with Huntington for a sweet-sixteen spot later this month is South Point (Ohio Valley Conference Champion), North Adams (Southern Hills League Champion), and the Pirates of Wheelersburg (Southeastern Ohio Conference II Champion). The Pointers are led by the talented Todd Mayo while legendary coach Dave Young hangs yet another banner for North Adams. Wheelersburg dropped an early season decision to Oak Hill; however, Tom Barrick’s Pirates, who are led by their talented senior Drew Spradlin, beat Oak Hill in the second round. Wheelersburg then got some help from McDermott Northwest, when they handed Oak Hill a second league loss, and then the Pirates completed the championship Friday night with a 71-40 win over South Webster.
In the other half of the Southeastern Ohio Conference – the SOC I – Symmes Valley, Western, and New Boston entered Friday night tied at two losses across the board. New Boston beat Western 71-67 in overtime while Symmes Valley defeated Eastern Pike 69-58. This sets up a winner-take-all showdown Saturday night when New Boston travels to Symmes Valley for a make-up game to complete the conference season.
Federal Hocking captured the Tri Valley Conference Hocking Division. Federal Hocking was challenged by a very talented Waterford team; however, the Lancers were able to beat the Wildcats in each of their head-to-head meetings to clinch the title.
Each of these conference champions now start down the tournament trail next week. Most of these champions are owners of No. 1 or No. 2 seeds making them heavy favorites to win sectional titles and advance to the district tournament.