Basketball and hockey tournaments are picking up steam, while wrestling concludes its season with the state tournament this week. The action in Northwest Ohio recently was just as notable. Four hoops players surpassed 1,000 career points, while four wrestlers from the same school are out to defend state titles.
March Madness has begun in earnest in Northwest Ohio and before it is over four state champions will be crowned. The burning question is whether or not any of those four champions will reside in the northwest corridor of the state. Only time will tell but, in the meantime, let’s take a look at who the leading candidates might be.
In Division I, nearly everyone ranks Sylvania Southview as the area’s top team. This is the same Southview that captured the Division II state football championship and now many of the same young men are attempting to pull of the same feat in basketball. It’s a long journey but they are a determined group.
Earlier in the year, Lima Senior was being touted by many as Northwest Ohio’s best hope in D-I but the Spartans have stumbled lately. Right now Senior must deal with serious challenges from Perrysburg, Mansfield Senior and Mansfield Madison in order to get out of the districts.
Back in the Toledo district, beyond Southview, there are a number of other quality teams looking to put together a tournament run similar to the one that Toledo Whitmer put together last March. Prominent among this group are frequent state semifinalist Toledo St. John’s, Toledo Waite, Toledo Rogers and Toledo Start. Any one of this group has the potential to get hot but the team playing the best recently has been St. John’s. Look for them to pose the biggest challenge to Southview’s quest.
Division II has no clear cut favorite but it does contain several teams that have demonstrated constant improvement over the course of the year. Look for this division to provide some of the best competition in the tournament and for the eventual winner to emerge as tournament tested.
The Swanton sectional is an excellent example of the quality of the teams offered in D-II. It would not be surprising to see any one of four teams playing in said sectional (Toledo Libbey, Defiance, Toledo Central Catholic, Bryan) to emerge and challenge for the district title.
Similarly, the bottom portion of the bracket has some interesting candidates as well. Napoleon and Lima Shawnee have enjoyed the best regular season success but the Rossford Bulldogs are an intriguing dark horse.
On the eastern side of the Division II bracket, Pemberville Eastwood, Upper Sandusky and Lexington are all laying claim to being the best. Upper Sandusky’s success in the state playoffs is widely known and Lexington is hoping to advance beyond the district level but it is Eastwood that enters the tournament with the best overall record, 18-2.
Mark down March 14 as the day of reckoning.
Probably no division will be more hotly contested in Northwest Ohio than Division III. No fewer than nine different schools enter the tournament with strong arguments for being the area’s best and a serious basketball fan could do a lot worse than buying a seat at one of the district contests involving these teams. Who will survive the showdown in Division III? Look for one of the following to be the champion: Milan Edison, Colonel Crawford, Defiance Tinora, Evergreen, Ottawa Hills, St. Henry, Ottawa-Glandorf, Lima Central Catholic and Liberty-Benton.
Division IV offers an equal number of intriguing possibilities. Pettisville (18-2), Continental (15-5), North Central (15-5), New Riegel (15-4), Plymouth (19-1), Delphos St. John’s (16-4) and Antwerp (16-4) all have supporters claiming that their team is the best. Of this group, Plymouth not only sports the best record they also have the easiest road.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Monroeville, Wrestling: Picking one team as the area’s best in any given week is usually a difficult task, however, this week that task has been made much easier due to the overwhelming performance this week of the Monroeville wrestling team.
The Eagles continued their quest to unseat Troy Christian as D-III state champions as they easily repeated as Owens CC district champions this past weekend. Monroeville scored 139.5 points to runner-up Milan Edison’s 119.5. The Eagles had four district champions in Hunter Stieber (119), Logan Stieber (125), Cam Tessari (130) and Chris Phillips (171). Oh yeah, all four are also looking to defend state titles this week.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Bruce Huntley, Toledo Central Catholic, Boys Basketball: The senior had a week to remember. Playing in the semifinals of the Toledo City League playoffs, Huntley led his Fighting Irish teammates to an upset victory over No. 1 seed Waite, 58-47, by scoring a game-high 26 points and then, two days later, added an additional 21 points in his team’s loss to St. John’s in the championship game.
Huntley’s performance capped a highly successful year for Huntley who led his team to a surprising spot in the City League playoffs and in the process established themselves as serious contenders in this week’s sectional tournament. The Irish were picked no better than eighth in this year’s City League race, but behind Huntley’s leadership, the Irish ended the regular season one win away from being crowned City League champions.
NEWS, NOTES AND NUGGETS
Strong in the Water: Toledo St. Francis swimmer, senior Roman Willets, won the state championship in the 200-yard freestyle with an impressive time of 1:36.68. Willets’ time was nearly four seconds faster than the second place finisher. The only other Northwest Ohio swimmer to capture an individual title was Napoleon junior Samantha Zuch. Zuch proved to be the state’s best in two different events: the 200 and 500 freestyle.
1,000 Points Scorers: This was the week that was for 1,000 points scorers as a number of individual basketball players reached that magical milestone. Among them were: Josh Vandemark of Hicksville, Chad Lewis of Swanton, Phillip Beans of Ottawa Hills and Aaron Craft of Liberty-Benton.
All-Around Talent: Napoleon junior Kendall Homan won her third straight all-around district gymnastic title this past weekend. In capturing this honor, Homan won individual event championships in the parallel bars and floor exercise. Homan will compete this weekend in the state championships to be held at Hilliard Darby High School.
Remarkable Comeback: Although their comeback came up short, the efforts of the Findlay Trojans’ hockey team must be recognized. In their district semifinal game with Sylvania Northview the Trojans fell behind 5-0 early and no one would have blamed them for packing it in, but instead the Trojans demonstrated their character by mounting a comeback that will be talked about for years.
After scoring a seemingly inconsequential goal late in the second period, the Trojans proceeded to score four goals in the third period, three within less than a minute, to force overtime. Unfortunately for Findlay faithful, Northview scored in the overtime to defeat the Trojans, 6-5. The Trojans, though, can hold their heads high knowing that they left everything they had on the ice.
Girls’ District Dream Game: Although supporters of Marion Harding and Perrysburg might argue otherwise, the game that everyone is waiting for this weekend is the probable re-match between Toledo Start and Toledo Waite. The two teams have met twice already this season with Start winning both contests but there are many that still believe that Waite is the better team. Prognosticators see the winner of this possible district final match-up as being Toledo’s best shot at placing a team in the state’s final four.
State Wrestling: The best wrestlers in the state will gather this weekend to determine the individual champions in thirteen (13) weight classes. Northwest Ohio has a number of strong candidates. Each of the following northwest Ohio wrestlers placed in last year’s state finals and is hoping to improve on their placement:
Garrett Manley (Holland Springfield, 103), Callen Vanderhoff (Marion Harding, 125), Justin Yetzer (Mansfield Madison, 140), Jerrel Valliant (Sandusky) and Greg Isley (Sylvania Southview, 189).
B.J. Miller (Defiance, 112), Brandon Gambucci (Lexington, 103), Jonathan McGookey (Perkins, 145), Dave Pickerel (Toledo Central Catholic, 215) and Logan Erb (Wapakoneta, 215)
Jonny Tolson (Delta, 112), Tim Majoy (Milan Edison, 112), Tyler Heminger (Galion Northmor, 112), Hunter Stieber (Monroeville, 103), Brian Merschman (Delphos St. John’s, 103), Alex Lopez (Patrick Henry, 125), Riki Reynolds (Marion Pleasant, 125), Logan Stieber (Monroeville, 125), Cam Tessari (Monroeville, 130), Kyle Begg (Bluffton, 135), Cody Coomes (Marion Pleasant, 140), Kyle Kwiat (Tiffin Calvert, 160), Chris Phillips (Monroeville, 171), Colton Bowers (Marion Pleasant, 189) and Stuart Miller (Delphos Jefferson, 215).