Brock Netter, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Tournament seeds have been revealed, brackets have been released and the best part of the season, in our opinion, is upon us.
A loss means the end of the road while a win means moving on. This is where we’ve seen average teams become great. It’s where great players make a name for themselves. It’s where pressure can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
But most of all, it’s where legendary stories find their origins.
Here’s a brief preview of what to look for during the most exciting part of the year.
First round games to watch
DIVISION II: No. 10 Athens (10-7) at No. 7 Unioto (15-5): This is the first time since Joe Burrow’s senior year that these two teams will face one another. Athens is a scrappy team that knows how to survive close games, led by Brayden Whiting and Will Matters. But they’ll have to stop the inside presence of Unioto’s Tayvion Galloway, Cater Markko and Evan Park with Isaac Little running the show. This could come down to the wire.
DIVISION III: No. 18 Northwest (6-13) at No. 15 Zane Trace (7-10): It’s a battle of the big men in this one. Northwest’s Austin Newman (6-foot-4) and Brycen Carver (6-foot-7) against Kyle Stonerock (6-foot-3) and Nalin Robinson (6-foot-4). Expect a knockdown, drag out. First to 40 wins. Winner earns a date with Wheelersburg with a chance to send shock waves throughout Division III.
DIVISION IV: No. 9 Notre Dame (11-8) at No. 8 South Webster (8-12): A lot of hype surrounding this is due to Notre Dame wanting one more chance at New Boston in the second round. But it’ll have to get by a pesky South Webster team with Trae Zimmerman, Cam Carpenter, Connor Bender and company who can get hot from distance at any moment. You won’t find a better first-round matchup.
Assuming these teams win their opening tournament games, which is never a given, these teams have a chance at pulling off second-round upsets.
West: In the second round, the Senators will get a second crack at conference rival Wheelersburg, who has already beaten them twice. The Senators have put together an incredible season behind Luke Howard, Rodney Moore and others, winning 16 games. The old saying is that revenge is a dish best served cold, and there’s no colder revenge than knocking out the Pirates in a district semifinal on their home court.
Jackson: The Ironmen would meet with No. 3 Hillsboro for a third time this season, and the trilogy surely would live up to the hype as both teams own a victory over one another. Having to travel back to Hillsboro where the Indians beat the Ironmen would give them all the motivation needed not to just win, but earn a sectional final victory Jackson fell short of last year. Drew Bragg must be aggressive, Boston Kuhn has to hit shots and the Ironmen need to rebound. They’ve done it once, it very well could happen again.
Unioto: A little strange being on this side, huh Unioto? For the past eight years or so, Unioto has been one of the top-tier programs, and still is, in Southeast Ohio. But this team as a No. 7 seed should scare others. Remember, it was a 7-seed (Logan Elm) who the Tanks faced in the second round, won a district title last year. That could be Unioto this year, especially with Little leading the way along with knock down shooters like Gunnar Greenwalt and the Debords — Carson and Cam, with Galloway and DeSean Branson bringing the energy. Plus, Matt Hoops is still the coach.
Why not us?
That’s the rallying cry that so many teams are preaching right now.
To be a Cinderella, you have to peak at the right time, have a great coaching staff, feature at least one elite player and … as always … lady luck has to be in your corner.
Hillsboro, Piketon and Notre Dame fit the criteria.
HILLSBORO: It’s very weird to consider a No. 3 seed as a Cinderella type of team, but think of all the program history the Indians are making this season. Beat Chillicothe for the first time, ever. Won a share of the conference title for the first time since 1998. In the midst of one of its best season in school history — ranking up there with the years the program had in 1979-80, 1988-89 and 1989-90. This is brand new territory for Ryan Scott, Hunter Price, Quinton Captain and company. And if they wins a district title to cap everything off, that’s something straight out of a movie.
PIKETON: The Redstreaks are a very weird team. They’ve lost to Unioto and Adena twice, but have beaten Trimble and South Point. They have all the potential to either lose the opening game, or beat Eastern Brown in a district final if they feel like it. Chris Chandler is one of the best in Southern Ohio, surrounded by Levi Gullion, Tra Swayne, Brody Fuller and Kydan Potts. The Redstreaks have West Union, Chesapeake and Eastern Brown on its road to a district crown. Once again, if they feel like it, the Redstreaks could hoist some hardware.
NOTRE DAME: Has anyone seen the Titans this season? While their record isn’t the flashiest, they’re tough and make you earn every single point. Remember, this team pushed New Boston to the buzzer in overtime, so they showed in a small way that they can compete with any team. Johnathan Strickland, Caleb Nichols, Dylan Seison and company have the motivation to do something special. It starts with South Webster, followed by a potential showdown again with New Boston. Watch out.
This is the fun part for me. Feel free to DM/ tweet me (@SirBrockNetter) with all of your angry messages after reading this part. I like the interaction.
A. Peebles will win a district title. The Indians have been quarantined three times this season, which has caused their chemistry to not fully form. However, now they’re starting to piece things together as they’ve won three of their last four games behind Oakley Burba, Dawson Mills and Alan McCoy. As a No. 7 seed, they’d have to run through South Gallia at home, Trimble and Federal Hocking on the road if the seeds worked out. Tough, but not impossible.
B. Valley will make it to a district final. When head coach Norm Persin took over Oak Hill’s program in 2007, the Oaks went from 3-20 to 11-11 and won a district title. Valley is a young team compiled of mostly freshmen and sophomores, but it can shoot the ball and plays tough behind Jace Copley, Bryce Stuart and Ty Perkins. With matchups against South Gallia and Whiteoak, the Indians very well could shoot their way into a district final.
C. North Adams upsets top-seeded Fairland. It’s called bold predictions for a reason, so why not go big? But then again, this might not be as farfetched as it sounds. North Adams is a physical team on the inside with Fulton Kennedy and the Meade’s — Cade and Seth. And it has solid guard play with Jayden Hessler, Bransyn Copas, Seth Vogel and others. Fairland has struggled at times with physical teams (i.e. Eastern Brown, South Point, Zane Trace). The Green Devils have the elements to shock Division III.
So, who wins district titles?
Once again, we are not prophets, nor will ever claim to be ones. But who do we THINK will win? Well …
Division II: No. 4 Waverly and No. 2 Logan Elm
Division III: No. 4 Adena and No. 3 Eastern Brown
Division IV: No. 1 New Boston and No. 7 Peebles