Not so long ago, Beallsville's Blue Devils inflicted major punishment on Weirton Madonna's Blue Dons.
The manner in which opposing coaches Scooter Tolzda and George Vargo are talking now, however, Jan. 10's regular season matchup seems like a distant memory.
"For us to become OVAC champions, we have to dethrone an OVAC champion and we know that won't be easy," Tolzda exclaimed anticipating Saturday morning's (9:30) Wheeling Hospital/OVAC 1A title game at Ohio University Eastern's athletic complex.
Suffice to say, Vargo's Blue Dons were not at their finest last month in Monroe County where Beallsville was an overwhelming 69-47 victor.
"Of course, our kids remember what happened. But Beallsville had something to do with it. They left no doubt who the better team was that night," Vargo noted. "Frankly, I considered it a healthy loss. We practiced harder because of it."
Expect Madonna to be in a championship state of mind for Saturday's rematch. Tolzda would expect nothing less. "I think we match up well with Madonna. On the other hand, I think Madonna matches up well with us," the Blue Devils' boss advised.
A year ago, Madonna used a OVAC title-winning double-overtime victory against Trinity Christian as momentum to run the West Virginia small school postseason table as Vargo's quint went on to capture the big trophy in Charleston.
The Blue Dons appear to have necessary ammo to make a repeat run. But as Vargo stressed - first things first.
"Obviously, we have plenty of respect for Beallsville and what Coach Tolzda has been able to achieve with his program," Vargo stated. "We have a matchup Saturday of the No. 1 and 2 seeds. That's how it should be."
BEALLSVILLE brings in a 18-1 record. The Blue Devils' lone setback came at Conotton Valley, a loss Big Blue later avenged on its home floor.
Tolzda's starting lineup includes a trio of well-skilled seniors to go with two productive juniors.
Point guard Sam Jackson is of the throwback variety - an intense competitor with scoring skills both beyond the arc and as a slasher to the hoop. Jackson owns a 13 ppg. average.
Shooting specialist Teryn Jarrett has long-range ability and like Jackson, coming off a 20-point performance in Beallsville's 73-61 semifinal takeout of Trinity. "Sam's done an exceptional job running our offense and Teryn has been solid all season," Tolzda related.
Big Blue's crafty coach calls 6-0 senior Tyler Spence, "the heart and soul of our team." Spence is a capable scorer (11.5) and equally adept defender.
Beallsville's inside attack centers around a pair of rugged cagers - 6-3 senior Grahamm Dauch and 6-4 junior Josh Baldridge. The former is a smooth operator in the paint, netting some nine points an outing.
Until late in the season, Baldridge brought in board-banging ability off the bench before senior regular Matt Burke was lost with a broken bone in his hand.
Baldridge has since made his presence felt and will be asked to do so once again in Saturday's championship encounter.
"Grahamm is very effective in the right situations and Josh has been our best defensive rebounder," Tolzda pointed out.
The Blue Devils' rotation includes 6-6 senior Gage Bates who has the ability to be an 'X-factor' type contributor.
Beallsville is vying in the spacious confines of OUE after playing its final seven games in the Blue Devils' cozy facility which recently hosted its final game.
"I'm sure people are wondering how we're going to react on a much bigger floor," Tolzda stated. "We did win nine of our 10 games away from home. We'd like to think that counts for something."
MADONNA enters Saturday's clash at 17-3. Besides Beallsville, the Blue Dons have fallen to St. Marys and Steubenville Central.
Vargo has a number of battle-tested veterans with big game experience, including one of the Ohio Valley's premier players in Clay Rokisky.
The Dons' 6-4 senior is a versatile talent headed to play at the next level for the Vikings of Cleveland State University. A 1,000-point scorer with Madonna, Rokisky is posting season norms of 16 (points) and 9 (rebounds).
Also of major concern for Beallsville is Madonna's 6-6 inside force, senior Drazen Frankovitch who registered a double-double in the Dons' prior game at Beallsville.
Frankovitch scores at a 13.5 ppg. clip and is also yanking down in excess of 11 boards per start. "Both Clay and Drazen are a couple of hard-working kids and very instrumental to our success," Vargo explained.
Senior Josh Egyud brings a deft shooting touch to the proceedings and can be especially effective from three-point range. The 6-0 Egyud is contributing a shade under 10 points per outing.
Operating the point is savvy senior Nick Battista, a wheeling, dealing 5-10 performer with adept passing skills. "Nick's the kid who makes us tick," Vargo offered. "He's our team captain and displays great leadership skills." Battista sports averages of 7.5 points and 6.5 assists.
Madonna's fifth starter is 6-1 seasoned sophomore Ross Comis, regarded as a lockdown defender. "Ross is playing very well for a young player his age," Vargo reported. "He's normally assigned to guard our opponent's best scorer."
Two integral components off the Blue Dons' bench include 6-1 senior Connor Morgan and 6-2 senior Daniel Pietranton. Both have contributed major minutes. "Daniel's one of our most aggressive players ad Conner provides a strong physical presence," Vargo advised.
Vargo discounts Saturday's early (9:30) tipoff and feels his club will be fully prepared for battle.
"Actually, I don't mind playing in the morning at all. Our kids have had a taste of it (at the state tournament)," he said.
Madonna outlasted Conotton Valley 58-54 in Tuesday night's 1A semifinal with four Blue Dons achieving double figure performances.