The gym is a sell out!
That's not a term you hear every week when it comes to Ohio Valley basketball. That was, however, the case last Friday in Woodsfield.
I arrived for my first game at the brand-new Monroe Central High School and was shocked when I entered the school and was greeted with a sign just inside the door that read, "game is sold out. No seats. Game is on TV in the cafeteria."
Such is the case when you have a quality team playing a quality opponent that's deemed a rivalry. It certainly doesn't hurt that the gym is brand new, either.
The part of the school I walked through was extremely nice and it's certainly something that the Monroe Central community can take pride in.
The gym, which could have probably used a few more seats, was up to snuff in every other category.. It's well-lit, the public address system is clear, the scoreboards are nice and the art on the wall gives it a nice feel. The lockerrooms have a clock installed, so the teams know how much time remains until the third quarter begins.
Regardless of how big the gym is - and the Seminoles' gymnasium isn't the smallest I've ever seen by any means - it's still highly impressive that an early-December game was a sell out. Throw in the fact the home fans went away happy as Monroe Central was a decisive victor, and it was a highly memorable evening for the droves of Seminoles' fans.
We've known for years that people in the Monroe Central school district have always liked basketball. Skyvue, which is part of the consolidation, was one of the state's storied small-school programs in its day.
That's the kind of support we love to see for any sport. There was great atmosphere in the gym from the students chanting at one another to just the general fans.
We're hopeful that kind of trend continues at Woodsfield and all over the Ohio Valley for both boys and girls basketball.
Several people indicated to us how nice it was to go to a Monroe Central hoops game and not have to drive all the way to Graysville to play at Skyvue High School.
The gym at Skyvue had history, ambiance and, quite frankly, was a difficult place for opposing teams to play. However, it was an absolute bear to get to especially later in the winter when weather really starts to become a factor.
The only thing I noticed about the gym that jumped out at me is the fact that none of the Monroe Central OVAC championship banners had been put up. We're certainly hopeful those are eventually hung because athletic tradition and success is often times measured by those banners. Also, those banners are earned by the school, student-athletes and coaches. They're certainly something to be proud of and should be on display for everyone to see.
Heck, Monroe Central won a state softball title in 2004. There needs to be a banner commemorating that achievement as well.
Our tour of the new Monroe County schools continues this evening. I'll be making my first trip to the brand-new Beallsville High School. I had the pleasure of getting a tour of the building during the summer from Athletic Director Delmas Moore, but it'll be nice to catch a game in the new gym.
You want to talk about the ultimate home-court advantage, that's what the Blue Devils had in their old high school. Playing on the small floor was a huge adjustment for many teams, while the Blue Devils were obviously experts at it, scoring points in bunches most seasons.
It'll be interesting to see how the Devils are settling into their new digs.
Buckeye Local senior John Rozenek had a game he won't soon forget at Union Local last Friday night. He is one of the leading scorers in the area after going off for 36 points in the victory.
Rozenek and the Panthers were coming off a tough opener in which they lost by some 20 points at Steubenville.
We still believe that Buckeye Local could be one of the area's biggest surprise teams of the season.
Casey Tolzda has watched his father, Scooter, rack up a lot of coaching victories during his career at Beallsville.
It became like father like son last Friday when Casey's Blue Devils broke into the winning column for the first time with a win against Caldwell. The Blue Devils appeared to be on their way to a relatively easy win, but the Redskins hung 40 on the board in the fourth.
We're sure Tolzda was breathing a huge sigh of relief once the final few seconds ran off the clock and not just because he had earned his first victory. But, because if the game had been much longer, the Redskins could have had time to hit a few more shots.
The St. Clairsville Red Devils will officially make the transition to basketball this weekend. While several of the St. C. players were obviously highly visible throughout the month of November on the Red Devils' run to the Division IV state football title game, there were many players who started practice on the first day boys' teams were allowed.
While they've taken part in a handful of scrimmages, we're sure that guys like Riley Carlton, Adam Jeffries, Jared Burghy and Dylan Campbell can't wait to play a real game. We've not even taken into consideration how badly Kim Clifford must want to play a real game.
St. C. will be fitting 22 games into two less weeks of the calendar basically, which could cause some NBA-like scheduling at times.
It gets started with a back-to-back this weekend. St. C. hosts Edison Friday and will welcome a talented Columbus Africentric squad to Belmont County on Saturday. We'll have more on the Nubians' first trip to this side of the state later in the week.
Some interesting games lie ahead in the Ohio Valley this week. We think Union Local's visit to Harrison Central this evening could be interesting as well as Barnesville's trip to Beallsville.
On Friday, Martins Ferry's trip to Buckeye Local could be interesting. The Purple Riders are one of the area's biggest teams, but will be playing just their second game of the campaign. The Panthers are 1-1 currently and visit old Mingo High this evening to take on Indian Creek.
Bellaire visits Edison on Saturday. Both teams have struggled out of the gate, but something will certainly give in Richmond. It's a varsity only game, too.
The initial OVAC standings for boys basketball should be out next Monday. There are still a handful of teams that haven't made their debut for the winter, so Rick DeLuca, who compiles the standings, decided to hold off on the standings for an additional week.
Keep in mind, the top four in each class earn a spot in the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Basketball Championship in late Februrary.
There's certainly a lot of basketball left to play, but putting yourself in a good position early is critical.