And then there were four.
The immediate area's boys basketball teams have been significantly trimmed as just four teams are still preparing for hoop games instead of breaking out bats, gloves, balls or even hurdles.
And one of those - either River or Shadyside - will be eliminated today in Division IV.
The Eastern District Tournaments get under way this week with two survivors in Division II, one in Division III and one in Division IV earning a trip to the coveted regional tournament or as it's better known as - the 'Sweet 16.'
St. Clairsville, which is on a quest to try to get back to the Division II state tournament for the second straight season, will return to OUE on Thursday battling for a trip to the main campus in Athens.
The Red Devils will meet Carrollton at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will play on March 14 at the Convo on the campus of Ohio University against the winner of Wednesday's Eastern District title game between New Philadelphia and West Holmes.
The aforementioned River vs. Shadyside clash in Division IV will tip off this evening at Union Local High School at 7. The winner advances to the district title game against the winner of Hiland and Malvern. They'll square off at New Philadelphia High School.
The district title game in Division IV is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Meadowbrook High School. The winner qualifies to the regional at the Canton Fieldhouse on March 12 against the winner of the Struthers' District, which could be fellow OVAC member Wellsville.
Martins Ferry has been the area's Cinderella team thus far in the postseason. The Purple Riders return to the Division III District Tournament tonight against Coshocton in the 8 o'clock game at OU-Eastern. The opening game in Division III pits Garaway vs. Buckeye Trail.
The Purple Riders - with Cody Schau and an impressive post game leading the way - have ousted Bellaire and then held on for a one-point win against Fort Frye last Friday.
Tonight's winners return to OUE on Friday with the winner earning a trip to the Division III Regional at Ohio University on March 13.
JUMP ON, BOYS
Dan Monteroso has been leading the St. Clairsville Red Devils' basketball team for the last three seasons.
He's done some highly impressive things and posted some highly impressive numbers.
However, his game on Saturday might have trumped them all. The Purdue-bound football player led the Red Devils to Thursday's Division II District final at Ohio University Eastern with a 45-point, 21-rebound performance.
Whenever the Red Devils need something, No. 5 is the guy they're turning to, and who could blame them? Monteroso can get teams in any way there is to get you.
Plus, on top of his skill and athelticism, Monteroso is a gamer and a competitor. When he senses his team needs him, he amps it up a notch. That's a sign of a big-time player.
The Shadyside Tigers have been one of the area's more up and down teams this season. They've won some games when you've thought they're ready to turn the corner and then they lose to someone they certainly shouldn't have.
Saturday's sectional co-final at Union Local presented a challenge in the form of Barnesville, which the Tigers had beaten twice, but had been playing well down the stretch.
The Tigers came out and shot the ball as well as they have all season and raced past the Shamrocks. Shadyside shot 70 percent in the opening three periods and were well in command at that point.
Shooting 70 percent from the floor is really tough to wrap your head around.
The Tigers' next challenge comes in the form of River, which has beaten Shadyside soundly twice already this season. They'll meet tonight back at Union Local with the winner advancing to Saturday's Division IV District Final.
OVAC TOURNEY LEFTOVERS
OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak shared some interesting information with us about last month's Wheeling Hospital OVAC Basketball Championships.
Since the event's inception, the OVAC has given back $185,788 to the participating schools. The biggest share for a school came in 2009 at $1,635, while the smallest was in 2012 when the participating schools each received $1,230.
Of those funds, about 55 percent comes from the sponsorships of the event, while the other 45 percent comes from ticket sales and clothing sales.
In the history of the event, 25 girls and 26 boys' schools have taken part in the title games. Nary a school has appeared in all six title games. Shadyside and Fort Frye lead the girls' teams with five and four appearances, respectively.
St. Clairsville leads the boys' squads with five appearances in its class' title game. John Marshall, Magnolia and Wheeling Park have shown up four times.
The OVAC Basketball Committee will meet in the coming weeks to begin organizing the 2014 event.
Magnolia senior Mark Winters became the second Ohio Valley senior this winter to eclipse the seldom-reached 2,000-point barrier. Winters accomplished the feat during a sectional final victory against Wheeling Central. The Wheeling Jesuit commit and the Blue Eagles will go after the regional title Thursday evening in New Martinsville against Clay-Battelle.
Martins Ferry's Cody Schau scored his 1,000th career point during the Purple Riders' sectional opening victory against Bellaire. It's impressive that Schau got to the milestone, especially when you consider that he missed two games and then had three games not made up. However, scoring points in bunches, like he has, certainly makes up for it in a hurry.
HARD TO PREDICT, BUT ...
If you think the NCAA Division I Tournament is going to be tough to predict, how about the Division II field? I am going to predict that West Liberty finally gets the job done and wins the national championship.
However, I, like many here in the Ohio Valley, am hopeful that happens because of how exciting it would be for the entire area. As for knowledge to back up my pick outside of the fact that we know the Hilltoppers have been close and are 30-1 this season. Plus, they're most likely going to host the Atlantic Regional once again on their campus at the ASRC. All of those factors certainly play in the Hilltoppers' favor.
There's one big factor that hasn't worked in their factor the last few years. That being the unknown. In Division I, many of the teams - in the major conferences anyway - are televised multiple times during the season, so you get a better handle on who's playing well come tourney time.
In NCAA Division II, there's a whole lot of unknown. It's tough to gauge other teams and conferences. Like two years ago, who would have thought BYU-Hawaii would have taken the Hilltoppers out?
The thing to keep in mind is there are good teams and players everywhere. Jim Crutchfield's team has done an outstanding job of staying focused on the task at hand each time out.
Again, I am picking the Hilltoppers to cut the nets down in Atlanta later this month.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org