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CRC living up to its expecations

January 7, 2014
By SETH STASKEY - Times Leader Sports Editor (sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

Unfortunately, the seventh annual Cancer Research Classic has come and gone.

But while hoop junkies across the area are sad that they'll have to wait another year to see some of the top high school hoop talent come right into their back yard, there are plenty of memories to enjoy.

Dr. Gregory Merrick, the CRC's founder and director, put together yet another first-class event with some of the top players in America, including many who will be starring on the collegiate level next year and in the NBA the following season.

Despite the weather issues that the CRC dealt with throwing off travel plans, the event went off without a noticeable hitch, which is a credit to Dr. Merrick and his staff, which was spearheaded by Bonnie Funkhouser and Pam Conway.

The games were entertaining, well-played and well-officiated. The best game was the last one as Whitney Young rallied from as many as 18 down to beat Prime Prep.

Montverde, which had one of its games cancelled due to the weather, was the overall best team. As you'd expect from a squad that featured upwards of 10 future Division I players. Interesting thing about Montverde, which is located in Florida, not one of players on its roster originally hails from the Sunshine State.

Ohio State recruit D'Angelo Russell scored 13 points for Montverde, coming off the bench.

Bishop Gorman from Las Vegas won both of its games. It features some of the top big men in the nation, including 7-foot junior Stephen Zimmerman.

It didn't matter what game you watched, there were players all over the court playing at a very high level.

The travel issues lasted into this week. Whitney Young, which features Duke bound Jahlil Okafor and Georgetown bound Paul White, was still in the Ohio Valley as of this morning. It was scheduled to fly back to Chicago this afternoon. Weather issues cancelled the flights into O'Hare and Midway Airports.

Thus, the Dolphins spent a few extra days in the Friendly City. After relaxing Sunday at Wilson Lodge inside Oglebay Park, the Dolphins hit the practice floor and worked out at Howard Long Wellness Center on Monday. They went to a movie last night.

As organized as Dr. Merrick and his staff are, the one thing that they can't control is the weather. Despite the snow that came Thursday, the CRC wasn't about to be slowed down. The staff shuffled some games and matchups like it was nothing.

The wait for the eighth annual CRC is under way, but it'll be back before you know it. Merrick told me that he's already working on the 2015 event's lineup and expects to put the best schedule of games the event has seen on the floor at Wheeling Jesuit University next year.

Knowing Doc, there's no doubt he'll pull it off.

LIGHT CARD

What was expected to be the first heavy Tuesday night of boys hoops turned into the third straight week of no action.

The arctic blast has shut down the basketball action. It's simply too cold. Obviously, the gyms would be warm inside, but who wants to go outside to get to the game? Very wise move by the schools to shut down the action. Simply not worth someone to become frost bitten trying to get to a gym for a high school basketball game.

Many of tonight's games - including St. Clairsville at Bellaire, Shenandoah at Barnesville and Union Local at Martins Ferry - have simply pushed back to Wednesday night.

CONGRATS, COACH CLIFFORD

Kim Clifford is one of the premier basketball coaches in the Ohio Valley. His resume speaks for itself. While he's extremely humble and passes any of his personal success onto his players, he reached another milestone Saturday night.

On his third try, Clifford posted his 400th career victory. He got it by virtue of a victory against Indian Creek.

Something tells me Clifford's got plenty more victories in him. He's as passionate about coaching as he's been and he's got a young squad, which is only going to get better as the future unfolds.

According to records kept by the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association, Clifford is the 108th coach in Ohio history to reach the 400-win barrier.

BIG-TIME

PERFORMANCE

The River Lady Pilots are one of a handful of solid teams in the area this season. They have one of the top players in the Ohio Valley in sophomore Jensen Caretti. She displayed the entire arsenal of ability last Saturday in a win against Magnolia.

Caretti poured in a season-high 42 points, which is an all-time River girls' basketball record for a single game. She did so efficiently, too. She knocked down 19-of-33 from the floor.

Caretti has a bundle of talent and her ceiling is very high. It's going to be interesting to see how she follows up that performance.

STATE POLL DEBUT

The first boys and girls basketball polls of the season were released by the Associated Press Monday evening.

Just one OVAC team was listed in the boys' rankings. Union Local checked into the Division III rankings in eighth place.

On the girls' side, four OVAC members cracked the top 10 in their respective division.

Bridgeport was listed sixth in the Division IV poll. The Lady Bulldogs, who have not played since late December when they defeated a pair of Division I schools in Columbus, are 12-0. They received two first place votes.

Also in Division IV, undefeated Conotton Valley is listed eighth in the poll.

Unblemished Steubenville, which played without talented senior Emily Masloski for much of December due to an injury, checked into the seventh spot in Division II at 11-0.

In Division III, Fort Frye, which advanced to the state tournament last winter, is ranked eighth.

BELLAIRE'S PROGRESS

When the season began, J.R. Battista had a feeling his Big Reds would be improved. They did after all bring back their entire team, but it was from a three-win combine.

The Big Reds are coming along quite well. Obviously, Battista knows his club has a ways to go, but he'll certainly take the current five-game winning streak they're on.

Included in the streak was an impressive three-victory week to ring in 2014. Bellaire defeated Barnesville, Edison and Harrison Central last week.

The Big Reds have one of the top players that many people don't know about in sophomore Michael Neal. Plus, Nathan Steele and Kenny Hess have been solid. Throw in the development of Tyler Ramsay and the Big Reds are building something.

Bellaire's streak will be on the line at home Wednesday when it hosts St. Clairsville.

 
 

 

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