Pairings finalized for boys’ OVAC hoops event

Wheeling Hospital championships begin Tuesday, with finals set for Ohio University Eastern

BELLAIRE — The brackets are officially set.

After one of the most competitive and interesting pre-OVAC portions in the history of the tournament, the dust settled Tuesday evening.

The OVAC Basketball Championship committee met Wednesday morning at the OVAC office to finalize the pairings and set the consolation matchups for the teams that didn’t finish in the top four.

The boys tournament begins on Tuesday, Feb. 12 and the championship finals will be staged on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Ohio University Eastern in St. Clairsville.

Here’s a look at each class:

CLASS 5A

Wheeling Park earned the top seed with an 11-2 record. Coach Michael Jebbia’s Patriots are bidding for their eighth conference title overall and first since 2012.

Standing in the way of the Pats and a trip to Ohio University-Eastern is fourth-seeded Morgantown. The Mohigans (10-6) darted by Weir in the final days prior to the cut-off date to grab the fourth spot. Coach Dave Tallman’s squad won three consecutive titles from 2014-16.

In the other half of the bracket, University — which is the two-time defending big-school champion — earned the second seed and will host Steubenville.

University is 14-3 on the season.

Big Red spent most of the season in one of the top-two spots, but lost their grip on a home game thanks to a loss Tuesday to Meadowbrook. Coach Mike Haney’s team is 13-3. Steubenville last won the OVAC in 2014 and it owns seven 13 hoop crowns, all told.

CLASS 4A

Meadowbrook — in its final year as a member of the OVAC before it joins the Muskingum Valley League — is once again the top seed.

Coach Scooter Tolzda’s Colts posted wins over 5A powers Warren and Steubenville earlier this week to move onto the top line. Meadowbrook has won four OVAC titles, including the last three.

Next up for the Colts is a game with East Liverpool. The Potters knocked off Harrison Central in a de facto play-in game on Tuesday to clinch the final bid. Coach Nate Conley’s team is bidding for the school’s first conferencr crown since 1999 and fifth overall.

In the other half of the bracket, Oak Glen locked down the second seed with a win over Wellsville on Tuesday. The Golden Bears are an impressive 14-3.

To get to their first OVAC title game, Oak Glen will have to knock off St. Clairsville, which is back in the championship bracket after a year’s absence.

First-year coach Ryan Clifford has directed the Red Devils to a 14-4 record and locked down their spot in the field with a win at Martins Ferry on Monday. St. Clairsville won its only two OVAC hoop titles in 2012 and 2013.

CLASS 3A

A new champion is promised in this class reigning champion Wheeling Central has dropped down a division.

Shenandoah was the wire-to-wire leader in this class. The Zeps, who own three OVAC titles, but nont since 2001, finished the pre-OVAC portion of the season an impressive 17-3 record.

Next up for the Zeps is a third meeting with Monroe Central. The Seminoles — by virtue of their win over River and Union Local’s loss to Barnesville on Tuesday — squeezed into the field with a 9-9 record.

Coach Jon Perkins’ team is trying to become the first in Monroe Central history to win an OVAC hoop title. Woodsfield and Skyvue, which formed Monroe, won a combined five titles.

The other 3A semifinal finds second-seeded Fort Frye (11-6) taking on Barnesville (11-7) in Beverly.

The Cadets have been consistent members in the championship bracket and are vying for their eighth title overall, fourth in the playoff format, but first since 2014.

Barnesville, meanwhile, locked down its second-ever bid to the championship bracket with a victory against UL. Coach Matt Johnson’s Shamrocks have never won an OVAC boys basketball title.

CLASS 2A

A new champion is guaranteed in this division after River failed to qualify

Toronto, a team that River beat in last year’s semifinal, garnered the top seed. Coach Sean Tucker’s Red Knights, who are ranked third in Ohio Division IV, are 17-1 with their only loss coming to Alliance Marlington in a holiday event at Steubenville.

The Red Knights own two OVAC boys titles in their history, but haven’t hoisted the trophy since 1992.

To get to the title game, Toronto will have to deal with a Shadyside squad, which has seemingly turned the corner of late. Despite its loss at Wheeling Central on Tuesday, the Tigers hung on to the fourth spot.

Coach Ed Andes’ team is 11-8 and bidding for the school’s 14th OVAC basketball crown, but first since 2010.

In the other bracket, Wheeling Central — a perennial entrant — is the second seed. The Maroon Knights own an OVAC-best 26 boys hoop titles, including six championships in a row.

To have the opportunity to play for a seventh, they’ll have to deal with third-seeded Wellsville. The Tigers haven’t won an OVAC title since 1996 when they claimed their seventh overall. They enter this year’s event with a 12-4 record.

CLASS 1A

Trinity Christian — by virtue of its 12-3 record — was awarded the top seed in the small-school class. The defending champions will await a visit from fourth-seeded Frontier, which enters with an 8-9 record.

The Cougars of Coach Roger Kirkpatrick have won five OVAC titles in their history, but none since 2004.

Cameron, which fell to Trinity in last season’s OVAC title game, is the second seed. The Dragons of Coach Tom Hart will welcome Beallsville as they seek a return trip to OUE to play for the school’s first title in hoops.

Coach Rick Jarrett’s Blue Devils are one of the area’s most improved teams with its 10-9 record. The Devils own just one OVAC title in basketball and it came in 2003.

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