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OVAC Boys Basketball: Union Local, Fort Frye to play for 3A crown

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Union Local-Fort Frye II.

For the second time in two weeks, the top-seeded Jets and No. 3 Cadets will play for the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Class 3A Basketball Championship. This time, however, it will be for the boys title.

Union Local (15-5) and Fort Frye (16-3) will tip at 6 Saturday night to cap a day full of hoops inside Ohio University Eastern’s Health and Physical Education Building. The Jets advanced with a hard-earned 47-43 overtime nod over fourth-seeded Magnolia in semifinal action on Tuesday, while the Cadets punched their ticket with a 45-42 decision over No. 2 Linsly the same night.

“It feels great. I can’t lie to you,” Union Local head coach Zach Delman said. “If you would have said before the year started that we’d be playing for the OVAC title, I would have called you a liar. That’s just being honest.”

That was before a 1-4 start.

“We’ve won 14 out of our last 15 games. We had a little slipup on Senior Night against John Marshall, but we were able to get right back on track and do things the way we do them,” he added.

The Jets have soared to six consecutive victories.

“It’s a great feeling, especially when you yourself aren’t sure if it’s possible. Then when the outside world says you guys are going to be good in the future, then all of a sudden you’re 15-5, just a few days away from playing for a championship and the chance to hang another banner, it’s really humbling yet exciting feeling.”

Union Local will be seeking its third OVAC title and its first since the 2014-15 campaign when it claimed the Class 4A crown. The Jets also prevailed in 2008-09 when they were in Class 3A.

“I like our matchup with Fort Frye. They are more our size. Magnolia was a lot bigger than us and presented a lot of problems for us,” Delman assessed. “Fort Frye is more of our style and play similar to us with the open post. They play really good defense and are very well disciplined and very well coached.”

Ironically, this won’t be the first time these two teams have met each other this season on the OUE court.

“Over Thanksgiving break just before the season started we had a scrimmage at OUE against Fort Frye,” Delman revealed. “I thought we played well then, but we’ve changed our lineup some since then.”

Union Local is led by 5-10 guard Luke Merritt. The junior averages 19.2 and shoots 42 percent from behind the bonus arc. He has set a single-season record with 80 so far. An all-around performer, he pulls down 3.1 rebounds and charts 2.1 assists per game.

Classmates Nathan Meyer (5-10) and Zach Bateman (6-1) average 9.9 and 8.3 points per game, respectively. Both average 3.4 rebounds, while Meyer has taken 21 charges. Bateman has knocked down 27 three-point shots. Meyer has 17.

Seniors Hunter McCort (5-9) and Matt Bateman (6-1) round out the starting five. McCort scores 5.6 points a game while grabbing 4 rebounds. Bateman is the leading rebounder at 5.5. He scores 5.3.

Junior Andrew Martin (6-2) and sophomore Dakota Hess (5-11) provide depth off the bench. Martin averages 9.6 points and 4.8 points. Hess, who missed most of the season with a football injury, scores 1.4 but averaging 9 as a freshman.

Meyer led a balanced scoring attack in the win over the Blue Eagles with a dozen. Merritt added 11 and Matt Bateman had 10. Meyer also grabbed a team-best 11 rebounds.

As a team, the Jets average 61.3 points, give up 51.1 and shoot 69.8 percent from the free-throw line.

Fort Frye, which was upset on its homecourt in last year’s semifinals by eventual champion Barnesville, has claimed championships in Class 3A in 2011-12 and 2013-14. It also has Class 2A titles in 1999-2000, 2003-04 and 2010-11.

“Like I’ve been saying for most of the season, it’s like looking in a mirror,” Fort Frye head coach Eric Henniger said of Union Local. “They are the same type of team that we are, but I think they might have more shooters.”

Kelton Fogle, a 6-0 junior, led the Cadets with 14 points in the win over Linsly. Ten of those came in the first quarter. Zane Wallace, a 5-9 senior, added 13 and 6-2 senior Brady Schilling chipped in eight. All three average 12 points a game, according to their head coach.

Shilling is the top rebounder at six a game.

The other two starters are senior Caden Fryman (6-3) and junior Luke Huffman (5-11).

Wallace is a three-year veteran. Fogle and Shilling have lettered two years each.

“They really put it on us,” Henniger said of that preseason scrimmage. “But we were just coming off our deep (playoff) run in football and had only had a few practices together.

“We both like to get up-and-down the floor, so I think it should be a fun, exciting game,” he added. “I think it will be a close game.”

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