Local boys basketball teams ready for the tournament

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

What makes tournament play— especially a single-elimination tournament — so exciting. are the possibilities – the possibilities that great teams like Cardinal Stritch or Genoa make a run, or a good team like Eastwood catches lightning in a bottle and wins a sectional or district title.
The Cardinals are the most likely of the group to make a serious run. They’re 16-3 and 6-2 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference and sit one game behind Emmanuel Christian, which is 15-3 and 7-1 in the league. The Warriors, ranked second in the Division III AP Poll, lost to Stritch last week, 72-70. The Cardinals rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final 2:45, the climax coming when, trailing by one point, Breon Hicks took a pass from Christian Burton and drained a 3-pointer from the left corner with 10 seconds to play.
Stritch also got key contributions from Owen Carter, Idro Price and Cam Hughes. Hicks had a team-high 19 points and 12 rebounds, Burton finished with 14 and Hughes chipped in with 12 points and eight boards.
Cardinals coach Sedron Harris doesn’t consider the victory to be an upset.
“For me, it was a good win. We didn’t necessarily look at it as big; we knew we could beat them. The first game, in the fourth quarter with three minutes to go, we were down by four points, and then we had some foul trouble,” he said. “The final score was not a telltale sign of how the game was played.
“I told the guys we’d win the game as long as we shared the ball and continued to do our job,” he said.
The Cardinals, who are seeded first in the Div. III Norwalk District, face the winner of (11) Edison and (13) Lakota on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Hopewell-Loudon.
“Our tournament draw is going to be a tough one. Ashland Crestview is a really good team; Genoa has been really solid. You never want to underestimate any team,” said Harris. “Margaretta is a solid program, as is Genoa, and they have good coaches. And there’s Huron. In our bracket, the top five teams are very solid. I think we have the toughest districts in Northwest Ohio.
“We’re going to get everybody’s best shot because we are the No. 1 seed,” he said.
The Cardinals are riding high, having won 11 of their last 13 games, but they’ve got unfinished business. Last season, Stritch lost to Eastwood in a Div. III district final, and the Cardinals have got high expectations in believing they can make a run.
The team Stritch beat in the district semifinals last year was Genoa.
The Comets are in the midst of a very good season and have a 14-4 record, which includes an 11-1 mark in the Northern Buckeye Conference. If Genoa beats Otsego and defeats Rossford, which is 16-4 and 12-0 in the league, on Feb. 17 at home, it will win at least a share of the conference title.
The Comets, seeded fourth in the Norwalk District, have a tough road ahead. If Genoa beats No. 6 Bucyrus Wynford in the sectional semifinals — which takes place on Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. at Monroeville — it will face the second seed, Ashland Crestview on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m., also at Monroeville.
Jon Sandwisch, now in his first season coaching the Comets, talked about the excitement of playing in the tournament.
“We are playing a very good opponent in Wynford,” he said. “Our district, and Division III as a whole, has a ton of high-level teams.
“The tournament is a special time. There are big games and big moments. It’s one of the best things about high school basketball,” he said.
Genoa will maintain the same mindset it has carried with itself throughout the season, Sandwisch said.
“We talk about being process-oriented versus being results-oriented. We are pleased with our results, but more importantly, extremely proud of how we attacked the process each and every day,” Sandwisch said. “Our culture as a basketball program is improving, and we are taking pride in doing it the right way.”
Also in the district are Oak Harbor and Northwood. The Rockets, seeded eighth, face No. 7 Western Reserve in a sectional semifinal on Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. at Hopewell-Loudon. If Oak Harbor wins, it will take on (5) Margaretta, coached by Rocket legend Steve Keller, in a sectional final.
The Rangers, meanwhile, are seeded ninth and face (10) Bucyrus in a sectional semifinal on Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Monroeville. The winner will face (3) Huron or (12) Lake — which takes place on Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. at Monroeville — in a sectional final on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
The other area team in Div. III is Eastwood, which is seeded sixth in the Napoleon District. The Eagles will face (8) Archbold in a sectional semifinal on Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Springfield. The winner will take on (5) Paulding or (12) Tinora on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Springfield
In Div. I, Clay, the No. 18 team in the Central Catholic District, takes on No. 3 Perrysburg in a sectional final on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. In the Millbury District, No. 19 Waite faces No. 9 St. John’s at Start in a sectional semifinal.
In Div. IV, No. 13 Gibsonburg takes on No. 4 Tiffin Calvert on Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Fostoria in a sectional semifinal in the Liberty-Benton District. The winner plays (6) New Riegel or (7) Vanlue on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Fostoria.
In the same district, (5) Arlington takes on (8) Woodmore in a sectional semifinal on Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Tiffin Columbian with the winner facing (3) Old Fort or (11) Hardin Northern on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Tiffin.


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