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March Madness, prep style
February 27, 2012 - Ed Puskas
High schools boys basketball sectional-district tournaments begin across northeastern Ohio tonight. It's not quite March yet, but don't let that stop the madness.
One of the most interesting tournaments has to be at Howland, which against hosts an extremely competitive Division III field. Top-seeded LaBrae wrapped up the first 20-0 regular season in school history with a 60-54 victory over Liberty on Feb. 17.
The Vikings, whose schedule was heavy in December and most of January, spent the last month of their regular season playing four consecutive games on Friday night, but had nothing else happening game-wise. Coach Chad Kiser said his team's season-ending performance had some rough edges and he attributed them to a spirited effort from the Leopards and also that lack of Tuesday night action over the final few weeks.
By the time the Vikings meet Campbell Memorial tonight at Howland, they will have been off another week-and-a-half. Kiser wisely held back on some scrimmages, saving them for just this lull. His aim was to use those to help LaBrae regain its midseason form. The truth is, the Vikings shouldn't be tested in their first two tournament games against the Red Devils and Champion. Both teams had down years and LaBrae isn't going to stumble against either of them.
But that's not to say the Howland tournament will be a easy time for LaBrae. Rival Newton Falls is there and the second-seeded Tigers took the Vikings to overtime in a late-season meeting. Third-seeded Brookfield has a core group of players that complement one another as well as any team in the area. Fourth-seeded Ursuline is a .500 team on paper, but the Irish always play a tough schedule and shouldn't be underestimated.
Berkshire always brings a solid team to this tournament and the Badgers are the No. 5 seed this time. And remember, sixth-seeded Liberty almost rallied all the way back from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit against LaBrae less than two weeks ago. The Leopards got within three points twice in the last couple of minutes. If they get some consistent perimeter scoring to complement Jaylen Mann, they'll be a team you don't want to see in a win-or-go-home situation.
And that is precisely what March Madness is all about. Win and play another day. Lose and it's sudden death for your season.
Tonight's sectional semifinals involving area teams include:
• Division I: Howland vs. Kent Roosevelt, 6 p.m.; and Louisville vs. Boardman, 7:30 p.m., at Alliance.
• Division II: Hubbard vs. Cardinal Mooney, 6 p.m.
• Division III: Girard vs. Berkshire, 5 p.m.; LaBrae vs. Campbell Memorial, 6:30 p.m.; and Newton Falls vs. Garfield, 8 p.m., all at Howland.
• Division IV: Bloomfield vs. John F. Kennedy, 7 p.m., at Warren G. Harding; and Western Reserve vs. Lowellville, 7:30 p.m. at the Struthers Fieldhouse.
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