It was dangerous to be the top seed at the two boys basketball sectional-district tournaments in Trumbull County.
Neither LaBrae, the top seed in Division III at Howland High School, or Mathews, the top seed in Division IV at Warren G. Harding, won a district title. Neither, in fact, even got to the finals.
Both teams lost in semifinals on Tuesday night.
The Vikings (22-1) were eliminated by Berkshire for the second year in a row.
A year ago, the Badgers ousted LaBrae and Newton Falls and they duplicated the feat this season, upsetting the Vikings, 48-46, and then eliminating the second-seeded Tigers, 43-37, on Friday night.
Berkshire always seems to come up big in tournament play. A few years ago, when the Badgers still played in the old Division III tournament at Lakeland Community College, they upset a talented and favored Pymatuning Valley team. Now they've successfully negotiated the toughest path through a rugged Howland district each of the last two years.
John F. Kennedy, which became the resident Cinderella team at Harding after a 5-15 regular season, beat Mathews, 63-61, on Tuesday night. But the Eagles' run ended Saturday night in a 50-49 loss to second-seeded Windham.
JFK struggled at times against the Bombers and trailed by seven, 48-41, with 3:25 to play. But as they did in back-to-back victories over Maplewood and Mathews, the Eagles found a way to rally down the stretch and took a 49-48 lead in the final minute on a basket by Raitwann Gaston.
But Windham's Cameron Pozsgai scored just before the buzzer to give the Bombers a thrilling victory and another district title.
JUST THE FACTS: Just before LaBrae finished its regular season with a 60-54 victory at Liberty on Feb. 17, I received a message from a Vikings fan who wondered about coverage of his favorite team.
His perception was that there wasn't enough of it. I emailed him, offered my phone number and we later talked for nearly an hour about basketball, life and everything in between. When we were finished,
I think I managed to convince him we'd covered LaBrae as fairly and equitably as humanly possible.
Anonymous comments on the web are a different story. My standard operating procedure is to let grating comments go, but in the wake of LaBrae's season-ending loss to Berkshire, the idea that somehow the Vikings didn't get their due was raised again.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is why:
LaBrae played 23 games, counting its three tournament appearances at Howland.
Tribune Chronicle sportswriters personally covered 17 of them. Of the six we did not staff, only a 45-42 victory over Brookfield on Dec. 20 was a competitive game at all. Specifically, none of the other five games were closer than a 30-point margin.
Also, only once all season did back-to-back LaBrae games go uncovered. Those were that game against Brookfield and a game on Dec. 23 at Campbell Memorial.
Part of the perception problem was a regular-season schedule that was heavy with early season games. As a result, LaBrae played four Friday night games - one a week - over the last month of the regular season.
I understand this is "inside baseball" to most readers and the majority of them couldn't care less how many games are staffed or handled via phone, email or fax. But being in the information and communication business, I can only allow so much misinformation to be splashed across the Internet when it comes to how we cover our teams.
So, no, the Tribune Chronicle did not "ignore" the area's only unbeaten team during its historic regular season. Quite the opposite. In addition to 17 games we staffed, a simple look at past issues showed that our sportswriters also wrote two feature stories and a column about the Vikings.
We also voted for LaBrae in the state poll and nominated some of the Vikings' players - as well as those from other area programs - for all-district and All-Ohio recognition.
NORTH-SOUTH GAME: The 2012 Ohio North-South Classic is scheduled at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 20 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the gate.
Several area players will suit up for the North team, including linebacker-running back Jesse Curry (Ursuline), quarterback-wide receiver Jeff Clegg (Western Reserve), running back Will Mahone (Austintown Fitch) and running back Devin Campbell (Boardman).
Western Reserve coach Andrew Hake will serve as one of the North assistants.
Liberty Center's Rex Lingruen will head the North coaching staff.
DAY GAME AT EASTWOOD: Eastwood Field in Niles, the home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and the Youngstown State University baseball team, will host a day game between the Penguins and the University of Pittsburgh on Tuesday, May 15.
Gates will open at 10:30 and the first pitch is set for 11 a.m.
The Scrappers are offering school ticket packages for $5 per student. The price includes a game ticket, lunch and an educational curriculum.
The deadline for group purchases is Friday, April 13. Individuals seeking game tickets can purchase them for $5.
Call the Scrappers front office at 330-505-0000 for more information.
MORE YSU BASEBALL: Penguins senior first baseman Jeremy Banks was named the Horizon League batter of the week for the period of Feb. 27-March 4, the conference announced last week.
Banks, a Steubenville native, batted .462 and was named to the all-tournament team as YSU participated in the Austin Peay Riverview Inn Classic. Banks reached base seven times in a 16-15, 10-inning loss to Iowa. He hit a two-run homer, singled three times, walked three times and drove in a career-best six runs.
Banks leads the Horizon League in hitting (.463) and RBIs (15) and is tied for the league lead with two home runs.
BASKETBALL LESSONS: Bob LaRicca's Trumbull Basketball School begins a series of youth lessons at the Mayor Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center in Niles on Monday.
Lessons for boys and girls in different age groups will continue through early May. Each consists of eight sessions. The cost is $100.
Call LaRicca at 330-307-9345 or email him at email@example.com for more information.