4 area teams in Sweet 16
We’ve reached that point in the high school boys basketball season.
The teams that are truly serious about winning a state title consider themselves halfway to their goal. Others have reached that point where they have surpassed their original goal and any further success they have is gravy.
There are only 16 teams remaining alive in the state in each of the four divisions, so what the four area teams competing this week in regional tournaments have done thus far should be praised.
The highest profile area team is Warren G. Harding (23-3), which finished the regular season ranked eighth in the Associated Press statewide poll. The Raiders, who won the district at Alliance with nail-biting victories over Louisville and Uniontown Lake, will face Garfield Heights Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. in a regional semifinal at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center.
Garfield Heights (19-4) finished ninth in the final AP poll and beat Twinsburg and Bedford in the district at Solon.
The Comets (13-12) face Cleveland St. Ignatius (19-6) in the other semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Harding’s most recent trip to the regional came in 2012 when it beat Mentor in the semifinals and lost to Lakewood St. Edward in the final.
Newton Falls, which won the Division III district at Harding as the three seed, also plays on Wednesday. The Tigers (18-7) face Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (20-5), which ended the season ranked eighth in the state by the AP. That game is at 6:15 p.m. at the Canton Fieldhouse.
St. Thomas Aquinas (18-8) faces Oberlin (19-6) in the other semifinal at 8 p.m.
Newton Falls posted wins over top-seeded Berkshire and fifth-seeded Garfield to win its district title. The Tigers most recent trip to the regional came in 2010 when they beat East Canton in the semifinal round before losing to Orrville.
McDonald will be the first area team to take the floor this week, playing in the Division IV regional at the Canton Fieldhouse on Tuesday against Lutheran East (19-5).
The Blue Devils’ 23-3 record is the best of the four teams at Canton. The second semifinal on Tuesday has Cornerstone Christian (15-10) facing Malvern (19-7).
McDonald last made it to the regional in 2011 when it beat Richmond Heights in the semifinals, then suffered its first loss of the season to eventual state champion Berlin Hiland in the regional final.
Ursuline has plenty of regional experience in recent years, but that came in the Division III ranks. The Irish (19-6) were bumped up to Division II this season and on Thursday they play another Irish team, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (23-3) at 6:15 p.m. at the Canton Civic Center. SVSM was third in the final AP rankings.
Ursuline beat Canton Central Catholic last year in the regional semifinals before losing to eventual state champ VASJ. In 2014, Ursuline beat Creston Norwayne before falling to VASJ in the regional final.
Regional championship games are scheduled Friday in Division IV and Saturday for the other three divisions.