Let the madness begin
Boys tourney starts tonight for area teams
Three weeks before college basketball’s March Madness gets started, area boys basketball teams tonight begin their postseason, and it’s win or go home — or to baseball/track/tennis/lacrosse practice.
The better teams, for the most part, earned byes tonight and won’t start play until later in the week. Those teams have their focus on winning a district title — three or four wins — and playing at the regional level, the Sweet 16.
Perhaps this will be the year one of the Mahoning Valley’s best can break through and win two at the regional tournament to advance to the state Final Four in Columbus.
For most of the teams starting tonight, it’s all about pulling off that upset and ruining the season for another school — something that’s even better if it comes against a league or neighborhood rival.
The area’s best chance for getting a team to the regional comes in Division II, where all 13 teams in the Boardman District are from the Mahoning Valley.
The top four seeds in that district are, in order, Chaney, Struthers, West Branch and Canfield. The first three have first-round byes and will host games on Friday night. Canfield plays Salem at home tonight and, if it wins, is home again on Friday.
Once again, the first two games — the sectional round — are played at the home site of the better-seeded team. District semifinals and finals will be played at a neutral site with the district champs advancing to the regional.
The next four seeds in the D-II district — Poland, Ursuline, Girard and Lakeview — will be looking to avoid upsets tonight and will try to pull off an upset on Friday.
That district is the type in which upsets can happen because of familiarity and the idea that beating a team three times in a season can be difficult.
With six schools from the Northeast-8 Conference, three from the Steel Valley Conference and two each from the All-American Conference Red Tier and the Eastern Buckeye Conference, an upset or two is possible.
The Valley’s larger schools, as usual, have to travel if they reach the district semifinals. Boardman is the third seed in the Division I district at the Canton Civic Center, while Warren G. Harding is seeded fourth at the Twinsburg District.
Both have first-round byes and will play home games on Saturday night.
In Division III, area schools are divided into two districts, one at Warren G. Harding and one at Salem. The top four seeds at Warren are Garrettsville Garfield, LaBrae, Newton Falls and Pymatuning Valley. At Salem, the top four are Waterloo, Springfield, Columbiana and South Range.
Division IV also is divided with Bristol the top seed in the Grand Valley District, followed by Andrews Osborne Academy from Willoughby, John F. Kennedy and Windham. In the Struthers District, McDonald is first followed by Southern Local, Sebring and Mathews.
In first-round action, generally the No. 9 seed at No. 8 seed game and the No. 10 at No. 7 game are where upsets often occur.
Among 9 at 8 games tonight that include area teams are Hubbard at Lakeview in Division II, Jefferson at Mineral Ridge and Campbell at East Canton in III, and Maplewood at Newbury and Heartland Christian at Jackson-Milton in IV.
Of course, for whichever team wins the 9 at 8 game, a trip to the No. 1 seed awaits.
Tonight’s 10 at 7 games include East at Girard in Division II, Conneaut at Liberty and Crestview at St. Thomas Aquinas in III, and Valley Christian at Wellsville in IV.