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WLU, WJU basketball series saved

August 22, 2012
By SETH STASKEY - Times Leader Sports Editor (sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

Finally, there's a sense of closure to the collegiate conference saga for both West Liberty and Wheeling Jesuit Universities.

And for local basketball fans, the decision of the Hilltoppers and Cardinals to remain in the same league is an absolute blessing.

We realize that football - regardless of the level - stirs the drink in athletic departments, but there are some who really, truly enjoy basketball.

Earlier this summer, when it was announced that the West Virginia Conference would dissolve, the first thing that popped into my head was, "Wow, that means there might not be any more meetings of Wheeling Jesuit and West Liberty in basketball."

I was, however, intrigued that Jesuit had exploratory thoughts of heading to Division I, but, in the long run, I am truly glad that they're staying in Division II.

The Hilltoppers and Cardinals will formally join the Mountain East Conference. Jesuit will be the only team of the league's 12 members, which does not offer football.

They'll be joined by WVC holdovers Charleston, Concord, Fairmont State, Glenville State, Shepherd, West Virginia State, West Virginia Wesleyan and also newcomers Urbana, Notre Dame College, which is located in Cleveland, and Virginia-Wise, which won't become a full member of NCAA Division II until 2015.

For the Ohio Valley, it's great to see the Cardinals and Hilltoppers are going to be able to continue their basketball series. Who could forget last year's game at the McDonough Center, which was a near-capacity crowd, in which the Cardinals upset the Hilltoppers.

Both teams made the NCAA Tournament last season. The Hilltoppers advanced to the Elite 8 and the Cardinals reached the second round before being eliminated.

These basketball programs feed off of each other. They're arch rivals on the floor, they recruit similar players and even run similar systems to a degree because they enjoy getting the ball up-and-down the floor shooting plenty of trifectas.

If WLU had joined a league that didn't want Jesuit because of its lack of football, I really believe that the entire Ohio Valley would have suffered.

Along with the local rivalry, it's nice to see Wesleyan still involved because it always provides a solid challenge and entertaining game when it visits the Northern Panhandle.

It's nice to see Notre Dame College of Cleveland join the league. That school is beginning to recruit a lot of Ohio Valley athletes and any chance for area athletes to come close to home to play is a benefit as well.

These are certainly good times to be at either Wheeling Jesuit or West Liberty.

We certainly applaud the presidents and athletic directors for getting this done and maintaining what's become one of the area's best basketball events of the year.

PREP FOOTBALL SLEEPER TEAMS

In my Sunday column, I listed some players that you might not have heard of to keep an eye on and via my Twitter account, which is listed at the bottom of the column, a reader asked me to express my sleeper teams.

Two teams really come to mind when I think of sleepers from what I've gathered during the pre-season.

Those are Harrison Central and River.

When it comes to the area Division IV and Buckeye 8 teams, St. Clairsville and Martins Ferry usually get most of the attention. Don't get caught sleeping on Justin Kropka's Huskies. They've got a lot of talent at the skill positions, a veteran line and a running back who is an absolute workhorse in Maurtice Hython.

As is the case for so many teams, the Huskies really can't afford injuries to the key players because depth is a concern. This Friday will certainly be an interesting test as Harrison visits Wheeling Island Stadium to face Wheeling Central.

The Pilots quietly put together a solid campaign last season, but it was overshadowed by the fact that they had so many bizarre losses.

Coach Mike Flannery's team barely missed the playoffs in Division VI, Region 23 and return almost everyone from that team.

Line play will certainly be a strength and the Pilots boast two quarterbacks who Flannery is quite comfortable with and a solid collection of skill, including Jordan Sapp, who I really believe is going to have a break-out season.

On the defensive side, keep an eye on Brett Rosen on the Pilots' defensive line. Flannery just raved about him during the pre-season and he had a strong sophomore campaign.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Pilots will be playing games away from home all season. While it's only a short jaunt across the bridge into New Martinsville to play at Magnolia's Alumni Field, it's still a jaunt.

EARLY HONORS

Five area players were recognized on the JJ Huddle/Ohio High all-Ohio teams, which were released recently.

In Division IV, St. Clairsville's Michael Ferns and Jerrid Marhefka were named to the defensive unit.

Three area small-school players were honored in Division VI.

Shadyside's Chase Kinemond and St. John's D.J. Shoemaker were named to the first-team defensive unit, while River's Evan Eggleston was picked for the offensive unit.

In Division III, Indian Creek's Shane Winland and Alex Young were recognized as second-team choices.

St. Clairsville had two other players - Corey Ernest and Jaylon Brown - named to the second-teams.

TEAM HONORS

Both St. Clairsville and Shadyside earned plenty of state-wide respect as Ohio Preps announced its pre-season polls.

The Red Devils and Tigers are both ranked third in their respective division. St. C. plays in Division IV, while the Tigers are in Division VI.

St. Clairsville trails only Columbus Bishop Hartley, which is led by Notre Dame recruit Jacob Matuska, whose parents are Ohio Valley natives, and defending state champ Creston Norwayne.

Shadyside, meanwhile, trails the usual suspects in small-school football. Maria Stein Marion Local and Delphos St. John hold down the top two spots.

Obviously pre-season rankings must be taken with a grain of salt. There's a lot of football to be played in the next 10 weeks.

OHSAA PRE-SEASON CC MEET

The inaugural pre-season OHSAA Cross Country meet was held Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. That site will host the OHSAA State Cross Country Championships on the first Saturday in November.

St. Clairsville finished eighth in the team standings of Section C with 240 points. Senior Drake Walker led the Devils with a 14th place in a time of 17:38.

The Lady Red Devils finished seventh in the meet, also competing in Section C. Ironically, the girls also finished with 240 points.

Senior Amy Castle led the way by finishing second overall in a time of 19:19. Classmate Julianna Madzia was 14th in 20:49.

SETH'S SCOOPS

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleader-online.com

 
 

 

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