Ever since Bridgeport rallied to beat River on Dec. 10 in Hannibal, the Lady Pilots have had today circled on their calendars.
The two squads will meet inside what is expected to be a raucous John J. Havlicek Gymnasium tonight. The JV action tips at 6, with the varsity scheduled to begin at 7:30.
Both teams enter the highly anticipated contest leading their respective OVAC divisions. The Bulldogs, who sit atop a competitive Class 2-A field, are 12-0 and ranked 9th in the latest Associated Press Division IV poll, while the Pilots are 13-3 and lead the Class 3-A standings.
"Our girls are looking forward to Monday night," River head coach Rick Isaly said Saturday after his team rolled by St. Clairsville.
The teams mirror each other as Bridgeport is led by a trio of double-figure scorers in freshman Caitlyn Kroll and juniors Maclaine Murad and Nicole Smolenak. River counters with seniors Cassidy McCullough and Laken Ramsay, along with freshman Jensen Caretti.
Tonight's contest not only has OVAC implications, but in the seeding process for the upcoming Division IV sectional tournament.
"It should be interesting," Bridgeport head coach Rob Zitzelsberger added. "We got them down there, but it wasn't easy."
No it wasn't.
The Lady Bulldogs had score rally late in the fourth quarter to pull out a 44-42 victory inside the R.L. Potts Gymnasium.
In addition to the aforementioned River (3-A) and Bridgeport (2-A), other division leaders include University (5-A), Steubenville (4-A) and Conotton Valley (1-A).
This Week's Games
Other games of importance tonight include Harrison Central and head coach Nick Yourkovich traveling to Martins Ferry and first-year head coach Lindsay Coyne; Bellaire at Union Local; and Beallsville at St. John Central.
Thursday has Martins Ferry entertaining Indian Creek and Buckeye Local welcoming Union Local.
With the cut-off date for the OVAC Wheeling Hospital Basketball Championships not that far away, let's take a look at the five divisions.
University, John Marshall, Morgantown and Indian Creek are the top four squads. Parkersburg South, Cambridge and Wheeling Park are still in the hunt.
Steubenville, Union Local, Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville hold down the top four spots, but the Red Devils are closely followed by Oak Glen and Harrison Central.
River, Fort Frye, Monroe Central and Shenandoah are the front-runners, while Tyler Consolidated, Bellaire, Magnolia and Linsly all have an outside shot.
Bridgeport, Wheeling Central, Clay-Battelle and Shadyside are the top four, but Frontier is still challenging.
Conotton Valley, St. John Central, Weirton Madonna and Trinity Christian are the top entrants, with Paden City seeking to move up.
Changing Gears a Bit
A week ago last Sunday I announced that Ohio State's men's basketball team was over-rated.
Well, after watching the Buckeyes dismantle No. 2 Michigan early during the Sunday afternoon affair in Columbus, I still think the Scarlet-and-Gray has a lot of work to do.
Thad Matta's squad built a 21-point lead only to watch the Wolverines battle back and eventually tie the game late in the second half.
However, the Buckeyes were able to hang on as some clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch, and an ill-advised three-point shot by Ohio native trey Burke to pull out a cherished 56-53 victory.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org