With the last week of January upon us, it can only mean that the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference/Wheeling Hospital Basketball Championships are near.
Tonight is the cut-off date on the girls side, and there are plenty of games that have deciding factors involved.
Let's start with Class 4-A where Steubenville and Union Local have the top two spots locked down, which guarantee them a home game in the first round. However, that's where it stops as Martins Ferry, Oak Glen and St. Clairsville are fighting for the final two spots.
And, wouldn't you know it. The Purple Riders, who are currently in third place, play host to the fifth-place Red Devils tonight inside the Tolbert Gymnasium. The ball goes up at 6 p.m. in the varsity-only contest.
The No. 4 Golden Bears, meanwhile, entertain Steubenville Central.
Lindsay Coyne's Purple Gang has 40.33 points, while Oak Glen is at 38.86 and Alicia Freeman's Red Devils at 37.18.
In 2-A, things are a little clearer as Wheeling Central, Bridgeport, Shadyside and Clay-Battelle have already qualified. However, the Maroon Knights are the only team assured of a first-round game on their home boards.
The Bulldogs host Barnesville tonight, while the Tigers trek down Ohio 7 to Hannibal to meet River in a key matchup. Should the Shamrocks upset Bridgeport and the Tigers knock off the Pilots, Shadyside would likely leap-frog the Bulldogs and receive the home game.
Bridgeport has accumulated 50.67 points to Shadyside's 48.53. The Cee-Bees check in at 48.43 after suffering their first loss of the season last weekend at St. Marys.
Regardless of where the game is played, the gymnasium should be packed to the rafters.
In Class 3-A, the aforementioned Pilots are a solid No. 1 with Fort Frye a sure-fire No. 2. Shenandoah currently holds down the No. 3 spot and Monroe Central in the fourth slot.
Tonight has the Seminoles traveling to Noble County to meet Caldwell in a should-win game, while the Zeps are idle. Linsly, which meets Trinity tonight, and Magnolia still have outside shots.
The Class 1-A field is set, but the teams are still jockeying for position.
Conotton Valley and St. John Central are locks at No. 1 and No. 2, but either Weirton Madonna or Trinity Christian will finish third or fourth. Madonna visits Toronto tonight.
In Class 5-A, Morgantown, University and Indian Creek are assured of making the semifinals, but three teams - Wheeling Park, John Marshall and Parkersburg South are all battling for the fourth - and final - berth.
The Park Patriots are currently fourth with 48.88 points, while the South Patriots are a close fifth at 48.57. The Monarchs are lurking in sixth at 47.88. Of the three, only John Marshall is in action tonight when it travels to Brooke.
Good luck to all of the teams.
Bonar Nears Mark
Shadyside's Karli Bonar needs just six three-point goals to become the all-time record holder in the OHSAA history. The senior standout meshed eight in a win over University High last Saturday.
The Tigers travel to River tonight.
River's 'Redemption Tour' continues tonight as the Pilots look to avenge another earlier loss this season when Shadyside visits the R.L. Potts Gymnasium.
The 15-3 Pilots have already gotten revenge on Bridgeport and Fort Frye.
Local Players Honored
JJ Huddle honored Harrison Central's Jess Ledger as its Player of the Week two weeks ago.
Last week, River's freshman phenom Jensen Caretti was the runnerup.
Puskarich on the Move
Wheeling Park's Emily Puskarich moved into second place on the Patriots all-time scoring chart -- male or female -- when she surpassed Michael Jebbia last week.
The Robert Morris recruit only trails her head coach Dee Davis, who racked up more than 1,800 points. The amazing thing about Davis's feat is she did it in only three seasons, and without a three-point line.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org