The Ohio University Eastern men's basketball team has had an up-and-down season, but the Panthers managed to finish with a very respectable 18-6 mark.
Veteran head coach Donnie Madzia had a ton of talent in the first half of the season when Wheeling Park standouts Marquez O'Neil and Dayshaun Jackson were on the roster, but they were ruled academically ineligible over the winter break.
However, the Panthers rallied together and were awarded the No. 4 seed in the Ohio Regional Campus Conference tournament, which started Saturday on the campus of OSU Newark. OUE will play today at 3 p.m. against the winner of Saturday's Akron Wayne-OSU Mansfield contest. Akron-Wayne is the No. 5 seed.
A win would send the Panthers to the Final Four, which will be played Friday and Saturday at Akron-Wayne.
"We played Mansfield a couple of weeks ago and handled them pretty good, but we lost by 25 to Akron-Wayne," Madzia said. "But Mansfield beat Akron-Wayne twice, so I'm not sure who we are going to play, but if I had my choice, I'd take Mansfield."
Before all the distractions, OUE was 12-1, but like Madzia said, "the kids have really bounced back and are playing well together as a team."
Leading the charge has been Bellaire graduate Devin Ward, who pumped in a career-high 44 points in a win at Kent State Tuscarawas last week. He also added five assists and four steals in that game.
"Devin is averaging well over 30 points a game down the stretch," Madzia noted. "He's really turned his game up in the second half of the season."
Shadyside's Nick Schuetz and Union Local's Jordan Barbina are also big contributors for the Green-and-White.
"Nick and Jordan are playing better now than they have in their prior years," Madzia added.
Schuetz scored 24 points and had four assists and four steals against KST.
Barbina had a fine all-around game dishing out eight assists and grabbing 10 rebounds.
D'Aundrea Anderson led the Panthers with 13 rebounds.
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