Ohio teams ready for 'Basketball-30'
HUNTINGTON -- Whether it's the dynamic voice of public address announcer Lou Horvath or the excitement surrounding one of the area's nicest venues, there's something about the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio, that brings about excitement for the basketball postseason.
And, as Horvath would say in his trademark call, it's 'Basketball-30' this weekend for some southeastern Ohio teams in district tournament play.
It all gets underway on Friday night when Fairland's boys team takes on Vinton County at 8 p.m. in the Ohio Division II district semifinals.
The Dragons got to the Convo by defeating Hillsboro last week in a defensive affair.
Head coach Nathan Speed said the return to the Convo was a goal of his team.
"We went through a lot of things during the late part of the season and we really wanted these guys to get back here," Speed said. "They came through it and got closer than ever and I'm proud of them. Now, we hope to keep it going."
Should the Dragons win Friday, they will play the Warren-Unioto victor next Thursday at 8:15 p.m.
On Saturday, the Ironton boys return to the Convocation Center -- a place they've become familiar with over the last few years.
This time, they come in as the top seed and will take on fourth-seed North Adams at 7 p.m.
The senior-laden Fighting Tigers know this season could end memorably and senior post player Trey Fletcher said he is going to cherish every second on the floor in his last trip to the Convo.
"I can't wait," Fletcher said. "We love getting up there in that atmosphere. It's going to be loud. That's what it's all about."
Ironton advanced to the Convo by defeating Wheelersburg, 49-39, in a game with a frustrating, slow pace for the up-tempo Fighting Tigers.
Both the Ironton and Fairland girls teams will be in action looking for district championships Sunday. Ironton takes on top-seeded at 2 p.m. while the Dragons meet Portsmouth West at 4 p.m.
Behind Ariel Schweickart's 22 points, Ironton's girls survived a low-scoring 37-34 win over Peebles, which highlighted a 24-hour period in which head coach Doug Graham welcomed his second child to the world and a berth in the district championship.
The going was a bit easier for Fairland, which scored 58 of 67 points in one stretch between the first and third quarters to earn an easy 90-31 win over Northwest.
Chandler Fulks, who led Fairland with 20 points, said the team is looking for redemption this year after struggling mightily in a loss at the Convo to Oak Hill last season.
The Dragons will meet Portsmouth West, who upset Oak Hill last week. Fairland beats the Senators twice in the regular season.
"We played terrible there last year," Fulks said. "Nothing was clicking at all. I think where we went to tournaments earlier this year and coming into the Convo now, I think it'll be a bit easier -- especially since we got the experience last year."
If each of the boys teams win, they will return to the Convocation Center next weekend.
For the girls, a win would land them at Logan High School in Logan, Ohio, midweek for the regional semifinals.