Wednesday, January 18th
Today is a very important day in Stark County for girls basketball. All 3 conferences that are either Stark dominated or have Stark teams on top are up for big movement today.
Louisville Leopards (10-3/8-0) @
West Branch Warriors (11-2/7-1) – 7:15PM
Louisville took the opening game of this series 49-48 back on Dec. 10th, at home. Now the Leopards have to travel to Beloit to what would almost certainly close out the NBC. A win would give the Leopards a 2 game lead in the conference, where no other team has finished a game against the Leps under a 10 point deficit. A win would put the Warriors in a tie for the league where they have had similar success, with Minerva being the only team to be able to stay within 17 points of the Warriors. West Branch has reeled off 9 straight wins since their loss to Louisville, most recently earning a hard-fought W over reigning D$ state champ and current D4 #1 Waterford at this past weekends Classic in the Country. A Leopard win would almost guarantee a league title considering 2 losses would be required to even tie with someone. A West Branch win would immediately bring 2-loss Marlington into the picture as they still have to play both teams once more. Minerva would also be in play as a spoiler if West Branch evens the league, having played Louisville better than any other opponent, a 10 point loss at home earlier in the year.
Louisville senior PG Abby Beaver had 22 in the 1st meeting so the matchup with her and West Branch senior PG will be one to keep a major eye on. Sarah Lairson has played well all year-long so she will certainly have a say in the outcome of this game. On the West Branch side Kayla Hovorka has been playing well of late. The strong athletic junior can cause problems with her energy and physicality. Natalie Zuckowski is the only true post player in the game so she will most likely tally her normal double-double while having the ability to make a game changing impact.
Tusky Valley Trojans (13-1/6-1) @
Fairless Falcons (11-2/7-0) – 7:15PM
The Falcons started their season with a loss at Minerva and a one point loss to a very good New Phila team, they have not lost since. 3 games into their 11 game win streak they went on the road and handed Tusky Valley their only loss of the season. The win proved huge as Tusky Valley went on to beat the rest of the conference and remain a game behind Fairless. A win by Fairless would certainly not guarantee a league title since they would have to finish off the rest of the league a second time after beating 3 of them by slim margins. A win would however give them more breathing room. Tusky Valley will be looking to even the score on the road after giving up the 68-61 defeat to Fairless in early December at home. A Tusky Valley win would give the 2 loss and reigning PAC Champion Tuslaw Mustangs a renewed hope at taking the top sot back with games remaining against both Tusky Valley and Fairless remaining.
In the first meeting sophomore PG Maddie Reese of Fairless put up a huge 21 points against 2-time 1st Team PAC PG junior Boston McKinney. McKinney is possibly the biggest play maker in the league so she will need to not only limit Reese but have a big impact on the offensive end to give the Trojans a shot. Both teams play well as a team and don’t rely on any one player to lead them which makes for good balanced basketball. Stewart and Hall lead the Trojans in scoring and on the boards, the tandem will demand a lot of attention from the Falcons. Fairless is led by 3-year starter Kennedy Gibbons who is long and athletic and creates some matchup problems, along with shooter Alyssa Burcaw.
GlenOak Golden Eagles (12-1/7-0) @
Jackson Polar Bears (10-3/4-3) – 7:15PM
When the Eagles arrive at Jackson they should be fully expecting Jacksons best shot. The Polar Bears are playing for their league lives. While the Golden Eagles are in control of the league, and rightfully so after superb play so far this season, Jackson doesn’t feel like they’re out of it. Jackson shouldn’t feel like they’re out of it, because they aren’t, but they will have to run the table in their final 5 league games to even have a shot. With hard-fought losses to GlenOak (-11) and Perry (-6) on the road, and McKinley (-10) at home, the Bears feel like they are right there. Jackson is on a 6 game win streak and playing as well as anyone with solid wins versus Howland and at Fitch, also huge wins on the road at Hoover and against really good Stow team. GlenOak isn’t ready to hear about how well anyone is playing considering they are doing as well or better than anyone. The state ranked Eagles’ only loss comes on the road against state power Cincinnati Mt. Notre Dame. With recent wins at McKinley and against St. V they are also carrying a 6-game win streak into tonight’s contest. GlenOak is in complete control of their own destiny and they have no plans on giving that up. Rest assured every team in the Federal League is rooting for Jackson considering they all need some extra help to get back to the top.
There will be star power of plenty in Jackson Township when these two square off. Dai’Shona Polk is handling her business as well as I’ve seen her in 4 years. Not only is she dominating opponents and being the key contributor to the Eagles, she’s mentally on top. She seems to be in complete control of her emotions, whether good or bad, and being a calming figure for the inexperienced in the GlenOak lineup. That inexperience are freshmen PG Addison Mucci and post Hayley Smith, both of which have been starting. They are both very important pieces to the GlenOak success and will have to be again tonight. Davina Shelton is another Eagle who has been instrumental, stepping up on the boards, the defensive end, or the scoreboard wherever needed. The Polar Bears are led by All-Ohio Junior and Maryland commit Taylor Mikesell. Mikesell is so diverse and well-rounded that it doesn’t matter how you defend her she will make her presence felt. Spencer has done some good things recently with her biggest games of the year coming with Mikesell out at Perry and in the recent huge road win against her former Hoover teammates. Davide and Hartnett both bring it at the guard spots and defend as well as any backcourt alongside Mikesell.