Big League Games (Dec. 11th)

December 11th has been chosen as our family trip to NYC, so needless to say on the biggest day of the basketball season so far this year I’ll be trekking through what’s expected to be a snowy day in the Big Apple. But just because I will miss these games, doesn’t mean you have to! Here is a list of great conference games tomorrow! Get out and take advantage of this early Christmas gift to basketball fans!

• PAC •

CVCA Royals (3-0) at Tuslaw Mustangs (4-1) – 7:30

This will be the Royals first test. They have played a trio of non-conference games that they have just rolled in. in their three victories they’ve averaged 58 points and only gave up an average of 22. We clearly know that this one won’t be as easy, but will the difference in schedules so far this season have an effect on this one or not? Tuslaw has been tested in four of their five games, and stand 2-0 in the league. They’ve pulled out a win in every game except their road loss to Louisville, a division 1 opponent.

I really like both backcourts for the Royals and the Mustangs. I think what separates the two is the experience and cohesion of the Mustangs. Though both are talented, the Tuslaw guards (Leedy, Koons, Yost) have played 60+ games together, they have went to battle together in tough conference games, close games, wins ands losses. The Royals group are just getting together; with Pierce, Bettinger and Casilonova being freshmen or transfers their experience overall and together is very limited.

Tuslaw’s size could be a big factor as well as the Royals are small and run as many as five guards at you at a time. Of course that presents a matchup problem for Tuslaw as well for the young true post Brook Stookey, however I anticipate one or both teams to play some type of zone, which will help negate any size disadvantages. One player who is key in this game is Peyton Stewart. She has great size and length but still matches up with any guard well with her athleticism.

I anticipate this game to be a good one, and the pre-season hype that this years CVCA team is carrying adds to the intrigue. The more fans CVCA can get to to Tuslaw the better, because I know Mustang fans will be out in full force!

Result: CVCA jumps out early, Tuslaw battles back, CVCA wins 45-41 in OT

League Outlook: CVCA places themselves at the top of the league with an undefeated Manchester. This league is far from over. Manchester hasn’t played any of the other top teams in the league while Northwest and Tuslaw each have a loss but could still very well finish on top.

• EBC •

West Branch Warriors (2-1) at Marlington Dukes (4-0) – 7:00

This one will bring a packed house! West Branch is coming into their first EBC game but have been tested in every way through three games. After a disappointing loss to Canfield the Warriors bounced back and got a huge win against former league rival Louisville. That game took a few free throws from Peyton Alazaus to extend the game and a late bucket and stop to win in OT. They since have a solid win against D1 Boardman. Marlington is no stranger to wins in the young season as they have two league wins and a huge win against the Federal Leagues Perry. That game in itself is a huge confidence builder considering the Dukes have not beat a Fed team in recent memory, maybe never.

Both teams have solid squads, dependable starting fives and some reliable depth coming off the bench. These two long time rivals, who are only 20 minutes apart down State Street, will pack the moderately sized Marlington gym! This will be an awesome setting for a high school girls game!

Given those circumstances, there lies the question marks, and possibly advantages. Even though it’s a home game for Marlington, which is an advantage for them, there will be just a many Warrior fans. The Warriors depend on a heavy senior lineup with Alazaus, Scarpitti, Broadway and others. That increases the chances they can better handle that type of environment. Marlington relies heavily on a freshman PG, they aren’t real senior heavy with Springer being the only senior they look to for huge contributions. This game will be in tense, it will be loud, it will be a tough matchup for both teams. Who wins will be a direct result of how well the Marlington youth can play in that environment.

Result: West Branch wins big, 47-24

League Outlook: This win proves that this is a two team race for the EBC, West Branch and Salem, who don’t play their first of two games until Jan. 4th at Salem, then at West Branch on Feb. 5th.

• Suburban – National •

Nordonia Knights (6-0) at Stow Bulldogs (4-0) – 7:00

I think it’s safe to say many people have been looking forward to this game. Nordonia has a plethora of talent and are playing as well as they have been in the last several years. They are down PG Dominque Evans but return senior Lizzie Imrie after missing all of last year. Kluse, Syllaba, and Majoros give the Knights talent and toughness from the jump. The Knights have several really good wins so far over Hoover and Buchtel, and a recent scare against Hudson may have sharpened their focus a little bit.

Both teams have beat traditional league powerhouse Wadsworth already; Stow in convincing fashion, Nordonia left a little more suspense. Stow also has a solid win over Solon. Confidence is high for Nordonia right now, which is a must going into a huge league matchup on the road against a team that has owned the series in the memorable future, having not beat Stow in four years. Keep in mind there isn’t a person on the Nordonia bench, coach or player, who has beat Stow. They did slay that same dragon with a win against Wadsworth last week, but as Saturday proved, Stow is a different animal.

Stow is one of the best defensive teams must of us will see this year, and beyond. They’re just so tenacious on the ball, they help well and they protect the rim well. All five players can guard on the perimeter, which adds another dimension to the level of defense they can play. Carlson, McCoy, Chmielewski, Adams and Philpot give the Bulldogs as good a starting five as there is in Northeast Ohio.

This game features the two best teams in the league, and there’s zero doubt this game provides the winner with at least a share of the league when the season comes to a close. I would generally think a team in Stows position would have the advantage at home and having been so dominant in the past, however this Knights team is feeling good and that swagger might be what’s needed to get them over the hump. Or Stow could make a statement and end all suspicion that there may be a new league contender. Wednesday night will be a big night at Stow!

Result: Stow dominated from start to finish, won 45-26

League Outlook: Its over, Stow slammed the door shut on Nordonia, the 2nd best team in the league. The Suburban National is Stows for the taking.

• Federal League •

GlenOak Golden Eagles (4-0) at Jackson Polar Bears (4-1) – 7:15

GlenOak visits Jackson to determine the Federal League Champions. I know that sounds crazy this early in the year, but these are the two best teams in the league. Hands down. Jackson has rebounded from a loss to Medina to start the season, with a couple league wins. GlenOak is undefeated with great wins over the other top tier teams in the league, McKinley and Hoover.

Heres why I think the league champion is determined this night, on December 11th. I don’t believe any other teams in the league can beat either one of these teams. McKinley would be the wild card in there because they do have a very talented backcourt and its always tough to play at the Fieldhouse. GlenOak has already crossed that bridge. Both have beat Hoover, who I consider the other top four team, these are the two best teams. Unless this game goes to OT, or is close down the stretch, the winner will win the league.

For Jackson its between the ears, they’ve only beaten GlenOak a handful of times in recent memory, though the biggest one was for a District Title, 5 years ago. If the Polar Bears can’t get a win in this one on their home court, the second meeting might be tougher from a confidence standpoint. If Jackson wins it wont be by accident. It will be because they’re better, deeper and have more experience, and a win will only strengthen that heading to the away tilt in the series.

Both teams are deep and talented, I don’t believe there’s any glaring advantage as far as personal. Both teams defend hard, they both have senior leadership, they both have shooters, they both have young kids making an impact, both have kids coming off the bench that contribute. The one difference may be the chemistry. With GlenOak having so many offseason changes and new starters, kids that haven’t played much until now, that could come into play. Jackson doesn’t have as much of that with many returning letterman and many of last years Top 10 returning, adding in the two best freshmen in the league.

This one is dead down the middle, with huge ramifications…

Result: Jackson wins a tight won from start to finish, 40-37

League Outlook: Despite me saying the league will be determined after this game, I’m going to pull back on that just slightly. That belief was based on the game being at GlenOak, which was my mistake. Going on the road will be a lot tougher, but this win did great things for the Polar Bears confidence. The league I believe will come down to one or both of these teams as champs when it’s all over, this win gives the Bears a foot up for the time being. GlenOak has got over the McKinley hurdle already, that could possibly trip someone up, Jackson still has to get by the Pups twice.

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