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Area high school teams prepare for the road to Columbus
MORNING JOURNAL/SAM GREENE Lorain’s Louis Cheers goes up for a dunk during the fourth quarter against Clearview on Saturday at Lorain High.
The Sweet 16 was a reality last year for four local teams: Norwalk, Elyria, New London and Perkins. Each proved their run from a year ago was no fluke as each has drawn high seeds.
But will any of them return to the regional round? Or will there be an underdog that rises and makes a long run?
Here is a look at all the districts featuring area teams:
Division I Grafton District
Brecksville is the top seed in this district after losing to Elyria in last year’s district final. The Pioneers, Westlake and Avon Lake round out the top four seeds, respectively.
This district opens on Feb. 25 with a great sectional semifinal game between No. 5 Avon and No. 6 Lorain, each of whom has great sleeper potential. Both teams are playing better of late and could pose a big challenge for the Shoremen in a sectional final.
Elyria and Westlake appear to be on a collision course for what should be a great district semifinal. The two teams played a thriller earlier in the season won by an Isaiah Walton three-pointer in the final minute.
A rematch of last year’s classic district final seems in the cards.
Predicted Final: Elyria vs. Brecksville
D-I BG District
Norwalk will likely finish its second-straight undefeated regular season. This time, however, the Truckers have gone through a much tougher schedule to get to where they are as they seem the team to beat in this district.
The teams most likely to derail the Truckers are Mansfield Senior, who they will most likely face in the district semifinals, and Whitehouse Anthony Wayne, last year’s district runner-up led by Michigan recruit Mark Donnal.
Norwalk has played like a team that can make it to Columbus. Their biggest challenge to get to the Sweet 16 may be themselves.
Predicted Final: Norwalk vs. Anthony Wayne
D-I Brecksville District
Midview reached its first district final in school history last year. The Middies will be hard-pressed to repeat that feat with their first game against Midpark followed by a sectional final game against Solon.
State semifinalist St. Edward looks like the team to beat once again.
Predicted Final: St. Edward vs. North Royalton
D-II BG District
No Michael Ebert, no problem for the Perkins Pirates who draw the No. 1 seed in their half of the Bowling Green District bracket. Perkins may have one of the best one-two punches in the state in Nic Williams and Brandon Smith on the perimeter, and they have been a force rebounding the ball.
Host Bowling Green draws the No. 2 seed on that half, and has scored some impressive wins this year over Elida and Medina.
If Smith and Williams can each play great through three games, the Pirates will have a shot to defend the district championship which they won a year ago.
Defiance is the favorite on the other half of the bracket as they were last year. But the Bulldogs are not as imposing as they were last year when they came into the postseason with just one loss.
Predicted Final: Defiance vs. Perkins
D-II Westlake District
Plenty of attention will focus on the Feb. 27 sectional game between Vermilion and Firelands which pits Cameron Kuhn, one of the area’s best scorers, against the best defense in the Patriot Athletic Conference. The Falcons have enjoyed a great season under first-year coach Brett Bartlett, and their defensive style could bode well for them in the tournament which usually favors defensive-minded teams.
Brookside gets things started on Feb. 26 against Padua, followed by Bay, who had a surprising run to the district semifinal a year ago, going up against Holy Name.
The top two seeds, Cleveland Central Catholic and Benedictine, are at opposite ends of the bracket, but could be on a crash course for a district championship.
Predicted Final: CCC vs. Benedictine
D-III Wooster District
Oberlin gets a very favorable draw as the No. 2 seed, where they face the winner of Black River and defending district champion Orrville, who has won just four games as of the draw.
Coach Jason Smith and Elyria Catholic are the No. 4 seed, drawing an opening matchup with No. 12 Jeromesville Hillsdale.
Wooster also boasts a heavy dose of PAC teams, with Clearview seeded No. 6, Keystone No. 9 and Wellington No. 11.
Norwayne is the team to beat this year, coming in as the No. 1 seed.
Predicted Final: EC vs. Norwayne
D-III Painesville District
Columbia has been outstanding all season long, winning their first conference championship in 21 years and have earned the No. 4 seed in the Painesville District.
The Raiders are built for a great tournament run with balanced scoring and good defense. They also avoid having to play state-ranked Beachwood until possibly the district final.
Gilmour Academy is the biggest hurdle standing between Columbia and Beachwood.
Predicted Final: Beachwood vs. Columbia
D-III Willard District
Huron and New London draw the top two seeds, respectively, on one end of the bracket. Huron has had a great season and could win the SBC, but Dane Held and New London have the experience of winning the championship a year ago.
Western Reserve is the No. 3 seed on the other side and faces Elmore Woodmore in the sectional semis. The Roughriders would have to negotiate a very tough bracket with Ontario and Millbury Lake being very high seeds.
Predicted Final: Millbury Lake vs. Huron
Division IV Garfield Heights District
Open Door and Lake Ridge are the only area teams in this district and will play each other. However, the winner has to face Villa Angela-St. Joseph, which is a favorite to win the Division IV state championship.
Predicted Final: Richmond Heights vs. VASJ
Division IV Willard District
St. Paul has two winnable games on its side of the bracket, facing Firelands Conference rival South Central and a Danbury team which is just 1-16 going into the draw. Colonel Crawford, last year’s district champion, awaits in the district finals.
St. Mary also has a favorable road to the district semis with games against Plymouth and Monroeville.
Last Updated: 2/11/2013 9:24:32 PM EST