Conference crowns still up in air (Boy's Basketball Notebook)

MORNING JOURNAL/SAM GREENE Firelands forward Joseph Hyster, left, looks for an open pass during the first quarter last Friday against Wellington at Firelands High School.

With just one week left in the regular season, teams like Norwalk and Columbia have already won their respective conferences, but several conference championships are still up in the air.

Each team involved in these title chases wants to have the honor, especially for a senior class, to add their year on the banners of their respective gyms, leaving behind a proud legacy for the underclassmen to uphold.

Here is a look at some of the closest races left in the area and who has the best chance to claim a championship.

PAC Stars

The mission for first-year coach Brett Bartlett and the Firelands Falcons is simple: win one of their last two conference games — a road trip to winless Black River tonight and the home finale against Brookside — to clinch the division.

The Falcons, led by Joe Hyster and Logan Sittinger, have been the best defensive team in the conference all season long. That defense has paid off with wins in seven of the team’s last nine conference games.

This is only the second year the Falcons have been a part of the PAC, yet they have a great chance to win a division title this year.

If the Falcons were to slip up, Bartlett’s old team, Keystone, could jump in and take advantage to earn a split.

The Wildcats have caught fire with four straight wins including an upset of Firelands back on Feb. 1. Tonight, fellow first-year coach Jeff Holzhauer and the Wildcats travel to Buckeye, who is tied with Keystone for second place, just one game behind Firelands.

After that comes the PAC finale on Tuesday at Wellington, which is always a great rivalry game. The Wildcats earned a share of the Stars Division last year in an overtime win over Wellington, so anything can happen on the last day of the conference season.

West Shore Conference

Few teams have been on as good a roll to close out the regular season as the Avon Eagles.

Another first-year coach, Kevin Sapara, has his team playing fantastic defense and thus has the Eagles atop the West Shore Conference.

Avon vaulted its way into first by sweeping Rocky River and splitting the season series with Lakewood.

The Eagles have won four straight games, including a recent 70-43 blowout win at North Olmsted on Tuesday. All 13 Avon players who stepped on the court scored in the win.

Avon has two more conference games left, including a road trip to Vermilion in hopes of getting revenge after losing to the Sailors earlier this season.

Sandusky Bay Conference

Ever since Huron stunned Perkins on Jan. 19, the SBC has turned into a two-horse race with third-place Clyde a distant four games behind.

The Tigers haven’t lost a game since Dec. 29, but their winning streak faces a great challenge against undefeated and state-ranked Norwalk on Saturday. Perkins has lost twice to the Truckers, with their only other loss coming at Division I Perrysburg.

Each team has two SBC games left to go — Perkins hosts St. Mary and travels to Margaretta, while Huron goes to both Clyde and Port Clinton.

It’s likely that the teams will split the conference championship, giving the Pirates their second-straight crown and Huron’s first since the 2005-06 season.

Both teams have earned the top seeds in their respective sectionals, so each has a great chance to play for a district title.

All that remains until then is whether or not the SBC title is split or won outright.

Firelands Conference

Just like last season, the New London Wildcats are catching fire down the stretch, winning their last seven games heading into tonight, including a home win over Western Reserve.

The Roughriders, though, still hold a one-game lead with two to play as they host Plymouth tonight and travel to Crestview next Friday. One win for Chris Sheldon’s Roughriders and they claim at least a share of the FC.

New London closes out conference play with a road trip to Monroeville tonight and to St. Paul next week.

The Wildcats are a No. 2 seed in one half of the Division III Willard District and have earned a first-round bye, while Western Reserve is a No. 3 seed in the other half.

@Bielik_Tim

Last Updated: 2/14/2013 10:57:31 PM EST

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