OVAC girls hoop tourney pairings set

The cut-off date has come and gone.

The brackets for the fifth annual Wheeling Hospital OVAC Basketball Championship are officially set.

The basketball committee met Tuesday morning at the OVAC headquarters to finalize the pairings and establish the consolation pairings, which are comprised of the teams that didn’t finish in the top four of their respective class.

The tournament opens on Monday with the higher seeds hosting semifinal games. The championship games are slated for Saturday, Feb. 9 at Ohio University Eastern in St. Clairsville. The losers of Monday’s contests will play on Thursday in the consolation rounds.

The schedule for Saturday’s finals are as follows: Class 2A (10 a.m.), Class 3A (12:30 p.m.), Class 4A (3 p.m.); Class 5A (5:30 p.m.) and Class 1A (8 p.m.).

Seven area teams played their way into the championship bracket and of those four will host semi-final contests.

River earned the top seed in the 3A field, which is comprised completely of Pioneer Valley Conference foes. The Lady Pilots will meet Shenandoah for the third time. River is 15-5 on the season and narrowly edged out Fort Frye for the top seed. The Lady Pilots and Zeps split their two meetings, each winning on the other’s home floor.

“We’re very happy to be the top seed and excited to play at home,” said River head coach Rick Isaly. “This was one of our kids’ goals before the season. Now, we can focus on taking the next step.”

The other half of the 3A bracket finds second-seeded Fort Frye (16-3) playing host to third-seeded Monroe Central (11-7). This is a rematch of last winter’s 3A title game, which the Cadets won.

The 2A field is one of the most balanced classes with any of the four qualifiers a legitimate threat to claim the title.

Wheeling Central (15-2) earned the top seed. The Lady Maroon Knights are the defending class champions and are starting to get key pieces back from injuries. Central will welcome fourth-seeded Clay-Battelle (13-1) on Monday.

The other half of the bracket is one of the most intriguing matchups of the entire tournament. Second-seeded Bridgeport has ran roughshod through its schedule, stubbing its paw against only River. The Lady Bulldogs are 18-1 and will welcome third-seeded Shadyside.

The Lady Tigers battled their way through arguably the area’s toughest schedule, posting a 13-7 record. Shadyside was in the title game last year, but fell to Central.

The 4A field is assured a new champion because Edison failed to qualify for the top four this season. Steubenville, which has had a roller coaster month of January, pocketed the top seed with a 13-5 record. The Lady Big Red will host fourth-seeded Oak Glen, which is 8-7 for the season.

On the other side of the bracket, defending runnerup Union Local is seeking another trip to OUE. It’ll meet third-seeded Martins Ferry with tipoff slated for 7 p.m. The Lady Jets, who won the 2011 title, are 13-6, while the Lady Riders are 11-8 on the season.

In Class 1A, Conotton Valley earned the top seed. The Lady Rockets posted an 11-5 record and will host Morgantown Trinity, which is the defending champion. Trinity, which is facing more than a 120-mile trip to Bowerstown, is 10-7 on the season.

The other half of the small-school bracket pits second-seeded St. John (14-6) against third-seeded Madonna (9-10). These two met for the title in 2011 with the Lady Blue Dons prevailed, 47-41.

The boys’ tournament pairings will be set one week from today.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com