A few weeks back I wrote of the numerous possibilities in both the area girls and boys district basketball tournaments. So far, the post-season has been anything but a disappointment.
I saw and covered the West Branch-Canfield girls district final in Austintown which proved to easily be the best high school girls basketball game I've seen in my time as sports editor. Everything you could want from a good game it had - two evenly match teams, a capacity crowd, 13 lead changes and drama at the final buzzer.
The only unfortunate thing about it was someone had to lose.
Canfield junior Sabrina Mangapora announced her presence to college recruiters with authority by tallying a game-high 25 points and hitting the game-winner as time expired.
I felt for West Branch, who fell for the second time in as many years at the district final. But a program as good as the Lady Warriors will be back and will learn from the experience. They have two very good freshmen in point guard Melinda Trimmer and forward Pavin Heath, and although they lose four solid seniors, they have a very bright future.
The United Local Lady Golden Eagles pulled off a huge upset of perennial Division III power Ursuline. I'm not sure a whole lot of people saw that coming, but it's great to see an area team break through the Mineral Ridge district. United is a talented program and always reloads year to year. South Range made a nice little post-season run and absolutely turned their season around. The Lady Raiders started the year 3-5 but finished it 11-4. United/South Range should be an intense and exciting rivalry for years to come in Tier 1 of the Inter-Tri County League.
Over on the boys' side of things, I said the Division IV Struthers district was the most unpredictable, and to watch out for the Sebring Trojans and Western Reserve Blue Devils. While Western Reserve lost a very close first round contest to Lowellville, Sebring has taken its hot streak right into the tournament dropping Heartland Christian and then No. 2 seed Yougnstown Christian.
Up next is a battle with league foe Wellsville. The Tigers were the last team to beat Sebring back in the first week of February, and they split their regular season contests. Tuesday night's game should be an exciting one that could go either way.
This tournament is still completely up for grabs with the four remaining teams. Top-seeded Mogadore nearly lost to a Leetonia squad that was finally healthy, and they'll likely have their hands full with Southern in Tuesday night's opening contest, too.
Unfortunately for the Salem Quakers, they fell to Poland in their second tournament contest. The Quakers finished the year at 9-13 but easily could've had a much better record given how many close games they lost. But the future for Salem should also be bright given the return of juniors Ryan Bush, Anthony Shivers, Brendan Webb, and Zach Economous, as well as sophomore Max Wolfgang. On paper, that has to be pretty close to the projected starting line-up right now. The Quakers also return junior Brayden Myers who saw a good deal of varsity action and should be in the mix for a starting spot as well. The Quakers should definitely improve next season, and I'm sure the community will be excited to see the team progress when winter rolls back in again.
As a high school program, you always want to still be playing when March rolls around, and we've still got potential area district champions competing. It's been a great post-season, and I have a feeling it's only going to get better.
E-mail B.J. Lisko at firstname.lastname@example.org