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Court Report

Boys basketball: Elyria Catholic, Clearview, Vermilion face tough tournament test

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Clearview is 14-4 and 13-1 in the Patriot Athletic Conference and, if the Clippers can steal a win over Fairview on Friday, will win a conference championship.

All that for a No. 7 seed in the Division II district tournament at North Ridgeville, which begins on Feb. 26.

Vermilion, meanwhile, is 17-3 and going to win the Sandusky Bay Conference’s Bay Division. Its reward? One of the toughest districts in the state in which five teams have three or fewer losses.

Elyria Catholic? Ditto. The Panthers have played one of the toughest schedules around. A Division III team, EC has played only one Division III school, while taking on 11 Division I teams and 10 from Division II. The Panthers hope that slate prepares them for Lutheran East and Warrensville Heights, two of the best teams in the area, at Garfield Heights.

It’s a gauntlet for those three teams to run if they want to win a district title.

“I think our seed shows the respect teams have for us. I’m not sure our record would on its face deserves that,” EC coach Rob Palmer said. “But we must have received enough votes, and that’s a good thing.”

Palmer said he was curious how fellow coaches in EC’s district would vote the Panthers, given their modest 10-7 record. EC went 1-6 around the holidays against a brutal schedule — Vermilion, Triway, GlenOak, Fairview and St. Ignatius — but has won six of its last seven.

Awaiting EC in a district semifinal likely will be Warrensville Heights, which is 12-6 and has beaten the likes of Cleveland Central Catholic, Garfield Heights and Cleveland Heights. Lutheran East, meanwhile, is 10-7 this year, with wins over Shaker Heights, Warrensville Heights (twice) and Lakewood.

Columbia earned the No. 2 seed and Open Door the third seed in the Division IV Norton District, and the two teams could meet in the district semis. The Patriots have won 14 straight games, but in a cruel twist of scheduling fate, have to play five times in eight days: Tuesday against Brookside, Thursday and likely Friday in the Lake Effect Conference Tournament, Saturday against Dalton and Tuesday against Euclid.

Richmond Heights, at 15-5, is the district’s top seed, having cruised through the Chagrin Valley Conference; the Spartans are 13-0 in CVC play and have outscored opponents by an average of 40 points.

The Patriots and Raiders, meanwhile, met way back on Dec. 1, a 17-point Columbia win. The game was tied at half, but Columbia outscored Open Door by 17 in the third — and that was that. Three Patriots players fouled out, while Open Door was whistled for 28 fouls overall.

“We’ve talked about that game a lot, and we’d love to get another shot at them. We think it’d be a great high school basketball game,” Patriots coach Todd Wright said.

Back in Division II, Clearview may be a bit low. The Clippers just beat Buckeye, the No. 5 seed, Friday, but some coaches may have voted by that point.

The field is stacked. Cleveland Central Catholic is loaded, and Holy Name, Bay, Fairview, Buckeye and Rocky River each had solid seasons.

The Northwest District, the semis and final of which will be played in Mansfield, is one of a few remaining districts to give teams the option where to go in the draw. Other districts have gone to a strict college-style placement after seeding is determined.

It was a bit of a surprise when No. 2 seed Lexington, after No. 1 seed Norwalk chose its spot, picked the same side as the Truckers. That left Vermilion on the top half of the draw, with a path to reach the district final without playing either team seeded ahead of it.

The Sailors still must get through No. 4 Mansfield Senior (14-4), No. 5 Clear Fork (16-4) and No. 6 Sandusky (10-6). Vermilion took the bye, so its fans only would have to travel to Bucyrus (75-minute drive) once, and for more chances to scout potential opponents.

The Sailors are done Feb. 19, so they can scout Feb. 22, the last Friday of the season for many teams, and Feb. 26, when Shelby and Sandusky open the sectional tournament for a shot to play Vermilion.

In Division I, Lorain’s toughest tests will come from Southwestern Conference frontrunners Olmsted Falls and Lakewood, seeded Nos. 2 and 3 in the Elyria District. The Bulldogs are 17-2 and will edge out the Rangers (11-6) for the SWC crown. Avon (seeded fourth) and Elyria (fifth) round out the top five.

Contact Joel Hammond at (440) 329-7135 or hammond_joel@yahoo.com.
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