The stage is set for the regional final in Division II between the Vinton County Vikings and the Columbus-based Eastmoor Academy Warriors. The tip time will be Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Ohio University's Convocation Center.
The winner will get the ultimate prize of a state-tournament appearance.
The game can be heard live on WKOV (96.7 FM) and on the worldwide web at BDK Media Internet Stream.
Both head coaches in Vinton County's Matt Combs, now in his 17th season and Eastmoor's James Miranda, have respect for their respective opponents. They agree the game comes down to which team makes their shots and which one will have the stamina to get through a physical afternoon of basketball.
Coach Combs, who is also the athletic director, took the Vikings to the regional semifinals in 2008 and in 2016, losing on both occasions.
This year, the Vikings (24-2) won the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division title.
The Warriors are also well coached as Miranda took his team to the state tournament two years ago, but has also had success as the current head football coach and a former girls' basketball coach. This year, the Warriors were co-champions of the Columbus City League South Division.
Both coaches say not playing each other this year is not really a big issue but both mentors say they have some work ahead of them.
What Both Coaches think about the other?
Coach Combs states his team will have to contend with the quick guards Eastmoor has, their overall ability to set up an offensive attack and move well in transition. He says the Warriors have a strong package and some notable weapons.
"Eastmoor is quick, lengthy, and strong and they will present some challenges to our kids," said Combs.
Coach Miranda did not disagree as it is guards Zion Parham , the point guard, and Taevion Kinsey, who are good tempo setters.
"I have a great back court," said Coach Miranda. "Kinsey is just having a great year."
He also stated Stanley Williams (6'7", 175 post player) gave him a strong effort in the Warriors' win over Fairfield Union in the regional semifinals. While he is proud of his team, Coach Miranda adds there are some aspects about the Vikings that concern him and that he will be pointing out to his players.
"Vinton County is very aggressive," Miranda said. "They like to push the ball and they have some big post players."
He also noted his team cannot afford to leave Bryce Damron alone and let him haul in rebounds all day or let him get short put-back shots. He also stated Griffith is a spark on the inside.
Combs is hoping some of those concerns the Warriors' coach has work to the Vikings' advantage.
As for other aspects of the game, Coach Miranda says he knows this will be basically a home game for the Vikings. However, he and his team are okay with it. Even though the Vikings will have a fan base advantage, the coach knows many of his fans will be there and he appreciates their support. He also knows the Vikings had played more games in the Convocation Center but his team won a regional title there two years ago and feel comfortable playing there. So, it should balance out.
For Combs, getting to this game places the Vikings on a new plateau and hopes to extend their season to Columbus.
"The kids got us to the new plateau," said Combs. "I am just along for the ride."
Now the big stage is set with the winner advancing to the state final four.