Pictured is the "crowd" at the Feb. 10 sectional tournament game in Lucasville. (HCP photo by Stephen Forsha.)
Pictured is the "crowd" at the Feb. 10 sectional tournament game in Lucasville. (HCP photo by Stephen Forsha.)
The thought occurred to me over the weekend: Does anyone remember the last time an Ohio high school sectional or district basketball tournament was held in Highland County?

Do we have to go all the way back to the Class A, AA and AAA high school breakdowns?

After looking at the Division II, III and IV girls basketball sectional tournament pairings for Highland County schools, Fairfield, Hillsboro, Lynchburg-Clay, McClain and Whiteoak in the Feb. 8 edition of The Highland County Press, it seemed to me that the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) could do a more reasonable job of scheduling these games.

For instance, in Div. II, the McClain Lady Tigers are scheduled to play Logan Elm at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 at Logan High School. That's a 70-mile, one-way trip.

Similarly, on Saturday, Feb. 15, the Hillsboro Lady Indians will play Warren, also at Logan High School. That's an 80-mile trip for the Hillsboro student-athletes and their fans and families.

For the local Southern Hills Athletic Conference teams, they didn't fare any better, with first-round sectional road trips of 68, 61 and 52 miles – one way.

For comparison, the teams that the Highland County schools will be playing travel 32, 51, 60, 88 and 29 miles, respectively.

The five Highland County schools will travel a total of 332 miles, while their opponents will travel 260 miles – or an average of 15 fewer miles. Four of these five games were scheduled on school nights.

Surely, there's a better way.

Again, does anyone remember the last time an Ohio high school sectional or district basketball tournament was held in Highland County?

With the Southern State Community College Patriot Center situated near the Hillsboro business and restaurant district, one would think that the college and the OHSAA might work together to schedule divisional sectional tournaments around the college schedule. Barring that, Hillsboro High School might be another option for area sectional games.

Just a thought on this chilly, midwinter evening.

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• Being in a basketball mindset, I watched most of the UC Bearcats' Sunday, Feb. 9 road game at the University of Connecticut (UConn).

Rarely being one to ever cast aspersions on the officiating, I thought the officials were, well, lousy, in this game.

Even UC radio announcer Dan Hoard (I listen to the games on radio) mentioned the "familiar sound of a makeup whistle" by one of the refs.

The game ended with a UC loss in overtime just as Wilmington High School graduate and UC point guard Jarron Cumberland appeared to be fouled on the game's final play.

Instead of using replay to sort things out, the refs declared the game over and UConn enjoyed a dubious one-point victory.

The Bearcats deserved a better fate. But give credit to head coach John Brannen. He made no excuses in his post-game radio interview.

The lesson is this: Never let a game come down to one singular call by an official. Convert on your possessions. Make your free throws. Play smart defense. Rebound. UC gave up 18 offensive rebounds against UConn. That was more telling than one or two questionable calls.

* * *

• Just as I start to think about my Final Four selections for this year's NCAA Div. I men's basketball tournament, the topsy-turvy season launches another air ball.

Either a No. 1-ranked team loses to an unranked team or there's an undefeated San Diego State working its way into the Top 5.

And don't look now, but the Dayton Flyers may be one of those Final Four teams. With players like Obi Toppin and Ibi Watson, the Flyers have quietly posted a 21-2 record. Their only losses are to No. 3 Kansas in overtime and to No. 24 Colorado.

A team just out of the current top 10, No. 11 Auburn, also is on my March Madness radar.

Since we'll be entering the bracketology season soon, I'll not reveal anymore of my potential selections.

If two area schools, the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, do not get in the tournament, it will lose some of its luster for southern Ohio fans. As it looks now, both teams are going to have to make a statement in their respective conference tournaments.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.