CHAMPIONS, BRACKETS, AND DEVASTATION 

Shots in the Darke

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All of Darke County, and the southwestern part of the county in particular, is thrilled by the Lady Patriots of Tri-Village capturing the OHSAA D-IV girls basketball state championship this weekend in Dayton. Matching the perfect 30–0 record of the 2015 Patriots’ boys state titleholders, Brad Gray’s crew survived tough regional contests before taking out Berlin Hiland in the semis and then Toledo Christian in a hard fought championship contest 52-50.

Led as they have been all season by the dynamic senior trio of Morgan Hunt, Torie Richards,  and Rylee Sagester the Lady Patriots lived up to their preseason billing as the best small  school team in the state. The seniors well deserved all of the accolades they received in compiling a 103-7 record over the course of their high school careers!

However it was three other players for T-V who played a huge role not only in the final game but throughout the year. In the win over Toledo Christian junior Bella Black contributed 10  rebounds, freshman Kynnedi Hager had 10 points and 4 rebounds, and freshman Sydnee  Delong led the team with a +/- of 5 (the difference between T-V’s total points and TC’s total  points when Sydnee was on the floor) in limiting the Eagles to 32% shooting from the field.  These three will form the heart of next year’s team so it’s safe to say that the Lady Pats will  once again be the team to beat in the WOAC.

The new trophy will fit in well with all of the other hardware that Tri-Village athletic teams  have accumulated over the years and be a welcome addition to the new Patriot Activity Center.  Another title was also captured Sunday as the Patriot’s archery team won a state championship, details of which aren’t available as this column is being written. Quite a weekend for Patriot Nation!!

On the boys’ side of the brackets, congratulations go to the 24-3 Russia Raiders on advancing to the D-IV Final Four in Dayton where they’ll face defending champion Richmond Heights (conquerors of Tri-Village in last year’s state championship game). It’s a feel good story for the Raiders as their head coach Dave Borchers was tragically killed in an auto accident last October. Spencer Cordonnier took over the helm and the team, school, and community have dedicated the season to their late coach.

Richmond Heights is, like Harvest Prep of Canal Winchester, one of those programs that create controversy around state high school basketball circles. Some questionable transfers  and (ahem!) recruits transform these schools into glorified AAU All-Star teams making it tough  for small town schools like the other finalists this year in D-IV, Berlin Hiland and Convoy  Crestview along with Russia, to compete!

Here’s this week’s trivia question—name the Darke County schools who have been represented in the state boys basketball tournament and in what years.

Just in, the NCAA brackets and seedings: in the South Regional, Alabama receives a number one seed (even with the cloud of player involvement in a fatal shooting!); Houston garners the top spot in the Midwest; Kansas (even after getting blown out by Texas in the Big

Eight tournament final) leads the field in the West; and Big Ten champion Purdue heads the East. Overall a strong field of sixty-eight—who will be this year’s Cinderella?

I spent four days the past week in Southwest Florida with some longtime high school  friends to go deep sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico (once again, for a second time, I came  home a fishing virgin as mechanical difficulties with our charter boat caused cancellation of our  expedition!). The devastation wreaked by Hurricane Ian last fall in the Ft. Myers Beach area is overwhelming. Mile after mile of ruined buildings, ships and vehicles piled up in strange  places, and debris everywhere even after almost six months with limited electrical, water, and  sanitary services makes one wonder where to even begin in restoring the city and surrounding  environs. Truly a tragedy!!

One of many other highlights of my visit to the Sunshine State was attending an exhibition game between the Minnesota Twins and the Dominican Republic national team as part of the World Baseball Championship series. 85 degrees, sunny, and a 2-1 Twins win in two hours and  nine minutes; gotta love the new pitch clock as things moved right along and kept fans  involved, particularly the rabid fans of Dominica, drums, horns, and all—Ole, Ole, Ole!!

Finally, the boys teams from Darke County to make Final Fours:

Arcanum (‘56 and ‘69 champions, ‘67, and ‘76); Bradford (1923 and ‘46); Franklin-Monroe (‘74); Mississinawa Valley (‘75); Tri-Village (‘91, ‘14, ‘15 champions, and ‘22); Versailles (‘04 and ‘13);  and Westmont (‘54). With the announcement of the NCAA brackets it’s time to make your best educated guesses—get out the crystal balls and prayer beads!! Until next time, stay active and healthy!!