By Ben Stroup
Most of the area girls basketball teams have already wrapped up the regular season and the boys are down to just a handful of games.
It’s time to talk tourney.
On the girls’ side, Olentangy and Liberty, which won their respective conference championships — the Braves secured the Capital Division outright while the Patriots split with Dublin Coffman in the Central — are poised to make lengthy postseason pushes.
Second-seeded Liberty (19-3) opens Saturday against visiting Westland, the No. 44 seed. A win would set up a showdown against 35th-seeded Orange (10-12) next Friday. The Patriots beat both the Pioneers and Cougars in the regular season. They handled Orange 84-46 in non-league action back in December and cruised past Westland 64-37 and 57-28 when the teams matched up in OCC competition.
Other top teams in Liberty’s district bracket include 11th-seeded Upper Arlington, which handed it one of its losses this season, and seventh-seeded Bishop Watterson.
The Braves (19-3), the Central District’s third seed, will open Saturday against visiting Hayes (5-17). A win would punch a ticket to Tuesday’s sectional final against 47th-seeded Franklin Heights.
Olentangy, which played both teams twice in the regular season, outscored the Pacers and Falcons by a combined 306-92 margin in the four games.
Other top squads in the Braves’ bracket include 10th-seeded Teays Valley, which starts the tourney against visiting Big Walnut (8-14) Saturday afternoon, and sixth-seeded Newark.
In Division II action, eighth-seeded Buckeye Valley will host 10th-seeded Bexley Monday at 7 p.m. The Barons (12-8) beat the Lions 38-26 earlier this week in Bexley. A win Monday would set up a sectional final against host Linden McKinley, the fifth seed, next Friday in Columbus.
In Division IV, Delaware Christian’s girls (14-8), the sixth-seeded team in the district, will host 12th-seeded Patriot Preparatory next Thursday at 7 p.m. Finally, 18th-seeded Village Academy will open Wednesday against second-seeded Granville Christian.
In boys’ action, all three Olentangy teams are in the same bracket. The 14th-seeded Pioneers (17-4), who are a win away from wrapping up a league championship, will open the postseason by hosting 17th-seeded Groveport-Madison Tuesday, Feb. 23. An Orange win would set up a showdown with either 27th-seeded Olentangy (9-10) or the winner of next Saturday’s sectional semifinal between ninth-seeded Hilliard Bradley and 32nd-seeded Watkins Memorial in a district semi.
Liberty (10-11), which is in the top half of the bracket, opens against 18th-seeded Westerville North next Saturday. The 21st-seeded Patriots lost to the Warriors 63-53 in the second game of the season … but a lot has happened since then.
An all-Olentangy district final is within the realm of possibility, but Liberty would likely have to beat North, 23rd-seeded Pickerington North and top-seeded Gahanna Lincoln to make it happen. Either the Pioneers or Braves would also have to hold up their end of the bargain. Liberty beat both Orange and Olentangy during the regular season, but only by a combined eight points.
In other D-I action, 43rd-seeded Big Walnut (4-17) will open next Saturday at third-seeded Northland and 28th-seeded Hayes (9-11) will get things started against 10th-seeded Walnut Ridge next Saturday in Columbus.
In Division II, 10th-seeded Buckeye Valley (15-5) — currently alone atop the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference standings with a big game next week at Jonathan Alder — will start its tourney run Monday, Feb. 22 against 21st-seeded and visiting Hebron Lakewood. A win would send the Barons to Columbus and a date with host Beechcroft, the district’s eighth seed, in the sectional final Thursday, Feb. 25.
In Division IV, 13th-seeded Delaware Christian (9-11) will start against ninth-seeded Ridgedale and 22nd-seeded Village Academy will play second-seeded Wellington. Both games are slated for Monday, Feb. 22.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.