EAST LIVERPOOL -Three outstanding cage squads are journeying to East Liverpool to take part in the Potter Holiday Classic on Friday and Saturday at the Potter Fieldhouse.
The first game on Friday matches up longtime football rivals Steubenville and Youngstown Ursuline on the basketball hardwood. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. The second game on Friday matches Painesville Harvey and host East Liverpool.
The consolation game and championship games are slated for Saturday, beginning with the consolation game at 6 p.m.
"This is one of the best tournament fields we have had in the past few years," East Liverpool athletic director Bob Shansky said. "The tournament has a local feel with the Potters and Steubenville. Ursuline is the defending tournament champion and is always well coached. Dave Wojciechowski was the coach at Vermilion when we booked them for last year's tourney. By the time Vermilion came down, Coach Wojciechowski had moved on to Painesville Harvey. Once he got there, he called and asked for Harvey to be invited."
Potter Fieldhouse is an outstanding venue for basketball as the reserved seats are all cushioned and the video scoreboard is now operational.
"These four teams should provide fans with some outstanding entertainment," Shansky said. "I hope that the local fans come out."
Here is a capsule preview of each of the four teams:
STEUBENVILLE (2-1) has defeated East Liverpool and John Marshall. The lone loss for Big Red was to Youngstown Cardinal Mooney.
Point guard Brandon Herring-Hill paces the Steubenville offense, averaging 19.3 points per outing. Perimeter player Adam Sterling (6-4) roughed up the Potters for 23 points and 15 rebounds. Outstanding football player Lucas Herrington, who is counted on for good defense, scored 16 points versus Mooney. Freshman Charles Reeves (6-4) averages just under 10 points per game despite getting into foul trouble. Postman Chris Smith does yeoman work setting picks, rebounding and playing solid interior defense. Smith is averaging six points per game.
"We get up and down the floor pretty good," Steubenville coach Mike Haney said. "We like to play pressure defense, steal the ball and get the ball up the floor as quick as we can."
URSULINE (3-2) beat Wheeling Linsly 58-37 on Saturday.
"A very good defensive effort," coach Keith Gunther said. "We have really good guards and try to run as much as we can. We want to play up tempo as much as we can. Some teams are zoning us to try and slow us down."
Guards Mark Hughes (6-2, Soph.) and Devin McElroy (5-9, Sr.) are averaging 17 and 15 points respectively. Dave Collins (6-2, Soph.), Greg Parallea (6-1, Soph.), Paul Jackson (6-5, Sr.) and Gino Naples (6-4, Sr.) are other players in the Irish's regular rotation.
"We are progressing as we are still coming off of football," Gunther said. "While we are very talented, we are still in a learning curve. By March, we would should be very competitive."
HARVEY (3-1) has posted wins over Fairport Harbor, West Geauga and rival Painesville Riverside. Harvey's lone loss came to Lyndhurst Brush on Friday.
"We are pretty much an up and down the floor team," Wojciechowski said. "Sometimes, we get a little wild and throw the ball all over the place. We are fairly young. I'm sure the local fans will realize that we play very hard, but unfortunately, we don't always play sound basketball."
The Red Raiders are led by Marquel Stokes (6-3, Sr.) who averages 14 points per game and eight rebounds and Lavell Morgan (6-2, Sr.) who puts up 11 points and six rebounds per game. Point guard Devin Hamilton (5-9, Jr.) averages eight points and seven assists per contest. Jayden Dixon (6-0, Jr.) is totaling just over 11 points.
"We have four other players who fill out our eight-man rotation," said the Harvey coach. "We are averaging about 68 points per game, while giving up between 52 and 53 points per game."
EAST LIVERPOOL (4-2) was busy last week, picking up road wins over Salem, Beaver Local and Oak Glen.
"We are coming off of a pretty solid week," East Liverpool coach Nate Conley said. "This week has given us a few days to work on some of our weaknesses. Hopefully, we can grow this week, which is what every coach hopes their team can do."
Conley is also using this week to continue to fine tune his rotation and build up his bench.
"As we get healthier, the rotation is starting to come together. People are starting to understand their roles and eventually we hope to have a very successful season. This tournament enables us to play two games against quality competition."