OAKBORO — With a Rocky River Conference co-champion spot locked up at a minimum, the West Stanly varsity boys’ basketball team is on a quest to claim a perfect regular season and sole ownership of the championship.
It’s been more than 20 years since it has won that particular conference title.
The first-ranked Colts (10-0, 8-0 RRC), in their final game of the regular season, are set to square off with second-ranked Forest Hills (8-1, 6-1 RRC) Tuesday in a road matchup. The two teams played earlier this season at West Stanly on Jan. 13, with the Colts narrowly surviving the Yellow Jackets with a 59-54 win.
“I’m expecting a dog fight,” West Stanly head coach John Thompson said of his prediction for the game. “They’re [Forest Hills] really athletic, well-coached and they have that tradition. It’s a tough place to play down there.”
Because West Stanly won that first contest between the two teams, it will at least be crowned a co-champion of the conference even if the Yellow Jackets win both Tuesday’s game and their regular season finale Friday at Anson (6-3, 6-3 RRC).
The conference-leading Colts are coming off a Feb. 9 road win over Anson by a score of 57-50. West was scheduled to face Mount Pleasant (5-4, 4-4 RRC) on Feb. 12, but the game was canceled due to a Mount Pleasant player testing positive for COVID-19 — that game will not be rescheduled.
Thompson says his undefeated team has had success this season because of its balanced roster.
“We’re lucky because we start five seniors, so we’ve had a bit of an edge over some of the younger teams,” he said. “Some of these teams have overplayed on Austin [Medlin], who’s our best scorer. They put a lot of emphasis on trying to stop him, and we’ve done such a good job of other guys making plays. Austin has been a distributor at times and not just a scorer, so I think it’s actually helped his overall game. Every night, it seems like someone new steps up — it’s just been great.”
Due to health safety concerns and the rescheduling of matchups that have pushed back the season, the Rocky River Conference will not hold its annual conference tournament following the season. Because of that, the Colts will immediately jump into the 2A state playoff bracket where 32 teams will make the cut instead of the usual 64 teams.
When it comes to playoff seeding, all eight 2A conference champions in the state will be randomized and given a spot in the bracket. The outcome of West Stanly’s game with Forest Hills will likely influence whether the Colts receive an automatic bid or an at-large bid, as well improve its chances of playing the first round on their home court.