James Nosek | Press Box Perspectives Editor/Columnist
The month of February provides a lot more than valentines and beautifully kept roses to GMC teams battling for a conference title; it gives these teams a chance to showcase what they are all about and who they can transform into come playoff time.
With only two weeks left in the regular season, five contenders, including Middletown, Mason, Fairfield, Lakota West and Princeton, will have a chance to bring home a GMC title.
High school basketball is a sentiment of Ohio and, more specifically, the GMC, which is one of the top conferences in the area, even if it has been a down year regarding the competition level. It’s hard to look at one team in the hunt and solidify them as the true champion. There have been ups and downs for all five teams and honestly, that’s what makes prep basketball so special. Every team has lost at least one game to another remaining contender this season and really that summarizes into absolutely no margin of error. It’s like basketball at the college level; one loss can drop a team’s seeding or ruin their NCAA tournament chances.
Princeton and Fairfield both started off with solid undefeated records but then hit a bump in the road. Only Princeton has really regrouped, as they have won sixth straight games. Middletown and West struggled a little bit in the middle of the year but have heated up at the right time while Mason, a team that had the best record in the GMC at 12-1 just a few weeks ago, has started to cool down. Actually, the Comets eventually made it to the top of the Enquirer’s city coach’s poll, before losing to the Vikings.
It comes to show you what kind of pressure these teams are under but at the end of the day, whoever comes out on top proves more than they can bargain for.
Besides Princeton, all five of the contending GMC schools have three games remaining in their regular season schedule and not to mention they are all league games. Princeton plays four more games before the season ends but, like the rest of the teams, three are GMC, and one is against the out-of-conference Elder.
Middletown currently tops the GMC with a 10-1 league record (13-4 overall) and is red hot after coming off four consecutive wins. The Middies’ only conference loss came to Lakota West back in mid-January and they are definitely looking to win their first GMC title since 1994.
The other four teams though, are in a nice 4-way tie for second place.
Sure the Middies have a two game lead on each of the other four teams but they do have to play Princeton one more time, a team they barely got past in the first meeting, and play a tough Mason team that will be home in Mason Arena. If the Middies lose two of their next three remaining games, then that should really open up a gate of opportunity for everyone else.
But think about it, if they go undefeated the rest of the way or only lose a game, then the trophy is theirs. The only really chance for any team, not including Middletown, is winning the last three games and waiting to see what the Middies do.
The one team that comes into their last three games with much less pressure and really not much to lose is Lakota West as they play Lakota East, Sycamore and Hamilton, three teams that are all under 500. If the Firebirds can win all three, which most likely they will, that will provide them with a solid chance to win the conference but once again, that’s only if Middletown loses at least two games in the process.
Some other big games among the GMC contenders that are coming up in the next few weeks include Fairfield at the epicenter: Princeton-Fairfield and Mason-Fairfield.
Overall, all five schools control their own destiny, mostly Middletown which needs two wins to claim the GMC title. But that’s not to say it will be a walk in the park for any of the remaining teams and that’s the beauty of basketball, who knows what will happen?
End of the Season Preview
Middletown (13-4, 10-1, 1st in GMC)
Key Wins: Princeton, Mason
Key Losses: Lakota West, Moeller
Feb. 7th Princeton (7:30)
Feb. 10th @Mason (7:30)
Feb. 17th @Colerain (7:30)
1st Time They Played
Vs. Princeton: 81-78 win (They were down by 7 going into half)
Vs. Mason: 72-58 win (Took advantage of Comets’ fourth quarter collapse)
Vs. Colerain: 65-53 win (Shot 61.9%, 26/42)
NOS’ Angle: Middletown can easily win a GMC title as much as they can lose it. If they at least win two games, they will come away with a conference title but if they choke, they ruin their chances. I believe they will be upset by both Princeton, a team that is red hot at the moment, and Mason, a determined team that is playing at home. You have to look back at both the Princeton and Mason game from earlier this year, both games were so close and really Mason should have won, if they didn’t collapse in the fourth quarter. Not to down Colerain but the Middies should win that game with ease, so it comes down to the Princeton and Mason game. We will have to see how the Middies respond to this end of the season pressure.
Fairfield (14-3, 8-3, T2nd in GMC)
Key Wins: Princeton, Lakota West
Key Losses: Mason, Sycamore
Feb. 7th @Mason (7:30)
Feb. 10th @Hamilton (7:30)
Feb. 17th Princeton (7:30)
1st Time They Played
Vs. Mason: 54-52 loss (Went down to the wire, Fairfield missed last second shot)
Vs. Hamilton: 60-43 win (Forced Big Blue to shoot 39% from the floor)
Vs. Princeton: 66-57 win (Woods had Indian high 16 points)
NOS’ Angle: The Indians are in a tough spot, I believe they have the hardest last three games. Mason and Princeton are almost guaranteed losses because Mason is strong at home and Princeton wants to get their revenge from the first meeting. They can’t look past Hamilton also, a team that has given others a lot of trouble this season. It is a slim chance that the Indians end the season a top the GMC mountain.
Mason (14-3, 8-3, T2nd in GMC)
Key Wins: LaSalle, Lakota West
Key Losses: Lakota West, Middletown
Feb. 7th Fairfield (7:30)
Feb. 10th Middletown (7:30)
Feb. 17th @Oak Hills (7:30)
1st Time They Played
Vs. Fairfield: 54-52 win (Indians missed last second shot to lose)
Vs. Middletown: 72-58 loss (Comet fourth quarter collapse gave Middies victory)
Vs. Oak Hills: 62-49 win (Sprague scored 19 points and Mason shot well in 2nd half)
NOS’ Angle: Mason is in a pretty decent situation even if it is something they could have avoided. I believe they will win the Middletown and Oak Hills game. Obviously a win against the Middies would be huge in deciding who the champion will be. They played Middletown so well in the first meeting, despite their fourth quarter collapse. I think the team that they have to worry about is Fairfield, a team that almost defeated the Comets earlier this season. It is a home game, sure, but I think the Indians doubt their own chances at winning a GMC title, so they will play the “spoiler” role. I don’t know how that game will turn out, but it should be a great one.
Princeton (13-3, 8-3, T2nd in GMC)
Key Wins: Mason, Lakota West
Key Losses: Middletown, Fairfield
Feb. 7th @Middletown (7:30)
Feb. 10th Colerain (7:30)
Feb. 14th @Elder (7:30)
Feb. 17th @Fairfield (7:30)
1st Time They Played
Vs. Middletown: 81-78 loss (Lost in overtime)
Vs. Colerain: 74-67 win (Isham and Tivis both scored over 20 points)
Vs. Fairfield: 66-57 loss (Woods had Indian high 16 points)
NOS’ Angle: If you haven’t noticed, the Vikings have won sixth straight and I don’t see that ending anytime soon. I believe they will sweep the rest of their schedule which includes a win over Middletown at Middletown. This team has been hot as of late and they have a lot of weapons that pose tough defensive match-ups for any team. Middletown and Fairfield are tough games to end the season with but Princeton is on a tear right now, I don’t think those two teams can stop them.
Lakota West (11-6, 8-3, T2nd in GMC)
Key Wins: Middletown, Mason
Key Losses: Princeton, Fairfield
Feb. 7th Lakota East (7:30)
Feb. 10th @Sycamore (7:30)
Feb. 17th Hamilton (7:30)
1st Time They Played
Vs. East: 56-51 win (Shot 39.6% and still won game)
Vs. Sycamore: 59-53 win (Ross had 14 points off the bench)
Vs. Hamilton: 60-46 win (Barnes and Boykins both had 15 points)
NOS’ Angle: West has the best chance of going undefeated in their last three games, they definitely have the easiest schedule, as they have had all year. They won pretty well in the first meetings against East, Sycamore and Hamilton and I’m expecting the same to end the season. Like I said before, it is going to come down to Middletown, if West goes undefeated, only Middletown’s last three games really matter.