When Mike Fallon's Parkersburg South Patriots and Robbie Strcula's Parkersburg Catholic Crusaders take to the hardwood at the Charleston Civic Center on Thursday evening it will mark the area's final chance to win a state championship this winter.
Both are faced with daunting tasks, however, as the Eagles from Hedgesville enter tourney play with an 18-5 mark and a No. 3 seed while the Crusaders take on a Wheeling Central squad that not only boasts a 22-3 mark, but is the No. 1 seed in the eight-team field.
But, with all that being said, it would not be surprising if both advance into Friday's semifinal round.
No chance, you say?
Well, it wasn't that long ago that the Patriots began the season with a 10-0 run. Sure, they stumbled a bit after that, but the inclement weather had as much to do with the team's up-and-down finish as did its opponents.
Fallon's squad has talent and an uncanny ability to hit the three when it most needs it. The Patriots also have a driving force by the name of Cody Monroe that will keep the red, white and blue in any game.
Monroe doesn't always appear as one of the leaders in the scoring column, but the cat-quick guard normally will make his presence felt with his passing and defensive abilities.
Opponents should not make the mistake, however, that Monroe can't score.
The junior has the ability to take over a game at any moment and is "the leader of our team" according to Fallon.
Words that could just as easily be used to describe the Crusaders' Payton Sturm.
Seniors Jake Ullman and Joe Padden have carried the scoring burden for the Columbia blue and white.
But, it has been the play of Sturm that has been the steadying force while the team overcame injuries and illness.
"Payton is the voice and leader on the floor," Strcula said. "He is a good shooter and a smart defender."
But, just like Monroe, Sturm chooses when it is time for him to be offensive-minded. And, it usually occurs when the game is on the line.
Sure, the road to Saturday's title game is a difficult one. It is never easy when you are the No. 8 seed.
But, the Crusaders already have knocked off the No. 2 ranked team in Class A, Huntington St. Joseph, as well as a Gilmer County Titans squad that was rated among the top 10 in the Mountain State.
Winning state titles-in any sport-never is easy. If it was, we'd have more want-to-be head coaches taking over high school programs around the state. It takes hard work and dedication from the players and coaches.
From what fans have seen this season, Parkersburg South and Parkersburg Catholic have both, so it would not be a complete surprise to see them playing beyond Thursday.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org