MANSFIELD — Alright, get your calendars out and click open that pen.
It is basketball season, and it is time to map out your weekends for the next four months. There are big games almost every single night but allow me to make things easy for you. Here are some of the top games in girls and boys basketball in Richland County. I put them in order by date and not so much by importance, just to make things easier.
Here we go.
Lexington at Clear Fork, Friday, Nov. 24
What more could you be thankful for than Lexington vs Clear Fork the day after Thanksgiving? Lex has a very young and very talented team, and Clear Fork has maybe the deepest team in Richland County. It should be a great measuring stick to tip off the season for both teams.
Clear Fork at Mansfield Senior, Tuesday, Dec. 5
This one is early, but it will set the tone for the Richland County Girls Basketball Power Poll for the rest of the season. The Tygers come in with a veteran team locked in on a run at a district title while Clear Fork isn’t shying away from anyone as the Colts prepare for a Division III tournament run. This one should be fun.
Lexington at Ontario, Thursday, Dec. 28
Speaking of fun, it is always fun when these two teams face off, and it seems like every time they take the court against each other, something special happens. With both teams having young, experienced players and some senior leaders, expect more of the same.
Shelby at Mansfield Senior, Tuesday, Jan. 16
This one could likely determine a Richland County Power Poll championship and be a preview of a potential district championship game. The Whippets are loaded with talent yet again with Eve Schwemley leading the way. The Tygers have Kiersten Bradley and maybe the best starting five in Richland County. The only two returning All-Ohioans squaring off? Count me in.
Mansfield Senior at Lexington, Saturday, Jan. 20
These two teams always give it everything they have when they play each other and this year should be no different. If Lexington can turn those 11 single-digit losses last year into wins, it could be in contention for a league championship and that will run through the champs.
Shelby at River Valley, Thursday, Jan. 25
The second meeting between Shelby and River Valley should be a dandy. The league championship ended in a three-way tie last year between Shelby, River Valley and Pleasant, and these three look like the favorites again. Shelby will have to go on the road and pick up a big win if it hopes to get a sixth straight title.
Clear Fork at Shelby, Saturday, Jan. 27
Clear Fork has been knocking on the door of MOAC title contention for a few years now and this year could be that year. They have to beat the best to be the best, and it will come down to this matchup. Shelby has had the Colts’ number over the years, but the Colts are heading into the season with a tough schedule to prepare them for this very matchup.
West Holmes at Mansfield Senior, Saturday, Jan. 27
If the Tygers hope to repeat, it will come down to this game. These two teams shared the OCC title last year and it is expected they should duke it out for the top spot again in 2023-24. So, that second meeting will mean a lot and the Tygers get the Knights at home. Buckle up.
Shelby at Pleasant, Thursday, Feb. 8
The Whippets have a grinder at the end of the season. At River Valley, at home against Clear Fork and then at Pleasant, three teams with a combined 58 wins last year. If the Whippets hope to win the MOAC title, they will definitely earn it.
Mansfield Christian at Lucas, Saturday, Feb. 10
Maybe the two most mysterious teams in Richland County heading into the 2023-24 season, it will be interesting to see how the Flames and Cubs do. And it will be even more interesting to see how much they have grown before they square off in the last game of the year.
Mansfield Christian at Crestview, Friday, Dec. 1
The season tips off with a good one right out of the gate. Mansfield Christian has high hopes for the season with eyes on a Mid-Buckeye Conference championship and a potential run at a district title. Meanwhile, Crestview is coming off of arguably the best season in school history. It will be fun to see how this one plays out, plus, it will be John Kurtz against his former team and that is always fun.
Shelby vs Ottawa-Glandorf at Lima Senior’s Coach Q Classic, Saturday, Dec. 16, 7:45 p.m.
If you feel like a little road trip on a Saturday, you may want to head to Lima for this showdown. What could be better than Alex Bruskotter vs Colin White? Bruskotter is headed to Wright State next year and White just signed to Ohio State so it will be two of the best players in the state going toe-to-to and it is sure to be a great game.
Shelby at Lexington, Saturday, Dec. 30
Just two weeks after Shelby plays OG, the Whippets travel to Lexington for what should be the game of the year in Richland County. Last year, these two teams sold out the gym in the regular season and there wasn’t enough space at Ashland High School to hold fans wanting to watch the tournament rematch. And both times, Lex picked up the win in thrilling fashion. Bruskotter vs. Brayden Fogle is always a fun matchup.
Lucas at Colonel Crawford, Saturday, Jan. 13
A rematch of the Division IV district championship game is going to be a must-see this season. Both teams lost some key players from last year and will be figuring things out early on so by the time Jan. 13 rolls around, they should be playing their best. It is on my dad’s birthday so I may have to treat him to this game.
Mansfield Senior at Lexington, Friday, Jan. 19
The second meeting between the Tygers and Minutemen will be an instant classic. They also play Dec. 12 at Mansfield Senior so check that one out, too. I really think this is the defacto OCC championship game, and the winner will cruise to a league title after that. New Philadelphia should challenge for the league, but I think Lex and Senior are the clear favorites.
Lucas at Crestview, Monday, Jan. 22
Last year’s matchup didn’t quite live up to the hype with Lucas handing Crestview a 72-38 loss in the Cub Cave. Bit this one will be at Crestview and should be much closer. The Cubs still have Logan Toms who scored 30 in that win, but the Cougars bring back all but two starters and have two All-Ohioans in the lineup. Expect this one to be much better.
Shelby at Mansfield Senior, Tuesday, Feb. 6
If I had to say right now who would be playing for a Division II district championship, I would have to go with these two teams. Shelby has the best starting lineup 1-5, but Mansfield Senior has the most depth and nearly its entire roster back from last year’s run. This one will be a nice tune-up heading into the postseason and its at Pete Henry Gymnasium to boot.
Mansfield Christian at Lucas, Friday, Feb. 9
I will go ahead and say it, this will be the Mid-Buckeye Conference championship game. These two teams meet for the first time on Jan. 5 so catch that one, too. Lucas is hoping to keep its dominance in the MBC rolling while Mansfield Christian has these two games circled on the calendar. They should both be good ones, but that second game will be for all the marbles.
Willard at Lucas, Saturday, Feb. 10
Logan Toms vs Max Dawson. What more could be said? These two are very good friends and you can bet that neither want to lose their final game against each other. If we are lucky, these two might be on the same team for the 45th News Journal All-Star Classic.
Ottawa-Glandorf at Lexington, Saturday, Feb. 17
Remember Colin White? This one will be him vs. Fogle, who has multiple Division I offers on the table and he is only a sophomore. It is the last game of the season for the Minutemen, so it will be a great way to gauge where they are heading into the postseason as they look to make a run to another district final and maybe even the championship.
Shelby at Willard, Friday, Feb. 23
Who doesn’t like Shelby vs. Willard? I grew up on this rivalry going to games back in the late 90s and early 2000s and every time, it was intense. With it being played at The Haas, what could be better? Oh yeah, seeing Alex Bruskotter and Max Dawson go head-to-head will be pretty darn cool.
Western Reserve at Crestview, Friday, Feb. 23
The final game of the year for the Cougars should be a heck of a battle. The Firelands Conference looks like it is going to come down to these two teams again. They play for the first time on Jan. 13 so if you aren’t going to the Lucas/Colonel Crawford game, you may want to check the first meeting out. If you miss it, don’t worry, the last game of the year will be a must-see. I am predicting a winner-take-all scenario.