With the beginning of the new year, each game grows in importance as the season grows older for local high-school boys basketball teams.
Athens, Nelsonville-York and Alexander will all participate in league games Friday and will each be looking to start off on a strong foot.
“One of our goals as far as this year was to win the league, and we still have an opportunity to do that with as many league games as we have in January,” Alexander coach Blaine Gabriel said.
The Bulldogs were on the right track heading into last Friday’s game against Dublin Scioto until they hit a major roadblock.
Coming off four straight wins, two against conference opponents, Athens had momentum but encountered a tough 40-point loss to the Irish, which might have taken some of the wind out of their sails.
“I think a game like Dublin Scioto is a very tough game for a team like ours,” Athens coach Jeff Skinner said. “We just got beat playing a really tough game on the road.”
Adding insult to injury, the Bulldogs will lose their starting point guard, DeVon Sharp, for the remainder of the season because of academic ineligibility.
Even with all the negatives, Athens is trying to stay positive.
“They’re adjusting fine (to Sharp’s absence),” Skinner said. “They’re young kids. They adapt quickly, and as a coach, you can’t worry about who’s not there. You’ve got to worry about who’s there, and we have plenty of players left, and I feel good about ourselves moving forward from that.”
It’s still early, but the Buckeyes are off to a good start. This weekend, they will face a litmus test against crosstown rival Athens.
Nelsonville-York enters the game with a winning streak that includes victories against conference opponents Federal Hocking and Trimble.
The team that wins this weekend’s game in The Plains will be in good shape moving forward.
The Spartans have encountered a tough season so far and are in the midst of a losing streak.
In their four-game skid, Alexander has faced four quality opponents, three of which are in higher divisions.
Though the season has proven difficult, Gabriel said the team has not given up hope.
“We’ve played four pretty good caliber teams,” he said. “We haven’t given up, and we’re still working hard.”
Despite their 2-6 record, the Spartans are heading into the meat of their league schedule with an optimistic outlook.
Gabriel said the quality of the team’s opponents so far should help it for the remainder of the season.
“We’ve seen progress on things that, at the beginning of the year, we weren’t able to do that we can do now due to the difference and the caliber of competition that we’ve played,” Gabriel said.