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By Sam Houseworth | Photo by Ben Jackson

In most cases, sectional tournaments are drawn up to be foregone conclusions in most of the state.

If that isn’t the case, then it’s safe to assume that teams that win those sectionals won’t make deep runs into the postseason. However, 2022 is unique in the number of sectionals that have deep playoff runs on the line in the first couple of weekends of the OHSAA boys basketball tournament.

With that in mind, here are 10 games you need to watch in the opening week of the postseason!

10. Ursuline or Hubbard at Marlington, D-II Ashtabula Sectional Final, 7 p.m. Friday

The only thing that would make the Ursuline-Hubbard contest great is if Hubbard can pull off the upset of the year on the road Tuesday. If they don’t, the sectional final between the Fighting Irish and Marlington should be a good one. Ursuline ended the season on a five-game winning streak, finishing second in the Steel Valley. Led by senior forward Connor Evanich, Marlington also ended the season on a five-game winning streak and also finished second in their conference, the Eastern Buckeye.

9. Lakota West vs. Western Hills at West Clermont, D-I Cincinnati Sectional Final, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Even before this sectional final was set, it was clear the entire sectional tournament will be a pair of barn burners. On Saturday, Western Hills and Harrison had a back-and-forth that never saw much separation. The result was a 57-54 win for the Mustangs. Next up for the Cincinnati Metro Red runners-up is a deceptively tough Lakota West team. The Firebirds come into the sectional final at 12-10, but seven of those losses have come by single digits including two in overtime. Junior guard Nathan Dudukovich has been on fire since returning from injury, averaging 23.7 points per game.

8. Wheelersburg vs. Minford at Waverly, D-III Southeast District Semifinal, 1 p.m. Saturday

In southeastern Ohio, they have already completed their sectional tournaments and are onto the districts. In past years, the river schools have been discounted in statewide tournaments by metro and western teams, but that cannot be the case this year. The Minford Falcons come into this district semifinal after a runner-up finish in the Southern Ohio Conference. They also own nonconference wins over Jackson and Wellston by a wide margin. The Wheelersburg Pirates will be the first real challenge for the Falcons in this potentially deep postseason run.

7. Vincent Warren vs. Waverly at Chillicothe, D-II Southeast District Semifinal, 1 p.m. Saturday

Staying down by the river, the Southern Ohio Conference champion Waverly Tigers are the favorites to make it all the way to Dayton for the state championships. The Tigers are led by senior Trey Robinson, who broke the school’s all-time scoring record back in January. Warren are no slouches though. The Warriors come into this district semifinal with a 17-6 record, finishing the season with a five-game winning streak. That run includes wins over New Philadelphia and New Lexington. The Warriors have all the tools to pull the upset Saturday.

6. Dublin Coffman or Cols. Independence at Olentangy Liberty, D-I Columbus Sectional Final, 7 p.m. Friday

On Tuesday, Coffman will be a heavy favorite over Independence. Barring a monumental upset, Coffman vs. Liberty will have all the energy of a regional semifinal, but played in the sectional final. The OCC Central rivals would be playing for the third time this season with the first two games split. Ajay Sheldon tallied 29 points in early December when his Shamrocks beat Olentangy Liberty 58-47. However, the Patriots would get their revenge in mid-January, led by Cooper Davis and his 22-point performance in a 52-50 win.

5. Delphos Jefferson vs. Liberty-Benton (5:30 p.m. Wednesday), Lima Central Catholic vs. Allen East (7:30 p.m. Wednesday), D-III Elida Sectional

Seeded 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th in the district, this sectional will be nothing but competitive contests all week long, culminating on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Elida High School. Liberty-Benton will come in as No. 4 seed and slight favorite, finishing runner-up in the Blanchard Valley Conference. LCC holds key wins over Van Wert, Lima Shawnee and Lima Perry. The T-Birds will look for a chance to avenge a Feb. 15 loss to Liberty-Benton. Despite their record, Allen East holds wins over Lima Perry and D-I Middletown. Delphos Jefferson has been playing its best basketball at the right time, taking teams like Ayersville and Columbus Grove to the wire.

4. South Webster vs. Valley at Wellston, D-IV Southeast District Semifinal, 6 p.m. Saturday

We are going back down to the river one more time. But instead of one team that is arguably state-bound, we have two teams that could end up in Dayton. The conference rivals finished third and fourth in the Southern Ohio Conference, behind a pair of D-III schools. This will be the third meeting between the two squads after splitting the regular-season series. In mid-December, Valley got the better of South Webster 60-54. South Webster went on the road in late January to return the favor 52-50.

3. Upper Scioto Valley or Waynesfield-Goshen vs. Spencerville at St. Marys, D-IV Wapakoneta Sectional Final, 5:30 p.m. Friday

There are so many scary aspects to this sectional. To begin, Spencerville and USV are, without question, two of the top 25 teams in D-IV in the state. Only one of them will make it to the round of 64. Then, there is the path that awaits the winner of this sectional. Lima Perry most likely awaits; they are a top 10 team in D-IV. If they survive, then there’s New Bremen, also a top 10 team. And to even get to the regional final, there’s a one-loss Antwerp team that just beat the top small school in Indiana. Have fun, gentlemen.

2. Cols. South or Marion-Franklin vs. St. Francis DeSales, D-II Columbus Sectional Final, 1 p.m. Saturday

Columbus South is the top seed in this sectional. However, they were not gifted a bye to the sectional final. With that, they will need to win two games to get to districts. South is favored against Marion-Franklin, but the Red Devils match up well. South won their regular-season encounter 95-94. Awaiting the winner is DeSales, led by senior wing Atticus Schuler, who is averaging 18 points per game.

1. Dunbar vs. Chaminade Julienne at Springfield, D-II Cincinnati Sectional FInal, 7 p.m. Wednesday

There’s nothing quite like the rivalries between city public schools and city Catholic schools. Dunbar is one of the best city public school basketball programs in the state, while Chaminade Julienne is one of the premier Catholic schools in Dayton. The two schools are only three miles apart, home to kids who grew up playing basketball against each other. But not only is this a great rivalry, these are two great teams that would be bound for the regionals if they weren’t stuck in the same sectional against each other.