Northview was seen as the clear favorite team out of northwest Ohio expected to go far in the Division I girls basketball state tournament a year ago.
Central Catholic, undefeated against area teams this season, has filled that role all season and is heading into the state tournament as the team to beat. The Irish (15-2) earned a top seed for the sectional pairings. The games begin Feb. 15 and 16.
Central Catholic tips off the tournament by taking on the Scott-Woodward winner in a sectional title game set for Feb. 19 at Clay.
Northview coach Jerry Sigler, whose team has lost only to Central this season, is clear in his mind about which team in the area most deserves top billing heading into state tournament play.
"It will be some good [Division I] matches early, but I still think Central Catholic is the team to beat because of the level of competition they've played out of the area," said Sigler, whose team will open the tournament facing Rogers on Feb. 16.
The Irish's only losses have come on the road against perennial state powers Gahanna Lincoln and Pickerington North. Otherwise, Central, which is 10-0 against City League foes and ranked No. 1 in The Blade's Division I poll, has flexed its muscles against the competition.
Besides Central and Northview being a major part of the Division I picture, City League representatives Notre Dame, Waite, St. Ursula and Bowsher and Northern Lakes League representative Southview are also teams to be reckoned with in the northwest region.
Central coach Steve Pfahler anticipates fierce matchups in the early rounds of the Division I tournament.
"I don't think you've got anybody that will be a walk-through," Pfahler said. "This is a tough and competitive sectional and district.
"It's going to be a lot of tough games decided by who wants it the most. There's a half-dozen teams who could win district. Quite a few teams could knock teams off."
Sigler, whose team is 15-1, also believes no team is guaranteed anything once the tournament starts.
"Six or seven other teams could also get out of here if someone stumbles," Sigler said.
Also, Findlay (15-1) received the top seed for the Van Buren sectional site and will play the Lima Senior-Bowling Green winner in a sectional title game.
In Division II, Ottawa-Glandorf (14-0) represents the top seed at the Wapakoneta site and will take on Kenton in an opening-round contest. The winner meets the Lima Bath-Celina winner in the sectional championship game. Eastwood (12-5) represents the top seed for the Swanton sectional and is scheduled to take on Maumee (2-13) in an opening-round matchup. The winner plays the Defiance (8-8)-Rossford (5-9) winner in a sectional title contest.
Clyde (11-5) is the top seed playing in the Old Fort sectional and will take on the Fostoria (10-6)-Oak Harbor (5-12) winner for a sectional title.
Elmwood (17-0), the top team in The Blade's Division III poll, earned one of the area's top seeds. The undefeated Royals are scheduled to face winless Lakota (0-17) for a sectional title at Eastwood. Cardinal Stritch (11-5) will take on the Genoa (6-11)-Woodmore (6-11) winner in another sectional title contest at Eastwood.
Patrick Henry (15-1) also received a top seed and will meet the Lima Central Catholic (6-9)-Carey (11-5) winner for a sectional championship at Findlay.
Otsego (13-3) and Swanton (13-3) are the top two seeds, respectively, for the Liberty Center site. Otsego awaits the Archbold (10-8)-Tinora (2-16) winner while Swanton will prepare to meet the Evergreen (8-7)-Delta (5-11) winner in sectional title matches.
In Division IV, Miller City (16-1), Ottoville (13-2) and Fremont St. Joe (16-1) head into the tournament as top seeds.
Miller City, ranked No. 1 in the Blade poll, will face the Leipsic (6-9)-Pandora-Gilboa (5-10) winner for the sectional title at Ottawa-Glandorf.
Ottoville will await the Fort Jennings (10-6)-Convoy Crestview (6-9) winner to determine the sectional winner at Wayne Trace. St. Joe will await the Danbury-Old Fort winner at Tiffin Columbian.
Contact Donald Emmons at: email@example.com or 419-724-6302.