With the high school basketball regular season winding down, Mansfield Senior finds themselves in a familiar place; controlling their own destiny for a record ninth Ohio Cardinal Conference boys hoops championship since the league formed in 2003. The Tygers (9-3) trail frontrunner Lexington (10-2) by a game in the OCC standings with two league contests remaining, including a date against the Minutemen next Friday. The late season relevancy is inspiring to Tygers head coach JT Reese.
"Very excited to have meaningful games at this point in the year because a lot of teams don't," says Reese. "For us, it starts this Friday with Madison."
Last time Mansfield Senior met the cross-city rival Rams back on January 15, the Tygers had the game slip through their paws in a 68-64 overtime defeat on the road. Bouncing back with a win over Madison in round two at home is quite simple, according to leading scorer Mario Young.
"Great execution to beat Madison, that's all it takes," says Young of Friday's showdown. "Hard work and execution."
Although the focus for the brown and orange is squarely on the Rams and capturing at least a piece of the OCC crown, their tournament fate has already been decided and may become a motivational tool. At Sunday's tournament draw for the Division 1 University of Toledo District, Senior High would end up seeded 10th out of 17 squads.
"That's kinda disrespectful," sophomore point guard Jornell Manns says of the team's placement. "I mean, I think we could beat some of those teams. They're underestimating us, but they underestimated us on the season too."
The 11-7 Tygers will face 14th-seeded Toledo Waite (9-10) in the sectional semifinals on February 23 at Lakota High School. The winner moves on to face either Toledo St John's (15-4) or Oregon Clay (3-15) in the sectional final on Feb 26.