When the Fairfield Lions open their season on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 2 in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic, Coach Josh Howland will be making his head coaching debut. The Lions will be facing a familiar foe in the East Clinton Astros. The two teams tangled in last year’s season opener with Fairfield prevailing 69-44.
Last season’s Fairfield team finished the year with an outstanding 17-7 record winning the small school division of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference, and winning a game in the sectional tournament before falling to district champion Waterford at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.
Coach Howland is looking to three seniors to lead the way for this year’s squad. “Cody Gragg and Tucker Ayers were key contributors on last season’s team and both will need to do the same this season. Quinten Beatty is the third returning senior, and we will rely on his leadership,” said the first year Fairfield Coach. Howland is also counting on a talented group of underclassmen to step into key roles.
Just three years ago, East Clinton Coach Tony Berlin was also making his head coaching debut in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic. Berlin’s Astros knocked off the Paint Valley Bearcats in that game, 61-51. In fact, the Astros have never lost in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic. They beat Blanchester 79-71 in OT in the 2014 event, and also went to OT last year to defeat the Fayetteville Rockets, 73-71.
If the Astros are to keep their unbeaten OVHC record intact they will need big production from a pair of senior stars. Senior guard Wyatt Floyd went over the 1000 point mark for his career in the season’s final game last year. He averaged just over 20 points per game on his way to being named a first-team all-league SCOL performer. Fellow senior J.T. McCarren was also a first-team all-SCOL pick a year ago. McCarren is an athletic 6’3” wing who averaged 17points per game last season, and has worked hard to improve his game according to Berlin.
Both teams know each other well. “We tip off the season with EC almost every year. It is a game our kids look forward to all summer. We know it will be a battle this year as they return their top two scorers and two first-team all-league players”, said Fairfield Coach Howland.
For Berlin, he is looking forward to the game. “The first game is always exciting, and we enjoy playing in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic. It is an outstanding event with some terrific teams. We know we have our work cut out for us to keep our record perfect,” said the Astros head man.
The Lions-Astros 4:30 matchup will be the final game of Session 2 of this year’s Ohio Valley Hoops Classic. The game immediately preceding it is a heavyweight show down. Cooper High School was the state runner-up in Kentucky last season, while the Hilliard Bradley Jaguars were 25-2 a year ago. Both teams return the nucleus of those teams and look to make a long tournament run this year.
The 1:00 p.m. game features a Final Four participant in Division III, Proctorville Fairland, against Division I power Centerville. The noon battle features Southern Buckeye Conference defending champion Williamsburg against Tri-County Conference defending champion Tipp City Bethel, and 1600 point scorer Caleb South.
The 10:30 a.m. game pits former state champion teams Dayton Chaminade-Julienne against Columbus Linden-McKinley.
Tickets for Session II are available at both East Clinton and Fairfield High Schools. Tickets are also available online at www.ohiovalleyhoopsclassic.com, and at the door. All tickets are $10 and good for the entire session.
This story was submitted by Bennie Carroll, manager of the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic.