The Ohio University Eastern basketball teams hit the road this weekend hoping to take the first step to Ohio Regional Campus Conference titles.
The OUE Lady Panthers finished the regular season 19-4 overall, with a spotless 13-0 record in the conference to win the Eastern Division title.
Their reward is the top seed and a bye to the quarterfinals of the 34th annual ORCC women's tourney on the campus of Miami University-Hamilton.
Awaiting OUE on Sunday at 1 p.m. was the winner of OU-Chillicothe (2-12 ORCC) and Miami-Middletown (7-6 ORCC). A victory by OUE would place the Panthers in the Final Four the next weekend in Miami-Middletown against the winner of fifth-seeded Wright State-Lake (5-3 ORCC) and number fourth-seeded Ohio State-Newark (9-4 ORCC).
Barnesville's Allie Doan is the leading scorer for OUE with 18.2 points a game to go with three assists and two steals per contest. Also averaging double-digits for the Panthers are Savannah Burke, who is also the leading rebounder (17.3 ppg and 10.2 rpg), Amber Skvarka (12.3 ppg) and Natalie Perzanowski, who averages 10.2 points and five assists a game. Barnesville's
Emily Carpenter, the team's lone senior, is second on the team in rebounds, snaring 8.5 per contest.
"Winning the state tournament has been one of our goals since we started this journey in September," noted OUE coach and athletic director E.J. Schodzinski. "We achieved our first goal by capturing our second straight regular season crown earlier this month , and winning the state would be the icing on the cake."
The men's team also took the Eastern Division title and enters the 44th annual edition of the ORCC championships as the third seed. OUE has an overall record of 17-7 with a 10-2 mark in the ORCC and will play at 4 p.m. on Sunday on the campus of OU-Zanesville. The Panthers will either face OU-Zanesville (3-9) or Miami-Hamilton (4-10). A victory places OUE in their fourth Final Four in five seasons on the campus of MU-Middletown against either the second-seeded hosts (11-2 ORCC), OU-Chillicothe (2-12 ORCC) or Ohio State-Newark (5-8 ORCC).
Eastern has a pair of locals leading the team in scoring, with Caldwell's Jason Shaw averaging 18.6 points to go with five rebounds and two steals a contest and Cambridge grad Carter Baldwin scoring 17.9 a game with 6.5 rebounds. Steve Luckhardt is netting 16.6 a contest with seven assists and two steals a game, while Zach Tolzda is averaging 14.4 points and a pair of steals a game.
"We set our goals high this year with the talent we had coming in," stated Panthers' coach Donnie Madzia. "We won the East which, was a goal, and our ultimate goal is to win the state. To be the best we have to beat the West, which we have been saying all season. If everything shakes out, we will have to beat Miami-Hamilton, Miami-Middletown and Cincinnati-Clermont in line to win it."