The Boardman High School boys basketball team March 4 will battle fifth-seeded Louisville in the second round of the Alliance District of the Division I state tournament.
Both schools received byes, so their first postseason games will come in round two. Boardman is seeded third in this district behind top-seeded Akron Ellet and No. 2 seed Uniontown Lake.
Mighty Warren G. Harding, which has split two games with the Spartans this season, are in the weeds as the No. 4 seed. With 17 wins so far this season, the Spartans surely don't have to take a back seat to any school in this district.
Their latest win came Tuesday over Massillon Perry High School in a nonconference tilt at home, 60-58.
The Spartans are 17-4 overall and 9-2 in the All-American Conference Red Tier.
One regular-season game remains with Austintown Fitch, so head coach Pat Birch has one more chance to work out any kinks before his boys begin the playoffs.
One area Boardman's coach may want to improve is his team's shooting. During a six-game winning streak, which started Jan. 27 when the Spartans stopped Lakeside, 86-52, and ended Saturday versus Cardinal Mooney, Boardman's shooting was adequate but not spectacular.
Spartan shooting was suspect at best over the weekend, which might have led to the end of their winning ways.
Boardman battled both Cardinal Mooney and a bad night from the field Saturday at home. The Spartans shot 40 percent from the floor and an almost identically inept total from the foul line in a 47-45 loss to the struggling Cardinals.
Mooney edged Boardman, 10-9, in the first quarter and used that slight momentum to never lose any of the remaining periods of this competitive contest. Despite that disparity, the Spartans still were tied with their rivals with a few seconds remaining.
A last-second buzzer-beating basket by the Cardinals, however, sent the Spartans to their fourth loss of the season.
Holden Lipke led Boardman and all other scorers in the game with 22 points. Austin Barone and Sebastian Heinonen each scored six points for the Spartans. Che Trevena tallied five points in the loss.
At least the last-second setback to Mooney didn't interfere with Boardman's high standing in the All-American Conference Red Tier. The Spartans stayed in second place (behind Harding) with back-to-back wins over Youngstown East Feb. 10 and Lakeside Feb. 14.
In the Spartans' 83-56 road destruction of the Dragons on Valentine's Day, it was Lipke that stole the hosts' hearts. The junior jousted the Dragons for 25 points and seven rebounds. Coleman Stauffer and John Ryan had matching 14-point, five-rebound performances. Mike Melewski had nine points and four assists.
Four nights before the blowout in Ashtabula, Boardman edged the East Panthers, 68-62. A balanced attack saw nine Spartans finding their way into the scorebook in this road game. Lipke led the way with 14 points and four rebounds. Melewski and Heinonen each took home 10 points. Travis Koontz and Trevena scored nine.
Tournament foe Louisville enters the postseason with a 13-7 overall record. The Leopards have an impressive 12-2 record in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference, proving they are worthy foes.
Initially, Louisville was going to prance into the playoffs undefeated in February. However, the Leopards lost Tuesday's nonconference tilt to Uniontown Lake, 68-44.
The Spartans also stopped the Leopards, 59-54, Jan. 17 in Boardman.
Should the Spartans sweep the Leopards again March 4, they will then have a likely confrontation with Uniontown Lake March 9.
The Blue Streaks await the winner of the showdown between Springfield and Howland, but neither school seems worthy of upsetting the 15-6, 8-4 Federal League outfit.