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Chaney, Struthers looking to hook up in regional final

Staff photo / Brian Yauger -- Aidan Slocum drives against McDonald’s Anthony Ragazzine in this Feb. 19 file photo. Slocum and the Wildcats will play Akron St.-Vincent-St. Mary in a Division II regional semifinal tonight at Barberton.

Staff report

A year ago at this time, the Chaney boys basketball team was set to play Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in a Division II regional semifinal game at the Canton Civic Center.

The Cowboys had just come off a thrilling 53-50 district final victory over Struthers the previous weekend.

But coach Marlon McGaughy and his players never got the chance to play in the regional as the Ohio high school postseason was postponed at that time because of COVID-19. Later, the Ohio High School Athletic Association made the decision to cancel the remainder of the tournament so Chaney’s tournament run came to an official halt.

Tonight, at Barberton High School, both Chaney and Struthers (26-0) have the opportunity to play in a regional semifinal. The Wildcats face the aforementioned SVSM Irish (22-2) at 5:30, and Chaney (12-6) meets Gilmour Academy (10-9) at 8:15. The title game is scheduled at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The two Mahoning County schools won district titles — and therefore advanced to the Sweet 16 — due to a change put in place by the Northeast District Athletic Board. The new plan combined two districts (three in Division I) when it came to the draw and scheduling, so schools were no longer locked into their previous districts, which were based on geography.

Thus Struthers was seeded No. 1 in the combined Districts 1 & 2, and Chaney was the third seed. In the district finals, the Wildcats survived an exciting 116-108 double-overtime win over Chardon, and Chaney blitzed No. 2 seed Poland, 70-48.

Both teams have similarities in that they have deep rosters led by a trio of standouts.

For Struthers, seniors Trey Metzka, Aidan Slocum and Brandon Washington are the key players for coach Michael Wernicki. That showed up in the district title game on Saturday. Though Metzka has been the Wildcats’ leading scorer throughout the season, Washington led the way against Chardon with 36 points and Slocum scored 31.

“Every game, especially in the tournament, has a different feel to it,” Wernicki said after the game. “We passed a lot of tests today. We had to deal with the physicality and adversity of starters and key players in foul trouble and fouling out. We had our backs against the wall, and when we thought we had the game won, they came roaring back into it.”

Struthers’ opponent, SVSM, was the No. 1 seed in the combined districts 3 & 4 and steamrolled through three opponents to the regional.

Chaney, meanwhile, battled with COVID-related stoppages during the season and also played a very difficult schedule.

“It’s been a trying year with the COVID this season, so this is special for us,” McGaughy said after the Cowboys won their second straight district title. “Playing really good teams all year has helped us get here.”

Indeed, the Cowboys’ losses have been to Division I powers Mentor, Massillon Jackson, Medina and Lyndhurst Brush, along with SVSM and a Minnesota school.

Chaney, like Struthers, has a deep roster behind the trio of seniors Sharrod Taylor and Quincy Jones, and junior Clive Wilson. On Saturday, Taylor led the way with 26 points, while Cam Lawrence added 14 and Josiah Gonzalez scored 12.

Gilmour Academy was seeded 10th in its combined district and upset No. 3 seed Warrensville Heights in a district semifinal. The Lancers went on to slip past 11th-seeded Parma Padua in the district final.

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