Trinity competes for 1st OVAC championship since 2012, Morgantown going for second straight

Feb. 1—MORGANTOWN — The Trinity Christian Warriors have a tall task ahead of them this weekend.

Emphasis on tall.

If the Warriors (13-4) are to win their first OVAC Championship in over 10 years on Saturday, they'll have to take down back-to-back reigning champion Cameron and imposing center Ashlynn Van Tassell.

"It's exciting for me to get to see that (the players) get to enjoy it, " TCS coach Mike Baldy said. "After we beat Conotton Valley and advanced to the OVAC Championship, I really felt like they were fired up. It was like they accomplished something they didn't know they could accomplish."

Trinity's lone OVAC championship came in 2012. Baldy's teams have won several sectional titles since then, but he said having a shot at the OVAC championship sparked something different in the team, especially seniors Jenna Barnett and Ella Lynch.

"It's really exciting for us, " Baldy said. "I've been pretty open all season with how important Jenna and Ella are for me. Not as basketball players, but as people."

Van Tassell, who is signed to play college ball at Youngstown State, has not only led the Dragons (12-5) to back-to-back OVAC titles but consecutive Class A state championships as well. She was a finalist for the Ostrowski State Player of the Year Award last season and will garner strong consideration again this year as well.

"We don't think we have to completely eliminate her to win the game, " Baldy said. "We told them yesterday, she is a division-I player, she is very tall, very strong, but she wakes up every morning and goes to class just like these girls."

Baldy brought up a state tournament game from 2018 in which his Warriors faced a player similar to Van Tassell who scored 45 points, but Trinity was still able to win the game.

"We do have some ideas about what we're going to do to try and mitigate her scoring or her rebounding but our strategy has always been that we want to be the best version of ourselves, " Baldy said. "We're not going to get too far away from being ourselves this game."

Being themselves has served the Warriors well, especially lately. Trinity rolls into the OVAC Championship at Harrison Central High School (Cadiz, Oh.) on an eight-game winning streak. Playing a key role on this run has been Lynch, who is playing the best basketball of her career the last few weeks.

"It's the right time for that, " Baldy said. "I think a little bit of it is she's sensing it's over soon. When we went down to Disney World (in early January), we really bonded as a team and everyone just kind of got comfortable and confident with each other."

Lynch, always a reliable three-point shooter, has been scoring at a much higher clip the last few weeks, including a game where she put in a career-high 33 points off the bench.

"Offensively, three-point shooting has been her main threat, " Baldy said. "The difference this past three weeks has not been the three-point shooting ...All the new points are at the rim. The difference between her scoring 12 a game and scoring 33 a game is at the rim."

The Warriors and Dragons are scheduled to tip off from Harrison Central High School at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Class 5A While Trinity will be playing for its first OVAC title in over 10 years, Morgantown will be playing in the Class 5A championship looking to defend its crown from last season.

The Mohigans (12-4) will take on familiar foe Wheeling Park (15-3) on Saturday at 2 p.m.

MHS won the same matchup in last season's championship 59-49. This will be the teams' eighth meeting in the last two seasons, including four regular-season matchups, a sectional championship, last year's Class AAAA state championship and now a second OVAC championship.

"We've just got to prepare for Wheeling Park on Saturday and we've just got to execute, " MHS coach Doug Goodwin said. "Like we've told them, we've got to get back to our roots and defense has got to be the stress of what we're trying to accomplish."

Morgantown had won four straight games in the series, but the Patriots took the most recent matchup 69-59 on Jan. 23 in Wheeling.