By Chris Chaney
It’s good to be an Amelia Baron.
The school off of Clough Pike has not only captured their first Southern Buckeye Conference American Division league title in their third year in the league, they solidified that standing by winning the first annual SBC Basketball Championship on Saturday, Feb. 16 with a 56-55 win over National Division champion Georgetown.
“(Winning the league) was one of our goals at the beginning of the year,” Amelia head coach Craig Mazzaro said. “We took each game one at a time and we got tripped up by New Richmond, which cost us a perfect slate, but that was the only one we slipped up on.”
The Barons went 9-1 through conference play, and 17-4 overall prior to their matchup with National Division foe Georgetown. The Barons and G-Men met earlier in the season with Amelia blowing a late-game lead, thanks in part to what Mazzaro calls a “controversial technical foul.”
“We had a lead with 50 seconds to go, then a turnover and (the technical),” Mazzaro explained. “I was actually talking to one of my players and the referee thought I was talking to him and (Georgetown) ended up getting free throws and the ball and beat us, so our guys had that in the back of our mind.”
Similar to their meeting three weeks prior, the game was a close contest throughout. Amelia held leads following the first and second quarters, but fell behind entering the final frame. The Barons regained the lead in the waning moments of the game and held on for a 56-55 win.
Coach Mazzaro credited the Barons inaugural SBC Championship victory to solid prep work coming from watching film of the teams’ game on Jan. 22.
“We had a real good scouting report and saw what we did or didn’t do in the first game and fixed it,” Mazzaro said. “It paid off. There was a lot of things we did in (the SBC Championship) game that we didn’t do in the first game that really helped us.”
Following the win on Saturday, the Barons turned their attention to the first round of the sectional tournament and their matchup with the Colerain Cardinals.
As a 21 seed, the Barons face the 22nd-seeded Cardinals for the right to play No. 4 seed St. Xavier on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Mazzaro said that with their schedule and league, they can’t really expect much more out of the seeding than what they got this year.
“With us being in Division I, it’s never going to be easy,” the coach said. “We got the 21st seed out of 32 and we were 16-4 at the time (of the seeding), so we’re never going to get a high seed… we’re kind of out on an island while those other teams are all in leagues with those other teams and they seed them accordingly and throw us where they feel it’s appropriate.”
The Barons face Colerain at Oak Hills High School on Friday, Feb. 22 at 5:30 p.m.
Other sectional games: Joining Amelia in Division I are Glen Este and Milford, both of whom will play in the Cincinnati 2 – Lakota West sectional. The 29th-seeded Trojans face No. 5 seed Lakota East at 6 p.m. on Feb. 22 and 11th-seeded Milford plays 17 seed Mason following the Glen Este game.
In Division II, Bethel-Tate opens up the sectional tournament schedule with a game against Aiken at Mason on Friday night, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 23 is a marathon for Clermont County schools. (8) Goshen kicks things off with an 11 a.m. tip time against 7th-seeded Wyoming. Following that game, No. 9 New Richmond faces No. 6 Indian Hill, which is followed by No. 12 Batavia facing off with McNicholas.
In the Division III Western Brown sectional, No. 13 Williamsburg plays No. 6 Clark Montessori at 6 p.m.
In Division IV, Felicity, seeded No. 9, plays No. 8 seed St. Bernard at noon on Saturday at Oak Hills.
Clermont Northeastern, who received a No. 13 seed, elected to take a first-round bye, a staple of head coach Jason Iles, and will face the winner of the Bethel-Tate/Aiken game on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Mason High School.