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Big 10 title chase could become clearer

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

Two weeks remain in the boys high school basketball regular season.

One game could define how the Big 10 will end.

Nos. 1 and 2 will meet Thursday when Bridgeport (11-4, 9-1 Big 10) visits rival Robert C. Byrd (11-4, 8-2).

The Indians defeated the Eagles, 56-47, earlier in the season, and a win Thursday more than likely gives Bridgeport the Big 10 crown. South Harrison (7-6, 4-5) and Liberty (0-13, 0-8) remain on the conference schedule.

A Robert C. Byrd win crowds things at the top of the standings, and brings Lincoln (11-4, 9-3) into the mix.

However this isn't the same Eagles team -- literally. Starting center R.J. Coleman and reserve Anthony Veltri are no longer with the team. Tuesday, Robert C. Byrd was blown out at Lincoln and struggled in a 70-53 win over Liberty.

The Indians, meanwhile, have been on a roll. Vince Veltri, arguably on of the area's top overall players, is averaging 21.9 points, while shooting guard Tyler Dodd has stepped up his play and is averaging 14.2 points.

n While dominating on the state level, Class AA No. 1 Bridgeport (18-0, 11-0 Big 10) hasn't locked up the girls Big 10 title, yet.

The Indians host Grafton (11-4, 9-1) on Friday. Bridgeport defeated the Bearcats twice this season, 49-30, in the Lincoln-McDonald's Holiday Tournament and in Grafton, 76-66. A Bearcat win clouds the girls picture, but both teams still face big games.

Grafton visits Lewis County on Monday -- a team it needed a last second defensive stand to defeat 47-45. Next week, the Indians host Class AA No. 2 Ritchie County.

n With his 36-point effort against Lincoln, South Harrison's Jerred Novotny widened his lead in the Big 10 scoring race. Novotny is now averaging 23.2 points, a full point ahead of Veltri. However, the Hawks have struggled lately, losing five of its last six Big 10 games.

n BRIDGEPORT, RCB DOMINATING SWIMMING SCENE: The Indians girls team is making a run for its fifth consecutive state title with a 51-point victory Friday at the Harrison County swim meet.

Although the Eagles boys team lost to Bridgeport by one point, RCB can make a surge in regional competition Wednesday.

The Bridgeport girls almost threw a perfect game at the county meet, failing to finish first in only one event.

Kimberly Sickles and Michele Knicely each won two events for the Indians. Sickles took the 200-meter IM and 500 free, while Knicely won the 50 free and 100 butterfly. Both were on two winning relay teams.

RCB has two legitimate contenders for boys individual state titles in Chris Hagedorn and Ben Davisson.

Hagedorn won the 200 IM and 500 free, while Davisson finished first in the 100 back and 100 butterfly.

Eagles coach Bobbi Jo Tucker calls Hagedorn an extreme swimmer.

"He knows what he has to do," Tucker said. "I don't even have to say anything to him. Those are the kind of athletes that you love."

Sports writer Rob Peirce contributed to this story.

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