BRIDGEPORT -- The calendar and Dick Vitale might disagree, but February Madness has descended upon West Virginia in the form of the Class AA, Region 2 title game.
No. 1 Bridgeport (23-0) wrestles with No. 2 Ritchie County (20-3) for the second time in two weeks at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Robert C. Byrd high school.
But this time, there's more on the line than rankings. The winner moves on to Charleston. The loser thinks about next season.
The two teams know each other, considering the span between their last meeting. That's magnified, because of the fact that they played so late in the season, Indians coach Dave Marshall said.
"I don't think there are going to be any surprises," he said.
The two All-state point guards, Bridgeport's Erica Rome and Ritchie's Missy Spangler, will be the focal point of attention. Spangler scored 26 and Rome 21 in the last game.
Angie Handschumacher again has the primary responsibility of defending Spangler. After having seen her only two weeks ago, Handschumacher has picked up on a few of Spangler's habits.
"She goes hard right and can spin left," she said. "Then we have help side to stop her. We're going to try to minimize her from the foul line extended. We can't let her drive and penetrate."
But stopping a scorer of Spangler's caliber requires a team effort, Marshall said.
"Angie is responsible for checking her off immediately, but Angie's going to get help from a lot of people," he said. "If Spangler gets x amount of points, it's not because of Angie. It's because we did not carry out our defensive scheme. We understand how good Missy is, and we're not going to say just one person is responsible."
Meanwhile, Rome is recovering from an ankle injury suffered in Saturday's sectional title game against Grafton. Jaclyn Ross also has a shoulder injury from that game. Both will be game-time decisions, Marshall said.
"It's going to be up to (today)," he said. "My guess is they'll be able to give it a shot, and we'll see how much they can do with it."
Neither Rome nor Spangler will have much scoring pressure, however. Even without Rome, who scored 11 against the Bearcats, and Ross, who put up 13, the Indians still got 11 points from Theresa Melko and nine from Lauren Kerr.
Mendy Barnes helped out Spangler with 11 the last time out against Bridgeport. The Indians will try to make the supporting cast beat them.
"We're really concentrating on Missy," Melko said. "We want to see if those other people can step it up."
In the end, however, one of these teams will bow out of the postseason, and that's a shame, Marshall said.
"In the coach's association every year, we raise a stink about trying to change this," he said. "It's wrong. It shouldn't happen that way. But at the same time, we can't worry about that. All we can do is hope at the end of (today) that we're in the position to go to Charleston.
"Hopefully what's going on these two days will help wake the state up. When you have two No. 1's and No. 2's playing back-to-back nights, and two of those teams are going to stay home, there's something wrong."
Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com.