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EOAC will shake out some way

The Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference could crown a girls basketball champion tonight or maybe more.

East Palestine will host Columbiana tonight in a game that has title implications for at least four teams.

School officials decided last week to have a first-half champion and an overall champion.

Valley Christian captured the first-half title with a 6-1 record, but the overall champion is still up for grabs in a season that has been turned upside-down by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the 40 years I’ve been around, we’ve never run into COVID and teams that have been in quarantine for 14 days,” EOAC commissioner Howard Friend said. “You have to make decisions you have never had before. You make decisions that are good for all the teams and for the kids.”

The East Palestine girls — who didn’t start its season until Jan. 11 due to COVID-19 concerns — are 7-2 overall and 6-2 in the EOAC.

Three teams have three league losses — United at 10-3, Columbiana 9-3 and Valley 6-3.

If East Palestine beats Columbiana, then the Bulldogs will clinch at least a share of the EOAC title.

Columbiana still can claim a part of the championship after nearly knocking off East Palestine last week. The Bulldogs rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Clippers, 44-43, on Feb. 8.

A Columbiana win may mean four teams sharing of the title.

After tonight, East Palestine will have played the top teams in the league twice (Columbiana, United and Leetonia) with the exception of Valley. Valley beat East Palestine 56-50 on Feb. 1.

If East Palestine’s regular-season ends tonight with a loss, school officials will have to decide who will be the overall champion.

“We will look at the records and make a league decision,” Friend said. “It’s not like we’re giving a trophy for participation. We’re giving them to who is deserving, whether it is one or four.”

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