The OVC Preview 2016-2017

The Portsmouth Trojans will start their 3rd season of Ohio Valley Conference play in 2016-2017. Last season, the Fairland Dragons won the conference crown with a perfect 14-0 league mark. Fairland returns all 5 starters from a year ago, plus several key players off the bench. The Dragons starting 5 were all sophomores a year ago, and still they advanced to the district finals where they lost to eventual regional champion Lynchburg Clay. FHS should be a prohibitive favorite to capture another OVC crown. The main challenge for the Dragons probably will be to see if they can go a perfect 14-0 again. They have the talent and the experience this season to possibly advance to the Final 4.

Spots 2-5 in the OVC will be hotly contested, as Portsmouth, Ironton, South Point, and Chesapeake should all be in the mix, and a big question will be can any of those teams knock Fairland from the top spot? The most experienced team among these four is South Point, as the Pointers have 4 starters returning, including Tayshawn Fox, who was a standout PG as a freshman last season. Ironton lost Marquis Davis, Phillip Kratzenburg who were the 2 leading scorers on the team, and in addition starter Desmond Young has graduated. Sophomores Ryan Bryant, Ethan Wilson, and Charlie Large should give the Fighting Tigers a good nucleus for Coach Mark Lafon to build on. Chesapeake graduated Brad Meadows and Gage Rhodes, their two leading scorers, and a couple of other key players, so the Panthers will be offensively challenged this year. Portsmouth will have to fill the loss of the Trojans all time leading scorer, Kyre Allison, who is now playing at Marshall University. Allison tallied 1,688 points in his career, and his scoring prowess and rebounding will be sorely missed. PHS, though, does have 6-3 senior Kendal Reynolds returning, and he is on pace to join the 1,000 point club soon in the 2016-2017 campaign. Right now, he is at 917 points. Rebounding and depth will be the key issues that will determine the success of the Trojans.

Gallia Academy, Rock Hill, and Coal Grove will all battle to get into the middle of the pack, and it won't be easy for them, as they will have to beat the more traditionally strong programs. One interesting player to watch is a 6-9 freshman at Gallia Academy whose last name is Loveday. Rock Hill has a freshman who could start varsity this year, and Coal Grove will be led by guard Aaron Music, who had a double figure game against PHS last season.

Collin Van Horn of Fairland was the OVC player of the year last season, and is once again the favorite to win that award, and could be the D3 district POY. Portsmouth's Kendal Reynolds has an excellent chance to land on the first team all district with Van Horn. Nathan Speed of Fairland is in line for the Coach of the Year. Portsmouth's Eugene Collins has the best tournament record of any coach in the OVC, having taken the Trojans to 2 Final 4's in 2011 and 2012, with a regional final appearance in 2015.

Although Fairland is the huge favorite to the 2016-2017 edition of the OVC, high school basketball always has some surprises, and we may see some as the season plays out.

Final OVC standings for the 2016-2017 season

1. Fairland............14-0
2. Gallia Academy.........10-4
3. Portsmouth......9-5
4.Tie......Ironton/South Point 8-6
6. Coal Grove......4-10
7. Chesapeake....3-11
8. Rock Hill..........0-14