With the stage curtain closing on regular-season play at Federal Hocking Tuesday night, the Marietta High boys basketball team can take a well-deserved bow.
The J.D. Secrest-coached and fifth-seeded Tiger cagers, who defeated the Lancers 52-34, will enjoy at least one encore court performance - and hopefully more - when they play fourth-seeded Vinton County in an Ohio Division II sectional opener at Logan's Jim Myers Gymnasium at 8 p.m. Feb. 23.
Thing is, no matter what happens on the postseason hardwood, MHS (14-6 overall, 6-6 Southeastern Ohio Athletic League) already has had a great run.
Before the season tipped off, there were a lot of question marks and probably some doubts by some people as to whether the Tigers could bounce back from a 4-16 campaign in 2009-10.
"They're looking at 4-16 as a bad memory," said Secrest during a preseason interview, "and are a little agitated about it. They'd like to get that out of their system. So, the mood in practice has been pretty positive and upbeat."
Marietta learned a lot about itself right off the bat with four consecutive road games.
Winning three of those December contests, the Tigers knew then that they were not only competitive but a team to be reckoned with.
Returning to Sutton Gym for its home opener against Athens two days before Christmas, MHS beat the Bulldogs and then posted five more victories.
Along the way, MHS had some adversity and two veteran orange and black players, one a starter, were no longer in uniform. Sometimes, something like this can disrupt a team's chemistry. But the Tigers seemed to make the best of it.
When Marietta hosted arch-rival Warren on Jan. 18, both Washington County big schools owned 9-1 overall records. The Tigers' and Warriors' only setback was to SEOAL frontrunning and state-ranked Chillicothe.
Not too surprisingly, Sutton Gym was sold out and jam packed that evening, and the fans from both schools got their money's worth.
Sparked by Cody Kriechbaum's 23 points, Marietta had the lead for most of the game but faded in the fourth quarter and dropped a 59-56 decision.
Since that contest, MHS has gone 5-4 against some pretty stiff SEOAL competition in Chilli, Portsmouth and Warren again at Vincent this time on Feb. 8.
In another close game at Warren, Marietta fell 58-54.
But like the Tigers have done all season long, they regrouped three days later and won at Jackson, 53-39.
With the Vikings up next week for the Tigers, there's no question that Marietta seniors' Jon Sewell, Wes Riley, Derek Howe, Nat Thompson, Coleman Hupp, and Kriechbaum don't want to see the season end.
Fact is, if the Tigers defeat Vinton County and top-seeded Warren does the same to either eighth-seeded Athens or ninth-seeded New Lexington, the two Washington County schools would hook up in a third meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at Logan.
And, that would be an encore prep basketball performance nobody in Marietta or Vincent would want to miss.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org