Beachwood will open the 2013 post-season as the No. 1 seed in the Division III Harvey District Tournament.
“It’s pretty cool and I think it’s the first time in school history,” said Beachwood head coach Jason Pecjak. “I don’t think it’s anything to hang your hat on too much, but it kind of reflects the hard work we put in up to this point.”
Although Beachwood earned the top seed, Pecjak doesn’t consider his team the favorite to advance to the regional tournament. That role still belongs to No. 3 seed St. Peter Chanel, the defending district champion.
The Firebirds won the 2012 district title with a 69-67 double overtime win over Beachwood.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Pecjak said. “They’re the team to beat. They are the reigning champs.”
Beachwood plays on Friday, March 1 against the winner of a first round matchup between Wickliffe and St. Martin de Porres.
If things go according to plan, the Bison will get another shot at the Firebirds.
Chanel opted for a spot in the upper half of the bracket and wins by both teams will set up a rematch in the district semifinals.
“Obviously we’ve got to take care of business with either Wickliffe or St. Martin de Porres and Chanel has to win,” Pecjak said. “I know our kids still think about that game, but we just have to get back to it.”
Beachwood, 16-2 on the season, has won eight straight and already boasts wins over Division I programs Massillon Washington and Barberton.
The Bison were ranked No. 8 in the latest AP Division III state basketball poll.
“We’ve been tested a little bit,” Pecjak said. “We’re going to continue to be tested for the rest of the year because of where we’re ranked but I’m real happy with (the players’) demeanor and how they encourage each other. That will take you a long way in March.”
Beachwood’s biggest game always will be the next one on the schedule, but Tuesday’s contest at Richmond Heights is about as big as any regular season contest can be.
The Spartans are ranked No. 7 in Division IV and beat the Bison, 66-59, back on January 5. A Richmond Heights victory locks up the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division title for the Spartans. A Beachwood win would create a tie atop the division standings heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
“March is the No. 1 thing we’re always looking at but at the same time, there’s something to be said about winning your league,” Pecjak said. “The biggest thing we’ll get from that game is they type of atmosphere that game is going to present itself with. That’s going to be similar to the tournament atmosphere and anytime you can put yourself in that position it’s going to help you in March.”
That January meeting with Richmond Heights didn’t turn out well for the Bison, but Pecjak is confident his team is ready for the rematch.
“I think our guys will be more mentally prepared,” he said. “We’ve seen a couple quality opponents and have been on some different stages. I think our guys will be prepared to compete better than the first time.”