ST. CLAIRSVILLE - It's not often you line up against the No. 1 team in the state.
The Steubenville Big Red boys basketball team gets that opportunity today.
Coach Mike Haney's squad will face Division III No. 1-state ranked Union Local in the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Basketball Championships at Ohio University-Eastern.
The Class 4A title game tips at 12:30 p.m.
"We told our kids after beating East Liverpool (Tuesday in one semifinal) that not everyone gets the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the state," Haney said. "We just have to come in focused and get after it.
"I think we're the underdogs every time we play. That's the way I look at it. That's the approach I take.
"They're 20-0 for a reason. It's a perfect record so far. They have won by big margins and small margins. They do a lot of good things and they especially do the little things right. Coach (Ben) Porter obviously does a great job with them."
Porter understands the lofty position and knows there's not a lot his Jets can do about it.
"We've talked about being No. 1 in the state three times," said Porter. "Really, nothing else has been said. We know it's something we don't control. It's an honor. I think our kids have done a pretty good job of staying level-headed about the whole things. Situations like that can only make you mature and grow."
Porter admits Big Red is the most athletic team his squad has faced this season.
"Most definitely. It's going to be a very challenging game," said Porter. "We watched Steubenville play Ferry and they get after it. They use their athleticism to the fullest. Coach Haney does a very good job with the program. He utilizes the talent he has very well. He puts them in position to be successful.
"We like to run, but not like Steubenville. We don't want to play slow. We can play fast. But, we want to play somewhere in between."
Haney loves the up-tempo style.
"We hope every game we play goes up and down the court," he said. "It's the type of game we like to play."
Big Red is now 17-3 after a 76-74 victory over East Liverpool.
"We credit the kids for fighting the whole game," said Haney. "East Liverpool came out and hit just about every shot they took in the first quarter (14-of-17). But, we also missed some assignments on defense. We thought we had some bad transition defense and left them with some open shots. They have good shooters and they made the shots.
"We can't do that against Union Local."
It is the second straight appearance in the 4A title game for Big Red, a loser to St. Clairsville a year ago.
"They are different teams," Haney said of the Red Devils last year and Jets this year. "St. Clairsville was guard-oriented and liked to get up and down the court. (Dan) Monteroso could hit it from anywhere and they had a lot of guys who could score from outside.
"Union Local has the guys on the outside who can shoot, but they have the two big guys inside (6-7 Colton McKivitz and 6-4 David Paulick). We have to be prepared the defend both. We have to stop their outside and inside games. It's a tough task."
The pair had 16 points and nine rebounds as the Jets had a 27-16 lead at halftime of Tuesday's 46-40 victory over St. Clairsville in a semifinal.
"I consider us an inside-out team," said Porter. "We have some good-sized kids. I feel we're also a pretty good perimeter shooting team. We shoot well from the foul line. As a team, we have about 110 threes on the season."