Barn Dancing: D-I Central Ohio hoop powers square off at the Fairgrounds


Gahanna Lincoln’s Jamel Morris

This past Saturday at the Columbus Fairgrounds inside the Ohio Expo
Center was a hoop junkies dream come true. Six Division I Central
District semifinal contests
took place and none of which disappointed. Ohio High School Hoops was on hand from start to finish for the 14-hour marathon.

This past Saturday at the Columbus Fairgrounds inside the Ohio Expo Center was a hoop junkies dream come true. Six Division 1 Central District semifinal contests took place and none of which disappointed.

Ohio High School Hoops and JJHuddle was on hand from start to finish for the 14-hour marathon.

Westerville South 71 Pickerington Central 49

In game one of six at the Ohio Expo Center on the Columbus Fairgrounds, Westerville South was able to press its way to a 71-49 victory.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the second quarter thanks to a smothering pressure defense, but Pickerington Central settled in and was able to cut the lead to 29-23 at the half.

The upstart Tigers were able to close the gap to 32-30 in the third period and had a chance to take the lead but a Chad Nelson bucket was waved off for a charging call.  Following that play, the wheels fell off for young Tigers.

South turned the heat up once again, forced several turnovers, knocked down spot up triples, and finished the contest like thoroughbreds.

Wisconsin signee Traevon Jackson led the assault with 17 points and five rebounds. Senior Ben Jones added nine and classmate Damarkeo Lyshe chipped in eight.

Lyshe, junior Isiah Rogers, sophomore Marcus Ball, seniors Jaren Edwards and Donnie Fitzgerald, and junior Stephen O’Daniel were lights out on the defensive end.

Central got 22 points and six rebounds from emerging freshman Jae’sean Tate and 14 from leading scorer Caris Levert. Junior guard Chad Nelson added nine.

South (22-1) will advance to the district finals and meet New Albany who was a 52-50 winner in the second contest. Though, Central’s season is over the future is bright for Jerry Francis’ squad with three freshmen and two juniors logging the majority of the minutes.

New Albany 52 Pickerington North 50

In a rematch of a hotly contested regular season match up, New Albany outlasted Pickerington North in a battle of OCC members, 52-50.

New Albany came out of the gates on fire knocking down six of its first seven three-point shots to grab an early 22-8 lead. However, the Panthers clawed their way back into the game using its size advantage on the interior and trailed just 26-19 at the intermission.

North closed the gap to 29-28 on a Tyler Kelly four-point play with 5:03 showing on the third quarter clock. The Eagles’ senior Ryan Mayle answered right back with a bonus bomb.

New Albany stretched the lead to eight points again before North senior Trent Waybright would score his first points a three-point field goal to close the gap to 42-38 with 5:27 remaining in the contest.

The Panthers were never able to get over the hump and New Albany in turn led wire-to-wire.

Sam Krebs led the Eagles with 14 points followed by Nick Sosh followed with 10 points and five boards. Tommy Smotrich added eight, Travon Bodrick chipped in seven, and Ryan Mayle contributed six.

Jake McCullough led North (21-2) with 13 points and Tyler Kelly closed out his high school career with a 10-point effort. Sophomore Jake Butt was solid off the bench for the Panthers with six points and six rebounds.

New Albany held Waybright to just three points.

North, who says goodbye to 10 seniors, held a 27-18 advantage on the boards.
New Albany will meet Westerville South next Friday at 6 p.m. for a chance to advance to regional play. The Eagles will hope to get back injured starter Scott McDonald and sub Trent Guy.

Westerville Central 59 Upper Arlington 56

Game three at “the Barn” saw Westerville Central stun favored Upper Arlington, 59-56.
The two teams were tied at 15 after one quarter and UA held just a 24-22 advantage at the break. Miami (OH) signee Brian Sullivan led the Golden Bears with 11 points in the first half including three bonus goals.

UA controlled the action throughout the third period as well and clung to a 41-36 lead after 24 minutes of play.

The fourth frame, which seemed to take over an hour, was back-and-forth for much of the final stanza but the Warhawks took control under the four minute mark.

The Golden Bears had several chances late in the game with Sullivan missing a good look from distance with 38 seconds left and then Carter Smith had an opportunity under 15 seconds but was called for a charging foul.

Quentin Henderson shot the ball extremely well from the foul line for Westerville Central and all but slammed the door on UA when he missed the back-end of a two-shot foul giving the Golden Bears life yet again.

Sullivan pounded the ball up the court split two defenders at half court and shot an off balance one-foot three-pointer that came up short off the front of the iron sending the Warhawk’s faithful into frenzy.

Henderson led the Warhawks with 17 points including 11 at the charity stripe. Kamorin Harris and Ohio State football signee Nick Vannett evenly split 24 and junior Max Shawver added nine. 6-2 junior Christian Graves cashed in a pair of treys for six and classmate Tre Stennett nailed two big right corner triples for six as well.

Sullivan finished his stellar high school career with 25 points including six three-point goals and grabbed seven rebounds. Eric Vannatta added 10 in defeat and junior Connor Casey contributed nine.

UA out boarded Central, 23-14.

Columbus Northland 59 Olentangy Liberty 52

OHSH’s No. 1 team, Columbus Northland, jumped out to a quick 18-8 lead after one quarter of play and appeared to be on the verge of blowing Olentangy Liberty out of the Expo Center before the Patriots settled in and made things interesting.

Liberty cut the lead to just three points (28-25) by half and only trailed 39-35 after 24 minutes, but the Vikings stepped up in final frame and made plays when they had securing a 59-52 victory.

6-2 junior Jake Bischoff scored eight-straight for the Patriots drawing Liberty within four (50-46) in the final frame, but a Trey Burke bucket and a Jakyl Cornley three-point play all but sealed the deal for No. 1 Northland.

Burke led the Vikings with 20 points and five boards and 6-8 junior Jalen Robinson added 13 and 10 rebounds. 6-8 junior Devon Scott chipped in seven points and six boards and Cornley came off the bench for seven and four. Jordan Potts netted six for the winners.

Bischoff paced the Patriots with 17 points including four bonus bombs and senior Andy Yazrombek netted 10. 6-8 junior Nick Archer scored nine points and grabbed five boards.

Northland held a commanding 31-16 edge on the glass.

Columbus Walnut Ridge 60 Dublin Coffman 53

In a rematch of a late January contest which concluded in two overtimes, Walnut Ridge repeated its regular season win with a hard-fought district semifinal victory on Saturday over Dublin Coffman, 60-53.

The Scots raced out to an 18-11 lead after the initial eight minutes, but Coffman turned the tables in the second period capturing the lead (26-25) by half.

In the third period, it was Ridge’s turn to enjoy a solid quarter winning the stanza 17-8. Interesting to note, Ridge won the first quarter by seven, Coffman owned the second by eight, and the Scots controlled the third by nine.

The final frame was basically a wash and allowing Ridge to move on with a solid (19-4) record.

The Scots got 16 points from junior Roy Alexander, which was easily his best game of the year. Junior point guard Fred Hardgrove was outstanding as well with 14 points, several assists, and controlled the tempo with great confidence.

Wisconsin football signee, Austin Traylor, netted 12 points and a like amount of rebounds.

The Shamrocks got 20 points from departing senior Christian Heine and 15 by fellow classmate Zach Riddle. Senior Adam Hall added eight points and eight caroms.

Ridge held a 27-23 advantage on the boards.

Gahanna Lincoln 65 Westerville North 63, OT

The saying “saving the best for last” was never more accurate then in Saturday’s nightcap at the Ohio Expo Center.  Gahanna Lincoln and Westerville North entertained and dazzled the boisterous crowd.

North exploded out of the gates with 17-9 lead after one quarter and stretched the margin to 21-9 before the Lions began clawing their way back into the contest.

Gahanna, who is the defending Columbus Regional champion, was able to nearly draw even by half (27-25).

The second quarter turnaround could be attributed to Westerville North’s star guard Jack Gibbs picking up his second and third fouls. The electric sophomore provides the energy for his team and when he was forced to the bench it was like air going out of a balloon.

The Warriors were able to regain momentum in the third quarter extending its lead back to seven (45-38) by the quarter’s end.

The fourth quarter was marvelous on many accounts. The Warriors looked ready to move on, but Gahanna’s senior Jamel Morris had other ideas. The silky-smooth lefty scored eight-straight points to draw the Lions within one (49-48).  Morris also knocked down a go-ahead triple late in the frame to give Gahanna a 57-55 advantage, but North’s junior Matt Rhodes hit a tough pull up to knot the game at 57 which sent the contest to an extra period.

With the game tied 63 with just seconds remaining in OT, injury-ridden Stevie Taylor knocked down a cold-hearted pull up to give his squad a 65-63 triumph. The Ohio University signee wasn’t even close to himself throughout the contest, but was still able to gut out 18 points for the winners.

Morris finished with 14 including 11 in the fourth period. Sophomore Aaron Jackson added 13 points and six rebounds. Senior Brandon Smith recorded a double-double with 12 counters and 11 rebounds.

Gibbs led North (17-6) with 20 points capping off a terrific sophomore campaign and Rhodes finished with 15. Junior Taivion Thomas scored 12 points and added 11 rebounds.

Sophomore Adrian Cook chipped in nine.

Gahanna (22-1) held the rebounding edge at 35-22.


Youth was served: freshmen and sophomores were sprinkled in all throughout the day in Columbus. Pickerington Central started two freshmen in 6-3 point guard Javon Bess and 6-3 power forward Jae’sean Tate. 6-1 freshman Connor Kern is one of the first kids off the bench providing a deadly shooter behind the arc for head coach Jerry Francis. Tate is the son of former Ohio State Buckeye and Cincinnati Bearcat, Jermaine Tate.

The Tigers will likely welcome back 6-4 freshman Antonio Gay next year along with 6-8 freshman Brian Marshall. The latter was forced to sit out the entire season with a spinal injury. Jalen Jones is another promising frosh who dressed on Saturday. Needless to say, the future is bright in Tiger country.

Overcoming: New Albany was able to knock off Pickerington North despite its only real post threat, Scott McDonald, being hospitalized due to an illness.  Hopefully McDonald will be back for this Friday’s contest with Westerville South. The Eagles were also missing sub Trent Guy.

We’ll be back: Westerville North and Olentangy Liberty both had good showings on Saturday and very good records throughout the regular seasons, but next year could be even better. North will welcome back five of its top seven including its top five leading scorers in Jack Gibbs, Matt Rhodes, Taivion Thomas, Adrian Cook, and Darren Nettles. Liberty will lose senior leader Andy Yazrombek as well as starter Frank Longhino, but the rest are all back including Jake Bischoff and 6-8 Nick Archer.

Changing of the guard: For the past four high school seasons and several more AAU campaigns, Stevie Taylor has entertained, dazzled, wowed, and graced us with his presence on the court in Central Ohio and he isn’t done just yet, but Saturday night appeared to be the changing of the guard with he and Westerville North guard Jack Gibbs. They have two totally different styles, but both play with swag and flare and have the ability to make the crowd sit on the edge of their seats. Gibbs will in quite nicely with Taylor heading off to OU next season.

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