JJHuddle HD: A look back (literally) at the 90th annual boys basketball state tournament

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Pickerington Central rallied to win its first boys basketball state title in D-I.

Boot camp. Sibling coaching rivalry. Funeral for a friend. An impoverished town. First undefeated championship season. Destiny delivered. Reggie-diculous. And football powers take it to court. The 90th annual Boys Basketball State Tournament was something to behold. Lucky for you JJHuddle HD was there…


Video by Alex Sator

Tim’s Tournament Trail: Boys State Tournament Recap

By Tim Langevin

Boot camp. Sibling coaching rivalry. Funeral for a friend. An impoverished town. First undefeated championship season. Destiny delivered. Reggie-diculous. And football powers take it to court. These storylines played out on championship Saturday of the 90th boys basketball state tournament at the Schottenstein Center…

D-IV Championship:  Berlin Hiland 68, Jackson Center 36
 
The eight schools vying for
championship trophies arrived at their final destinations by virtue of
separate paths. The journey for Jackson Center was planted four years
ago by head coach Scott Elchert. He locked his
players in the gym for three days and two nights. Call it bonding. His
players label it, “Boot Camp”.
 
The Tigers’ 27-0
remarkable story ended in sudden impact, crashing into a Berlin Wall of
6-7, 6-7, and 6-5 in stature. The Hawks raced to a 36-16 halftime margin
and never looked back. And Jackson Center was unable
to regain a foothold, unlike their semifinal victory.
 
Berlin Hiland coach Mark
Schlabach said, “Everything went our way. We made open shots and got
great defensive play from our three bigs. We played free and loose. It
was such a weight off our shoulders winning the
semifinal game.”
 
They say that on any given
day, anybody can beat anybody. Well, this morning, Berlin Hiland
could’ve defeated the Duke Blue Devils. They thrashed in the paint for
24 points, scored in transition with quick-hitting
threes for 15 points, and dashed for 11 fast-break scores. Clinical
essence.
 
And for Schlabach (256-46),
it was his second straight state crown and the school’s third. His older
brother Dave Schlabach (458-74), coach of the Lady Hawks, has four
championship rings, but lost to a spirited Arlington
team in last week’s quest for a fifth.
 
The younger Schlabach admitted, “He is a way better coach then me.”
 
He probably just said that so his big brother wouldn’t kick his #@*.
 
Andy Hoying, co-player of
the year with Dylan Kaufman, capped a brilliant career with 15 points.
The 6-5 hybrid finished the season with 16 points per game, 7.5
rebounds, and 3.5 assists. The two-time SCL Player of
the Year shot a remarkable 55.2% from the field and 76.7% from the foul
line.
 
Teammate Alex Meyer dropped seven points after scoring 16 points in the semifinal victory over Africentric.
 
But it was the big three,
Seger Bonifant, Neil Gingerich, and Kaufman, who closed out their
dominant careers with the championship, scoring 18, 12, and 17 points,
respectively.
 
Bonifant is headed to West
Liberty next season. He is comfortable at the high post position where
he shoots 52.7% from the floor, while averaging 15.6 ppg.
 
Kaufman finished the season averaging 17.6 ppg with over 1,698 career points.
 
Gingerich had his way on the
defensive end with six blocks and seven rebounds. He had 12 blocks in
one contest this year and ended the season with 88 blocks. Now that’s a
Block Party.
 
Hiland forced the Tigers into 13 turnovers and shot a sizzling 54% from the field.
 
In a much more somber press
conference with tears shed, coach Elchert simply stated, “Didn’t play
our game today. Their size no doubt bothered us. Thirteen turnovers is
not normal. We allow 40 points a game and gave
up 68 points. Credit Berlin Hiland. They played like defending state
champs.”
 
No doubt, as the Hawks
finished the season 27-1, their only loss to D-I Canton Glen Oak. And
they defeated D-II powers Columbus Brookhaven and Akron St. Vincent St.
Mary’s, along the way.
 
Up for debate, this Hiland basketball team
was the second-best team in the state, behind only Dayton Dunbar, ranked
12th in the nation in the Max Preps Xcellent 25 Poll.
 
 
D-III Championship:  Cincinnati Summit Country Day 53, Portsmouth 37
 
Let the second matchup of
the day between Cincinnati Summit Country Day and Portsmouth be a
friendly reminder that these championship contests are just that –
child’s play.
 
Holden Hertzel scored seven
points to help Summit Country Day win its first ever state basketball
title. All things considered, Whuupi-dooo! 
 
Playing with a heavy
heart, Holden took care of unfinished business his father Rob left
behind 32 years ago when the Silver Knights lost in the 1980 title game.
Before Rob’s untimely death this past November due to
cancer, he so desperately wanted his son to bring home a championship.
 
Holden Hertzel delivered.
 
“This was huge for me,” said Hertzel. “I felt like I needed to finish the job that my dad set out. We (Dad) did it.”
 
There is a silver lining behind each cloud.
 
Portsmouth was a thriving
town decades ago when the school won four state titles and finished
runners-up three times in 14 state appearances. Making their 15th
appearance in 2012, times have changed.
 
Hard times – unemployment
and poverty – have gripped this scenic river community. The boys
basketball team making it to the state finals for the first time since
1988 gave the Portsmouth folk something to cheer about.
 
In his third season, coach
Gene Collins talked about the adversity and what this team has done for
the community, “We come from a depressed area. People are jobless, some
homeless, most living in poverty. What this
group accomplished, what they did without complaining, says a lot about
this team. They set a great example for this county, in terms of
overcoming obstacles.”
 
After trailing 30-19 in the
third quarter, the Trojans showed their character by closing the gap
35-27 with one quarter left in the game. Senior leader and point guard
Zaide Whitley paced the comeback with 10 points
on 4-of-8 shooting.
 
Whitley finished the game with 16 points and senior post player Dion McKinley added 13 points with six rebounds.
 
Arguably, one of the best
backcourt combos in the state, Kevin Johnson and Antonio Woods (limited
minutes with knee injury suffered in semifinal win) scored 11 and eight
points, respectively. Johnson displayed the
complete package with inside and outside scoring, rebounding, and
dished out a game-high eight assists.
 
Cincinnati Summit Country
Day coach Michael Bradley wanted it noted, “Kevin is an unselfish
player. He could average 30 points a night if he wanted, but he believes
in our system. He plays AAU ball for OBC and he
will be a premiere recruit nationally.”
 
Bradley ought to know. He
played on Kentucky’s 1998 National Championship Team and was the 17th
overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.
 
Woods played 20 minutes, but
could only do so much, playing in visible pain. Woods, ranked one of
the top sophomores in Ohio by ESPN’s John Stovall, averaged 11 points
and four assists per game on the season.
 
And give credit to Tommy Kreyenhagen, who scored seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in his first start of the season.
 
Bradley said, “It’s an
amazing accomplishment. The first championship for Summit. That was our
ultimate goal. After Holden’s dad’s death, the team bonded and kept
getting stronger.”
 
D-II Championship:  Dayton Dunbar 54, Elida 52
 
In the D-II final, Dayton
Dunbar and Elida staged a classic. Reggie-diculous scored a game-high 24
points for the Bulldogs, but it was Andre Yates with the final say-so,
lofting a teardrop runner high off the glass
that only a geometry major could fathom, for the Wolverines fifth state
championship.
 
“The ball was in my hands. I
took off down the left side. My turn. Let me go win it,” Yates
explained. “Attack the hole and whatever, don’t leave it short.”
 
Yates journey to Ohio’s
Final Four took him the long way home. The senior guard started his
playing days in middle school in the Dayton district with Gary Akbar,
Deontae Hawkins, and Damarion Geter. He transferred
his freshman year to Trotwood and played for then coach Mark Baker.
 
“I remember coach (Baker) telling me that if I listened to him, I could play at the next level,” said Yates.
 
After three years at Trotwood, Baker left and so did Yates. The rest is history. Destiny delivered.
 
Yates finished with 10
points in 23 minutes. He sat out the entire second quarter with two
personals. Akbar powered for 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. And Hawkins
posted a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The 6-8 senior also posted a double-double with an AAU national title
for Ohio Red to go with his state hardware.
 
Hawkins said, “I’ve wanted a
state title since eighth grade. This one was more important to me.
Besides, I promised coach, Andre, and Gary we’d win one.”
 
But perhaps the unsung hero
was Geter. He scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, but it was his
defense on Elida’s Reggie McAdams that changed the complexity of the
game.
 
McAdams torched Dunbar for
12 first quarter points. He was 4-of-6 from the floor, including 3-of-4
from beyond the arc. After scoring his 14th point, Dunbar coach Pete
Pullen switched 6-6 Geter on the 6-6 McAdams
because of the five-inch height discrepancy with Yates. McAdams only
scored 10 points the rest of the way.
 
McAdams is one of the best
shooters in the state at 54% from the field. He has a great work ethic
and has improved each year. He is also a big time quarterback that led
his team to the state semifinals, but has signed
to play basketball at Akron next season.
 
Geter is long and athletic
and has steadily improved his skills. Look for the junior forward to
rise next season with the graduation of Yates, Akbar, and Hawkins.
 
Dunbar overcame a 35-24
deficit in the third quarter before racing back to even the score.
Hawkins drained a three, Akbar pounded inside with three buckets, and
Geter converted two free throws.
 
Freshman Amos “AJ”
Harris made a steal and took it the length of the court for the driving
layup and Dunbar led for only the second time of the game, 37-35. Dunbar
stretched it 42-35 after 24 minutes.
 
The 5-7 point guard scored
six points and recorded three steals in his starting role. Harris is one
of the top 15 freshmen players in Ohio (ESPN’s John Stovall).
 
That was the quickest 18-0 run in track history.
 
But the co-player of the
year with Akbar, McAdams answered with seven fourth quarter points,
including the tying free throw to make it 52-52 with :11 ticks on the
clock.
 
Dunbar finally closed out the season with a perfect 28-0 mark, a first in Dunbar history.
 
Pullen said, “A great
championship game. Two good teams playing their hearts out. We started
the game with too many one-shot possessions. It changed when we picked
up the tempo to start the second half.”
 
Elida ended a cinderella
story 24-4 in its first-ever trip to the Final Four. Blame the loss on
the bright orange suit that coach Dennis Thompson had the nerve to wear.
Rodney Dangerfield would’ve been impressed.
 
Thompson said, “It’s my
assistant’s suit. He suggested I wear it. Kind of out of character for
me, but I guess I wanted to set the tone.”
 
It almost worked.
 
D-I Championship:  Pickerington Central 45, Toledo Whitmer 40
 
In a physical defensive
half-court grind, Pickerington Central outlasted Toledo Whitmer to nab
its first state title in their tournament debut.
 
Pickerington Central coach
of two seasons Jerry Francis said, “I’m proud of all the kids. I told my
sophomores that they’ve played enough games to be juniors by now. We’re
fortunate that these guys made the big plays…I’m
just happy to get out of here with the win…It feels good.”
 
He was referring to Connor Kern, Jae’Sean
Tate, and Javon Bess. Kern and Tate were starters and Bess played
valuable minutes down the stretch.
 
 
This brutal matchup between
two football powers played out that way with 10 ties and three lead
changes. The largest lead for either team was five points. Whitmer led
5-0 with 4:01 left in the first quarter on a Nigel
Hayes  three-point play. Central led 32-27 on a three-pointer by Caris
LeVert with 1:16 remaining in the third quarter.
 
But down the stretch, it was
Central making the clutch plays, despite a valiant performance from
Panther guard Leroy Alexander, a major football recruit, who scored
a team-high 19 points with six rebounds and three
assists.
 
Whitmer turned the ball over
14 times, including six in the pivotal fourth quarter. Central
committed just five turnovers the entire game.
 
Sophomore sub Javon Bess
drained two free throws with :09 seconds left to seal the hard-fought
win. The 6-4 forward finished with three points, all from the charity
stripe.
 
It was a battle in the paint
(trenches) between football standouts Taco Charlton and Chris
Wormley. The 6-6 Charlton finished with six points, six rebounds, and
the victory. The 6-6 Wormley scored two points and grabbed
seven rebounds. He is headed to Michigan this fall.
 
Another big-time football player Hayes finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for Whitmer.
 
Despite the remarkable
performances by several football stars, after all, it was a basketball
game, and it was Central’s basketball players stepping up. Caris LeVert
led all scorers with 20 points. He played the entire
game and also recorded four steals. The Ohio U. signee is a pure
shooter and will never hesitate to fire it up from anywhere on the
court.
 
Sophomore Jae’Sean Tate, son
of former Buckeye Jermaine Tate, was the only other Tiger in
double-figures with 10 points. The 6-4 lefty combo forward was 5-of-10
from the field and grabbed four boards.
 
Holy Toledo…Whitmer has
never won a state championship in any sport. Toledo Scott was the city’s
last state basketball champion in 1990. The city has produced only
three titles in the 90-year history of the boys
tournament.

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