Everybody loves a sleeper and here are several dark horses to
keep an eye on in the OHSAA
Boy’s Basketball tournament. Whether it was injuries, suspensions, lack of team chemistry, or a slow
start due to football, these teams have struggled.
However these squads also have the talent to
make some noise…
Everybody loves a sleeper and today we bring you several dark horses to keep an eye on for this year’s Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Boy’s Basketball tournament.
Whether it is injuries, suspensions, lack of team chemistry, or a slow start due to football, these teams have struggled in one way or another. However, with that being stated, these squads also have the talent to make some noise in the coming weeks. A handful of the following clubs are starting to show signs of gelling together at just the right time.
Here is a look at some teams to monitor throughout March.
The Blue Devils may be the biggest sleeper in the entire tournament. Injuries, along with a tough schedule, have brought Brunswick into the tournament with a (12-10) mark. Though, the fog appears to be lifting, as the Blue Devils have defeated Shaker Heights, Garfield Heights, and Mentor in the month of February.
Brunswick is also benefitting from the return of point guard Ryan Badowski (6’3/Jr.) following an eight-game absence with a hip injury. In Badowski’s absence, senior Kyle Wheeler (6’5) has been lights out. Wheeler averaged over 23 points per game with Badowski on the shelf, including 33 in a 71-45 thumping of Garfield Heights.
Junior Zach Parker, who is coming off a 19-point performance in a 68-64 triumph of Mentor, has picked up some of the scoring loss as well. Senior Taylor Armagost (6’7) has also been a key cog for the Blue Devils. He leads the team in rebounding and is fourth in scoring.
Seniors Patrick Jarvis (6’5) and Alex Hartill (6’5) provide even more scoring and size.
Brunswick is a team with great size and when it shoots the ball well from the outside, the Blue Devils are capable of beating anyone. Nordonia and Walsh Jesuit are obstacles in sectional play, but Brunswick should be favored in both of those contests. Medina, Twinsburg, Hudson, or even Firestone could be a district final opponent. The Blue Devils dropped both regular season games to Medina by a combined five points, and fell to Twinsburg by just a point.
The Golden Lions are easily one of the most talented teams in Central Ohio, but four losses between December 18th and January 11th had most hoop junkies around the state scratching their heads.
Gahanna was just (6-4) to start the year, but the (11-1) finish showed just what most people thought about this team before the year started. The Lions only loss in that 12-game stretch was a one-point defeat to Grove City without Akron-bound Aaron Jackson in the line up.
Jackson missed quite a few games this season for one reason or another, which was a major reason for the struggles in the early part of the year. Gahanna has yet to lose a game this season with its full roster on the floor. Four of its five losses were by a combined eight points, and the other was a 13-point loss to Pickerington Central. The Golden Lions avenged that setback a little over a week ago with a 10-point victory on Central’s home floor.
Most people are anticipating a Westerville North/Gahanna Lincoln district title game, which would be a dream match up.
The Thunderhawks were (10-0) heading into the Newark Holiday Tournament Championship, but Westerville South ended the unbeaten season with a 60-59 shocking upset and in the loss head coach Wally Vickers was ejected from the contest. Lakota East finished the year just (5-7) finishing tied for fifth in the GMC despite having arguably the most talented team from top to bottom.
This team will really have you scratching your head. Lakota East beat Our Savior New American (NY), but then lost to Colerain and Sycamore. Then beat Middletown only to be drubbed by Fairfield a week later.
This team has too much talent to not be considered a contender in a region with Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cincinnati Withrow. Lakota East will open up tournament play with Oak Hills, who it beat back in December, 49-36.
Stedman Lowry leads the team in scoring at 19 points per game, and classmate Robbie Harpring is another key member for the Thunderhawks. Sophomores Alex White, Myo Baxter, and Dylan Lowry round out the top five scorers.
Cleveland John Hay:
The Hornets are dangerous, very dangerous. East Tennessee State-bound Maurice O’Field is more than capable of leading his team to the regional, though,Mentor Lake Catholic appears to be the biggest obstacle.
John Hay (12-9) played a very tough schedule, which included losses to Lakewood St. Edward, Dayton Dunbar, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Cleveland VASJ, Cleveland Central Catholic, and Cleveland Glenville.
O’Field leads the team in scoring followed by talented junior TJ Umar (6’7), Emeka Ihema, and Josh Lumbus.
Don’t be surprised if John Hay makes some noise in the next couple weeks despite its regular season struggles.
The Bobcats are just (12-10), but have the foundation of a team capable of making a deep tournament run. Wisconsin-bound Vitto Brown has been as productive as any player in the state. The 6-foot-7 senior is averaging nearly 24 points per game and 13 rebounds.
Andrew Herringshaw (14 ppg.) and sophomore point guard LaMonta Stone (9.9 ppg.) give BG a nice trio with the ability to score. Senior Nolan Dill gives BG nice size on the interior and a solid rebounder.
BG will have to get by a very good Sandusky Perkins team if it hopes to make regional play.
Bowling Green started the year just (3-7), which included a six-game losing streak in late December/early January. The Bobcats finished the year winning nine of their final 12 contests, and four of their last five.
The Bulldogs are the reigning Division II state runner-up losing a thrilling contest to Dayton Dunbar a year ago. Reggie McAdams, who was the JJHuddle DII Player of the Year, graduated and is now playing at Akron, but backcourt mate Dakota Mathias has stepped in and filled his shoes nicely. He is averaging 25.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and six assists per outing. The junior is shooting 54 percent from the field and 83 percent at the charity stripe.
Elida is (14-8), but seven of those defeats have come by seven points or less and six have been decided by five or less. The Bulldogs only lopsided defeat came to Division I power Toledo Central Catholic, 71-54, back on January 26th. Elida was hurt by a, 23-8, 3rd quarter advantage for the Irish.
Mathias’ top support comes from sharpshooter Aric Thompson and juniors Louis Gray and Max Stambaugh. Senior Ebin Stratton is one of the best defenders around.
Elida and Lima Bath could be a possible district finals match up. Bath beat Elida by two points in double overtime and four points later in the year. The two teams tied for the WBL Championship.
This one may burn us, but it’s hard to leave off Marion-Franklin with the talent it possesses despite its (11-12) record. The Red Devils exploded in their tournament opener placing five guys in double figures.
Senior Marquiez Lawrence (6’8) leads a group of talented Red Devils. Senior guard Dominique Cartier is another solid performer, and sophomore Tony Anderson (6’8) is one of the most talented sophomores in Ohio. John Montgomery and Demetrius Walker can get the job done as well, and freshman James Manns is top 10 in the state.
It’s hard to believe and almost mind-boggling to think this team is under .500. If the Red Devils can get by a good Bishop Hartley team this week, they have a chance to make a deep run. With that being said, M-F could also lose very easily on Thursday. Though, it won’t be due to a shortage of talent.
Ursuline comes into the tournament with just a (10-11) mark, but there won’t be any Division III teams begging to play the Irish. Warren Harding, Massillon Perry, Leavittsburg LaBrae, Bedford, Massillon Washington, and Sharon (PA) were the reason the Irish started the year (0-6). However, Ursuline bounced back with five consecutive wins.
Youngstown East (2), Lakewood St. Edward, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, and Akron SVSM made up the five setbacks on the back half of the schedule.
The Irish are certainly battle-tested. Senior Ryan Strollo is one of the more underrated players in the Canton Region. Strollo scored his 1,000th career point about a month ago. Desmond McElroy is another capable scorer and Preston Williams, who transferred over from Youngstown Liberty, is another solid guard. Ursuline lacks size with Kevin Jackson being its tallest player at 6-foot-4, but playing against bigger teams all year shouldn’t make this much of a factor.
LaBrae, who beat Ursuline (52-50) in December, along with Brookfield could be two possible roadblocks for the Irish’ regional hopes.
The Bearcats opened the season with three-straight losses to St. Henry, Minster, and Elida with the latter two coming by a combined two points. Spencerville followed with six consecutive wins and ended up winning 13 of its final 17 games, which included wins over Lima Central Catholic, New Bremen, and Columbus Grove. The Bearcats have won six of seven in February in preparation for a meeting with Parkway in sectional play.
Spencerville gets major contribution from Derek Goecke, Ben Bowers, freshman Zach Goecke, Devan Cook, and Dominick Corso.
The Bearcats finished (8-1) in the Northwest Conference tying LCC for the conference title. Findlay Liberty-Benton and a rematch with Lima CC are possible games down the line for the Bearcats.
The Purple Riders (11-8) have struggled throughout the year thanks to some injuries and suspensions, but Martins Ferry has the ingredients to surprise some teams in the Division III East District tournament.
Martins Ferry will play Fort Frye for a chance to make district play, and the Cadets are a team the Purple Riders have enjoyed success against over the years regardless of record.
The Riders appear to be healthy and at full strength led by 6-foot-2 senior Cody Schau, who averages nearly 27 points per contest. Schau went over the 1,000-point mark in the Riders tournament opener against rival Bellaire scoring 30 points in doing so. Junior Robert Vargo (6’4) and 6-foot-7 freshman Emilio Appolloni on the interior aid Schau. Senior Tyler Strama is rounding back into shape following a football injury.
Fort Frye and Garaway stand between the Purple Riders and a trip to the regionals.
The Silver Knights are just (12-10), but don’t be fooled, Ready played a very good schedule. Ready dropped two games to Watterson, Hartley, and St. Charles, and one to Newark Catholic, North Union, Bexley, and Columbus DeSales. A lot of those games were very close contests.
Senior Doug Strickler along with classmate Kyle Wilgus and junior Josh Gantz (6’6) have led the team in scoring on most nights. Point guard Kelly Culbertson is solid and juniors Shane Lee and Matt Yoho can also provide scoring punch. Senior Ross Etgen and Austin Vrancken have also been productive.
Ready will meet a good Grandview Heights team with possible match ups with Fredericktown and Columbus Academy or Worthington Christian looming. It’s not out of the question that the Silver Knights could win this district.
Norwalk St. Paul:
The Flyers are (16-6), which isn’t anything to sneeze at, but St. Paul has gotten little respect around the state. The veteran laced Flyers appear primed to make a deep tournament run following a, 10-3, 2013, which included late season wins over a very good Division II Sandusky Perkins (17-5) squad, two wins over New London (18-3), and avenging a 20-point defeat to Plymouth. St. Paul also owns a win over Division III Huron (17-5).
It should be noted the win over Perkins with the Pirates leading scorer, Brandon Smith, out with injury and second leading scorer Nic Williams fouling out down the stretch, but regardless, it was a nice momentum building victory.
St. Paul’s six defeats came to Western Reserve (2), Plymouth, Fremont St. Joseph, Sandusky St. Mary, and Willard. St. Paul fell to Western Reserve by 24 points in its initial meeting, but only four later in the year.
Seniors Sal Sortino, Michael Griffin, Connor Smith, and Gabe Kocher along with juniors Bob Hardwood and Scottie Slauterbeck lead the Flyers. Griffin is coming off a 19-point and 11-rebound effort in the regular season finale against New London. Sortino scored 12 points against New London and paced the Flyers with 21 in the triumph of Perkins.
Colonel Crawford, who won this district a year ago, Sandusky St. Mary CC, Buckeye Central, Mansfield St. Peter, and Plymouth all have a shot at this district, but St. Paul could top them all.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season at (15-7), but battled through a tough slate. Grove suffered close defeats to Lima Central Catholic (-4) and Arlington (-3, OT) along with setbacks to Division II Lima Bath, Division III’s Ottawa-Glandorf and Spencerville, and a very good Convoy Crestview team.
Grove has earned solid win over Jackson Center, Paulding, Kalida, and Miller City.
Derek Rieman, Collin Grothaus, Will Vorhees, Brady Shafer, and Jace Darbyshire lead the Bulldogs, who will have a chance to avenge losses to either Leipsic or Arlington if they are fortunate enough to make the district finals. McComb and Vanlue could stand in Grove’s way before that point, but the Bulldogs are battle-tested and won’t see anything they haven’t seen in the regular season.
Miami Valley School:
The Rams are (14-9), and very few people outside of their area would even know they exist. Though, keep an eye on MVS, the Rams have the talent to make a run.
MVS was (10-2) in conference playing with its only losses coming to Troy Christian (21-2). The Rams have a nice out-of-conference slate, which was a big reason for the nine defeats. Dayton Carroll, Kettering Alter, Carlisle, First Baptist Academy (FL), Evansville Day School (IL), and Oldsmar Christian (FL) were the Rams other setbacks.
St. Bernard-Elmwood Place was the Rams other defeat, which is the team they will meet tonight. Cincinnati Christian, Middle Christian, Jackson Center, and Lehman Catholic are other possible roadblocks en route to regional play.
Brandon Watson paces the Rams in scoring at 16.2 points per game, while classmates Harrison Smith (15.5 ppg.), Ja’Vawn Marbury (11.8 ppg.), and sophomore Corde’ Donald (10.2 ppg.) are also double figure scorers. Sophomore Trevon Baker is another capable option.