Today, starts the final stretch of the 2013-2014 boy’s high school basketball season in the Buckeye state. This is one of our favorite weeks of the season, known as regional week, with only 64 teams remaining in the entire state. In three weeks, we went from nearly 800 schools, to just 16 teams in each respective division.
Today, we will take a look at each region, provide a little analysis, and of course give our infamous predictions. Before we start, let us take a look back at the past three weeks. A little over three weeks ago we picked our district winner for each of the 64 districts.
We picked 40 of the 64 correctly (10/DI, 9/DII, 10/DIII, & 11/DIV).
Team we lost from our final poll National Guard JJHuddle Power Poll.
Division I: Gahanna Lincoln (5), Zanesville (6), & Newark (7).
Division II: Elida (6), Columbus Brookhaven (7), Ontario (9), & Vincent Warren (10).
Division III: Warrensville Heights (1), Beachwood (4), Gilmour Academy (7), Liberty-Benton (8), Clark Montessori (9), & Bishop Hartley (10).
Division IV: Cincinnati Aiken (3), Berlin Hiland (6), Bethel (8), & Spencerville (10).
-13 of the 16 regional teams in DI were in our final poll (Top 10 or Others). 12 of the 16 regional team in DII were in our final poll (Top 10 or Others). 11 of the 16 regional team in DIII were in our final poll (Top 10 or Others). 13 of the 16 team in DIV were in our final poll (Top 10 or Others). In all, we had 49 of the 64 regional teams in our final polls.
Teams the Associated Press lost from its poll.
Division I: Zanesville (2), Berea-Midpark (6), & Toledo CC (10).
Division II: Ontario (1), Franklin (5), Millbury Lake (6), & Athens (10).
Division III: Beachwood (1), Union Local (3), Warrensville Heights (8), Gilmour Academy (9), & Zane Trace (10).
Division IV: Berlin Hiland (3) & Bethel (8).
Division IV Regional Preview
Cornerstone Christian (20-4) vs. Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas (15-11)- 6:15 p.m.
This should be an outstanding contest, and will likely have the eventual regional winner. Cornerstone Christian has made short work of its opponents in the tournament averaging 83 points per game. Longwood University commit Bryan Gee, who was named the NE Lakes DIV District POY, is coming off a 24-point performance in a win over Cortland Maplewood. The Patriots have just four losses on the year, Capitol Christian Academy (MD), Garfield Heights, Richmond Heights, and Gilmour Academy. Keep an eye on seniors R.J. Spaller (1st Team All-District), Tyrez Shephard, Isaiah McQueen, and Daniel Bennet. On the other bench, is redhot Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas. The Knights are scoring a shade over 87 points per game in their four tourney contests with their closest game being 27 points. Aquinas enters regional play in back-to-back seasons making the DIII regional a year ago. The Louisville-based outfit came into the tournament with just a .500 record up against some stiff competition, which included two games each with Cleveland VASJ, Cleveland CC, and Holy Name along with contests against Malvern, Canton CC, Ursuline, and Mooney. The Knights hit 17 triples in their district championship game against McDonald, which is a school-record. Senior Austin Hill (1st Team All-District) scored 25 points followed by junior Anthony Moeglin’s 24. Dan Piero, Pete Ruthe, Jacob Paul, and Jimmy Donnelly are other key contributors.
Malvern (20-6) vs. Richmond Heights (18-7)- 8:00 p.m.
Malvern rolls into regional play on a high after knocking off rival Berlin Hiland for the first time following 14-straight setbacks to the Hawks. The Hornets lost to Hiland twice during the regular season by 38 and 26 points respectively. Malvern also avenged a loss to Steubenville CC in the district semis (56-43) on the back of 6-7 junior Mitch Loomis (16 ppg/9.8 rpg.) and his triple-double, which included 11 blocks. Loomis, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds against Hiland, has been a monster in the tournament, and should really see his stock rise in the offseason. Senior Trey Tucci (6-3) is scoring just over 16 points a night and had 13 in the cherished win over Hiland. Richmond Heights has floated under the radar for much of the year after losing a plethora of talent from last season. However, the Spartans are back in regional play for a third time in four seasons. The Spartans are playing suffocating defense giving up just over 26 points per game in their four tournament games. Richmond Heights held Garfield Heights Trinity to just six field goals on 13 percent shooting. Junior Mike Parks (18 ppg.), who is 6-8, leads a group of unheralded Spartans. Senior Dontez Lockett (2nd Team All-District), Kevin Hudson, and Christian Wilcox are also names to know.
Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas over Richmond Heights
Columbus Africentric (15-10) vs. Peebles (22-3)- 6:15 p.m.
The Nubians used a 15-0 spurt to erase a 38-23 deficit against Fairfield Christian in the district finals and got a go-ahead bucket from springy junior Jaquan Harrison to secure a (49-46) victory. Talented sophomore Houston Smith, who is really coming on, scored a team-high 17 points. Harrison, a 1st Team All-Central District performer, totaled 14. Junior Ulmer Manzie (6-8) will also be looked on to be a force against a smaller Peebles team. Senior Akil Cornish has the ability to be a knock-down shooter. The Nubians own 10 losses on the year, but play in a very tough Columbus City League South with the likes of Walnut Ridge, Marion-Franklin, Eastmoor Academy, Columbus South, and Briggs along with out-of-conference matchups with regional qualifiers Roger Bacon and John Glenn. Peebles, on the other hand, arrives in Athens via (66-58) verdict over South Gallia. Junior Beau Justice, who earned Southeast District POY honors, scored 32 points to lead the Indians, while running mate Zach Arrasmith added 16. Justice averages nearly 31 points per game on the season along with nearly five assists and three steals. He was only held under 10 once and that was in a loss to Portsmouth (9). Junior Cody Ireton (6-5) is another viable option at just over 10 points a night. The Indians dropped decisions to Leesburg Fairfield and Piketon along with Portsmouth during the regular season.
Harvest Prep (24-1) vs. Leesburg Fairfield (17-8)- 8:00 p.m.
The Warriors returned to excellence this season following a couple down seasons. Harvest Prep has racked up 24 wins on the back of Hilliard Darby transfer David Dennis Jr., who happens to be the son of head coach David Dennis Sr. The junior sharp-shooter comes into the regional averaging just under 23 points per game. Senior guard Sean Blackburn has been crucial as well along with Pickerington Central transfer Rael Windley (6-4/Jr.). Junior Dana Coffman, a Reynoldsburg transfer, paced the Warriors in a hard-fought win over Newark Catholic in the district finals with 17 points. Harvest Prep’s only loss came to Newark Catholic (76-75), and the Warriors have now won 18-straight. Fairfield comes into the game winning its first district title since 1996. Ryan Bates and Joey Wilson (3rd Team All-District) led the Lions with 13 points apiece, while Cody Bennett chipped in 12. Balke Hildebrant and Gage Montgomery (2nd Team All-Southeast District) both had 10 points. The Lions, who have been getting off to slow starts, have beat three pretty good teams in Latham Western, Ironton St. Joseph’s Central, and Paint Valley. It will be essential for Fairfield to get off to a better start tonight, or it could be lights out.
Columbus Africentric over Harvest Prep
Russia (22-4) vs. Marion Local (21-5)- 5:30 p.m.
Marion Local and Russia locked up on February 15th resulting in a (59-57) win for the Flyers ending Russia’s 16-game winning streak. The Flyers nearly let an 11-point 3rd quarter lead slip away, but eventually held on for the win. Shooting guard Dustin Rethman tallied 14 points in the contest and sophomore point guard Cole Griesdorn added 10. Marion Local played without 6-10 junior Luke Knapke, who has several D1 offers. Gavin Hoying led the Raiders with 25 points and eight rebounds, and Jordan Gariety and Nolan Francis added 17 and 10 points respectively. Russia checks into the game coming off a sizeable upset of Cincinnati Aiken (48-40) in which Nolan Francis scored 22 points. The Raiders also slipped past Jackson Center (45-41) in the district semis. Senior Gavin Hoying (2nd Team All-Southwest District), junior Nolan Francis (3rd Team All-District), and Jordan Gariety lead the Raiders, who were just 2-3 to start the season. Marion Local endured a rough tournament slate to end up at the regional. Midwest Athletic foes Minster (58-51) and Fort Recovery (27-23), and Upper Scioto Valley (47-46) and Arlington (44-34) made for a challenging path. Along with Rethman and Griesdorn is one of the tallest frontcourts in Ohio. Knapke (2nd Team All-Northwest District), junior Ryan Bruns (6-7), and Pitt football signee Adam Bertke (6-6) make up an imposing front line. Griesdorn scored 19 points in a win over Arlington in the district finals, while the defense held the Red Devils to just 21 percent shooting.
Troy Christian (24-2) vs. Tri-Village (24-1)- 8:00 p.m.
Tri-Village defeated Troy Christian back in mid-January (61-47), which is the same thing that happened a year ago. However, TC knocked off T-V on its way to the state semifinals and ended the Patriots unbeaten season. The Patriots are hoping to not let lightning strike twice. Tyler Cook (22 points), Colton Linkous (22 points), and Damion Cook (17) combined to score all 61 points for Tri-Village in its regular season win. The Patriots held Troy Christian junior Grant Zawadzki to just 12 points, which is nearly half his average. Tri-Village, who has just one loss on the year (Franklin Monroe) and is 70-5 over the past three seasons, is led by the aforementioned Tyler Cook (1st Team All-Southwest District/19.4 ppg.), Linkous (2nd Team All-District/20.7 ppg.) and Damion Cook (3rd Team All-District/16.7 ppg.). The Patriots got a stern test from Tipp City Bethel in the district semis, but other than that, they have rolled. Troy Christian steamrolled through the sectional before being severely challenged by Franklin Monroe and Lockland in district play. The Eagles road has been eerily similar to last season. Troy Christian lost its first game of the year this year and second game last season, and then a setback to Tri-Village in mid-January (both seasons). The Eagles won 18-straight games a season ago following the loss to Tri-Village showing up in the state semis. Troy Christian, winners of 12-straight heading into tonight’s contest, hasn’t lost since the T-V game. Zawadzki (1st Team All-Southwest District) scored 22 and 27 points in the wins over Franklin Monroe and Lockland shooting at an extremely high clip. Seniors Spencer Thomas, Logan George, and Holden Varvel were all major contributors last season as well. Senior Aaron Horn, 6-7 junior Dusty Poteet, and 6-5 junior Isiah Fairley provide the Eagles with a deep lineup. Fairley, a transfer from Wayne, didn’t play in the first meeting with T-V.
Tri-Village over Marion Local
Bowling Green Regional
Buckeye Central (23-2) vs. Wayne Trace (22-3)
The Bucks have enjoyed a banner year winning 23 games with their only losses coming to Colonel Crawford and Carey, both team DIII teams. Buckeye Central has defeated Mansfield St. Peter’s, Norwalk St. Paul, and a very good Sandusky St. Mary’s CC squad along the tourney trail. Cade Kaple (2nd Team All-Northwest District/13.9 ppg.) and Austin Wurm (3rd Team All-Northwest District/18.8 ppg.), both 5-11 seniors, have combined for 82 treys on the year. Senior Sam Robertson checks in at 10.5 points per game from his center spot. Senior guard Stone Wurm and junior center Seth Ollis are also key contributors. Wayne Trace has just three losses on the year with two coming to undefeated Convoy Crestview. The Raiders, who were the Division VI state football runners-up, rely on junior Corbin Linder (2nd Team All-District/14.4 ppg.) and freshman Ethan Linder (3rd Team All-District/13.8 ppg.) for head coach Jim Linder. Senior guard Colby Speice adds 7.4 points a night and leads the team in assists and steals. Senior forward Devin Wenzlick leads Wayne Trace in rebounds, while adding 6.2 points a game. The Raiders defeated Continental, Pettisville, and conference foe Defiance Ayersville en route to regional play.
Convoy Crestview (25-0) vs. Ottawa Hills (22-1)
This, without question, could be the game of the night. Crestview has been the best team in the state in DIV all season, while Ottawa Hills has just one loss on the year to Division I Sylvania Southview (58-55, OT) on December 7th. This is a matchup of our No. 1 and No. 2 teams in our final National Guard JJHuddle Power Poll. The Knights have rolled along in the tourney defeating Fort Jennings, Columbus Grove, and Miller City by no less than 15 points. Seniors Damian Helm (1st Team All-District/15.5 ppg.), Cam Etzler, and Tyson Bolenbaugh lead a strong group of Knights. Helm totaled 21 points in the win over Miller City, while Bolenbaugh added 12 points and 13 rebounds and Etzler tallied nine points and dished out eight assists. Sophomore Connor Lautzenheiser, juniors Preston Zaleski, Mitchell Rickard, and Eli Jones, and seniors Isaiah Simerman and Brock Rolsten round out a more than formidable lineup. The challenge for the Knights will be dealing with the Green Bears size in R.J. Coil (6’9/Marist), Geoff Beans (6’6/Furman), and Ellis Cummings (6’7). Beans, who earned Northwest District POY honors, averaged just under 18 points per game, while Coil contributes 14.5 tallies a night. Senior guard Ben Silverman and freshman Hunter Seiban will be challenged big time tonight, and these two could be the x-factors. Ottawa Hills is giving up just 25 points per game in the tournament, while Convoy is allowing just 34. The first team to 50 points will have a good chance of winning this game.
Convoy Crestview over Buckeye Central