Boys Basketball Regional Previews & Predictions: Division I

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Today, continues 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.

District Rewind

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

Akron Regional

Toledo Bowsher (24-2) vs. Mansfield Senior (18-7)- 3/12-7 p.m. (Toledo)

The Rebels are looking to follow in the footsteps of Toledo Rogers from a year ago, and reach the state tournament out of the Toledo City League. Bowsher, who has won 12-straight contests, has knocked off the likes of Sylvania Southview, Toledo CC, and Toledo St. John’s along the tourney trail, which is quite impressive. Senior Nate Allen (22.2 ppg.), the NW District POY, and senior Dajuan King (20.5 ppg.) lead a high-scoring Rebel attack. Senior Cameron White (16.0 ppg.) is another viable scoring option. Bowsher has just two losses on the year to Holland Springfield and Toledo Scott by a combined 11 points. The Rebels will meet a Mansfield team that has persevered through injuries to its two top inside guys in Robert Jones and Donovyn Benson. After losing six of its final eight regular season games, the Tygers found a way to beat Mansfield Madison, Ashland, and Perrysburg to reach tonight’s game. The Tygers are led by senior guard Mario Davison (3rd Team All-District), Jameel Butts, Naradain James, Jalen Reese, and Chek Washington.

Cleveland St. Ignatius (20-6) vs. Lakewood St. Edward (22-2)- 3/13-7 p.m. (Akron)

The west side rivalry gets a third meeting. Ignatius dropped both decisions to St. Ed’s this season, 61-34 and 73-70 in overtime. The Wildcats got drubbed in the first meeting when 6-8 sophomore Derek Funderburk was still playing for the Eagles, but has since been lost for the year due to injury. Ignatius comes into the game thanks to a (67-64) win over Berea-Midpark on the back of sophomore Deven Stover, who scored 25 points and nailed the game-winner. The Wildcats went through a rough patch in mid-January losing three-straight, but seems to have turned the corner. Senior Eric Black (3rd Team All-District) added 17 points and seven rebounds in the win over Berea-Midpark. Seniors David Black, Isaiah Barbra, and Danny Bova give Ignatius a strong nucleus of veterans. St. Ed’s got 24 points and six rebounds from junior Kipper Nichols in a 74-62 district championship victory over Brunswick. Nichols and teammate Marsalis Hamilton earned 1st Team All-Northeast Lakes District. Senior Tony Vuyancih is a tough guard with a gamer mentality. The Eagles have just two defeats this season, Westchester (CA) and Shaker Heights by a combined 11 points. Before the injury to Funderburk, the Eagles looked like a team ready to run away with the state championship. Even now, this team is more than capable of being the last one standing.

Regional Prediction
Lakewood St. Edward over Toledo Bowsher

Cleveland Regional

Shaker Heights (20-5) vs. Cleveland East Tech (21-3)- 6:15 p.m.

The Raiders are back in the regionals after falling one game short a year ago of reaching Columbus. Shakers Heights defeated Bedford and Euclid in district play behind 71 points from junior Esa Ahmad. The versatile 6-7 Ahmad is one of the fastest rising and most productive players in the country. He is joined by seniors TJ Steele and Rosel Hurley along with junior Kaleb Roy. Ahmad, the Northeast Lakes District POY and potential Mr. Basketball winner, is averaging over 25 points per game against one of the best schedules in Ohio. The Raiders will have to get by one of hottest teams in the state in Cleveland East Tech. The Scarabs took care of the defending state champs, Mentor, behind 29 points from senior K.T. Taylor (1st Team All-District). Senior Johnell Free (15.7 ppg.), junior Anthony Carmon (12.1 ppg.), and freshman Markell Johnson (10.6 ppg.) join Taylor for the high octane Scarabs. East Tech’s three losses are to Delaware Hayes, Findlay, and Warrensville, all very good teams.

Massillon Jackson (24-2) vs. Uniontown Lake (23-2)- 8 p.m.

Federal League rivals Jackson and Lake meet for a third time this season in a rubber match. Jackson lost the first meeting with Lake (58-56) on January 3rd, which happened to be the last time the Polar Bears dropped a game. The streak is now at 17 wins in a row, which includes a (79-62) triumph of the Blue Streaks. The Polar Bears have steamrolled the competition during their tournament run with the exception of a 12-points triumph of Ellet. Seniors Evan Bailey (1st Team All-Northeast Inland District), Kyle Mottice (2nd Team All-District), and Mitch Pugh (3rd Team All-District) spearhead a potent Jackson offense. Lake is led by Northeast Inland POY Mitch Spotleson and Alex Belinsky (3rd Team All-District). Lake is coming off a well-deserved (58-40) triumph of  a very good Medina team. The Blue Streak dropped two-of-three in late January and early February, but has since regained their mojo.

Regional Prediction
Shaker Heights over Massillon Jackson

Columbus Regional

Columbus Northland (21-4) vs. Dublin Coffman (19-5)- 3/12-7 p.m.

It’s been a year full of trials for the Northland Vikings, a team that reached the state tournament last year with a spotless 28-0 mark before losing to Mentor. Northland has lost players, dropped its first city league game and lost its first city league championship since 2006, and just hasn’t possessed great team chemistry like a year ago. The Vikings rolled over Whetstone and Hamilton Township before getting a pair of tests in district play against Teays Valley and Westerville Central. Through it all, Northland was able to reach regional for the sixth time in eight seasons. The Vikings four losses are to Thurgood Marshall, Pickerington Central, and Columbus Brookhaven along with Providence (FL) in the Beach Ball Classic Championship Game. Talented sophomore Seth Towns (2nd Team All-Central District) leads the Vikings in scoring at 13.7 points per game and adds 7.1 rebounds. Seniors Derek McKeithen (11.7 ppg.), Jaylen Tucker (11.4 ppg./6.2 rpg.), and Shemar Waugh (5.1 ppg./5.6 apg.) make up a talented group of seniors. McKeithen is coming off a 20-point showing against Westerville Central. Doug Taylor, a 6-8 junior, has also come on very strong in the second half of the year averaging 8.8 points and eight rebounds a game. One thing to keep an eye on is the fact that Northland shoots just 62 percent at the charity stripe. The Vikings will meet a dangerous Coffman team that appears to be hitting its stride at the right time. Powered by a lethal backcourt of junior C.J. Saunders, sophomore Seth Fuller, and senior Nate Axelrod, the Shamrocks have the guards to play with anybody. If Coffman gets a lead on a team, it’s very difficult to overcome. Saunder tallied 22 points in the win over Newark. Sophomore Luke Vargo, a 6-6 sniper, is a shot-maker. The Shamrocks also play a host of role guys that are skilled and can make shots. Coffman started the year 9-0, but went through a rough patch from late January to mid-February losing four out of seven. The Shamrocks have five defeats by a combined 21 points, which includes a pair of three-point defeats to rival Upper Arlington. Coffman, who has just one senior, owns tournament wins over Hilliard Bradley, Walnut Ridge, and Newark.

Pickerington Central (20-5) vs. Upper Arlington (24-1)- 3/13-7 p.m.

It has been a wild ride for the Pickerington Central Tigers in 2014. The Tigers lost their head coach, Jerry Francis, in early January due to health issues. Insert, new headman Eric Kruger. Then, Ohio State signee Jae’Sean Tate season ended with a torn labrum that required surgery. PC responded with a 14-2 mark under Kruger, which included an 8-0 start. In Tate’s absence, the Tigers are 7-2 with losses to Newark (66-63, OT) and Gahanna Lincoln (73-72). The Tigers other defeats came to nationally-ranked Huntington Prep (WV), Massillon Jackson (regional qualifier), and a four-point defeat to Newark. Central’s tournament path has included wins over a game Columbus West squad, Canal Winchester, Marysville, and Zanesville. Senior Connor Kern (1st Team All-Central District), an Arkasnsas State signee, has been nothing short of outstanding. The lefty sharp-shooter has improved his overall game, which has allowed him to averaged nearly 20 points per game and get to the line a lot more where he is lethal. Kern scored a career-best 35 points against Marysville and added another 22 in the win over Zanesville. Another big reason for the success has come from the production of long and lengthy junior Rodney Culver. The 6-4 Culver is on the verge of a breakout spring. Sophomore Jalen Tate also stepped up his game having to run a lot more lead guard. Junior Eric Johnson is one of the better on-the-ball defenders in Ohio, and sophomore D.J. Tyree is starting to become a better decision maker as a playmaker. Upper Arlington has quietly put together one of its best seasons, which has resulted in 24 wins to just a single loss to Olentangy Liberty (34-31). The Golden Bears haven’t lost since December 13th, which includes 23 consecutive wins. UA has built a nice resume this season with wins over Marysville (x2), Coffman (x2), Watterson, Olentangy Liberty, and New Albany. UA’s tourney trail hasn’t been an easy one with the likes of Olentangy, Grove City, and Gahanna Lincoln. Senior Kevin Vannatta (1st Team All-District) and Danny Hummer have been lights out for the Golden Bears. Vannatta, who reminds us of miniature version of Tyler Hansbrough, is coming off a sparkling 26-point performance against Gahanna. UA has given up 50 or more points just one time this season when Olentangy earned 53.

Regional Prediction
Pickerington Central over Columbus Northland

Cincinnati Regional

Trotwood-Madison (23-2) vs. Huber Heights Wayne (21-4)- 6:15 p.m.

This is a battle of the GWOC North (Trotwood) and GWOC Central (Wayne) champions. The two did not play during the regular season, which makes for a much-anticipated tournament encounter between two of Dayton’s finest. It’s very rare when two Dayton teams meet each other in regional play in Division I. Trotwood, winners of 10-straight, comes into the game scoring points in bunches. The Rams only setbacks on the year are to nationally-ranked Prime Prep (TX) and Dayton Dunbar (73-70). The Rams own tournament triumphs of Troy, Stebbins, Miamisburg, and Cincinnati LaSalle. Trotwood is led by dynamic senior Dezhontae Bennett (1st Team All-Southwest District), who averages 24.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 5.3 blocks a game from his guard spot. Bennett, one of the better vertical leapers in the Buckeye State, is joined by a talented group of seniors in Kendrick Mallory (16.0 ppg.), Jamichael Blanton (9.9 ppg.), and Patwaun Hudson (7.1 ppg./4.8 apg./3.8 spg.). Junior Andre Foster (9.9 ppg./6 rpg.) is another key member of the Trotwood attack. The Rams will be going up against man-for-man one of the most talented teams in Ohio. The bad news for the rest of the state? Most of the lineup consists of underclassmen. Junior Ahmad Wagner (3rd Team All-District) is having a breakout season scoring 13.5 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and swatting away 3.1 shots a night. Classmate Xeyrius Williams, who will likely skyrocket up the recruiting charts, comes into the contest averaging 11.9 points and 9.8 rebounds a game along with shooting 24-of-50 behind the arc. Junior D’Mitrik Trice, who is also an outstanding quarterback, chips in 11.5 points and 3.5 assists, while senior Juan Ford gets 10.7 points. Sophomore Trey Landers (9.1 ppg./5.6 rpg.) is another viable option. Wayne, winners of 10-straight, possesses tournament victories over Lebanon, West Carrollton, Centerville, and Fairfield. The Warriors have three losses by a combined six points, and a 12-point defeat at the hands of nationally-ranked Findlay Prep (NV).

Cincinnati Moeller (23-1) vs. Middletown (19-6)- 8 p.m.

Moeller and Middletown meet in a rematch of a 2012 regional semifinal game in which the Middies upset the Crusaders after being handled (55-38) in the regular season. Senior Vince Edwards was a sophomore on that team, and now the Purdue signee is ready to see if his squad can pull a repeat. The Middies own eight-straight victories, but did hit a bump in the road in late January losing three in a row. Middletown has six defeats all by 10 points or less. Edwards has totaled 22.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists a game, which earned him Southwest District POY honors. The senior scored seven points on just 1-of-10 shooting in his last meeting with Moeller. Senior Khylan Jackson adds 12.7 points a contest and sophomore point guard Kobie Johnson (8.1 ppg.) has been a nice luxury. Four points separate Moeller from an undefeated season. The Crusaders dropped a (60-56) decision to Providence (FL), a team featuring Duke signee Grayson Allen, in the Beach Ball Classic. Middletown is coming off a one-point victory against Wilmington, a team Moeller beat 69-32 in the regular season. Moeller has rolled through Ross, Western Hills, Lakota East, and Fairborn on its way to the regional. Junior Nate Fowler (2nd Team All-District) is coming off a 22-point and nine-rebound effort against Fairborn. The 6-9 Fowler is averaging 12.7 points on 67 percent shooting, which includes an 11-of-22 showing from behind the arc. The junior adds nearly 10 rebounds a night along with 2.3 assists. Senior marksman Adam Gigax produced 14 points in Moeller’s last outing. Teams have made it a priority to stop senior Grant Benzinger (1st Team All-District), which has allowed his teammates to shine. Benzinger leads Moeller in scoring at nearly 16 points per game. The Wright State signee is shooting 46 percent from distance (65-of-141) and 91 percent at the line. Moeller is also getting nice production from senior point guard Tre’ Hawkins (7.3 ppg./4.3 apg.) and Elon signee Jack Anton (10.4 ppg./6.1 rpg./63% fg). The Crusaders currently own a 17-game winning streak. Big Moe’s defense has allowed 50 or more points just three times all season.

Regional Prediction
Cincinnati Moeller over Huber Heights Wayne

 

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