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2019 OHSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament Preview

March 18, 2019
2019 OHSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament Preview
Division I
By Jeff Rapp, Sports Rapp Up.com
Lakewood St. Edward (19-8)
Normally, a program like St. Ed would provide immediate intimidation for any foe, but longtime coach Eric Flannery won’t have that luxury this time and in this setting as he’ll square off with another prep coaching legend, Carl Kremer, and undefeated Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller in a marquee Division I semifinal. Even so, Flannery doesn’t have to apologize for a 2018-19 schedule that was as loaded as a fully furnished RV. The idea behind playing the best teams in northeast Ohio and several more from out of state is to have the Eagles prepared for anything come March. It’s safe to say it has worked so far. St. Edward has won its five postseason games by an average margin of 17.8 points, the only close shave coming in a 77-71 overtime win over Euclid in the regional semifinals. Devontae Blanton, a 6-6 swingman, led the Eagles with a team-high 21 points. Grant Huffman added 17 points and eight rebounds, Montorie Foster scored 13 points and Demetrius Terry had a dozen. That was to script as all four of those player average between 8.8 and 14.2 points per game. Meanwhile, the bench has been productive as well, led by senior guard Josh Ogle’s 6.1 ppg. The Eagles will be making their 11th state final four appearance and will invade the Schottenstein Center with an eight-man rotation consisting entirely of seniors and juniors. They couldn’t get past their regional semifinal hurdle against Lorain last year but survived a similar contest this time. Now the task at hand is to find a way to dent Moeller and chase down the program’s first state title since 2014.
Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller (27-0)
Defense, unselfishness and solid fundamental play were the calling cards last year when Moeller steamrolled to its fourth Division I state title in program history. This season has been much more of the same as Kremer’s Crusaders have been in total shutdown mode, allowing just 38.5 points per contest. That figure includes holding Oxford Talawanda to 17 points in sectional play and handcuffing Cincinnati Winton Woods, 57-15, in the district championship. Kremer and Flannery will bring more than 1,000 total wins to the table when Moeller knocks heads with Lakewood St. Edward, but the Eagles clearly are up against it as Moeller’s smallest margin of victory this season is seven points and its average win is by 27 points. The Crusaders don’t rely too heavily on any one player but are led by 6-4 senior forward Alex Pfriem, who checks in at right around 14 points and six rebounds per game. Senior guard Miles McBride is another standout at 14.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per outing. Sophomore Logan Duncomb, a 6-8 presence, appears to be next in line among standout forwards to wear blue and gold. However, he hasn’t made anyone forget about Bobby Brannen, Matt Sylvester, Andrew Brackman or Josh Duncan just yet. Moeller won the Greater Catholic League for the 16th time in 19 seasons has advanced to at least the state semis eight times in 20 years. The Crusaders also are riding a 49-game winning streak that dates back to a one-point loss to Massillon Jackson in the 2017 state championship, a setback that still drives the team’s most experienced performers.
Powell Olentangy Liberty (22-4)
The Patriots, who took down both Pickerington Central and Pickerington North in regional play, may appear to be the spoiler in the Division I field given the other-worldly tradition of the other three teams in Columbus, but don’t be fooled. Liberty has size, shooting, savvy, swagger and a qualified superstar in 6-5 wing forward Ben Roderick, who is foiling everything in his path this season. Roderick is averaging right around 28 points and eight rebounds per contest and also has a knack for making timely plays. And he receives plenty of help from a senior-laden roster including reliable production from 6-4 forwards Nick Nakasian (16.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Mitchell Kershner (9.2 ppg). Head coach Greg Nossaman, now in his 11th year at the school, has hit his stride as the Patriots are the class of the always-tough Ohio Capital Conference. They avenged one of their regular-season losses by taking down Hilliard Davidson in the district final and have continued to roll. In the regional tournament championship game, Roderick led Liberty past Pick North with 20 points in a gratifying 64-58 win. Nakasian added 15 points including three straight baskets in a crucial 10-1 fourth-quarter run. That clutch output clinched the program’s first-ever appearance in the state final four. Next up: a date with one of the iconic prep programs in Ohio – Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, which conversely has made it to states 16 times.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (23-3)
As SVSM has dominated at the Division II and D-III levels over the years, many onlookers often wondered how the Fighting Irish would fare with everything on the line in the Division I state tournament. Now we’re about to find out. The Irish long have been willing to face elite teams, and they’ll have to get by two more to claim the school’s ninth state title in boys basketball – and third in a row. 18th-year head coach Dru Joyce, owner of 372 career wins, has seen it all – a program that has flourished for the first time since the 1980s during the LeBron James era at the beginning of the millennium and one that has dominated again in recent years on similar fearlessness and impressive athleticism. SVSM gets double-figure scoring from four starters, led by senior guard Lunden McDay’s 16 ppg. He has the explosiveness to get to the basket but often shoots over defenses, a green light he has earned by connecting on a robust 53 percent of his three-point attempts this season. Malaki Branham and Keyshawn Jones, a pair of springy 6-5 forwards, help set the back end of the defense and often starter the fast break by cleaning off the boards and outletting the ball. Per usual, Joyce goes deep into his bench and wears down foes with speed and relentless pressure. Senior Darius Cone leads the second wave with 7.5 ppg and impressive all-around play. Watch out for an Irish squad with something to prove.
Division II
By Eric Frantz, MaxPreps.com
Trotwood-Madison (26-2)
The Rams, who have won their six postseason games by an average of 43 points, are making their fifth appearance at the state tournament and their third straight. Trotwood is in search of its first title. The Rams lost to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary the last two seasons (2018 finals and 2017 semifinals). Trotwood was the 2006 Division I runner-up and also reached the D-I state semis in 2014. Offense anyone? The Rams are averaging 101.4 points per game and have surpassed the century mark 13 times this season. Trotwood has scored over 130 points three times, including a season-high 138 in a win over Greenville. Senior Amari Davis (Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit) is the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,274 points). The 6-foot-4 guard is averaging 29.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.3 steals. Junior Carl Blanton (18.4 points), senior Malachi Mathews (12.1 points), junior Sammy Anderson (10.5 points), senior Justin Stephens (8.4 points and 7.9 rebounds) and junior Keontae Huguely (7.1 points) contribute heavily. Head coach Rocky Rockhold is 177-35 in eight years at Trotwood. Four of the Rams five state berths have come under his direction.
Akron Buchtel (20-7)
This is the Griffins’ sixth state tournament appearance and first since finishing runner-up in 1997. The program’s prior four trips were in 1936 and 1938-1940. Buchtel, which won it’s first district title since 1998, won the Akron City Series regular season championship and then claimed the postseason title as well (after falling in the finals the four seasons prior). At one point mid-season, Buchtel lost five of eight games (four by three points or less) to fall to 8-6. Since then the Griffins have gone 12-1. The bookends are freshman sensation Chris Livingston and senior Jonathan King. Livingston recently became the first freshman ever named City Series POY. Also the Northeast Inland District POY, he averages 24.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Livingston received a scholarship offer from Ohio State when he was 14 years old. King averages 11.2 points. Three sophomores – Martavien Johnson (2.8 points), Ronnell Perie II (12.5 points) and Noah Peoples (9.8 points) – complete the starting five. Head coach Matt Futch, a 2002 Buchtel graduate, is 37-12 in his second season.
Thornville Sheridan (22-5)
The Generals are riding a wave of school-wide pride into the final. The girls basketball program was in the D-II state semifinals last week and the football team made the D-III regional finals in the fall. This is the boys basketball program’s first state tournament appearance. Sheridan, which won its first district title since 2000 this season, rallied from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit with 4:53 remaining to win last week’s regional final over New Philadelphia 55-53 in overtime. Senior Ethan Heller (Southeast District POY) is the school’s all-time leading scorer and leads the team in scoring (22.3 points). Also averages 4.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Heller was the 2018 D-III OPSWA All-Ohio Football State Offensive POY (quarterback). He has signed with Concord University for basketball. Senior Grant Heileman, 6-7, controls the post (12.5 points/6.0 rebounds), while senior Costa Coconis, junior Luken Hill and sophomore Landen Russell round out the starting five. Sophomores Ethan Malone and Nate Johnson are key contributors off the bench. This is the second state appearance for head coach Doug Fisher, who led the Sheridan girls to the state tournament in 2004. He is the only Muskingum Valley League coach to lead a boys and girls team to Columbus and is a 1985 Sheridan graduate. Sheridan has tied the school record for most wins in a season.
Columbus South (27-1)
The Bulldogs, who have won three district titles in five years and set a record for wins this season, are making their first appearance at the state tournament since finishing runner-up in Class AAA in 1986. South has a storied hoops history that includes a 1965 state title (Class AA) and a 1954 runner-up (Class A). The Bulldogs were state semifinalists in 1973, 1927 and 1923. Head coach Ramon Spears is in his ninth season at the school. The Bulldogs were 1-19 in his first season (2010-2011). In mid-February the Bulldogs beat Northland (68-51) to claim their second Columbus City League title in three years. Senior guard Treohn Watkins (13.7 points) leads an extremely balanced attack that features six players that average between 6.2-13 points. Watkins, junior Taquan Simington (13.1 points), junior Marcus Johnson (10.9 points), junior Trevell Adams (10.5 points) and senior Alvin Byrd (8.4 points) all earned All-Central District honors.
Division III
By Kurt Stubbs, MaxPreps.com
Cincinnati Purcell Marian (24-4)
Purcell Marian enters the 2019 State Tournament winners of nine-straight following a tough regional battle with a very good Anna team, who was the last team to beat DIV entrant St. Henry. The Cavaliers got 20 points and six rebounds from senior Bryan Warah and 14 by classmate Javonta Lyons.
The Cavaliers only two defeats since opening the year 0-2 came at the hands of the two teams that played for the Cincinnati Division I Regional crown, Cincinnati Moeller and Centerville. The aforementioned two losses starting the year came without double digit scorer Bryan Warah, who was out the first seven games of the year due to injury. The Cavs dropped a three-point decision to Cincinnati La Salle and Dayton Chaminade Julienne.
Coach Scott Kerr’s team is drenched with seniors as the Cavaliers start a quintet of Class of 2019 members. Alex Dotson, AJ Garrett, Lyons, and Warah all average double figures. By defeating National Trail in the district final, the Cavs totaled their fourth district crown in five years. Kerr’s team fell in overtime to Deer Park a season ago in a regional semifinal encounter, while the Wildcats went on to capture the state championship.
Purcell won the 1985 AAA State Title defeating Mansfield Senior and returned in 2000, but suffered a heart wrenching 76-74 overtime loss to Warrensville Heights despite leading 23-7 at the end of the 1st quarter and 48-36 heading into 4th period.
Harvest Prep (26-2)
The Warriors return to the Final Four after beating previously unbeaten Wheelersburg in the Athens Regional Final. It wasn’t a masterpiece for Coach David Dennis’ team, but the 52-38 victory allowed Harvest Prep a sixth trip to the Schottenstein Center. The Warriors, who average nearly 83 points per game, were held scoreless in the 2nd quarter against the Pirates and led by only four points heading into the final frame, but used a 19-9 advantage in the game’s final stanza to secure victory. Junior CJ Anthony, who has a chance to be named DIII Player of the Year, led the Warriors with 16 points and classmate Elijah Glenn added 14.
Harvest Prep carries 18 consecutive wins into Thursday’s semifinal matchup with Purcell Marian. The Warriors haven’t lost a game in the state of Ohio this season suffering a six-point to Kettering Fairmont in Jefferson City, Missouri and a one-point setback to Marquette Catholic in Hammond, Indiana.
The Canal Winchester-based school, who is beating its opponents nearly 30 points a game, survived an acid test in the first-ever district finals held at the Columbus Convention Center outlasting a very good Columbus Academy team. On a night, where Anthony struggled offensively, senior Soul Hines would save the season drilling four three-pointers in the final nine minutes en route to a 21-point evening helping his team outlast its toughest tournament test to date.
Anthony, who averages a shade over 25 points per game, is the only junior among the main eight-man rotation. The remainder of the lineup consists of experienced seniors especially in the backcourt with Hines and Brandon Beavers.
Lutheran East (19-8)
Lutheran East used a 20-0 run to open up an early 26-4 lead, survived a furious Mogadore rally which saw the lead dip to just 10 points, and was able to earn its fifth trip to Columbus behind 20 points from sophomore EJ Farmer, and 17 and 11 respectively from junior Nehemiah Benson and sophomore Collin Albert. 
Before knocking off Mogadore, “The Lu” got by Orrville 63-50 as Benson paced the winners with 20 points and junior guard TJ Blevins tallied 15. The Garfield Heights District was tough as well as the Falcons earned hardfought triumphs of Kirtland and Elyria Catholic, who upset Warrensville Heights.
The Falcons, who are loaded with five sophomores and a trio of juniors, are making their third straight Final Four losing to eventual winner Deer Park in the state semis a year ago and capturing the DIV championship in 2017.
Lutheran East’s schedule mirrored that of a Division I power with the likes of Lorain, Akron SVSM, Richmond Heights, Warrensville Heights, Lakewood St. Edward, Cleveland Heights, Spire Institute, Lakewood, Shaker Heights, and Cleveland St. Ignatius.
First-year head coach Sam Liggins was a star on Lutheran East’s 2005 state team.
Cardinal Stritch (24-3)
The Cardinals are making their first trip to Columbus and they did it by getting through a tough Bowling Green Regional. Stritch got by a good Grandview Heights team in the semis after the Bobcats erased an early deficit cutting the lead to 52-51, but the Cardinals responded with a 7-0 run to seal the deal. Little Anderson, Jordan Burton, and Joey Holifield combined to score 48 of Stritch’s 63 points.
Stritch jumped out to a 32-20 halftime lead in its regional final win over a red hot Coldwater team, who took out previously unbeaten Archbold and WBL Champion Ottawa-Glandorf in district play, and held on for a 68-58 triumph behind 23 points from Anderson, while Burton and sophomore Jhaiden Wilson added 15 points apiece.
In addition, the Cardinals survived the game they lost a year ago to Archbold by outlasting previously unbeaten Genoa Area in double overtime in the district finals.
Stritch owns a 12-game winning streak since losing at the prestigious Flyin’ to the Hoop thanks to a game-winning three-pointer from Marion Local’s star Nathan Bruns. The Cardinals three losses are by a combined eight points. Coach Jamie Kachmarik’s team has quietly put together a dominating season beating its opponents by more than 25 points a contest.
The Cardinals get great balance from seniors Jordan Burton (14.4 ppg.) and Little Anderson (13.5 ppg.), junior Joey Hollifield (14.4 ppg.), and sophomore Jhaiden Wilson (9.6 ppg.).
Division IV
By Kurt Stubbs, MaxPreps.com
Convoy Crestview (26-1)
The Knights roll into Columbus riding a 24-game winning streak. Jeremy Best’s team last suffered defeat on December 14 to Bluffton (43-41), which was its only setback on the year.
Crestview found itself in the same spot it did last year, but this time the Knights left no doubt defeating Maumee Valley Country Day, 66-49, earning its fourth trip to Columbus. The Knights used a 17-4 run in the 2nd quarter and a 16-3 spurt in the final four minutes of the game to pull away from MVCD. Sophomore Kalen Etzler was sensational pouring in 25 points and grabbing nine rebounds, while his brother Javin Etzler added 17 points and 10 boards. Derick Dealey produced 14 points and 5 rebounds, while fellow seniors Wade Sheets (7 rebounds) and Drew Kline (8 rebounds and 7 assists) were also key contributors.
Though, the tournament nearly ended abruptly for Crestview when the Knights trailed a game Kalida squad in a District Final contest at Elida High School. Senior Javin Etzler drilled a three-pointer sending the game to double overtime where the Knights would eventually secure victory. Etzler did almost the same thing to dispose of Hicksville a year earlier, but Convoy’s season eventually ended in the regional final to Pandora-Gilboa.
Crestview rolled through the regular season with relative ease before running through the tournament trail. The Knights finished runners-up in 1971 and 2003 before breaking through in undefeated fashion in 2014 led by seniors Cam Etzler, Damian Helm, and Tyson Bolenbaugh.
Javin Etzler, a Miami (OH) signee and nephew of former Ohio State guard and current Teays Valley head coach Doug Etzler, is joined in the line up by his younger brother Kalen Etzler, who is drawing plenty of high-major interest. The Knights house plenty of experience in senior Wade Sheets (Air Force FB) and classmate Drew Kline. The latter was a 4-year starter at quarterback for a very successful football program and brings competitiveness and toughness as the floor general.
Senior Derick Dealey scored 15 points and helped Crestview pull away in a regional semis triumph of Hicksville, a team the Knights beat in the regular season by 25 points.
Richmond Heights (21-6)
Richmond Heights survived a stiff test from New Middletown Springfield and overcame an 18-point performance from Drew Clark to advance to the school’s first trip to Columbus. Leading by just a single point, junior Gbolahan Adio calmly sank two free-throws giving the Spartans a three-point lead. The Tigers got two looks from behind the arc, but Anthony Maxie Jr. blocked the first and the second attempt was off the mark allowing the Cuyahoga County school to advance. Adio paced Quentin Roger’s bunch with 12 points and five rebounds. Senior Curtis Houston II added nine points in the win.
The win was a bit of redemption for 2012 when the Spartans watched as Berlin Hiland’s Seger Bonifant buried a left corner triple with 0.4 seconds to play advancing the Hawks to Columbus and win their second title in as many years. A year earlier McDonald’s Justin Rota scored a layup to beat the Spartans in the regional semis.
Before the Spartans were able to get by Springfield, Richmond Heights (20) and Bristol (29) combined for 49 turnovers in a regional semifinal tilt at the Canton Fieldhouse. Jevontae Jones had 15 points and eight rebounds, while Anthony Maxie added 12 points and sophomore Jamarr Talbert chipped in 11. Richmond Heights led by as many as 37 points.
The Spartans battled through a tough district defeating Rittman and overcoming an early 22-11 deficit to Elyria Open Door Christian to defeat one of the better teams in Division IV.
Quentin Rogers, who coached All-Ohio Red to three-straight AAU National Titles with the likes of Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, Jordan Sibert, Juwan Staten, and Adreian Payne, is in just his second year as headman for the Spartans.
Richmond Heights played a brutal schedule, which can be seen in its six losses to Lutheran East, Shaker Heights, Toledo Whitmer, Lorain, Benedictine, and Gahanna Lincoln.
Berlin Hiland (27-1)
The Hawks soar into Columbus riding a 20-game winning streak following another dismantling of the Athens Regional winning its games by a total of 145-71. Hiland has played in the Athens Regional for the past two seasons winning its four regional encounters by a combined score of 272-125. However, Mark Schlabach’s team has found it a little tougher in district play finding a way to beat Rosecrans in a tough game and then beating a very good Strasburg team for the third time this season. In that same time frame, Hiland has won its district games by just 10 points a game.
The school located in Holmes County will be making its 11th State Tournament appearance winning it all in 1992, 2011, and 2012. The Hawks returned to Columbus last March, but fell to Cornerstone Christian in a hardfought semifinal contest. This will be Schlabach’s fifth trip with the Hawks and seventh overall. He guided Loudonville to back-to-back Final Fours in 2004 (losing to St. Henry) and 2005 (losing to North College Hill).
Hiland, who hasn’t lost since December 22nd to Cleveland East Tech, earns its stripes on the defensive end giving up just over 36 points per game.
Kendall Hochsteler (15.7 ppg.) leads the team in scoring, but a number of Hawks have led the team in scoring throughout the season. Senior Andy Miller, who is the school’s all-time assist leader, also averages 3.1 steals per game. Four Hawks average between six and 10 points an outing, which includes sophomores Hunter Sommers and Will Schlabach (Coach’s son), Miller, and junior Sam Habeger.
St. Henry (24-3)
The Redskins return to Columbus for the first time since winning the Division III State Title in 2004 defeating previously unbeaten and fellow Midwest Athletic Conference member Versailles. St. Henry will be seeking its fifth state title, and second in as many years for the MAC with Marion Local capturing last year’s crown.
Eric Rosenbeck’s team owns 16 consecutive wins, which includes triumphs of MAC rivals Minster and Marion Local in a brutal Wapakoneta District. It was the third meeting with Marion Local and the second in 18 days against Minster. After surviving the MAC gauntlet, St. Henry got by a Springfield Central Catholic team that came into the regional winners of 14 of its last 15 games. The Redskins defense held leading scorer Sabien Doolittle to just nine points in the win. The Kettering Regional Final would prove to be a much more difficult task as St. Henry needed to overcome an 18-17 halftime deficit to survive an always difficult Jackson Center team. The Redskins pushed their lead to nine points in the 4th quarter, but had to withstand 15 points from Trent Platfoot (28 points) in the quarter to hold on for a 46-43 victory. Senior Zach Niekamp led St. Henry with 15 points, classmate Jay Knapke added 11 points, and Bowling Green football signee Caden Niekamp chipped in nine points and 11 rebounds.
St. Henry, who only allows a shade over 45 points per game, is a very balanced scoring team with four players averaging between 8.8 and 13.1 points per game.
The Redskins went (21-4) a year ago losing to Marion Local in overtime 39-38 in the Wapak District Final after losing to the Flyers by 37 points in the regular season. Coach Rosenbeck lost arguably its four best players off the team, which makes its even more remarkable that he has this team in Columbus with a chance to cut down the nets.

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