OHSAA Boys Basketball State Championship Preview
By Eric Frantz, MaxPreps.com
Archbishop Hoban (24-3)
Led by head coach T.K. Griffith, who is in his 30th season at the school (started in 1993), the Knights roll into Columbus having set a program record for wins in a season. Hoban beat Walsh Jesuit 56-37 in the regional final after downing St. Edward 44-40 in the regional semifinal. This is the Knights first trip to state since 1998 (were in D-II) and third overall. Hoban won the D-III state title in 1989. The Knights are allowing just 45.3 points per game (which is currently a school record), while scoring 62.2. Junior Jonas Nichols averages 16 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 steals. He surpassed 1,000 career points earlier this season and is on pace to become Hoban's all-time leading scorer. Nichols holds scholarship offers from several MAC schools (including Akron, Kent, Toledo and Eastern Michigan) and is receiving interest from Penn State, Xavier and Dayton. Senior Will Scott Jr. averages 13.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals. The other three starters are senior Logan Vowles (No. 2 at Hoban in career made 3s), senior Andrew Griffith and freshman Sam Greer. Key reserves include reigning Mr. Football winner Lamar Sperling (senior), Colin Coyne (senior), Joey Hardman (junior) and Josh Greer (junior).
The Elks captured their third straight regional title with a 64-53 win over Fairfield. During that run Centerville has compiled an 80-7 record. The Elks were D-I state champion in 2021 and runner-up in 2022, losing to Pickerington Central, their semifinal foe, in the championship. Centerville avenged that loss with a 60-54 double OT win over Pickerington Central in December. Senior guard Gabe Cupps, an Indiana recruit, headlines the Elk roster. Cupps, the 2022 Ohio Mr. Basketball and a four-star prospect, is averaging 15.1 points, 6.1 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals. Centerville’s all-time leader in assists and second leading career scorer, Cupps is a four-time first team All-Greater Western Ohio Conference and All-Southwest District selection. Centerville received an influx of talent this season in transfers Jonathan Powell (Chaminade Julienne), Collin O’Connor (Tecumseh) and Dulguun Gankyuhag (ISA/Mongolia). All three start. Powell, a junior, averages a team-high 17 points and is a four-star prospect with 11 offers (including Ohio state, Alabama, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan state). Seniors O’Connor and Gankyuhag average 9.3 and 6.5 points, respectively. The Elks fifth starter is senior Emmanuel Deng who has signed to play football in the Ivy League at Penn (defensive back). Key reserves include seniors Kyle Kenney and Matt Wilkins, junior Baboucarr Njie and sophomore Ethan Greenberg. Head coach Brook Cupps also led St. Paris Graham to the 2008 D-II state semifinals. Centerville averages 76.6 points per game and allows 46.
Pickerington Central (23-5)
Led by Devin Royal, the state’s No. 1 ranked senior prospect, the Tigers are looking to defend their D-I title and claim the program’s third overall (also won in 2012). This is Pickerington Central’s fifth trip to state (semifinalists in 2017 and 2018). Royal, an Ohio State recruit, averages 19.2 points and 7.7 rebounds. He became Pickerington Central’s all-time leading scorer (surpassing the Houston Rockets’ Jae’Sean Tate) in a 59-51 regional semifinal win over Westerville South. Behind Royal’s game-high 29 points, the Tigers beat Olentangy Orange 57-53 in the regional final. Royal is the only Tiger that averages double-figures. Seniors Andrew Hedgepath, Gavin Headings (8.7 points) and Markell Johnson (8.3 points) and junior Juwan Turner round out the starting rotation. Key reserves are senior RJ Keuchler, sophomore Amare Spiva and freshman Xavier McKinney. The Tigers are 16-1 since Jan. 1 with their lone loss a 65-61 setback against defending Indiana big school state champion Indianapolis Cathedral. Pickerington Central, which has won 12 district titles, averages 62.2 points and allows 46.5.
Toledo St. John’s (19-9)
The Titans, who entered the tournament 13-9 and a ninth seed in their district, return to Columbus for the first time since 2009 and for the seventh time overall. St. John’s is looking for its first title after finishing runner-up three times (1993, 1996 and 2004). The Titans, who average 56 points and allow 48.75, beat Garfield Heights 50-38 in the regional final and Perrysburg 47-42 in the regional semifinal. Senior CJ Hornbeak, the program’s No.2 all-time leading scorer, had 26 points against Garfield Heights and 21 against Perrysburg. A two-time first-team Three Rivers Athletic Conference and Northwest District selection, Hornbeak averages 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 steals. Junior Jalen Murphy (11.6 points) has set a single-season program record for steals. Other starters include seniors Marquez Frazier and Michael Michalak and junior Eddie Heywood. Contributors off the bench are junior Joseph Taylor, sophomore Jalen Teamer and freshman Race Kowalczyk. Head coach Mike Schoen is a 2005 graduate of St. John’s and was a member of the school’s 2004 state runner-up team. He is just the fourth coach in program history, having taken over for the legendary Ed Heintschel.
By Eric Frantz, MaxPreps.com
Bishop Ready (28-0)
Ready, which has set program records for wins in a season and consecutive wins, is seeking its first title since winning back-to-back Class AA championships in 1972 and 1973. The Knights were Division III state runners-up in 2002. This is the program’s first state appearance since 2014 and sixth overall. Toughness, especially on the defensive end where they allow just 40 points, is a calling card. Only two teams (Dayton Dunbar and Columbus Beechcroft) have scored 50 points or more on the Knights. Ready beat Fairfield Union 48-33 in the regional final. Trailing 24-22 at halftime, the Knights allowed two points in the fourth quarter. They beat Maysville 61-38 in regional semifinal. Ready, which averages 59.9 points, is led by the senior trio of Charlie Russell (17.6 points), Kaleb Schaffer (15.1 points) and Luke Ruth (12.5 points, 4.5 assists). All three were first team All-Central District. Junior Josh Paul and sophomore Kayden Schaffer complete the starting five. Junior Micah Germany, sophomore Andreas Gordon and freshman Uthman Sherif come off the bench. Under head coach Tony Bisutti, Ready won its first Central Catholic League title since 2002 last year. Now they own back-to-back titles. The Knights were the best team regardless of division in central Ohio in the eyes of some.
The Griffins, who average 71 points, opened up a 14-point halftime lead and got revenge for last year’s district final loss to Gilmour Academy by beating the Lancers 71-55 in the regional final. Buchtel beat Chaney 62-56 in the regional semifinal. The Griffins are making their seventh state appearance and first since 2019. Buchtel was D-II state runner-up in 1997 and a Class A state qualifier in 1940, 1939, 1938, 1936. Senior Marcel Boyce Jr. dropped 29 points, including 19 in the first half, and grabbed 12 rebounds against Gilmour Academy. A Wayne State University football recruit, Boyce averages 13.3 points. Buchtel features two Division I recruits in seniors Khoi Thurmon and Amire Robinson. Thurmon, the City Series Player of the Year, is headed to Purdue University Fort Wayne. He averages 20 points, four assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Robinson, who averages 14 points and 5.3 rebounds, is a University of Nevada recruit. Senior Jayden Maxwell and sophomore Steven Diamond round out the starting five. Key subs include juniors Diairre Pride Jr., Dakota Taylor and QiMarreon Marks. Head coach Rayshon Dent is in his third season guiding his alma mater (1986 grad).
The Eagles rallied from an 8-point deficit with 3:26 to play in the regional final to beat archrival Alter for the third time this season and advance to the state tournament for the second time in three years with a 64-59 win. CJ has been to the state tournament nine times and won Class AA championships in 1966 and 1970. Senior George Washington III, a four-star prospect and Michigan recruit, scored 32 points in the regional final (made four 3s and hit 14-of-15 FTs). He averages 24.4 points, four rebounds and 2.9 assists. Washington III and his brothers B.B. (junior) and J.J. (freshman) transferred to CJ after attending Louisville Christian Academy prior. Their father is in his first year as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of Dayton women’s program. B.B. Washington averages 11.1 points, while Evan Dickey (senior) averages 10.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists. Junior Devin Rakestraw and sophomore David Cartwright complete the staring five (with George Washington, B.B. Washington and Dickey), while juniors Cal Weatherspoon, Bryce Johnson and T.J. Donnelly-Tomblin come off the bench. The Eagles, who average 67.7 points, have set a school record for 3-pointers made this season (196). CJ allows 49.6 points. Head coach Charlie Szabo is a 1998 CJ grad and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2011.
Lutheran West (24-3)
Propelled by an 18-2 run, the Longhorns establish a 29-10 halftime lead en route to beating Van Wert 53-37 in the regional final to punch the program’s first state tournament ticket since 1998 and second overall. Lutheran West beat Sandusky 71-55 in regional semifinal. The Longhorns district title was their first since 2007. Junior Jayson Levis, who surpassed 1,000-career points in the regional semis, dropped 18 against Van Wert, which matches his season average. Levis, who also averages five rebounds, four assists and three steals, is the only Longhorn to average double-figures. Junior Derek Fairley had 15 points against Van Wert. He averages 9.7 points and 8.5 assists, which ranks second in Northeast Ohio (behind Richmond Heights’ De’Erick Barbe). Senior Clay Noble, junior Junior Kambomba and sophomore Matt Meyer (9.74 points, 6.3 rebounds) round out the starting five. Key reserves include seniors Lewis Smith and Shamari Richard, junior Dylan Bartchak and sophomore Josh Meyer. Lutheran West owns impressive wins this season over D-I stalwarts Cleveland St. Ignatius and Mentor.
By Kurt Stubbs, Ohio High School Hoops
Columbus Africentric (22-5) will make its sixth trip to the state tournament. The Nubians, who are still searching for their first official state championship, return to Dayton in consecutive seasons. Africentric lost a heart-breaker to Ottawa-Glandorf in the state semifinals last March, so the Nubians certainly have unfinished business with the Titans. Coach Michael Bates’ team always plays a tough schedule and this season was no exception with the likes of Lutheran East, St. Ignatius, Lakota East, Hilliard Bradley, CVCA, and Pickerington Central along with the rigors of the Columbus City League. The Nubians dropped a tough decision to Columbus Northland (60-58) in the coveted Columbus City League Championship contest, but the loss only fueled the Columbus-based school moving forward. The Nubians tore through sectional and district play before surviving a meat-grinder with Sugarcreek Garaway. Cortez Freeman drew a late foul on a Garaway defender, and calmly sank two freebies to break a 47-all score and send the Nubians back to the regional final. Xavier signee Dailyn Swain paced the winners with 20 points and seven rebounds, while Freeman added 19 counters. The two combined for 14 of Africentric’s 16 field goals. The Allegheny Avenue boys found the tournament road just as difficult in the 1st half of its game against South Point. The Nubians led by just a deuce (20-18) at half before turning the heat up cruising to a 55-38 victory. Swain filled up the stat sheet with 17 points, nine rebounds, six steals, four assists, and a trio of blocks. Junior Laron Fuller and Freeman evenly split 22 markers and Preston Steele was a significant presence on the interior with eight points and seven rebounds.
Ottawa-Glandorf (24-3) is making its third straight trip to Dayton and will try to win its first state championship since 2013 and fourth overall. This will be the Titans 10th trip to the state tournament and fifth under OG legend Tyson McGlaughlin. The Titans fell in last year’s state championship game (48-45) to Cincinnati Taft and to the eventual champion in 2021 (Lutheran East). Junior Colin White, who owns several D1 offers including Cincinnati and West Virginia, leads the Titans back to the state semifinals after coming up short in his previous two attempts. OG, per usual, entertained a brutal regular season schedule featuring several teams that made deep tournament runs including a perfect (9-0) mark in the vaunted Western Buckeye League. The WBL housed regional finalist Van Wert, Defiance, St. Marys and Lima Shawnee, which were the four teams that made up the D2 Findlay District semifinals. Interesting to note, the Putnam County-based school lost its three games this year by a combined eight points to D1 district finalist Lima Senior, D2 state qualifier Lutheran West, and D1 regional entrant Cincinnati Princeton. The Titans, who are winners of 14 consecutive games, won their initial quartet of tournament games by an average of just over 27 points per game against some quality opponents such as Spencerville and Cardinal Stritch. The WBL champion had a much more difficult encounter with Wayne Trace in the Bowling Green Regional Final. In a classic, between a pair of basketball crazy communities, the Titans were able to outlast the Raiders in double OT. Trailing much of the 1st half, junior Caden Erford was able to keep the Titans close and eventually take a one-point halftime lead scoring half of his 16 points while White was held to just a deuce nearly 20 points below his average. OG took command in the 2nd half and opened up a 10-point lead in the final frame, but the Raiders would not go away and eventually knotted the score at the end of regulation on a Tyler Davis three-point goal. White owned the overtimes and eventually the Titans were able to pull away for a 62-55 triumph in the second extra session. White finished the afternoon with 17 points and 13 rebounds and senior Theo Maag added 14 counters in the win.
Harvest Prep (21-6) returns to the state’s biggest stage for the first time since winning the 2019 state championship. Ironically, the Warriors opponent (Lutheran East) on Saturday will be the same team the Canal Winchester-based school beat for the championship four years ago. The Warriors arrive in Dayton quietly owning an 11-game winning streak and 15-of-16 after starting the year just (6-5). The quintet of setbacks to start the year were against some of the state’s best in Cincinnati Taft, Richmond Heights, Westerville South, Dayton CJ, and Cincinnati Woodward. Following a spotless (14-0) mark in league play (MSL-Cardinal), the Warriors tore through sectional and district play with no game closer than a 17-point win over a good Worthington Christian team. Coach David Dennis and his squad would then head south for regional play to Kettering. Historically, Columbus-area teams don’t fare well heading south for the round of 16. However, no one told Dennis’ boys. Harvest Prep outlasted (54-45) a furious rally by Tri-Village in the regional semis. The Warriors got 12 points apiece from sophomore Brandon Roddy and junior Adonus Abrams. In the regional final, Harvest Prep had to fend off another comeback attempt against a redhot Preble Shawnee featuring one of the state’s best performers in Mason Shrout. Shawnee got as close as four points, but the Warriors were able to pull away for a 59-46 win despite Shrout’s 27 points.
Lutheran East (20-5) is going to be charged rent for as often as it shows up at the state tournament. The Falcons will make their sixth appearance in as many years. What’s more scary? This team features eight underclassmen in its top 10. Coach Sam Liggins’ team always lines up against the best during the regular season and this year was no different. The giants on the schedule included Africentric, Glenville, CVCA, Emmanuel Christian, Cleveland Heights, Richmond Heights, Lakewood St. Edward, Combine Academy (NC), Dublin Jerome, St. Ignatius, Shaker Heights, Brush, Lutheran West, and Akron SVSM. The Falcons, without question, can stake a claim for the most challenging schedule in the state. Lutheran East was able to win 20 games against that gauntlet, which is why it’s not surprising the Falcons entered Dayton winning their tournament games by an average of just over 36 points per game and none closer than a 24-point victory over South Range. Following the district final against South Range, there was thought the regional games would be closer but the Falcons didn’t agree. “The Lue” dismantled Mentor Lake Catholic 61-36 behind seven bonus goals from junior Ronald Taylor (21 points). Junior Anthony Bruce added 15 points and highly-touted freshman TJ Crumble chipped in 10. The Falcons, a program eyeing their fourth state championship, had little trouble with a 23-win Cuyahoga Heights team in the regional final. The Cleveland Heights-based school jumped out to a 39-11 halftime lead and cruised to an 84-50 victory sending the Falcons to their eighth state semifinal. Crumble paced the winners with 18 points, while senior Cody Head and talented junior big man Jesse McCulloch each added 16. McCulloch is a Big 10 priority recruit, but also has offers from the Atlantic 10, Big East, Big 12, and SEC.
By Kurt Stubbs, Ohio High School Hoops
Berlin Hiland (19-9) The Hiland Hawks are making their fourth state tournament appearance in five seasons under head coach Mark Schlabach. The Hawks are 10-1 in the Athens Regional since arriving in 2018. Schlabach, who owns two state championships (2011 & 2012), will be taking his ninth team to the state tournament including two trips with Loudonville in 2004 and 2005. The Holmes County school’s arrival in Dayton has been anything but easy. Hiland, who is currently on an 11-game winning streak since dropping a game to D2 state semifinalist Bishop Ready, lost nine games prior to February facing a stellar slate. In the tournament, the Hawks outlasted Caldwell and 27 points from Mr. Basketball finalist Bede Lori in the district semis behind 18 points from junior Sammy Detweiler and classmate Alex Yoder chipped in 14. Perhaps, Hiland’s biggest scare of the tournament came just a game later when the Hawks flew out to a 19-point lead only to need two game-winning freebies from Detweiler (22 points) to survive a really good River team 56-54. In the regional semis, Schlabach would need his star (Detweiler) to save the day yet again. The junior delivered with a floater in the final seconds to push the Hawks ahead for good in a 55-51 triumph of Federal Hocking. Detweiler totaled 16 points and Yoder amassed 12 points and 10 boards. In the regional final, if the scare with River wasn’t at the top of the list, Northside Christian’s 27-11 lead at halftime would appreciate a word. The Hawks trailed 37-24 heading into the remaining eight minutes and their bid for a 13th trip to the state tournament looked grim. However, Hiland has been known to do the unthinkable throughout the years and once again Schlabach’s group delivered. The Hawks outscored the Westerville-based school 28-13 in the final stanza resulting in another magical moment in Hiland history. Hiland advanced with a 52-50 triumph led by Yoder’s 20 points,15 from Detweiler, and 10 by Carson Habeger. Not only did Hiland overcome 25 points and 13 rebounds from sensational sophomore Landon Vanderwarker, but it also went 0-of-12 from behind the arc which is typically a calling card for the Hawks’ offense.
Convoy Crestview (24-3) is making trip number five to the state tournament and this time under alum and former Ohio State Buckeye Doug Etzler. One of those five trips was made under the direction of Doug’s father, Ray Etzler, in 1971. The Knights last two trips to the state semifinals ended in state championships (2014 & 2019) under former headman Jeremy Best. This group of Knights enjoyed a lot of success in the regular season winning 19 games, but fell a game short of a conference title (Northwest Conference) behind a really good Spencerville team. The tournament trail has been a gauntlet. Following a lopsided sectional win, the Knights faced a Delphos St. John’s team that beat Crestview in early February. This time, however, the boys from Convoy had different plans. Nate Lichtle and Carson Hunter each tallied 14 points and Mitch Temple followed with 13 in victory. Talented freshman Cameron Elwer totaled 25 points for the Blue Jays, but Etzler’s squad held his supporting cast to just 17 total points. A game later the Knights would face arguably their most anxiety of the tournament when trailing Ottoville by 14 points late in the 3rd quarter. Crestview surged back and eventually forced not one but two overtimes. Temple drove the length of the floor in the second OT and converted a layup with four ticks on the clock, breaking a 61-all score and sending the Knights to the Bowling Green Regional. Temple (17 points), Wren Sheets (15 points), Gavin Etzler (14 points), and Lichtle (11 points) combined for 57 of the 63 points. The Knights overwhelmed Sycamore Mohawk in the next round behind Lichtle (14 points), Etzler (13 points), and Sheets (10 points). In what appears to be a team of destiny, Crestview was able to overcome a deficit for more than 30 minutes in its regional final tilt with big and powerful Marion Local. The Knights didn’t take their first lead until 1:37 to play in the game and overcame a 7-point deficit at the start of the 4th period to defeat the Flyers 41-40. Temple (12 points) was fouled with 0.5 ticks on the clock and converted 1-of-2 freebies sending the Knights to Dayton.
Richmond Heights (27-0) The Spartans arrive in Dayton as one of the most talked about teams in the state. The Cuyahoga County school, currently owning a 47-game winning streak, is one of only two unbeaten teams in the field of 16 and will make its fourth straight appearance on the big stage. The defending Division IV state champions lost several key pieces from a year ago returning just two regular performers. Though, those two pieces were significant in sophomores DeErick Barber and Dorian Jones. Barber, who is a throwback lead guard, holds a handful of Division 1 offers and the uber-talented Jones already holds offers from Arizona State, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Houston, Michigan State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, and Xavier among others. Classmate Demarris Winters Jr., a lethal shooter from behind the arc, has stepped into a more significant role for the Spartans. Additionally, Coach Quentin Rogers inherited two quality move-ins in juniors Hosea Steele (Cleveland Heights) and Jeremy Wilson (Solon). Richmond Heights can make an argument for being the best team in any division with regular season victories over Harvest Prep, Beachwood, Hilliard Bradley, Brush, Lutheran East, Fairfield and Lakewood St. Edward. In a highly anticipated tournament encounter, the Spartans used a 38-12 advantage in the 3rd quarter to blow the doors off Cornerstone Christian en route to a 93-52 triumph. Wilson paced the Spartans with 26 points, Winters followed with 22, and Jones and Steele added 20 and 15 respectively. The following tilt was slightly more entertaining, but in the end, Richmond Heights blew past Dalton by a 81-48 count. The Spartans faced foul trouble in the 1st half, but Wilson was able to shoulder some of the load. The junior scored 11 of his 21 points in the opening half and also collected 11 rebounds in the contest. Wilson’s classmate, Steele, also enjoyed a big night totaling 17 points and 12 boards. Winters chipped in 17 as well. The Spartans, after seeing their lead dwindle in the 2nd period, started the final 16 minutes on a 10-0 run pushing the lead back to 21 and the rest is history. To say Richmond Heights has been dominant in its five tournament games would be an understatement as the prohibited favorite is defeating its opponents by an average of 43 points per game.
Russia (25-3) returns to the state semifinals for the first time since finishing runner-up in 2002 under former head coach Paul Bremigan and will attempt to become the second Shelby County Athletic League School to win the D4 championship in three seasons (Botkins, 2021). Russia, pronounced “ROO-she,” is coming off the 2022 Division IV State Baseball Championship with a lot of the same cast of characters on the hardwood. Junior Hayden Quinter, sophomore Braylon Cordonnier, senior Zane Shappie, and junior Brayden Monnin lead a strong quartet for the Raiders. Coach Spencer Cordonnier’s squad started the year winning its first 10 games before falling victim to Jackson Center. However, prior to the start of the season, tragedy struck the Russia community as head coach Dave Borchers passed away less than two weeks prior to the season after being involved in a car accident. Coach Cordonnier would inherit the reins and the winning would continue albeit under unimaginable circumstances. Following their first setback on the court, the Raiders rebounded winning six consecutive contests, but lost two of their final five regular season games to Midwest Athletic Conference foes Marion Local and Versailles. The SCAL member bounced back yet again, defeating the likes of league rival Botkins, Springfield Catholic Central, Troy Christian, and Jackson Center. The district final saw Russia hold off several comeback attempts from a strong Springfield Central Catholic team led by D4 Southwest District Co-Player of the Year in Tyler Galluch (20 points and 7 rebounds). Braylon Cordonnier, who is Spencer’s son, led the winners with 22 points, while sophomore Benjamin York added 17 points and five rebounds. In a low-scoring, regional semifinal slugfest against Troy Christian, Hayden Quinter (17 points) and Cordonnier (15 points) helped Russia survive, ending the Eagles 18-game winning streak. In doing so, the Raiders held Troy Christian’s leading scorer Parker Penrod to just four points which is roughly 13 below his season average. In the regional final, the Raiders scored just a single point in the final frame, but held on to defeat Jackson Center 27-25 ending the Tigers’ 26-game winning streak. The Raiders not only scored one point in the 4th quarter but just seven in the entire 2nd half along with struggling late at the free-throw line. Russia scored 15-straight points in the 1st half allowing Cordonnier’s team to take a 20-10 lead into the locker room. The Raiders led 26-18 heading into the final fourth, but Jackson Center trimmed the deficit to 26-25 and eventually had a game-winning three-pointer miss the mark at the buzzer. Russia got eight points and 11 rebounds from Quinter, and the Raiders defense held Jackson Center to just under 22 percent shooting.