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OHSAA 2021 Boys Basketball State Tournament Preview

March 19, 2021
OHSAA 2021 Boys Basketball State Tournament Preview
By Eric Frantz, MaxPreps.com
Mentor (25-0) – The Cardinals finished the season as the No. 1 team in the final AP State Poll and are ranked third overall in Ohio regardless of division by MaxPreps. Mentor beat Medina for the third time this season to claim its first regional title since winning the state title in 2013. The Cardinals are making their third state tournament appearance (also went in 2010). Senior guard Luke Chicone has scored 562 points this season, giving him 1,501 for his career. The Youngstown State recruit is averaging 22.5 points, eight assists and 5.2 rebounds and has scored 30-or more points six times (including a season-high 40 against Strongsville). Senior Jonah Waag (18 points and nine rebounds) has scored 449 points this season. He’s hit five or more 3-pointers 13 times, including a season-high eight against Euclid. Chicone was the OPSWA All-Northeast Lakes District Player of the Year this season, while Waag was second team. Senior guard Steve Key II (third team all-district) chips in 15.2 points, while classmates Kyle Culler (guard) and Andrew Smith (forward) round out an all-senior starting five. The Cardinals, who have won two straight Greater Cleveland Conference titles, are 68-9 the last three seasons and advanced to last year’s regional final before the tournament was cancelled. Head coach Bob Krizancic currently ranks sixth all-time in Ohio history in boys basketball with 679 wins and has led the program to all three state tournament appearances. Krizancic, who was recently tabbed the All-Northeast Lakes District Coach of the Year, also led Girard to the D-II state title in 1993.
Centerville (24-3) – Junior guard Tom House drained a 24-foot 3-pointer with seven seconds left in the regional final to give the Elks a 40-38 victory over defending Division I (2019) state champion Moeller. The Crusaders had beaten the Elks in in the regular season and in last year’s regional semifinals. It is Centerville’s first state tournament appearance (have appeared in eight regional tournaments). The Elks finished fourth in the final AP poll and are ranked sixth in Ohio regardless of division by MaxPreps. Sophomore guard Gabe Cupps (15.8 points and 5.2 assists) and junior forward Rich Rolf (14.7 points and 11.2 rebounds) were named first team OPSWA All-Southwest District. House (18.1 points) was second team. All three were first team All-Greater Western Ohio Conference. The Elks shared the GWOC title with Wayne. Head coach Brook Cupps also led St. Paris Graham to that program’s only state tournament appearance, the 2008 D-II state semifinals. Centerville’s 24 wins are a program single-season record.
St. Ignatius (19-6) – The Wildcats held Lima Senior (averaging 61 points) to 12 first half points in a 56-44 regional final win that propelled the program to its first state tournament since its first and only state title in 2001 (this season is the 20th anniversary). St. Ignatius was state runner-up in 1998 and also reached the state tournament in 1953, 1952 and 1923. A bucket by 6-foot-7 senior post Henry Raynor with seconds left was the difference in the Wildcats 55-54 regional semifinal win over archrival St. Edward. St. Ignatius edged Lorain 56-52 in the district final. Raynor (16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds) is a second team All-Northeast Lakes District selection. Junior guard Jon Effertz (18 points) and 6-7 senior forward Will Yontek (8.2 points and 6.1 rebounds) also earned all-district honors. Freshman guard C.J. Little (6.5 points, 3.4 assists and three rebounds) contributes heavily. Head coach Cam Joyce, whose father Dru Joyce coaches D-II semifinalist Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, is only in his second year at St. Ignatius. The Wildcats finished 8th in final state poll and are ranked ninth in the state regardless of division by MaxPreps. St. Ignatius dropped back-to-back games to close the regular season (to Massillon Jackson and Mentor), before embarking on its current five-game postseason win streak.
Westerville Central (22-2) – Senior guard Tasos Cook’s half-court 3-point buzzer-beater capped an instant classic last week that elevated the Warhawks to a 45-44 win over Gahanna Lincoln and the program’s first regional title. Cook, the OPSWA Central District and Ohio Capital Conference Ohio Division Player of the Year, scored a school-record 36 points against Hilliard Davidson in February. He averages 19.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Cook is uncommitted. Senior guard Quincy Clark (11.1 points and 4.3 assists) is an All-Central District selection. Seniors Landon Tilman (guard) and MJ Davis (forward) chip in 8.9 and 6.3 points, respectively. Last year the Warhawks won the program’s first district title before the postseason was cancelled. WC is ranked fourth in the state regardless of division by MaxPreps and finished seventh in the final AP Poll. The Warhawks, who finished second in the OCC Ohio (behind Gahanna Lincoln), are riding a 14-game win streak and have established a school single-season record for wins.
By Eric Frantz, MaxPreps.com
Chaminade Julienne (15-5) – Sitting at 7-5 following a 63-50 loss to Carroll on Feb. 8, the Eagles have won eight straight to reach the program’s eighth state tournament and first since 2015. This marks the seventh straight decade CJ has reached the state tournament. The Eagles own two state titles (1966 and 1970 in Class AA) and were runner-up once (1991 in D-II). CJ finished tied for third in the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed (with Fenwick) behind McNicholas and Roger Bacon. Freshman guard Jonathan Powell leads the team in scoring (12.8 points), while Dan Nauseef, a 6-7 senior, ranks second on the team in scoring (10.1 points) and is among the GCL leaders in rebounds (7.6) and blocks (1.2). Both were named All-Southwest District this season. Senior guard A.J. Soloman averages 9.8 points and a team-high 4.1 assists. Head coach Charlie Szabo is a 1998 CJ grad. The Eagles rallied from a 20-point first half deficit in the regional semifinals to beat Tippecanoe 58-55. CJ finished 12-13 a year ago.
Columbus DeSales (18-7) – Led by the program’s all-time leading scorer – senior Desmond Watson – the Stallions are making their fifth trip to the state tournament and first since they made it three times (2009, 2007 and 2006) in four years. DeSales won the 1987 state title (AA). Watson, a Davidson recruit, needed seven points entering the regional final to surpass 2010 graduate Nick Kellogg as the Stallions’ all-time scorer. He dropped 30 in a 58-40 win over Meadowbrook. Watson, the OPSWA Central District D-II Player of the Year, has 1,678 career points. He’s averaging 24.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists this season. DeSales finished second in the Central Catholic League behind St. Charles. The Stallions were 19-8 last year and reached the regional semifinals before the tournament was cancelled. Senior Obed Achirim (11.2 points and 8.9 rebounds) and junior Atticus Schuler (8.6 points) are honorable mention All-Central District selections. DeSales has made more free throws this season (233) than their opponents have attempted (211). The Stallions had a stretch where they played 14 games in 30 days.
Shawnee (25-1) – The Indians have lived up to the hype. Last year Shawnee finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in the final AP Poll and was undefeated (25-0) heading into the regional semifinals before the tournament was cancelled. This year the Indians are ranked No. 2 in the state by MaxPreps and in the final AP Poll. This is Shawnee’s third state tournament appearance and first since 2000. The program also went to state in 1965. Senior wing George Manags, the reigning OPSWA D-II Ohio Player of the Year, dropped 40 points in a dominating 88-74 regional final win over Buchtel. That came on the heels of a 39-point performance against Shelby in the regional semifinals where he surpassed 2,000-career points. Mangas, who is averaging 31.7 points, is uncommitted. Senior forward Tyson Elwer (first team All-Western Buckeye League) had 16 boards and seven assists in the win over Buchtel. Elwer averages 9.7 points and 7.7 rebounds. Sophomore guard Brady Wheeler (9.4 points), junior wing Jarin Bertke (4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds) and junior forward Caden Vermillion (5.2 points and 6.3 rebounds) each earned All-WBL honors this season. Last year’s Shawnee seniors, which were denied a trip to state due to the pandemic, cut down the net after the regional title game with this year’s squad. Shawnee’s average margin of victory this season is 25 points.
Akron SVSM (24-2) – The Irish, the No. 1 team in the final AP Poll, are ranked the No. 1 team in Ohio regardless of division by MaxPreps. SVSM’s lone losses are to Moeller and DeMatha Catholic (Md.). The Irish are looking to add to their state-record haul of eight titles. SVSM was the D-II runner-up in 2016, D-II state champion in 2017 and 2018 and the D-I runner-up to Moeller in 2019. Last season SVSM was 21-4 and reached the D-II regional semifinals before the tournament was cancelled. This is the Irish’s seventh trip to state in 10 years and 17th overall. Senior guard Malaki Branham and junior guard Sencire Harris combined for 46 points in a 67-40 regional final win over Gilmour Academy. Branham, an Ohio State recruit, is the state’s top senior prospect according to 247sports.com. Harris is the state’s No. 2 junior prospect. He’s uncommitted. The Irish beat D-I semifinalists Centerville (74-66) and St. Ignatius (50-40) during the regular season. Head coach Dru Joyce is looking for his sixth state title (all with SVSM). His son Cam Joyce has guided St. Ignatius to the D-I semifinals.
Division III
By Kurt Stubbs, OhioHShoops.com
Worthington Christian (27-1), one of the more well-known programs in Ohio returns to the Final 4 for the first time since a runner-up finish in 2008. That group of Warriors were led by Brian Hecker, Brady Beals, and the Joseph brothers (Zach and Tyler). Tyler is now one of the lead singers for the popular music duo Twenty One Pilots. Head coach Kevin Weakley was the general of the 2008 team and also was a star player for the 1994 state runners-up under then headman Ray Slagle. Worthington Christian won the state in 1999 thanks to a memorably triple overtime (95-90) triumph of Chuck Bihn and Fort Recovery. This group of Warriors have slowly been climbing the ladder to reach the same goal. Weakley’s team dropped a heartbreaking defeat to Harvest Prep in last year’s district final, but got revenge by soundly defeating the 2019 state champions in this year’s district championship. Worthington Christian responded with 27 wins this season including a current 16-game winning streak after suffering its only defeat on January 9th to Division I Dublin Jerome (42-40). The Warriors, who play in the very tough MSL-Ohio, needed some late game magic to get by a one-loss Wheelersburg team in the regional semis. Worthington Christian, trailing 47-38, closed the game on a 12-0 run culminating with a corner triple from senior Drew Faieta to seal the 50-47 victory. Senior Tyler Kindberg (Indiana Wesleyan signee) led the Warriors with 17 points and talented junior guard DJ Moore (Liberty commit) added 15 points despite being in foul trouble. Worthing Christian made short work of Proctorville Fairland in the regional final thanks to a strong defensive effort limiting the Dragons to just 11-of-40 shooting and only 2-of-15 behind the arc according to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. In addition, the Warriors held Fairland to just one offensive rebound. Kindberg once again led his squad with 17 points and Moore chipped in 10 despite struggling from the field.
Cincinnati Taft (16-4) returns to the state semifinals for the first time since capturing the 2011 crown in emphatic fashion behind Adolphus Washington and company. It seems like the Senators are a state contender every year, which is why it may be a surprise that this is only their second appearance. Taft has flown under the radar this season after losing a talented group of seniors from last season’s team. However, one monumental piece returned and that was super sophomore Rayvon Griffin, who is having a monster season. The Senators play in the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference, which always has them ready for tournament time. This season, Taft dropped four games with three of those defeats coming by five points or less to bigger schools. The Cincinnati-based school ran past Springfield Shawnee in the regional final 63-39 behind 16 points from senior Yacco Nelson and junior Brandon Cromer’s 15. Griffin, the Division III Southwest District Player of the Year, scored 12 points despite being saddled with foul trouble. Head coach DeMarco Bradley, who was an assistant under Mark Mitchell on the 2011 team, watched his Senators comfortably win the regional final, but the regional semifinal contest was anything but easy. Taft needed overtime to outlast a good Anna team behind 28 points from Griffin and 18 by Nelson. In the district final, the Senators escaped a hard-fought battle with Indian Lake behind 22 points from Cromer.
Ottawa-Glandorf (20-4) is making its first state semifinals appearance in eight years when the Titans captured the 2013 championship. Head coach Tyson McGlaughlin is looking for his second title, while the Titans are hoping to secure their fourth overall. O-G, which plays in the vaunted Western Buckeye League with Lima Shawnee, is always a threat in tournament play. Last season, the Titans had arguably the best team in Division III with the likes of 6-foot-7 All-Ohioan Ben Westrick, all-WBL guard Parker Schomaeker, 6-foot-6 Ethan Alt, and forward Aaron Rieman. The team, at (25-1), was loaded with everything you needed to win it all and the one loss came to unbeaten Lima Shawnee, but regional play never happened. However, in rich tradition schools such as O-G, there are always kids waiting their turn. Seniors Owen Nichols and Brennen Blevins, who were both all-WBL 2nd Team a season ago, helped stabilize the new group of Titans. O-G dropped four games in the regular season with three being settled by six points or less and the other was the night following a huge matchup with Lima Shawnee in which the Titans led by double digits before falling short in the end. The tournament run has posed its share of scares as O-G needed overtime to beat Coldwater in the district semis before battling Archbold in a rematch and Johnstown in regional play. McGlaughlin’s club trailed by three points in the closing seconds of its game with a pesky Coldwater bunch, but Nichols was able to hit a game-tying triple to send the game to overtime where the Titans would clinch the win. Nichols totaled 17 points and nine rebounds and talented freshman Colin White came up huge with 14 points and nine boards. The Titans beat Archbold in December by 21 points, but trailed the Blue Streaks in the 4th quarter last week before overtaking the Toledo District winner. Nichols was huge literally and figuratively with 22 points and 9 rebounds, while Blevins added 13 points of his own. Both teams shot at least 50 percent from the field per Lima Ohio. Blevins scored 18 points and sank some key free-throws to help seal the win against a very good and redhot Johnstown-Monroe squad. Nichols supported his classmate with 21 points and 6 rebounds.
Lutheran East (14-3) will be playing in its fourth-consecutive OHSAA Final Four after beating Creston Norwayne in the Region 9 Championship. The Falcons were one of 16 teams remaining in Division II a season ago. “The Lue” won a state title in 2017 under now assistant Anthony Jones. It’s been an odd season for the Falcons, only participating in 17 games, but it didn’t stop the Cleveland Heights-based school from advancing to Dayton. Senior BJ Busbee returned to the court this past Saturday following a stint with an ankle injury to help propel his team to victory with a team-high 17 points including 5 three-pointers. Classmates Collin Albert and Jalen Knott added 16 and 15 points respectively, while 6-foot-5 senior Jared Lary, who transferred in from Grand Rapids Christian (MI), added 11 for the winners. The Falcons have been dominant in their tournament run and 6-foot-8 Georgetown signee Jay Billingsley and guard Sirr Hughes have been at the forefront. Head coach Sam Higgins, who was a key member of the 2005 state championship team, has a group that is as talented as anyone in the field. “The Lue” owns wins over the likes of Toledo Central Catholic, Dalton, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Gilmour Academy, and Solon all of which were at least district finalists. The Falcons dropped three of their 17 contests, but those setbacks came to a trio of regional participants including a DII state qualifier (Akron SVSM).
Division IV
By Kurt Stubbs, OhioHShoops.com
Botkins (25-3) is returning to the Final Four for the first time since 1994 in which the Trojans fell in the semifinals to Worthington Christian. Interesting to note, the last time the OHSAA Boy’s Basketball State Tournament was held in Dayton (1987) another Shelby County Athletic League team (Fort Loramie) was able to capture a state championship and Botkins will look to do the same. Coach Sean Powell’s team has tripped up just three times this season, but not since losing in double overtime to regional qualifier Antwerp. The Trojans, who are trying to become just the third SCAL school to win a boy’s basketball state championship, are talented on offense but their calling card is with a stingy defense giving up just a shade over 42 points per game and just 39 in tournament play. Furthering this point, Botkins held Cedarville’s vaunted one-two punch of Trent Koning (20 ppg.) and Isaiah Ramey (15.5 ppg.) to a combined 22 points in its regional final triumph. Offensively, Botkins can beat you in a variety of ways but it was Jayden Priddy-Powell (16 points) who sparked the state tournament-clinching victory despite being in foul trouble. The senior, who is also the son of the head coach, is joined by talented junior big man Jacob Pleiman on 1st Team All-SCAL, while the younger Carter Pleiman was also an all league performer.
Richmond Heights (17-4) returns to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons under head coach Quentin Rogers. The Spartans, in 2019, held a halftime advantage over eventual state champion Convoy Crestview in the semifinals before succumbing to a Javin Etzler avalanche in the 3rd quarter. Malikee Sonie Jr. is the only remaining player from that team with Jamarr Talbert Jr. being lost for the remainder of the year due to injury. Richmond Heights was one of eight teams remaining when the tournament was cancelled a year ago. The Cuyahoga County-based school will also be missing another talented senior in Amarion Dickerson, but the Spartans still remain arguably the most talented team on paper in Division IV. Richmond Heights is currently riding a 12-game winning streak following a two-point defeat to Warrensville Heights on January 24th. The Spartans additional trio of setbacks were delivered by Lakewood St. Edward, Cleveland St. Ignatius, and Akron SVSM, who were regional participants in Division I or II or state qualifiers. In the recent absence of Talbert, seniors such as Jaiden Cox-Holloway, Sonie, Lorenzo Nettles, and Ibn Edwards have stepped up to fill some of the void. Junior Priest Ryan, who transferred to Richmond Heights following the closing of his former high school (Vincentian) near Pittsburgh, PA, paced the Spartans with 22 points in their 67-50 triumph of Warren JFK. Junior Josiah Harris, a Division recruit, helped the Spartans get by a game Eagles squad in the Region 13 Championship with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Cox-Holloway added 12 points, Nettles chipped in 11, and Sonie contributed 10 to round out a quintet of double figure scorers.
Columbus Grove (24-2) finally got the chance to play in its regional final game that was cancelled a year ago, and the Bulldogs made good in dramatic fashion, defeating New Bremen 50-48 thanks to a Tayt Birnesser triple with 10 seconds remaining in the contest. Grove will look to bring the Northwest Conference back-to-back DIV State Championships with Convoy Crestview doing so in 2019. Chris Sautter’s crew was slated to play another Midwest Athletic Conference (MAC) school a year ago (Parkway), but never got the chance despite its (26-0) record. The majority of the roster returned including the big three of Blake Reynolds, Birnesser, and Gabe Clement. However, the season didn’t start as planned with injuries hampering the Bulldogs in the early going. Grove dropped its second game of the season to Putnam County rival Ottoville, but was able to avenge the loss in the district final. The Bulldogs are very good on defense giving up 50 or more points on just four occasions. The Northwest Conference team has yet to give up more than 48 points in its five tournament games. Though, three of its contests have been decided by six points or less. Birnesser paced the Bulldogs with 15 points on five triples in the win over New Bremen, while Reynolds added 12 points and 12 rebounds and Clement finished with 10 points.
Glenwood New Boston (24-2) will play in the state tournament for the first time since President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office (1960). The Tigers did so by defeating a Berlin Hiland team that previously beat them 75-32 in a 2019 regional final. Glenwood, which is the first Scioto County team to reach the Final Four since 2012, held the Hawks to just 13-of-42 shooting according to the Portsmouth Daily Times and held every player on the roster below 10 points. Interesting to note, the Tigers’ last loss came to Minford, which scored 92 points in that contest, but Adam Cox’s team has continued to improve at that end of the court. On the offensive side of things, senior Kyle Sexton (DIV Southeast District POY) scored 15 points and became the Tigers all-time leading scorer in doing so. Tanner Voiers contributed four huge triples en route to 13 points. Glenwood also benefited from the return of Grady Jackson who was previously out with a dislocated shoulder.

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