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2011 Boys State Basketball Tournament Preview

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March 21, 2011

2011 Boys State Basketball Tournament Preview
Kurt Stubbs, OhioHShoops.com

The 89th Annual State Boys Basketball Tournaments are upon us and the card is filled with several intriguing match ups. The action starts Thursday at 10:45 a.m. inside Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University.

Tournament Notes:
None of the teams here this weekend qualified a season ago, which marks the third straight year where there will be zero back-to-back appearances. However, three of the 2009 state champions will return (Columbus Northland, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, and Cleveland Central Catholic).

Toledo Rogers, Cincinnati Taft, and Houston are all first time participants.There will be no undefeated teams participating in this year’s state tournament, which is the second time in the past three seasons.

In Division I, the Associated Press will have its No. 1, 2, and 3 teams participating in this year’s event with Garfield Heights, Columbus Northland, and Cincinnati La Salle. In Division II, just No. 5 Bishop Hartley remains in the field. In Division III, No. 1 Cincinnati Taft and No. 10 Portsmouth will be shooting for gold. Finally, in Division IV, No. 2 Berlin Hiland and No. 9 Continental are still alive.

Ten of the 44 poll champions have won state championships in this century with Akron SVSM, Canton McKinley and Cincinnati North College Hill capturing seven of those 10. Columbus Northland, New Knoxville and Upper Sandusky were the others.

Garfield Heights is the highest scoring team coming into the tournament (79.5 ppg scored) and Columbus Bishop Hartley is allowing the fewest points (39.0 ppg allowed).

Garfield Heights’ head coach William “Sonny” Johnson will try and become the first-ever AP “Mr. Basketball” winner to coach a team to a state title. Johnson won the award in 1998. Johnson’s brothers, Julius and Demetrius, won a state championship in 2000 as members of Warrensville Heights’ squad.

The Columbus City League will have its fifth try in the 21st Century at winning two state championships in the same year. Columbus Brookhaven and Columbus East had the opportunity in 2001, Columbus Brookhaven and Columbus Beechcroft weren’t able to do in 2002 or 2003, and Columbus Linden McKinley and Columbus Africentric fell short in 2005.

In Division II, there is a possibility of a rematch of the 2009 championship game when Akron SVSM defeated Dayton Thurgood Marshall in a thriller.

The city of Toledo hasn’t won a state championship since Toledo Scott did so in 1990, but this year it will have two chances with Toledo Central Catholic and Toledo Rogers.

Cincinnati Taft is the first Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference to make the state tournament since Cincinnati Withrow in 1998. George Jackson, who is now an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, was the head coach.

Columbus Northland head coach Satch Sullinger and Continental head coach Kevin Homier will retire after the season.

Columbus Bishop Hartley will make its fourth state tournament appearance, but just its first since 1995. It has been quite a year for Hartley’ athletics as the football team was able to capture the Division IV state football title and now the basketball team has a chance to win its initial state championship. Head Coach Randy Kortokrax is the son of Ohio’s all-time leader in coaching wins Richard “Dick” Kortokrax. The Hawks' lineup is led by 6-4 senior Kendal Sherrod (11.4 ppg.), 6-6 sophomore Jacob Matuska (11.5 ppg.) and 6-2 junior Eric Siefert (12.2 ppg.).Seniors Kendall Johnson and DeAvery Collins make up the rest of the starting five. Hartley lost starter Joe Brown late in the season to a broken foot. The Hawks survived a close call against No. 3 Zanesville and needed overtime to defeat John Glenn in regional play en route to the “Schott.”  Hartley's last three wins have been settled by a total of 13 points, but winning close games is something the Hawks have doing all year. A one point defeat is all that separates Hartley from an unbeaten mark.

Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (17-9) will play in its 10th state tournament looking to capture its sixth state championship. The Irish are currently tied for second all-time with five state championships along with Columbus East. SVSM could move to second by itself putting it just one behind Middletown’s seven. If the Irish are to do so it will depends on their three-headed monster of seniors DaVonte’ Beard and Ricky Johnson Jr. along with 6-7 junior Lorenzo Cugini, all of whom can put up big numbers. The 6-2 Beard leads the team in scoring at 19 points per game and 5-10 Johnson and Cugini are each getting 15 a night. Beard and Johnson were starters on the 2009 title team. Senior Khristian Taylor and 6-7 freshman Victor Dorsey round out a formidable starting lineup.  Substitute Doran Grant will play football at Ohio State. Head Coach Dru Joyce’s bunch endured arguably the toughest D2 schedule in Ohio along with losing not only its best player but arguably the best player in the state in Jakarr Sampson. Sampson transferred to Brewster Academy (NH) and will head to St. John’s. The list of setbacks includes Garfield Heights, Columbus Northland, Lakewood St. Edward, DeMatha (MD), Gateway (PA), Huntington Prep (WV), Warren Harding, Akron Buchtel, and North Canton Hoover.

Toledo Rogers (16-5) is one of three rookies participating in this year’s event. The Rams will bring an athletic and talented team to the floor, which is very little known around the state thanks to heavyweights like Toledo St. John’s, Toledo Whitmer, and Toledo Central Catholic in its conference. Rogers dropped to D2 this past fall after the Toledo City League had to shuffle its enrollment with the closing of Toledo Libbey. The Rams are led by Northwest District and Toledo City League Player of the Year Damond Powell and his 22.5 points per game. Powell knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer against Toledo Scott to advance in the district tournament. Senior J.R. Rayford is another viable option for Rogers, scoring 22 points in the regional championship win over Rocky River. Sophomore Clemmye Owens has a chance to be special for the Rams and he contributed 18 points in the victory against Rocky River. Seniors Dominique Jackson and Glandoy Hill are also more than capable. Powell and Hill are two of the fastest players in the state. Rogers, who has the ability to put points on the board in a hurry, only suffered defeat to Toledo Bowsher, Huber Heights Wayne, Toledo Whitmer, Toledo St. John’s, and Toledo CC. Four of those teams had a combined eight losses in the regular season and Bowsher had just seven.

Dayton Thurgood Marshall (21-5) will make its third state tournament showing and second as Thurgood Marshall. The Cougars won the 1990 state championship when the school was known as Dayton Colonel White. The Cougars are one of the youngest teams in the state playing three sophomores and three juniors in its eight man rotation. Four of Thurgood’s five losses were by seven points or less and the other defeat was to nationally-ranked Miller Grove (GA). The Cougars are led by crafty senior guard Jordan Watson who averages 17.6 points per game. 6-3 sophomore Mark Alstork adds 12.7 and talented 6-3 junior Joe Thomasson nets 10.2. Sophomores Edmond “Junior” Early (7.8 ppg.) and Gerry Green (6.2 ppg.) can get it done as well. The 2009 D2 state runners up also have a nice weapon off the bench in high-flying junior Joe Ballard (9.5 ppg.). The Cougars got by nemesis Dayton Dunbar, a team they lost to twice in the regular season, and throttled Roger Bacon in their two regional contests. Head Coach Darnell Hoskins, who played his college ball at Dayton, is in his first season as the Cougars’ boss.

Houston (20-5) will make its initial state tournament appearance thanks to victories over Minster and Franklin-Monroe in regional play. The Shelby County Athletic League member starts five seniors, led by 5-11 guard Josh Redd and his 15.5 points and five rebounds a game. Classmates Derek Estes (5-11) and Jacob Benanzer (6-3) provide added scoring punch. Estes tallies 12 points and Benanzer adds 9.5 counters. Both Redd and senior sixth man Jacob Monnier shoot over 83 percent from the charity stripe. Houston avenged three of its five defeats on the road to Columbus with victories over Fort Loramie, Minster and Franklin-Monroe. Head Coach John Willoughby is in his 25h year as the boss of the Wildcats. Willoughby will try and guide his club to the Shelby County Athletic League’s first state championship since Fort Loramie turned the trick in 1993.

Canal Winchester Harvest Prep (21-5) will make its second visit to state tournament after finishing with runner-up honors in 2007. The Warriors faced a daunting out-of-conference schedule to get prepared for the tournament run facing the likes of Carver (MD), Vincent Warren, Dayton Jefferson, Toledo Rogers and Cleveland JFK. Harvest Prep is averaging 76 points per game in six tournament victories and won its district championship by an average margin of 43 points per contest. The Warriors had to escape in the regional championship with a 71-67 overtime thriller against Manchester. Junior Grant Harris (6-1) leads HP in scoring at 19 points per game despite coming off the bench and 6-1 senior Shakir Dunning nets 15.5 counters. The Warriors have just two seniors in their nine-man rotation and start three sophomores. Head Coach Mike Thornton led the Warriors to Columbus in ’07 and also brought Columbus Africentric to the dance in 2005.

Berlin Hiland (25-1) has long been known as on of Ohio’s top small school programs and the Hawks are back to the state tournament for the first time since a 2007 semifinal loss to eventual champion Georgetown. The late, great Perry Reese Jr. along with star player Junior Raber led the Hawks to their only state championship in 1992. Hiland’s tall lineup is dominated by juniors and sprinkled in with a trio of seniors. 6-4 junior Dylan Kaufman is the catalyst averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and nearly four assists per game. Lanky 6-7 senior Noah Boyd is a lethal outside threat averaging 11 points per contest, while Hiland has the luxury of bringing 6-7 junior Seger Bonifant off the bench at 11 tallies a night. Bonifant, who along with Kaufman are drawing Division I college interest, is a transfer from nearby Strasburg-Franklin. Head Coach Mark Schlabach, who will make his fourth state tournament appearance, leads Hiland. Schlabach led Loudonville to back-to-back tourney trips in 2004 and 2005 before taking the Hiland job. The Hawks will be trying to give the East District its first state championship since Zanesville captured the crown in 1995. The Hawks are riding a state-best 20-game winning streak.

Continental (21-3) returns to Columbus for the first time since 2005, but is making its fourth overall trip. The Pirates return following a dramatic comeback over previously unbeaten McComb in the regional final. Continental trailed 34-31 with less than 40 seconds to go in the contest, but found a way to score the final six points for a 37-34 triumph. Seniors Brock Homier (5’11), John Spitnale (6’5), and Austin Sharp (6’0) lead the way for the Putnam County League contingent. Homier, who is the son of head coach Kevin Homier, averages 16 points and four rebounds. Spitnale has been good for 16 and 5.5 boards and Sharp has added nine tallies and four caroms. Continental’s three regular season losses (Archbold, Columbus Grove and Kalida) came to teams with a combine regular season record of 54-6. The Pirates avenged the setbacks to Columbus Grove and Kalida en route to Columbus.

Columbus Africentric
(18-7) will make its second trip to the Jerome Schottenstein Center thanks to a dynamite tournament run which includes solid wins over Bloom-Carroll, Ottawa-Glandorf and Archbold. The Nubians are led by senior guard Marquise Taylor (6-0) and his 19.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.1 dimes and 3.8 steals a game. 6-5 senior Kalomo Figueroa-Jackson can fill it up in a hurry from behind the arc, shooting 48 percent from long distance. Figueroa-Jackson averages 10.1 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. 6-3 junior Fuquan Tucker is another reliable scorer at 10.7 points. The Nubians play a very tough schedule in the Columbus City League with all Division I and II schools and usually more than hold their own. Head Coach Michael Bates is part of a coaching tree which includes his father Leroy Bates and brother Jason Bates. Leroy led Toledo Libbey to the 2008 state championship game and Jason guided Walnut Ridge to a district runner up finish.

Cincinnati Taft (24-1) is making its first state tournament appearance. The Senators are ranked No. 1 by the AP and have been a heavy favorite from day one to cut down the nets much like they were a year ago before being upset by Columbus Bishop Ready in the regional final. Taft, who has won 13-straight games, brings to Columbus a plethora of talent led by an outstanding junior class featuring 6-5 Adolphus Washington, 6-5 Dwayne Stanford, 5-7 Orlando Berry, 6-3 Jalen Lowe, and 6-0 Jamaine Freeman. Washington is arguably the most dominant player in D3, averaging 19.1 points and 15.3 rebounds a game along with being named Southwest District and Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference Player of the Year. The “Diesel” as he is known by his friends is drawing looks from several major college football programs along with classmate Stanford. “Too Tall” Stanfard follows with 12.2 points and 9.2 boards and Berry or “Lil O” does a nice job at the point getting 13.1 points, 9.1 assists and six caroms. Lowe averages just below 10 points per outing and seniors Kadeem Palmer (8.6 ppg.) and Chris Lowe (7.5 ppg.) have been effective as well. Freeman and senior Marquez Johnson do a lot of the dirty work. Taft’s only setback was to one of Indiana’s best in Hamilton Southeastern by a single point. The Senators have won their tournament games by a whopping 38.7 points per game, which includes a four-point win over a talented Cincinnati Summit Country Day team in the regional finals. Taft is trying to become just the second CMAC school to win a state championship as Cincinnati Woodward was able to do so in 1990. Ironically, Orlando Berry’s father, Orlando Berry Sr., was on that team along with DJ Boston and Chip Jones.

Portsmouth (21-4) is making its 14th appearance at the state tournament and will look for its fifth state championship. The Trojans have a rich tradition in basketball, which very few, outside of Southeast Ohio, may realize. Portsmouth is tied for third all-time in boys' championships. This will be the Trojans first appearance since 1990, which followed a 1988 state championship. Ironically, Dayton Colonel White (which is now Dayton Thurgood Marshall) defeated the Trojans in the 1990 D2 championship game. This group of Trojans is led by 6-1 junior Wayne Evans (20.3 ppg.), 6-5 junior Dion McKinley (17.4 ppg./10.4 rpg.) and senior point guard Andrew Bendolph (13.4 ppg.). Junior Zaide Whitley and 6-6 senior Tre Underwood round out the starting five. Portsmouth is riding a 16-game winning streak, with its last loss coming to Chillicothe back on January 5. The Trojans will try to become the first Southeast District team to the win the Division III state championship since the four division inception in 1988.

Cleveland Central Catholic (18-8) is looking to win its second Division III championship in three years. The Ironmen were able to capture the 2009 title and also appeared in the 2002 state tournament. Central Catholic is led by Cleveland State signee Anton Grady and his 21.1 points and 14.5 rebounds per encounter. Grady is a match-up nightmare for the majority of his competition and will be a handful for all comers in Columbus. Grady is backed by 6-0 junior Ra’Saun Smith (14.6 ppg.), lengthy 6-6 junior Alan Harper (8.2 ppg.) and bruising 6-3 senior Marcus Jones (7.2 ppg./7.8 rpg.). Central Catholic plays in the very strong North Coast League along with a daunting out-of-conference slate. Akron SVSM, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Garfield Heights and Cleveland Benedictine are a little taste of the competition the Ironmen have faced.

Cincinnati La Salle
(24-2) will make its first state tournament appearance since 1996 when it captured the Division I crown on the back of star senior Dave Esterkamp. The Lancers came up short the past two seasons in the regional final, but were able to get over the hump this year against Greater Catholic League rival Cincinnati Moeller, winning their 12th game in a row. One difference is head coach Dan Fleming has been able to coach the team since suffering a heart attack March 7. He missed the district championship game against Meadowdale, but was able to watch both regional games from a box seat. Interim coach Pat Goedde has led the troops in the meantime. Athletic senior Brandon Neel, who was the 2010 Greater Catholic League South Player of the Year, averages 14.7 points per game and junior guard Josh Lemons, who is the reigning GCL South Player of the Year, nets 13 tallies. Neel, along with classmates Ryan Fleming (8.4 ppg.) and Matt Woeste (6.7 ppg.), are three-year starters on teams with a combined 69-8 record. 6-1 senior Trey Casey (9.4 ppg.) is another quality option. The Lancers will look to bring the GCL South its fifth Division I championship since 1999.

Toledo Central Catholic (20-4) is on a roll under second year head coach Jim Welling, the former longtime Owens Community College boss. The Fighting Irish are making their fifth state tournament appearance, but first since 1952. Central Catholic lost four regular season games, with two coming to Toledo Whitmer, one to Toledo St. John’s and another to Lakewood St. Edward. However, Welling’s club was able to avenge defeats to its Toledo City League rivals Whitmer and St. John’s along the tourney path. The Irish are led by heady senior guard Drew Lehman (14 ppg.) and lengthy 6-5 guard Dareon Jones (11.5 ppg.). Jones transferred from nearby Whitmer, which offset Central Catholic’s star guard Tony Mays not being able to play.  Senior Jay Marquette (6.2 ppg.) is also a capable scorer. Keep an eye on freshman DeShone Kizer and sophomores Keith Towbridge, Cliff Bussey and Deontae Cole. Central Catholic assistant coach Pete Latkovic was a starter on the 1998 Lakewood St. Edward championship team.

Garfield Heights (24-1) will play in the state tournament for just the second time and first since 1950. The Bulldogs advanced through arguably the toughest district (Solon) and region (Cleveland State) with consecutive wins over Cleveland Heights, Warren Harding, Lakewood St. Edward and Mentor. The AP’s No. 1 team will meet No. 2 Northland Friday night in what has a chance to be one of the most anticipated games of the tournament. It should be a great match up between two Treys in Garfield’s Trey Lewis and Northland’s Trey Burke. The two won an AAU national championship together in 2009. Lewis has been brilliant during this tournament run. The Penn State signee averages 23 points, five rebounds and four assists for the season. In the regional championship game against Mentor he dropped 26 counters in the first half en route to 32 points. Lewis is flanked by Ohio University football signee Mike McQueen (9.0 ppg/8.0 rpg.) and sensational 6-6 sophomore Tony Farmer (18 ppg./10 rpg.). Farmer is one of the best sophomores in Ohio. Junior guard Terrell Byrd (7.0 ppg./6.0 apg.) is another nice option along with junior, sixth man Mike Davis (14 ppg.) and 6-9 junior Jermaine Davis. The ‘Dogs can easily go 10-deep if need be. The Bulldogs, who along with Northland are arguably the two most talented teams in Ohio, will try to win the Northeast Ohio Conference's its first state championship.

 Columbus Northland (25-1) will make its second short trek to the Schottenstein Center in three years. The Vikings were able to win the 2009 title thanks to future Ohio State Buckeyes Jared Sullinger and JD Weatherspoon, but were unable to repeat a year ago following a monumental upset by Gahanna Lincoln in the regional final. Northland was ranked No. 1 in the country at the time. Despite the graduation of Sullinger and Weatherspoon, not much has changed other than a couple names. Northland is a mind-boggling 123-5 over the past five seasons with nary a loss in conference play. The last time, other than this year, Northland lost a regular season contest was in 2009 to Canton Timken when they won the title. The Vikings are led by Michigan signee Trey Burke and his 23.6 points and 6.8 assists a game. Burke is one of the best big shot makers in a long time. He is aided by 6-8 juniors Devon Scott (11.3 ppg./9.9 rpg.) and Jalen Robinson (12.9 ppg./9.8 rpg.) along with junior guards Jordan Potts (8.7 ppg.) and Ke’Chaun Lewis (6.4 ppg.). Seniors Jakyl Cornley (4.8 ppg.) and sharp-shooter Lavante Justice (5.7 ppg.) are nice assets off the bench.


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