2015 OHSAA Boys Basketball
By Kurt Stubbs II, JJHuddle.com
-Five teams return from last
year’s state tournament in Lakewood St. Edward, Cleveland VASJ, Lima CC,
Tri-Village, and Harvest Prep. Huber Heights Wayne, Westerville South,
Tuscarawas Central Catholic, and Eastmoor Academy are making their first
final four appearances.
-The Associated Press (AP)
had nine of the 16 state tournament participants ranked in its final poll,
including Westerville South (5), Huber Heights Wayne (8), Defiance (5),
Cleveland CC (8), Dayton Dunbar (10), Cleveland VASJ (1), Lima CC (2),
Tri-Village (1) and Wayne Trace (1). Lakewood St. Edward was ranked 11th.
-The National Guard JJHuddle
Power Poll had 13 of the 16 state tournament participants ranked in its
final poll (Defiance, Eastmoor Academy and Tuscarawas CC were in the others
listed in addition to the AP). Ranked teams in the Power Poll include
Westerville South (1), Huber Heights Wayne (3), Lakewood St. Edward (4),
Garfield Heights (6), Cleveland CC (4), Dayton Dunbar (5), Walnut Ridge (7),
Cleveland VASJ (1), Lima CC (3), Dayton CJ (4), Tri-Village (4), Wayne Trace
(2) and Harvest Prep (4).
-Garfield Heights head coach
William “Sonny” Johnson was the 1998 Mr. Basketball in the state of Ohio
before a successful college career at Cleveland State/Ohio University.
Johnson’s brothers, Julius and Demetrius, both won state titles at
Warrensville Heights in 2000 and serve as assistants for their older
brother. The Garfield staff also includes 2000 co-Mr. Basketball Chet “The
Jet” Mason (Cleveland South), who happens to be in a commercial with the
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving. Carl Jones, another outstanding
former Bulldog, is on Johnson’s staff.
-Huber Heights Wayne has
five players averaging between nine points and 12 points per game and
another three scoring between five and seven points. Wayne senior Ahmad
Wagner has signed to play hoops at Iowa and classmate Xeyrius Williams
signed with Dayton. Junior Trey Landers has committed to Dayton and senior
D’Mitrik Trice and junior Rodrick Caldwell also own D1 offers. Trice, the
son of head coach Travis Trice Sr. and brother of Michigan State senior
Travis Trice Jr., was also the quarterback for the state runner-up Warriors.
-Huber Heights Wayne will
try to become the first Dayton-area team to win a Division I state
championship since Dayton Dunbar won the AAA title in 1987. Wayne and
Lakewood St. Edward will meet in a state semifinal in a rematch of this past
fall’s Division I state football final and the 2010 state football
championship, both won by St. Edward.
-Walnut Ridge is making its
first trip to the state tournament since winning the AAA title in 1971.
Ironically, the Scots defeated Dayton Dunbar for the championship, and a
rematch is possible 44 years later if both teams win their semifinal games.
Walnut Ridge head coach Brian Shininger was an assistant coach at Upper
Arlington last season. The Golden Bears finished as state runner-up last
-Dayton Dunbar and Cleveland
VASJ will look to tie Akron SVSM for second all-time in boy’s basketball
state championships, which would be their sixth overall and fifth since 2006
for Dunbar. Dunbar’s Amos Harris, a future Ohio State Buckeye, was the
starting point guard as a freshman on the Wolverines’ undefeated state
championship team in 2012.
-The Western Buckeye League
has placed a team in the final four in three of the past four seasons, with
Defiance now earning the right to represent one of the state’s best
conferences. Ottawa-Glandorf reached the state tournament in 2012 and 2013
(Division III champion) and Elida (Division II runner-up) joined the Titans
-Cousins and travel ball
teammates Terrance Landers (Dunbar) and Trey Landers (Wayne) both have an
opportunity to capture state titles.
-Cleveland VASJ head coach
Babe Kwasniak is looking for his second state championship, which would tie
him with his father (Tedd Kwasniak). Kwasniak’s father is an assistant coach
for the Vikings and won state titles at VASJ in 1994 & 1995.
-Cleveland VASJ and
Cleveland Central Catholic give the North Coast League a pair of entrants
for back-to-back seasons. Last season, VASJ and St. Thomas Aquinas turned
the trick. St. Thomas Aquinas, Holy Name and Warren JFK, which are all
members of the NCL, were regional participants this season.
-Cleveland VASJ senior
Carlton Bragg, who is in his third state tournament, was recently named to
the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game. Bragg is committed to play
basketball at Kansas University. The last player from Ohio to play for the
Jayhawks was Kenny Gregory (Columbus Independence).
-Eastmoor Academy is the
alma mater of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, Benji Burke (NW
Missouri State and the father of Utah Jazz guard Trey Burke), Scott Reeves
(Ohio State basketball and Central District Board President), Mike Key and
Byron Lee (Ohio State football), and Marcus Ray (Michigan football).
-Dayton CJ head coach Joe
Staley took the Eagles to the state tournament in 1991, losing a two-point
game to Lexington in the finals, and once again in 2004 behind future NBA
performer Derrick Brown, but fell to Canal Fulton NW in the semis.
-Lima Central Catholic head
coach Frank Kill has won a state championship as a player (Lincolnview/1997),
assistant coach (LCC/2010), and head coach (LCC/2014).
-Tri-Village will try to
become the first Cross County Conference team to win a state championship
since Tipp City Bethel defeated Delphos St. John’s in 2001. CCC member
Casstown Miami East finished runner-up in 2001 losing to Akron St.
Vincent-St. Mary’s. Tri-Village senior Damion Cook’s father, Scoob Cook,
played on the 1991 state runner-up Tri-Village squad.
-Tri-Village has put
together a sparkling (100-6) record over the past four seasons. It took
overtime to send the Patriots packing in 2012 (Jackson Center) and 2013
(Troy Christian). Both teams went on to reach the state tournament.
-Tuscarawas Central Catholic
head coach Tyrone Miller won a state championship as an assistant for Berlin
Hiland in 2011. Tuscarawas Central Catholic senior Michael Teater scored his
1,000-point against Berlin Hiland in their district final contest.
Westerville South (26-1)
has now crossed its name off the list of best basketball programs in Ohio to
never make a state tournament. Coach Ed Calo has been on the doorstep before
as recently as 2011, but finally got over the hump in 2015 behind depth,
size and superior athleticism. Make no mistake about it, the Wildcats are
very well coached and get after their opponents on defense along with
playing at a frantic pace on offense. Westerville South owns a 15-game
winning streak following a 12-point loss to regional participant Dublin
Jerome, which is its only loss on the year. Westerville South hit on all
cylinders in all six of its tournament games to reach state. The Wildcats
have placed at least four players in doubles figures, and twice the Cats
have received doubles from five players. South reached the Schott by
defeating Columbus Northland, the team that ended the Wildcats season in the
2011 regional final. Junior Andre Wesson scored 21 points for the winners
and classmate Jordan Humphrey added 14. Senior D.J. Dingess contributed 12
points and 6-foot-9 sophomore post Kaleb Wesson chipped in 11. In the
regional semis, Coach Calo’s group got a repeat win over Newark, a team the
Cats beat in the regular season. Five players reached double figures, led by
Andre Wesson (17), Dingess (14), Kaleb Wesson (13), junior point guard
Jelani Rogers (12) and Humphrey (11). In arguably its best performance of
the tournament, South blew past a good Delaware Hayes squad (87-51) with
four players scoring at least 15 points. Along with a vaunted starting five,
the Wildcats have plenty of punch off the bench led by juniors Ennis Thomas
and Daylan Haynie.
Garfield Heights (24-3)
is making its third state tournament showing after flying under the radar
for much of the year. The Bulldogs, after making the final four in 2011
behind star guard Trey Lewis, suffered back-to-back tournament upsets in
2013 (Bedford) and 2014 (Euclid). Head coach William “Sonny” Johnson and his
group of mainly underclassmen was not about to let that happen again.
Garfield knocked out last year’s state semifinalist (Cleveland East Tech) in
the district finals behind 21 points from junior Frankie Hughes and 20 by
classmate Willie Jackson. Sophomore guard Marreon Jackson added 10. Next up
was Uniontown Lake, last season’s regional runner-up. The Bulldogs escaped
thanks to Marreon Jackson’s 12 points, Willie Jackson’s 11 and 10 from
Hughes. Garfield saved the best for last by defeating rival Shaker Heights
in the regional championship after losing to the Raiders twice in the
regular season. The Bulldogs may get the chance to avenge their only other
loss if both they and Lakewood St. Edward advance to Saturday. Willie
Jackson paced Garfield’s win over Shaker with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and
senior Branden Johnson chipped in 13 points and 17 boards. The Bulldogs
placed five performers in double figures to help combat West Virginia commit
Esa Ahmad and his 37 points.
Huber Heights Wayne (24-4)
is enjoying a year of firsts as the Warriors just competed in their first
regional final and will now take part in their first state tournament.
Wayne, who is arguably the deepest and most talented team in Ohio, gets
rewarded by facing the defending state champion in Lakewood St. Edward. The
Warriors have won their six tournament games by an average of nearly 37
points per game. Wayne defeated GWOC Central foes Centerville and
Springfield in regional play to reach the final four. In the win over
Centerville, the Warriors avenged one of their four regular season losses
behind 18 points from junior Rodrick Caldwell and 13 by senior Xeyrius
Williams. Against Springfield, a team Wayne had beat by an average of 24
points per game in their two previous meetings, the Warriors trailed by five
points in the fourth quarter before using a 9-0 run to surge to the finish
line. Williams led Wayne with 20 points and Caldwell and Landers each
totaled 13 points, while Landers added 12 boards.
Lakewood St. Edward (21-5)
will have a chance to be only the second big school team to win back-to-back
state championships since 1974, joining Cincinnati Elder and Canton
McKinley. Head coach Eric Flannery, who will coach Team USA at the Nike Hoop
Summit in Portland, is trying to win his third state championship since
taking over at Ed’s before the 1996-1997 season. The Eagles make the trek to
Columbus for the ninth time in school history and will meet arguably their
toughest opponent to date in Huber Heights Wayne. Lakewood St. Edward will
definitely have the experience edge on the big stage having been there and
done that a season ago. Senior Kipper Nichols, who will be playing in his
third state tournament, scored a total of 51 points as a junior in his two
state tournament games. Junior Derek Funderburk added 21 points in the two
wins. This season, Lakewood St. Edward stormed through its district before
meeting previously unbeaten Lorain in the regional semifinals. The Eagles
held the Titans to 29 percent shooting in the first half. Nichols scored 31
points and classmates Darien Knowles chipped in 19. In the final
stepping-stone before a trip to the Schott, St. Ed’s used a late 15-4 run to
overcome a very good Lima Senior team. Nichols scored nine straight points
during that run and 22 for the game, including 14 in the final chapter.
Cleveland Central Catholic
advanced to its fourth state tournament and will try to win its second
championship since 2009. The Ironmen will be doing so under first-year head
coach Jeremy Holmes, who is the third different coach to lead CCC to the big
dance. Central Catholic arrives in Columbus following an upset of the No. 1
ranked team in the state, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, which was ranked 3rd
nationally by USA Today. The Ironmen avenged an early January loss to
the Irish (78-69) by beating previously unbeaten Akron SVSM when it mattered
most. CCC limited the Irish to just 3-of-13 shooting behind the arc and held
them 16 points below their previous low. Junior Tervell Beck and senior
Antwon Lillard each scored 12 points to lead the way. Beck, the 2014 AP
Northeast Lakes District Player of the year as a sophomore, was a monster in
a (61-47) victory over Chagrin Falls in the regional semis, scoring 24
points. Lillard, the 2015 NE Lakes District POY, chipped in 14 points, while
senior Montell McRae added 10. Junior point guard Desmond Crosby (3rd Team
NE Lakes All-District), the CCC engine, has been clutch in wins over Akron
Hoban, CVCA and the two regional games.
Columbus Walnut Ridge (21-5)
is making its first state tournament since 1971 – the year the Scots won the
whole thing in their only trip to the final four. Walnut Ridge owns an
interesting path to the Schottenstein Center by beating two previously
undefeated teams (Chillicothe Unioto and John Glenn) by a combined five
points in regional action. The Scots had to get by Whitehall in their
district final, a team that had just one loss coming into the contest. Ridge
got 16 points from star junior Malik Harrison in its regional final triumph
of John Glenn. The Scots held the Little Muskies to 5-of-21 shooting behind
the arc and gave up 19 points to leading scorer Drew Rackley but no other
player scored more than seven points. Juniors Tarik Wright (11) and Azende
Johnson (10) combined for 21 points. In the regional semifinal, the Scots
trailed by 10 points at halftime to Unioto and six after three quarters, but
found a way to win behind 19 points from junior James Manns. Harrison (19
points), Johnson (12 points), and Manns (10 points) all reached double
figures in the win over Whitehall.
Dayton Dunbar (22-5)
ended the state tournament dreams of Franklin High School and the Wildcats’
all-everything Luke Kennard (Duke signee) with a 77-76 win in overtime in
the regional final. The Wolverines overcame a 13-point deficit in the third
quarter to force overtime on the back of a game-knotting three-pointer by an
unlikely hero in sophomore Chris Jackson. Dunbar senior Amos “AJ” Harris, an
Ohio State signee, knocked down a free throw with 2.4 seconds remaining in
OT to give the Wolverines the victory. Harris, who was playing against his
travel teammate (Kennard), scored 23 points and handed out nine assists.
Despite giving up 41 points to Kennard and shooting 12-of-22 at the charity
stripe, Dunbar found a way to reach its ninth state tournament and sixth
since 2005. Senior Doriane Dawson, who banked home a shot to beat Kettering
Alter in district play, finished with 17 points. Senior Joshua Bryant
chipped in 12 and junior Terrance Landers scored 12 points and grabbed 11
rebounds. In the regional semis, Dunbar raced past Columbus South forcing 20
turnovers leading to 29 points. Harris (1st Team All-Southwest District) led
Dunbar with 20 points.
is making its first trip to the state tournament since 1940 when Franklin D.
Roosevelt was the President of the United States and gas was 18 cents per
gallon. Defiance had a daunting task in its regional semifinals game facing
Western Buckeye League rival Celina, a team that handed the Bulldogs one of
their two losses on the year. Defiance turned the tables on Celina, avenging
a 48-44 setback on January 16th with a nearly identical (48-43) victory.
Defiance forced 16 turnovers and committed just six of its own and held
Celina’s top scorer Ryan Hoyng to just two points at half and 10 for the
game. Senior Katwan Singleton (1st Team All-Northwest District)
led the winners with 17 points and nine rebounds and Kameron Singleton and
Wes Detter each contributed 10 points. Defiance made short work of upstart
Holy Name in the regional final using a decisive second quarter and a 30-8
advantage in the paint to help the Bulldogs reach its first state tournament
in the modern era. Katwan Singleon paced the victors with 20 points and nine
rebounds, while Kameron Singleton added 17 points.
Cleveland Villa Angela-St.
has been playing like it has unfinished business to take care
of in five tournament games, winning by a mean of 30 points per game with
its closest game being a 19-point win over Beachwood in the district finals.
The Vikings, who lost in last year’s title game against Lima Central
Catholic, will possibly have a chance to avenge that loss if both teams win
their semifinal games. VASJ is looking to win its second title in three
years, and sixth overall in its 14th state tournament appearance. In what
was supposed to be its biggest tourney challenge to date, the Vikings used a
25-4 run over the course of the middle quarters to leave no doubt in their
regional final game against Youngstown Ursuline. Senior Brian Parker totaled
21 points and classmates Carlton Bragg, a Kansas commit, and Dererk Pardon
added 14 and 11 points, respectively. Pardon snatched a game-high 20
rebounds. In a 40-point rout of Massillon Tuslaw in the regional semis,
senior Simon Texidor IV connected on 7-of-9 three-point tries en route to 23
points. Pardon scored 15 points, Parker added 12, and senior Jeff Grudzinski
Columbus Eastmoor Academy
wasn’t on most people’s radar screen when the tournament started, but the
Warriors knew what type of schedule they had played, which included
Westerville South, Dublin Coffman, Gahanna Lincoln, Walnut Ridge, Thurgood
Marshall and Columbus Africentric. Eastmoor is making its first appearance
on the state level thanks to regional wins over Belmont Union Local and
traditional power Portsmouth. Their fantastic senior backcourt trio of Jalon
Lewis, Xavier Holston-Sims and Kyle Oglesby lead the Warriors, who are
outsized on most nights. Trailing by eight points in the third quarter
against Union Local, Eastmoor turned up the heat to take a two-point lead
heading into the final frame. Lewis paced the winners with 26 points and
Oglesby added 19. Holston-Sims, who runs the show, contributed seven points
and a game-high eight assists. Against Portsmouth, a familiar scene played
out yet again. Eastmoor trailed by a deuce heading into the final chapter,
but used clutch free throws in the closing moments to hold off the Trojans.
Lewis and Holston-Sims each tallied 14 markers.
Dayton Chaminade Julienne
returns to Columbus for the first time since 2004 riding an eight-game
winning streak. The Eagles last tasted defeat when they faced their state
semifinal opponent Lima Central Catholic. CJ dropped a 10-point road loss to
LCC, which was the end of a (4-5) stretch for the Eagles following a 10-1
start. The Eagles outlasted Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in district
play behind seniors Alan Vest (27 points) and Myo Baxter-Bell (19 points).
The Eagles stopped Dayton Northridge’s 17-game winning streak in the
regional semis thanks to great scoring balance. Baxter-Bell led the way with
23 points, Vest added 15, and sophomore Christian Montague and senior Zach
Burneka evenly divided 20 points. In its biggest test of the tournament,
Dayton CJ held Shroder’s high-powered offense to 53 points and Vest (23
points) and Baxter-Bell (15 points) once again led the way.
Lima Central Catholic (25-2)
returns to the state tournament in hopes of defending its title. The
Thunderbirds will have a familiar path, getting a Greater Catholic League
school in the semis yet again, but this time it’s Dayton CJ and not Roger
Bacon. Ironically, with a win, Cleveland VASJ could once again be the
opponent. LCC stunned the Vikings last year behind superior guard play from
the now graduated Martyce Kimbrough and Lima Senior transfer Xavier Simpson.
Frank Kill has the T-Birds back in Columbus behind four junior starters.
Dantez Walton, Tre Cobbs and Josh Dixon all average double figures and Nick
Taflinger and Ethan O’Connor (sixth man) have plenty of experience. Jake
Williams, who is the only senior starter, came up huge in last year’s title
game against a much bigger VASJ squad. LCC, which is one of the best
defensive teams in the tournament, survived a huge scare in the district
finals, squeaking by an outstanding St. Henry team 45-44. The T-Birds led by
15 points at half thanks to 71 percent shooting, only to see its lead
evaporate in the third quarter and eventually trail by a point. Walton paced
LCC with 16 points, Dixon added 11, and Cobbs chipped in eight points and
six assists. The T-Birds faced another familiar foe in the regional semis in
Ottawa-Glandorf, a team they beat in last season’s regional final and by 25
points back in December. LCC used 22 points and 14 rebounds from Walton and
received double figures from all five starters to score another win over its
rival. LCC used a 13-2 run in the fourth quarter to pull away from a good
Bishop Hartley squad in a tough regional final game. Cobbs had 18 and Dixon
added 14 to help LCC advance.
a chance to win 30 games if it captures the state championship. The Patriots
return to Columbus in consecutive seasons after losing to eventual state
champion and undefeated Convoy Crestview in last year’s state final four.
Coach Josh Sagester’s crew held a nine-point lead against Crestview, only to
drop a four-point decision. T-V returns with several of its main cast
members from a year ago, including First Team AP All-Southwest District
performers Colton Linkous (POY) and Damion Cook. The two seniors are
averaging over 40 points per game. Junior point guard Taylor VanWinkle and
senior Mason McCabe were also heavy contributors last season. The Patriots
arrive in Columbus after consecutive victories over Georgetown, Russia and
Marion Local. Linkous scored 29 points and Cook added 11 in T-V’s regional
semis triumph of Russia, which was a repeat win over the Raiders from a
regular season game. Cook scored 17 points and grabbed eight boards in the
win over Marion Local, which is the same team T-V beat in the regional final
a year ago.
Tuscarawas Central Catholic
making its first trip to the state final four and its reward will be a date
with undefeated Tri-Village. Tusky CC comes to Columbus riding a 13-game
winning streak, which includes a district championship win over rival Berlin
Hiland, and regional victories against Mogadore and last season’s state
runner-up Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas. TCC knocked off its rival, Hiland,
in two out of three meetings helping to erase a heartbreaking loss to the
Hawks in last year’s district semis. The Saints upset favored St. Thomas
Aquinas despite an off night from the AP Division IV East District Player of
the Year, Mitchell Herron. The 5-foot-11 senior was coming off a 22-point
performance in a win over Mogadore, a game that saw TCC shoot 65 percent
from the field in the 1st half including six three-point goals. Instead, the
Saints turned to senior post Alex Milleman, who gave the victors 15 points
and 13 rebounds. Reserve guard Max Fragasse added 12 points in the clincher.
Harvest Prep (24-4)
is becoming a familiar entrant into the state tournament with its fourth
appearance since 2007. The Warriors finished second in 2007 and 2011, but
the latter was vacated. Harvest Prep’s schedule is unrivaled in comparison
to the other three teams in the field. The Warriors earned wins over
Division I opponents Delaware Hayes (district runner-up) and Westerville
North along with Division II Whitehall (district runner-up). HP has been
getting tremendous balance during its tournament run. Coach David Dennis’
team secured a hard fought win over Columbus Africentric in the Athens
Regional Final with David Dennis Jr., the Div. IV Central District Player of
the Year, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and collecting eight
steals. Senior Dana Coffman added 16 points and six rebounds, Jordan Clark
totaled 14 points and Rael Windley (2nd Team All-Central District) chipped
in 10 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks. On defense, the Warriors
forced 19 turnovers to help avenge a loss to Africentric in the season
opener. In the regional semis, Clark paced the winners with 21 points on
10-of-10 shooting at the free throw line. Windley was top support with 13
points and equal rebounds. Coffman and Dennis Jr. evenly split 22 counters.
Wayne Trace (25-1),
which is one of the more underrated basketball programs in the state of
Ohio, returns to the Schottenstein Center for the first time since 2008,
which was the last year on the bench for legendary head coach Al Welch. The
Raiders will attempt to win their second state title. WT grabbed the 1991
Division III championship under Welch. Wayne Trace survived a double
overtime thriller against once-beaten Plymouth in the regional semis thanks
to a 44-point outburst from sophomore Ethan Linder. Linder, who is the son
of head coach Jim Linder, shot 17-of-28 from the field and added a team-high
11 rebounds. Ethan’s older brother, Corbin, chipped in 14 points. David Sinn
paced the Raiders with 15 points and seven rebounds in the regional clincher
against a game Delphos St. John’s outfit. Ethan Linder scored 14 points,
Corbin Linder added 12 and Luke Miller contributed 11 along with leading
Wayne Trace’s pressure defense.
### OHSAA ###