The Ohio High School Athletic Association



2015 OHSAA
Boys Basketball
State Tournament Preview

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2015 OHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament Preview

By Kurt Stubbs II,

Fun Facts:

-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 year.


-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 in 2012.


-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.



Division I

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.



Division II

Cleveland Central Catholic (23-4) has 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.


Defiance (25-2) 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.


Division III

Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (21-4) 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 notched 11.


Columbus Eastmoor Academy (17-11) 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 (22-6) 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.

Division IV
Tri-Village (28-0) has 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 (25-3) is 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.


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