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2016 OHSAA
Boys Basketball
State Tournament Preview

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2016 OHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament Preview

Division I

By Jeff Rapp, and Columbus 610 WTVN Radio


Lima Senior � The Spartans have handled every challenge this season thanks in large part to Michigan-bound senior guard Xavier Simpson. However, Lima Senior, which averages better than 77 points per game, didn�t advance from the University of Toledo district until scraping by traditional power Toledo St. John�s Jesuit, 34-33, in the title game. Playing in what was essentially an away game at the James A. Rhodes Arena, the Three Rivers Athletic Conference champs posted a 68-61 win over Canton McKinley in the regional final to make the state final four field. As usual, Simpson was an all-around force (18 points, five rebounds, seven assists, seven steals) but the Spartans also got a career-high 23 points from 6-5 senior Rico Stafford, who canned 11 of 12 shots. Guard Marquevious Wilson, another senior, also isn�t afraid to take big shots and is especially dangerous outside the arc. The dynamic Simpson, son of head coach Quincey Simpson, averages around 30 points per game and won conference and district player-of-the-year honors. He carries on the tradition of great point guard play at a program that also produced the likes of Travis Walton, Jamar Butler and Greg Simpson, who is Xavier�s cousin.


Garfield Heights � In a wild celebration that followed one of the most exciting game of the postseason so far � a 70-69 double-overtime win over Cleveland St. Ignatius � the Garfield Heights proved that returning to the state tournament never gets old. Former �Mr. Basketball� winner Sonny Johnson fine-tuned the talents of a veteran and athletic team and the successful coach has Garfield Heights headed back to Columbus to face the same school, Westerville South, that knocked the Bulldogs out of the state semis last year. Garfield Heights has been one of the elite teams in northeast Ohio all season and has an impressive forward tandem of career 1,000-point scorers in 6-6 Willie Jackson and 6-5 Frankie Hughes. The team�s leading scorer and rebounder, Jackson, will play collegiately at Missouri next season, while Hughes is headed to Louisville. Another senior, Braun Hartfield (promised to Youngstown State), provides double-figure scoring off the bench. The Bulldogs are an uptempo outfit that likes to spread the floor, attack on the drive and hit timely threes.


Westerville South � The Wildcats have won multiple conference and district championships of late and would like to add the first state championship in program history to the resume. Longtime head coach Ed Calo has experience up and down the lineup this year, including athletic guard Jordan Humphrey on top of his game, notable depth and the Wesson brothers � 6-10 center Kaleb and 6-7 win Andre. The son of former Buckeye post man Keith Wesson, Kaleb is a junior who is committed to Ohio State and a load in the low block. He shows impressive touch around the basket and great passing ability. Older brother Andre put together a breakthrough senior season and is a difference maker on each side of the ball. Westerville South was the standout team in a loaded Ohio Capital Conference regular-season and in the regionals, where the Wildcats had to get by Pickerington Central and Gahanna Lincoln teams that are littered with college prospects. South is a fast-paced, zip-passing squad that also can clamp down on defense and make important free throws.


Wilmington (27-1) � The last time Wilmington made it this far was 1927, and it�s safe to say the Hurricane�s northward sweep to Columbus is no fluke. The �Cane took down Cincinnati Princeton and Fairfield to get to a district title game at Wright State, then began to flex its defensive muscle with a 63-38 domination of top-seeded Mason. Wilmington, which allows just 41.4 points per game, held Cincinnati Moeller to 37 points and Centerville to just 28 in capturing the Cincinnati regional title. The team relies on its defensive pressure and toughness, and hands much of the offensive responsibility to 6-5 senior Jarron Cumberland, a University of Cincinnati signee. A guard who has put up averages of 30.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, Cumberland can damage defenses from just about anywhere on the court and has the strength to play through contact. Classmate Cameron Stewart helps out as a secondary scorer and playmaker � and he�s also a pest on defense. Under head coach Mike Noszka, Wilmington has claimed the last two South Central Ohio League championships and is a perfect 28-0 in league play during that time.



Division II

By Corey Alberson, and Yahoo! Sports


Cincinnati Aiken Falcons: �The Swoop� make their first state Final Four appearance in history. The Falcons found themselves in an always loaded Southwest Division II Regional this year, having to battle it out with perennial powerhouses like Dayton Dunbar, Cincinnati Taft, Trotwood-Madison, Kettering Alter and Dayton Thurgood Marshall to claim the title of Regional Champion. Aiken cruised through district play into the regionals, but needed a full 32 minute effort to defeat Kettering Alter in the Regional Semifinals, before defeating league rival Cincinnati Taft (their third victory over the Senators this year) in an action-packed regional final. Coach Leon Ellison�s team is led by a three-headed scoring machine this year, with the catalyst for the Falcons being senior point guard Carlik Jones. One of Ohio�s top point guards, Jones leads the Falcons in scoring, rebounding and assists, including 25 points against Taft, 22 points against Alter and 29 points in the District Final against Urbana. Joining Jones are junior guards Lonnie Berry Jr. and Marcus Barton. Berry is the Swoop�s second leading scorer and a top slashing guard, while Barton is the team�s top three-point shooter. Always known as a pressure defensive team, look for Aiken to push the tempo and play with a lot of heart on the defensive end.


New Concord John Glenn Little Muskies: One of Ohio�s most high-octane teams offensively regardless of division, there might not be another team in the state semifinals that can score like John Glenn. With only one loss on their resume, the Little Muskies head to Columbus with a ton of momentum, having already defeated some of the top programs in Ohio this year, including a January win over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. John Glenn easily navigated its way through sectional, district and regional play, including twenty-plus point wins in the regional rounds over Vinton County and Columbus DeSales. Led by a one-two punch of senior point guards, John Glenn alternates between Matt Weir and Drew Rackley when it comes to ball handling, playmaking and scoring; as both are among Ohio�s top floor generals. Weir is more of a prototypical point guard, while Rackley is a creative playmaker. However, it�s not just the guard play that got the Little Muskies here, as Coach Greg Woodard�s team also features a dynamic sophomore athlete in forward Jah Blevins.


Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary�s Fighting Irish: A staple of the Division II Final Four, the high school that once housed Ohio legend LeBron James returns to Columbus after a one year hiatus, as head coach Dru Joyce seeks yet another state championship. Just like in past years, the Irish arrive in Columbus as one of Division II�s most talented teams. However, unlike some Irish teams of the past, this team is heavily guard oriented and although not a particularly deep, the Irish�s top guards in junior Jayvon Graves, junior Jon Williams and senior wing Henry Baddley are capable of playing with anyone. A dark horse candidate for Ohio�s Mr. Basketball award, Baddley has had a spectacular season for the Irish, leading his team to wins over Division I powerhouses like Garfield Heights (State Semifinalist), Canton McKinley (Regional Runner-Up), Cleveland St. Edward and a plethora of top Division II and III schools. Baddley uses his athleticism to create scoring chances for the Irish, but he is a jack of all trades. The play of the two guards, Graves and Williams, will also be key, as Graves brings power and athleticism to the guard spot, while Williams is a playmaker and one of the Irish�s top shooters.


Bay Village Rockets: The Rockets might not be as well known as some of their competition, but as we learned in Division II the last two years with Norwalk and Defiance, those are the teams who you have to worry about. The Rockets head to Columbus with an impressive 24-3 record, having defeated an Ottawa-Glandorf team in the Regional Finals that is no stranger to making trips to Columbus. In addition to knocking out O-G, Bay Village also defeated talented teams like Napoleon, LaGrange Keystone and Medina Buckeye to advance through the Bowling Green region and punch their ticket to the state semifinals. Senior wing John Koz has been the leading scorer for the Rockets this season, posting over 20 points per game. However, the Rockets are a high scoring and versatile team offensively, as sophomore forward RJ Sunahara, junior guard Jack Jelen and freshman guard Erik Painter also average double-figure scoring numbers. On paper, the Rockets might be considered underdogs, but we�ve seen time and time again over the years how well the Bowling Green Regional Champion has been able to fare in Columbus.


Division III

By Eric Frantz,


Lima Central Catholic (26-1) is making its third straight trip to the Final Four and will try to win its second state title during that stretch. LCC won the 2014 championship and was runner-up last year. Both of those meetings were against Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, which is on the other side of the bracket this year. For the third straight time the Thunderbirds will square off against a Greater Catholic League school in the state semis and for the second time in three years the foe will be St. Bernard Roger Bacon. LCC beat the Spartans 63-44 in 2014. LCC finished this season ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press and state polls and has beaten opponents by an average of 24 points per game. The Thunderbirds� lone loss was a 54-52 last second defeat against Div. I state semifinalist and undefeated Lima Senior. During its tournament run, LCC�s closet game is a 54-29 decision over Ottawa Hills in the regional final. Seniors Tre Cobbs, Dantez Walton, Josh Dixon and Nick Taflinger all started in last year�s final. The Thunderbirds� 71 ppg is the most amongst D-III semifinalists. So is their 47 ppg allowed. LCC won the 900th game in program history earlier this season.


St. Bernard Roger Bacon (21-7) has a storied tradition, which includes the 2002 Div. II state title in a victory over LeBron James-led Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the final. Roger Bacon also won a state title in 1982. The Spartans have won six district titles in seven years and this is their second trip to the Final Four in three years. Roger Bacon gets a rematch against Lima Central Catholic, which beat them 63-44 in the 2014 semifinals. The Spartans finished second in the Greater Catholic League Central Division standings this season, which snapped a string of seven straight titles, but they�ve won nine straight games since a loss to Elder Feb. 2. During its postseason run, Roger Bacon has won every game by double-digits, minus a 47-42 win over Dayton Northridge in the district final. Elijah Fulton and Justin Johnson earned first team All-GCL Central honors. James Johnson and Craig McGee were second team.


Lynchburg-Clay (25-2) is making the program�s second trip to state and first since being a Div. IV semifinalist in 1993. That�s also the only other time the Mustangs have won a district title. During its current run, Clay has won every tournament game by double-digits, minus a 53-48 win over Chesapeake in the regional semifinals. The Mustangs, seeded second in their district, took down top seed Proctorville Fairland in the district final (73-62). In addition to winning their first conference title in 12 years (Southern Hills Athletic Conference), the Mustangs have also set a school record for wins in a season and are led by senior Devin Pierson, who stands second on the school�s all-time career scoring list. Pierson (over 1,600 points) is behind 1993 grad Paul Cluxton (2,111 points). Cluxton and Pierson rank third and fourth on the all-time SHAC scoring list behind Peebles brothers Beau and Blake Justice, whose father Brett is the Clay superintendent.


Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (22-5) is making its fourth straight trip to the Final Four and looking to advance to its fourth straight final. The Vikings were state champions in 2013 and 2015 and were runner-up in 2014. A third straight meeting with Lima Central Catholic in the state final could happen if those two teams advance to Saturday. VASJ is making its 15th trip to the state tournament and is searching for its seventh state title, which would tie it for No. 1 all-time with Middletown. Unlike the other three D-III semifinalists, who have won their tournament games with relative ease, the Vikings have been pushed to the brink multiple times. VASJ survived Warrensville Heights 64-62 in the district semifinals and then edged Beachwood 53-52 in the district final. The Vikings beat Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas 54-46 in the regional final. This year�s senior class has set a new school record for most wins in a four-year span (92). The Vikings have graduated five NCAA Division I recruits in the last three years. This year�s leading scorer � senior Sherman Dean (15.5 ppg) � played one minute in last year�s state final.


Division IV

By Kurt Stubbs, and


The 2016 Division IV field is an entirely new cast of teams from a year ago, so there will be a new champion crowned on Saturday. The quartet of teams have an interesting dynamic with Jackson Center (24-4) making its fourth appearance, Van Wert Lincolnview (26-1) its third, Wellington School (24-3) its second, and Cornerstone Christian Academy (15-12) is making its initial appearance.


Cornerstone Christian and Wellington get things started on Friday morning and both teams are playing great basketball. Cornerstone sophomore Michael Bothwell has been a monster in helping the Patriots reach Columbus for the first time. The lefty scored 30 points in a regional semifinals victory over Malvern and 41 points to power Cornerstone by Lutheran East in the finals. Keep an eye on senior sharpshooter Jack Kelsheimer, who has size and range and scrappy junior Brandon McQueen. Wellington comes to the Schottenstein Center with a school-record 24 wins under second year boss Artie Taylor, a former head men's basketball coach at Ohio Dominican University. It hasn't taken Taylor long to put the Jaguars in position to play for the school's first boys basketball state championship. Wellington is led by senior point guard Cam Edmondson and junior Dustin Harder. The Jaguars possess five players averaging 8.3 to 12.2 points per game. Wellington knocked off Columbus Africentric in its regional final contest, avenging a close regular season defeat. The Jaguars are defeating their opponents by 25 points an outing.


The second semifinal features two of this season�s highest ranked teams in Div. IV in Lincolnview and Jackson Center. The Lincolnview Lancers are stingy on defense, giving up just 41 points a game, and own very good size and athleticism helping them earn 26 wins heading to Columbus. Brett Hammons' team won its first district and regional titles since winning the state title in 1997 behind the great Brandon Parson and current Lima Central Catholic head coach Frank Kill. Lincolnview has the pedigree to contend for the state championship, as the starting five are all seniors who possess great balance, with four players scoring between 9.6 and 12.2 points a game. They are led by Chandler Adams, Trevor Neate, and Hayden Ludwig. Lincolnview, the state's No. 1-ranked team, was tripped up just once this season, and that was by Div. III Final Four qualifier Lima Central Catholic. Jackson Center comes to Columbus for the fourth time, having won the 1985 small school crown and finishing runners-up in 2012 and 1963. The Tigers possess just four losses on the year, and three came in conference play in the tough Shelby County League. Jackson Center has won four of the last five districts and holds teams to just 40 points a game. The Tigers are very good at half-court defense and senior Drew Sosby and junior Brady Wildermuth combine to score over 35 points a game. Senior Ethan Zorn is another factor on the offensive end.



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