Sun. May 26th, 2019

Cleveland Play by Play Basketball Recap plus more game breakdowns!

The 2019 Cleveland Play by Play Classics included some crazy games! In this article I’m going to be breaking down every game of this tournament along with a couple other games that I attended since my last article. Also, because I’ve already broken down most of these teams, I’m going to be going a little more in depth on how the game went, not just specific player breakdowns.

Richmond Heights 61 Vs Shaker Heights 62

Game recap: Although sloppy, the first game of the tournament was still very competitive. Shaker seemed to take control early on but Richmond stormed back through hitting timely shots and getting out in transition. Curtis Houston played a larger role in this contest as opposed to the blowout against Padua I saw, and he was impressive with how he ran the offense and created shots for himself. Houston has solid size and ball handling but hasn’t dominated in either game I’ve seen. Houston was impressive in the first half but missed shots down the stretch to try and give his team the victory. Jevontae James played impressive defense all night. Whenever a Shaker guard beat a Richmond guard to the hoop, either James or Maxie was there to provide defense for the Spartans. Anthony Maxie has a really impressive frame, he stands 6’4 and is an explosive athlete around the rim. His overall skill needs improvement but he certainly has potential. BJ Carter also had a productive game for the Spartans. The senior is another very talented athlete for the Spartans and has plenty of success in transition. He has the ability to take a rebound or steal coast to coast and finish. Jamar Talbert was disappointing after the impressive Padua performance, he seemed to disappear on the floor for a large stretch of the game and wasn’t assertive to get his own shot. On the Shaker side, Danny Young looked like a freshman, he struggled all night with shooting from the outside and with experienced guards with size and strength gave him difficulty. The matchup with Houston and Adio was a difficult one and Young wasn’t able to shake them often and had to work for everything he got. Young’s talent is obvious, but games like this are all part of the learning experience and playing against older and stronger guards will help him in the long run. Shammah Scott wasn’t as impressive as he was against Lutheran East with his outside shot, and he struggled with turnovers throughout the first half. I wouldn’t be concerned with Scott’s turnovers because often times he got put into bad positions by his teammates. Multiple times a Shaker player would be in a little trouble, and then give it to Scott in the corner where he was instantly trapped and put in a tough spot. Josh Ailiff hit three 3-pointers which were crucial to building the Raiders lead, but he’s a fairly limited player on the offensive end.

Top performers

Gbolahan Adio: Adio was once again the top offensive player for the Spartans and absolutely caught fire in the third quarter to bring the Spartans back. Adio has the ability to get hot in a hurry and hit at least three of his five 3-pointers in the third quarter from the left corner. Adio disappointed me after he got hot because Shaker smartly started to faceguard him, and Adio seemed content in letting Shaker take him out of the game and let his teammates play four on four basketball. While this is usually a fairly solid plan with teammates as talented as Adio’s, but he was the only guy hitting in the second half and I felt like he needed to take control more.

Dakota Cochran: Cochran finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds to lead his team to the victory, but his performance wasn’t as impressive as the initial statline states. Cochran had some success hitting from the right corner and it was good to see him make more outside shots than what he made in the two previous games that I’ve seen. Cochran also got to the hoop often and when he got there was adequate with his finishing. Cochran did lose the ball a couple times with his handle and also at the end of the game when Richmond was pressing the Raiders, turned the ball over and missed layups that could’ve put the game away for good.

Canton Mckinley 60 Vs Cleveland Heights 84

Game recap: This was the least competitive game of the first day and Cleveland Heights dominated from the opening tip to the end of the game. Christian Dillard had one of the most dominating performances I’ve seen from somebody who scored less than five points. Dillard controlled the offense and dished to his stud forwards all night getting assist after assist. Robert Morgan also played very hard on the floor for the Tigers on the defensive end and getting to the hoop. Morgan would also be on my first team all trash talk team. For Canton Mckinley, they looked outmatched from the opening tip, Kobe Johnson was pretty much the only Bulldog that seemed up for the challenge that the Tigers gave them. Johnson has a solid jumper but it’s nothing special. He has a solid handle and plays smart basketball, he is a prospect that doesn’t have a crazy ceiling but is already a fundamental point guard who has the ability to be a floor general for his team. Brent Walker had a double double but was unimpressive with his basketball skill, he traveled multiple times in the post and could’ve been called for a few more. He wasn’t secure with the ball when he got double teamed and doesn’t show great passing vision. Walker is clearly a football prospect because of his body and athleticism, he’s built very well and has the vertical athleticism to dunk in traffic and has a high twitch motor that shows how good of a pass rusher he is on the gridiron.

Top performers

Jaelyn Withers: Withers was the most dominant athlete on the floor and showed once again why he’s one of the top prospects in the state. Withers stands at 6’9 and has crazy range with his 3-point shot. He’s capable of hitting from way beyond the arc and this skill opens up his entire offensive game when he catches the ball from beyond the arc. Withers is so explosive in the open court and in one twenty second stretch he had two thunderous dunks that just put an exclamation point on the blowout victory. With this performance I’m very convinced of Withers as a player but am pumped for his contest with Taevon Pierre-Louis and the Lorain Titans on Friday night.

Nigel Martin: Martin was absurd in the first half with his offensive game, the 6’5 senior forward flashed the talent that made him a 20+ PPG scorer at John Hay last season. He has the ability to score from the three different levels, his main option for scoring in this game was in the mid-range with Martin taking a couple dribbles from the three point line and then pulling up in traffic and hitting the shot. After playing awful in the loss to Cleveland Central Catholic in the one previous time I’ve seen him this season, it was awesome to see him dominate in the first half and set the tone for the Tigers offense and taking over on the court.

Lakewood 40 Vs Lutheran East 43

Game recap: This was the most hyped game of the opening night and it was a letdown besides the insane finish. This game had tons of travels and missed shots and neither team looked impressive in the process but when it became crunch time, these two talented teams started to flash the reasons why this game was so anticipated. For Lakewood, point guard Tim smith Jr struggled with foul trouble all night, I disagreed with sitting him for almost seven minutes after he got his fourth foul in the middle of the third quarter, because the Rangers barley scored in his absence, but he fouled out quickly after getting put back into the game. Shannon Cotto played impressive defense on Ej Farmer and made things difficult for him whenever he was on the floor, but really struggled on the offensive end finishing layups. Zion Darby was pretty average on the court, finishing with seven points and seven rebounds. He has good size and skill but didn’t really do much on the floor besides rebound. Nate Mims played very well on the offensive end, finishing second on the Rangers with nine points, but he sat for long stretches during the game for reasons unknown to me. Ej Farmer for Lutheran East hit the game winning 3-pointer but was pretty bad all game. He shot probably 2-10 on 3-pointers and fades away every time he shoots an open three for absolutely no reason. Farmer didn’t get to the hoop enough either and when he did ran into Darby and Sala and struggled to finish. Nehemiah Benson was disappointing offensively but he played tough against a bigger and more experienced team. Benson had a huge challenge with the Lakewood front-court and rose to the occasion on the defensive end, but whenever he tried to post up, he had limited success. Sirr Hughes played tough, guarding bigger players all game and grabbing seven boards that helped Lutheran East keep Lakewood’s offense at Bay.

Top performers

Tommy Sala: Sala is probably the most college ready of the three DII prospects on Lakewood’s roster and was the only consistent force on the offensive end. Sala has the ability to take the ball from the outside and use his body to score above smaller defenders. Sala isn’t going to take a game over offensively but is usually efficient with his shots that he does take.

Duane Hamilton: I’m not sure how many points Hamilton scored in this game but honestly I really don’t care. This was a defensive game and Hamilton was the best defensive player for the Falcons and his energy off the bench was instrumental to help the Falcons win. Hamilton doesn’t have much offensive skill, he lacks a jump-shot and is wild around the hoop, but his energy was the difference. He got his hands on a ton of passes and was diving on the floor and grabbing rebounds in the second half to help keep Lakewood at 40 points for the game, a season low.

Brunswick 49 Vs Olmsted Falls 60

Game recap: Olmsted Falls got an impressive out of conference victory over Brunswick in a game that they were in control of for a majority of the game except for a little run by the Blue Devils who brought the game within two possessions before the Bulldogs took control. Kyle Goessler led Brunswick with 18 points and has a quick handle plus a knockdown jumper off the dribble. Goessler makes way too poor decisions when pressured for a second straight game against another team with below average athletes without crazy length. Tre Massey was taken completely out of his game by the Bulldogs because of their defensive philosophy. Massey was face-guarded and wasn’t given an open 3-pointer for a majority of the game. Because of this, Massey forced shots and because of his lack of quickness and ball handling, he was taking difficult mid-range shots and missed a majority of his looks this game. Trevor Mackey hit some shots from the outside, but is a pretty much only a shooter on the offensive end. For Olmsted Falls, they play such an disciplined brand of basketball. The Bulldogs get better shots than almost anyone I ever see, which allows some of their less talented bench players to have success on the offensive end. Gavin Dietrich won game MVP but he wasn’t the most impressive player in my eyes for the Bulldogs. He has a solid frame and understands the game well and his role on the floor, he doesn’t have any real outside shot but that doesn’t prevent him from being successful on the offensive end or being a total zero when he catches the ball outside the arc because of his passing, driving, and screening abilities.

Top performers

Braden Galaska: Galaska only scored 10 points, good for third on his team, but he was the guy who impressed me the most for the Bulldogs. Galaska has incredible hands defensively and poked the ball loose many times throughout this game. Galaska also has great vision on the court and found Dietrich on pick and rolls and when he found space around the hoop when Galaska drove to the paint. While he missed a couple easier shots, he still had the largest impact on the game and is the engine to a balanced offensive attack for Olmsted Falls.

Eric Hanna: Hanna is the most talented offensive player for Olmsted Falls and is pretty much the only guy on their entire roster who can really create his own shot and make things happen for himself. Olmsted Falls runs a great offensive system that takes away the need for that skill, but if Hanna is feeling it, the Bulldogs can run ISO and be confident in him beating his man for a drive or pulling up for a 3-pointer. Hanna is a prototypical off guard for high school basketball, he is a capable 3-point shooter and is a smart player who can drive to the hoop. With Hanna, Galaska, Dietrich, Michael Fritz, and others, the Bulldogs are a very difficult team to beat with the amount of experience they have and the winning culture they have built.

Gilmour 76 Vs John Hay 58

Game recap: Gilmour and John Hay were tied at halftime before the Lancers took control and started to play some real defense. John Hay was tough throughout the first half and got scoring from Chris Drake who was the most talented and controlled offensive player for John Hay. Barry Smith also hit shots from the outside to keep John Hay in the game for the first half. Gilmour is a two man show, but Ian Miller and Kyle Culler are decent role players who can move the ball and occasionally hit shots from the outside.

Top performers

Cj Charleston: Charleston has always been one of my favorite players to watch because it seems like every time I see him he is just crazy productive and leading his team to victory. While John Hay isn’t even good competition, it is impressive that he scored 31 points and got to the free throw line for 10 made free throws. Charleston is a crazy athlete and was all state in football and track and shows off his speed and jumping ability on the hardwood as well. If he had a more consistent jumper he would be a terror on the offensive end.

Connor O’Toole: O’Toole is one of the best spot up shooters I’ve seen, and didn’t disappoint with five three-pointers in this game. He did get a decent amount of shots up from beyond the arc, but was pretty efficient with his looks. O’Toole has great vision and makes great decisions with the ball and if he got much quicker I think he could become a primary ball handler at the next level. Him and Charleston are the two headed monster for one of the most impressive and fasted paced offensive attacks in the area.

Lake Catholic 66 Vs Solon 61

Game recap: Without Trent Williams this would always be an uphill battle for Solon and it proved too difficult for the Comets to overcome his injury suffered previous in the week in a hard fought, contest loss to a talented Lake Catholic team. For Solon, Mike Bekelja struggled to find much offensively. He had so much attention on him and whenever he would get around his first man the defense would completely collapse on him. Also when a ball screen was ever involved in the action Bekelja would usually get doubled and forced to give it up, usually to a non shooter. Marcus Steele did what he could offensively, but he’s not really built to be more than a third or fourth option right now, but he plays hard on the defensive end and is valuable piece to Solon. Khalil Jones brought energy on defense but he’s a very limited offensive player and hurts Solon’s spacing because teams just don’t respect his jumper. Nick Close knocked down three 3-pointers which were huge because it forced the Cougars to respect his corner shot. For Lake Catholic, Sean Fitzgerald is a knockdown shooter and a key third piece for Lake Catholic along with their two stud Juniors. Ryan Boruszkowski played his best game I’ve seen, he played tough defense on Mike Bekelja and played good offense bringing the ball of the floor and creating the occasional drive to the hoop for himself. Luke Frazier struggled to get much offense throughout a majority of the game, and loves taking contested mid-range jumpers way too much, but when the game got into crunch time, Frazier was at his best. He hit two massive 3-pointers to give the Cougars the lead both times and iced the game at the free throw line.

Top performers

Luka Eller: Eller was disappointing from the free throw line in this match-up, which really disappointed me because his free throw stroke is one of the best among big men in the area. If he was sharper from the charity stripe he could’ve had almost 30 points but instead had to settle for a game high 22 points. Eller is a very skilled big man and can score from the outside and inside. He has solid athleticism and used this to get a posted dunk on Mike Bekelja after a steal on the fast-break.

David Marbury: Marbury has been a disappointment in the games I’ve been at previous to this one, but he was incredible in this game, stepping up without Trent Williams. Marbury has always had the ability to hit shots from the outside and five 3-pointers later, Marbury found his offensive stride to score a team high 20 points. Marbury is clearly a football player with his body size and bully ball approach and isn’t the most fluid basketball player, but when he’s hitting shots from the outside his energy on defense intensifies. If Solon is going to make a run in the tournament, Marbury needs to continue this type of play.

Kennedy Catholic 59 Vs Saint Edward 68

Game recap: Kennedy Catholic came in with a ton of hype and is led by five star Oscar Tshiebwe but they got outplayed by a well coach Saint Edward team and was upset in one of the top most hyped match-ups of the tournament. For Kennedy Catholic, they just didn’t ever dominate the game and their half court offense was very disappointing. Tshiebwe never hit an outside shot and missed way too many layups to finish with a good game. Ike Hester missed most of his open looks from the outside and despite being very long and athletic, got beat to the hoop by Grant Huffman way too often. Skyler Thomas killed the Kennedy Catholic offense because of his reluctance to shoot the basketball. Thomas was left open by Saint Edward when they went to a zone and he refused to shoot the basketball, the Eagles were practically playing four on five when he was on the floor on the offensive end. Michael Moore is a crazy athlete for a freshman but wasn’t even able to get on the scoreboard in this game. His physical tools are obvious but he needs a lot of work on scoring down low and he doesn’t really fit next to Tshiebwe offensively and he needs to be on the floor as much as possible. For Saint Edward, Montorie Foster finished with an alright game, but too often he literally disappears within the offense. There would be very long stretches where Foster would be on the floor and I wouldn’t even notice him doing anything at all, and somebody with the talent of Foster shouldn’t ever disappear that easily. Meechie Terry attacked the hoop relentlessly and actually hit a couple 3-pointers for the Saint Edward Eagles. I’m still not convinced at all of his jumper, but it was encouraging to see him hit at least a few shots from the outside. Grant Huffman beat Ike Hester to the hoop early and often and was a problem for the Kennedy Catholic defense. Huffman won’t blow you away with athleticism and is a pretty methodical player, but I wish he was just a little more explosive because whenever he beats his defender he keeps him so close to him that he never gets the separation to breathe a little with the ball. Josh Ogle once again barley played but hit a 3-pointer for his only field goal attempt of the game and hit two free-throws at the end of the game to help put it away. Ogle doesn’t seem like an awful defender and I’m really not sure why he doesn’t play more when I see the Eagles. During the two games I’ve been at he’s provided scoring off the bench and then is pulled shortly after and sits on the bench for an extended period of time afterwards. I respect coach Flannery a ton, and think he’s one of the best in the area, but I simply don’t understand his hesitation of playing Ogle.

Top performers

Maceo Austin: Without Mattia Acunzo in this game, Austin would have the be the primary scorer for the guard position and he didn’t disappoint. Austin has excellent size and has a really smooth stroke off movement of screens or just spotting up. Austin isn’t an explosive athlete and has a little bit of weight on him which limits his quickness, but he’s a very smooth player with the ball and gives defenses tons of trouble with his scoring ability.

Devontae Blanton: Nobody improved their stock in this entire event more than Blanton in my opinion, he was fearless going up against one of the most talented teams in the area, and finished with a team high 23 points. Blanton’s jumper doesn’t look very great but it seems to always go in whenever I see him. He sorta shoots the ball forward from his body, which is odd, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Blanton made some very impressive layups and was strong down low defensively against talented offensive players. It was great to see Blanton show out in an environment like this with tons of college coaches and scouts in attendance.

Lorain 75 Vs STVM 82

Game recap: This game had the best atmosphere in the entire tournament and didn’t disappoint the high expectations that fans had for two of the best teams in the state of Ohio. For Lorain, they got off to a slow start with Taveon Pierre-Louis on the bench because of a coaches decision, and Pierre-Louis seemed to never get into a rhythm offensively. He ended with 14 points but he had to work very hard for these and left a lot at the rim when he was just unable to finish and at the charity stripe. Pierre-Louis has an unreal motor and plays very hard, but just wasn’t able to control himself at the rim and finish through contact. Jordan Jackson was a solid offensive player for the Titans and has a really good shot, but he was another player who couldn’t really find anything consistent. Deonte Benejan was probably the most disappointing Titan, he struggled with foul trouble and just missed a couple open shots that could’ve been huge for the Titans comeback effort. Aaron Whitehead waited till the fourth quarter to get on the scoreboard, but he was crucial for the Titans press and got steals and to the line to help fuel the Titans comeback, but missed a couple open shots that would’ve brought the game even closer than what it finished. For the Irish, Malaki Branham never really found his shot that has been on fire recently and was benched for long periods of the game. Chris Painter played an awesome game on the offensive end and he proved his senior leadership in this game, making shots and getting to the paint at will to end with a team high 21 points. His partner in the back-court, Seth Wilson had an impressive game against a tough opponent with 16 points as he also was one of players who didn’t completely freak on against the Titans press when the game got intense. Marcus Johnson hit a couple big shots, including one 3-pointer in the corner that I thought put the game away, but Lorain proved very resilient. Johnson is a nimble player for how big he is and has a good jumper, proving himself to be a difficult player to defend.

Top performers

Devon Grant: Grant finished with a tournament high 34 points and was absolutely incredible in the first time I’ve seen him in person. Grant’s shiftiness is unreal and he has the ball on a string to become almost impossible to keep in front of. He has crazy range and his ability to create for himself on a step back 3-pointer is elite. His free throw stoke is so pure, and he broke a school record during this game by hitting his 28’th straight free throw. Grant is one of the most talented offensive players I’ve ever seen and has the ability to get hot in a hurry.

Lunden Mcday: Mcday played a very senior like performance, seeming to always be in the right place at the right time. He has the ability to hit 3-pointers but is much more comfortable making the mid-range shot. Mcday has a really developed frame and was able to defend different Lorain offensive weapons at a high level. If STVM is going to go back to Columbus this time in division I, Mcday has to continue to play at a high level and use his leadership and experience to lead the Irish.

Brush 81 Vs Garfield Heights 63

Game recap: When Garfield opened the game with a 2-3 zone, it wasn’t just the best option for Sonny Johnson and his Bulldogs, it was the only option defensively. This defense gave the Arcs some trouble early, as Dj Dial got whatever look he wanted but couldn’t hit a thing in the first half. Dial picked it up in the second half proving his experience and skill to end with 16 points. Andre Harris was incredible in transition once again and finished with a game high 24 points and a couple dunks. Harris only hit one 3-pointer and for him to be a complete offensive player, he needs to hit just a little more often from the outside. Andree Franks played tough defense when he was in the game, but was way too aggressive and got three first quarter fouls and sat for the majority of the time when the result was still in question. On Garfield’s side, they just don’t have enough offensive besides the Johnson boys. Brison Waller went without a field goal and couldn’t find anything down low against big John Hugley. Brent Darby played hard and finished with 11 points, but he needs to be more consistent for him to become somebody that opposing coaches game plan against to take away. Sonny Johnson showed heart and shot the ball well from the outside, but he is still really small when he takes it inside and shied away from contact too often which led to turnovers.

Top performers

John Hugley: Hugley was once again dominant down low and nobody on Garfield could compete with his size and strength. Hugley is always very productive whenever I get the chance to see him in person and finishes around the hoop at an elite rate. Hugley is for sure a guy ready to produce in college however besides adding a jumper, I’m not sure where he’s going to make massive strides, he seems to be a pretty complete guy already.

Meechie Johnson: Meechie has things very difficult this season at Garfield, with all the attention on him, scoring is a tough task. With that being said, Meechie had a solid game against Brush with tough defense being played on him all night. Meechie doesn’t stop attacking the hoop and made seven free throws in this game, showing his willingness to take contact. (I’d like to see Sonny become better at this skill) Meechie has probably the best range on 3-pointers that I’ve ever seen but he has a tendency to take bad shots, especially on this Garfield team where the supporting cast isn’t as talented as last year’s team. When you watch Meechie his offensive talent is clear and it will be interesting to see how he plays in AAU and in his upperclassmen seasons with hopefully more developed teammates allowing him to get more assists because attention on him probably won’t diminish.

Saint Ignatius 76 At Elyria Catholic 46

Game recap: The host Panthers were completely outmatched from start to finish in the most lopsided game of the entire event. Stud Jarred Logan struggled to find any rhythm offensively and settled for poor shots as the game was slipping out of hand. David Griffin was probably the lone bright spot for EC, he attacked the rim well and had a couple flashy dribble moves to get to the paint and score. Branson Taylor was neutralized by Kevin Davet down low and without his usual dominance down low rebounding, EC didn’t get many second chance points. Saint Ignatius was clearly the more talented team and they had a balanced scoring effort, with players like Connor Cmiel and Lores Valenzuela pitching in for more than what they usually contribute. Lukas Bielek was also solid with the few shots he did take, not playing for a majority of the second half with the blowout winding to a close.

Top performers

Jonathan Effertz: Effertz is a pure shooter and he buried two of these 3-pointers to help him get a game high 14 points. He used his threat of a jump-shot to pump fake and get to the rim well and seemed much more comfortable playing against a slower team like Elyria Catholic. In a previous game against Solon, Effertz seemed easily pressured and unable to keep up with the pace of the game as a freshman, it’s unsurprising that a kid as skilled as him would have success against a less talented team.

Chase Toppin: Toppin wasn’t exactly spectacular like he was against Solon, but he did what he had to do on the offensive end and passed the ball well to find open teammates. Toppin seemed to not want to take many jumpers and instead looked to attack the hoop and finish in the paint compared to previous games I’ve seen, which is fine against a team like EC.

Buchtel 71 Vs First Love Christian Academy 74

Game recap: First Love came into this game less than 48 hours after competing with the 12’th ranked team in the nation down in a tournament in West Virginia, I expected them to demolish a Buchtel team that has been beaten by double digits three times already this season. However Buchtel was up for the challenge, Ronnell Perie II made four 3-pointers for Buchtel and hit tough shots to bring them back into the game. Perie isn’t the most skilled player and carried the ball multiple times without getting called for the violation, but he played a good game against a more talented team. Jonathan King plays hard but just doesn’t make good enough decisions with the basketball at this stage. He drives to the hoop aggressively and uses his body well to take contact and finish, but without much threat of a jump-shot he becomes predictable with the ball. On the First Love side, Isaiah Wilson has crazy talent, but he has a small frame and doesn’t pass the ball well enough to be a pure point in college. He can fill up the scoreboard in a hurry and had a crazy highlight, and 1 3-pointer with Chris Livingston diving for a loose ball. Wilson is very quick and can get to the rim, I’m just worried with how he’s going to finish once he gets to the paint. Egon Ruhek looks like a talented big man, but was limited with foul trouble all game and was pretty unproductive despite being bigger and more skilled than his defenders. Finally, Jett Roesing kept chucking shots that you should probably only take if you were doing a heat check, only problem with Roesing is that he went like 2-10 on 3-pointers and kept firing away. It eventually worked out for First Love when he hit a shot to put the game away, but he kept Buchtel in the game by missing so much in the first 31 minutes. Roesing is a very one dimensional player and his only other points were on free-throws he wasn’t even supposed to be allowed to attempt.

Top performers

Chris Livingston: I’ve seen Livingston twice in person now, and he hasn’t disappointed in either game. He’s already a total force on the basketball floor as a freshman and has a body that is already pretty developed. He likes taking 3-pointers a little too much, and loses the ball when trying to do too much on the perimeter occasionally. But the physical tools and talent are clear and Livingston is a scary player to defend in the open court and he threw down some powerful dunks that showed he was 100% up for the challenge.

Dj Gordon: Really the only guy I’m ready to buy stock in on First Love, Gordon is a very talented wing player who has crazy bounce and a decent jumper. Gordon has a variety of dribble moves that he used to create separation and is a functional athlete on the perimeter. Gordon seemed to be a class above the rest of his teammates and impressed me with his offensive talent and athleticism, he’s definitely a player to monitor as his recruitment will certainly pick up steam this summer.

That’s the end of the play by play classics recap but I also attended three other games since the date of my last article, so some quick recaps of those games are also included in this article.

STVM 72 At Saint Ignatius 55

Game recap: STVM shot the lights out in the first quarter and never looked back for a comfortable victory over Saint Ignatius. On the Ignatius side, Chase Toppin attacked the hoop well and competed well for the Wildcats offensively. Kevin Davet wasn’t anything special on the offensive end, but he rebounded adequately considering the Wildcats were giving up some size at other positions when Henry Raynor was on the bench. For STVM, Seth Wilson had a solid game finishing with 13 points but he made some poor decisions with shots and passes that were uncharacteristic. Malaki Branham continued his hot shooting and had 17 points on a limited number of shot attempts. Lunden Mcday didn’t have a dominating performance, but he was his consistent self that helped the Irish win.

Top performers

Chris Painter: Painter came out the gates on fire and continued his hot shooting to a team high 20 points. He hit some difficult mid-range shots and also used his body very well to finish despite standing at just 5’9. Painter is going to be a crucial piece for the Irish in the playoffs because many teams standing in the Irish’s way have very talented lead guards.

Lukas Bielek: Bielek was everywhere on the floor and for the first quarter, kept the Wildcats in the game. He shot the ball very well despite using lots of energy to get open and on the defensive end. Bielek started to break down opponent with his dribble well against Lake Catholic in their comeback that feel a little short and had success once again in this game, showing that his confidence is sky high right now. Bielek also got his hands on the ball many times when the Irish had it, deflecting passes and poking the ball loose from ball handlers, it was by far his most impressive defensive performance I’ve seen from him.

Clearview 62 At Fairview 82

Game recap: This game made me miss playing high school basketball so much, going back to my high school and seeing teammates of mine on the court again was weird, but Fairview continued their hot offensive performances to a 20 point victory over the three time defending conference champions. For Clearview, Jaylen Paschel struggled with foul trouble and ended up fouling out after finishing with only 11 points, Paschel has a capable 3-point shot and hit two in this game, but didn’t use his height advantage in the post enough to make a huge mark on the game. Josiah Hitchens did a good job scoring around the hoop despite being undersized and has a good feel of getting open down low for easy shots. He finished with 10 points and was one of four Clippers in double figures in scoring. Javon Todd is the leader of the Clearview Clippers and he finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds but he took a large volume of shots to get these points and was neutralized well by the Fairview guards that took on the challenge of guarding him. Todd gave Clearview their best hope of winning the game, hitting a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer of the first quarter to give Clearview a 22-21 lead, their final of the game. For Fairview, they got zero bench points but that didn’t prevent the Warriors from sharing the ball and spreading the offensive wealth between their starters. Marty Rehor was the lone warrior that scored less than 15 points, but he showed off his athleticism well in this game. Rehor has a great vertical and can challenge shots in transition and block them, he sometimes takes bad shots but he’s a good bad shot maker. Ethan Mcquate plays his role on the warriors so well, getting offense created from Howes and Lowry and hitting shots in the corner or beating defenders on the closeouts to get to the rim. Noah Mesaros has a wide frame but is a skilled dribbler, he didn’t make a 3-pointer this game but has that range with his shot. He’s a very skilled big man who sees the floor well for somebody his size.

Top performers

Luke Howes: Howes is probably the best player in the area you’ve never heard of. His dribble moves are elite and he has great pull up ability. Howes has a wider frame and uses his strength to finish and 1’s and through contact. Despite not being the fasted guy, Howes is very quick with the ball and difficult to keep in front of. Howes struggled with foul trouble and picked up his fourth foul on a technical foul when he stared down Javon Todd after a highlight layup in transition to really get going in the third quarter. It was disappointing he had to sit for such a long stretch after that foul, but Fairview put the game away with Howes on the bench, with Mesaros and Lowry stepping up in his short absence.

Martin Lowry: One of three juniors (along with Howes and Mesaros) who have been playing varsity basketball since their freshman years, the experience and chemistry is clear with these guys. Lowry is a long athlete who thrives in transition and using his wingspan to get in passing lanes and get out on the break. Lowry shot the ball very well this game but had been struggling from beyond the arc before this game. Lowry passes the ball well in transition and despite being left hand dominant, has the ability to finish with his right as well.

Canton Mckinley 65 At NC Hoover 45

Game recap: After a sluggish first half with only 40 total points, Canton Mckinley shot 75% from the field in the third quarter and didn’t look back for a 20 point Federal league victory. Jonah McCartney led Hoover in scoring and he has a really smooth shot but is pretty limited offensively. McCartney is pretty slow and doesn’t have the dribble moves to ever beat his man to the hoop, only scoring on spot up attempts or cuts to the hoop. For Mckinley, Brent Walker provided strength down low and nobody on Hoover could match him with their strength as Walker proved difficult to move. Walker is limited in terms of post moves, he typically travels or makes a bad pass when double teamed, but when he keeps things simple is a valuable big man.

Top performers

Kobe Johnson: After being silent for only two points in the first half, Johnson exploded along with his Bulldogs in the final 16 minutes where he scored 14 points. Johnson is a smart player but sometimes is indecisive with his decisions. There was one play where twice he wanted to shoot the three pointer but after realizing it would get blocked, passed the ball after jumping in the air. This shows that he’s aware of his surroundings, but needing a bailout twice in one possession is concerning. Johnson has good dribble moves and strong arms, he just needs to be a more consistent offensive player because sometimes he disappears on the floor. Johnson also shoots the ball with two hands which leads to inconsistencies in this area as well.

Sencire Harris: Harris was the only reason I traveled over an hour through rush hour traffic to see play, and while he didn’t disappoint, he wasn’t spectacular. Going against a more athletic defensive team seemed to give him trouble and playing with such limited teammates gives him no favors either. Harris is sorta like Ben Simmons with the fact that everything he does is right handed, but he shoots lefty. Harris is a natural rightly I believe because he not only favors his right hand with dribbling and layups, but he jumps off his left foot which is a trait predominately in right handed athletes. We’ll see if this change in hand affects the future of his jumper and if he ever entertains the idea of switching his hand, but that decision would require much thought and experimentation. In this game his jumper looked pretty poor, missing every jump-shot and going 2-5 from the line, but in highlight videos it looks smooth. Harris needs to add strength in his legs because they are very skinny and he hurt his ankle going up for a rebound in the fourth quarter. Harris has obvious physical tools and his put-back dunk in the first quarter was very impressive, it remains to be seen how he will play against these more athletic teams that Hoover faces, but he’s one of the most talented freshman in the entire state right now.

I’ll be heading back to Athens this weekend, so that wraps up my coverage of Northeast Ohio basketball until the playoffs where I will be doing a complete breakdown of that. I’ll also coming back to Cleveland during my spring break and doing recaps of the playoff games I will attend.

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