OHSAA District Championship recap for Division I

The district part of the playoffs has been absolutely insane, in this article I’m going to be breaking down the two district finals I was able to attend as well as look back at what happened to leave us with 16 teams in Division I. If you want to look back at how bad (or good) my predictions were before the playoffs started for every division and region my predictions article can be found here

 

Games I attended

 

Mentor 77 Vs Brush 73

Game Recap: This game was everything that is right with high school basketball and the emotions of the playoffs were on full display at Euclid high school. Behind a crowd at full capacity and two of the best teams in the state, this game seemed destined to be a great game and it lived up to the hype. In the first half Mentor got up due to their efficiency on offense. Neither team turned the ball over much at all and despite the game not being played at a frantic pace, the scoring was consistent from both sides except for a period in the second quarter for Brush which allowed Mentor to take a double-digit lead they would never give up. On Brush’s side their lack of shooting made everything more difficult on offense, they tried to get John Hugley the ball down low the entire second half but Mentor kept doubling and leaving shooters open and it worked for the most part. Brush only made five 3-pointers in the game, with Dj Dial having three of those. Dial played an average first half but really kept Brush in the game with tough shot-making in the second half. Dial played like a senior who didn’t want to go home but unfortunately for him, one team had to lose this incredible game. Andre Harris had an average game for his standards, which really shows how far he has grown. Harris, the senior wing finished with 16 points and played tough defense all night long but didn’t really ever hit an outside shot. Brush had a couple bounces go against them and if these plays didn’t happen the final outcome might’ve been different, for example there were multiple loose balls that just got out of their grasp at the end of the game and Mentor eventually secured the ball and would either score or go to the free throw line and convert from that spot. Andree Franks and Corey Floyd both had their moments out muscling the Cardinals and scoring down low, but their lack of shooting really hurt the flow of the Arc’s offense for stretches of the game. On the Mentor side, they played an exceptional game that was clean and hit shots. That’s always their game plan but during this night they executed it to perfection against one of Ohio’s best. Luke Chicone is one half of the Luke backcourt and he was exceptional early in helping Mentor build a lead. There were a couple moments where he used his size to his advantage against Dj Dial when driving to the hoop, I know he enjoyed having somebody who is almost as small as he is guarding him because Chicone stands at around 5’8. Mason Trubisky gave the Brush defense problems because he hit two wide open 3-pointers and for the rest of the game Hugley was attached to him beyond the arc instead of playing defense in the paint. Caleb Piks and Ian Kipp both came in and hit an important shot. Piks also played tough help defense when Trubisky or Rodgers were battling with Hugley and the threat of Piks shooting from the outside gave driving lanes for the Luke’s to take advantage of.

Top performers

Luke Floriea: Floriea has been one of the top players in northeast Ohio all season and when the lights shined brightest he was at his best. The junior guard was absolutely unbelievable all night, routinely hitting tough shot after tough shot. He hit two huge shots in the first half to help Mentor build their biggest lead of the night and his three after a Luke Chicone steal sent the Mentor crowd into their biggest frenzy of the night. Floriea did an incredible job of getting to the hoop and finishing as well, he wasn’t just a three-point shooter and every time he hit a difficult layup around the rim it seemed even more devastating to the Brush defense. Finally when it was time to win the game Floriea wanted the basketball and hit shots from the free throw line to ice the game.

Chad Rodgers: Rodgers, a Penn State baseball commit was huge in competing down low against Hugley all night. He got some help but everything Hugley made was difficult, but when you play a big as skilled a Hugley you accept him getting his shots. Rodgers, on the other hand, got his shots as well. His variety of scoring stood out to me, he made five two-point shots and also two 3-pointers. His ability to step outside and make shots was huge for the spacing with the Cardinal offense as the guards always had room to maneuver in the paint. This performance by Mentor showed me that they should now be the favorites to make it to Columbus in the Cleveland region, as I thought the two best teams in the entire region were battling in Euclid Saturday night.

Shaker 47 Vs Euclid 50

Game recap: After everything great I said about the Brush Vs Mentor game, this game will be much more critical of a recap. Neither team really impressed me with their offensive flow and overall decision making. After playing two higher scoring contests in the regular season this one was just disappointing in general. Garvin Clarke was held scoreless in the first half but really picked up his performance in the second half with a couple big time assists and acrobatic layups but he wasn’t consistent enough where he would’ve been able to make those crunch time plays if Shaker got a bigger lead in the first half like they probably should’ve controlled. Mario Lacy didn’t make any impact against the Shaker 2-3 zone, it seemed like the Panthers guards didn’t want to give him the ball much and when they did he wasn’t successful in scoring down low. Octavius Hardy joined Lacy to help Euclid have success on the offensive glass, and Hardy was active around the hoop, making seven free throws to help him get into double figures. On Shaker’s side, Danny Young Jr led the team with 19 points but he took a large volume of shots to get there, in the fourth he made a lot of winning plays but his inefficiency in the first half halted any momentum Shaker had early. Shammah Scott wasn’t very efficient with his looks either but he made a tough shot early in the fourth and then sat for a large part of the quarter which surprised me. Overall both of these teams were pretty unimpressive but the game was very gritty and caused it to be a great finish with the final 5-6 minutes being the best basketball played all day.

Top performers

Reggie Priah: Priah isn’t the best handler of pressure, which showed when he clearly pushed off a Shaker defender late in the game but he’s able to impact the game in other ways with his size. Priah hits outside shots often for Euclid and gives them a spark that I believe in infectious with the rest of the roster. Priah got it going early from the outside and made three 3-pointers which caused Shaker to give him extra attention in their zone defense. As the only guy really making shots from the outside, Priah was huge for the half-court offense of Euclid which struggled to penetrate the zone that the Raiders put on them.

Dakota Cochran: Cochran probably put together the most complete performance of anybody in this game, and even he was without his faults. Cochran took some bad shots in the corner and missed a couple gimme layups but his activity on defense and aggressiveness getting to the hoop was impressive. Cochran is a really good athlete and despite the pace of the game not being to his liking, he was able to have success early in the half-court making shots from the outside and then when Shaker turned Euclid over he excelled in the open court.

Division I

Cleveland region

Canton District: This district went to form because the top seed Massillon Jackson took on the second seed Green, this didn’t surprise me because I thought these were the top two teams in this district. Canton McKinley had another heartbreaking loss to Jackson which I highlighted in my preview article, stating the strength of the 8 vs 9 matchup between McKinley and GlenOak. Nc Hoover losing to Perry also did not surprise me as I expect a Hoover team without much upperclassmen experience to struggle in the bright lights of the playoffs. In the district championship however senior guard Kaleb Martin took over for Green and led them to the regional tournament with a convincing victory over Jackson.

Euclid district: This district was the strongest of the four in Cleveland and I was looking forward to seeing a potential Mentor and Brush district championship. Both teams almost didn’t make it which speaks volumes to the depth of the district. Mentor got all they could handle from the fifth-seeded Solon Comets after defeating Solon for a second time during the season, Trent Williams got back from an injury and the Comets ended the season on a big win streak and rode this momentum to a huge blowout of Willoughby South on the road in the sectional final. Mentor and Solon had met the past three seasons in the district final but their contest a round earlier this season didn’t disappoint. On Brush’s side of the district, Cleveland Heights got a huge blowout over East Tech, who upset Heights in the regular season on a half-court buzzer beater. Heights has a lot of talent and it didn’t surprise me that they rose to the challenge of facing Brush, but after both stud big men, Jae’lyn Withers for Heights and John Hugley for Brush fouled out, Brush was able to survive to set up the marquee matchup with Mentor that I recapped earlier in the article.

Solon district: This district seemed to have a lot of volatility due to the parity, and this was on display when Warren G Harding lost their first-round matchup to John Adams. However, in the end, the top four teams made it to the district part of the tournament and Shaker and Euclid battled for a third time after splitting the regular season series. Shaker got a scare from University School in the sectional final, while Euclid faced a Meechie Johnson less Garfield Heights squad, but the Bulldogs scrapped and pushed the Panthers to overtime before falling. In the district title Euclid took down Shaker in a sloppy game I recapped above.

Lakewood district: It seemed like Saint Edward and Saint Ignatius were due to meet once again for a district championship on the line, but Kenny Ganley and the Bees of Brecksville-Broadview Heights had other plans. In the district semis against Saint Ignatius Ganley refused to fall to the Wildcats for a fourth straight season, and after four overtimes advanced to face the Eagles to move on to Cleveland State and the regionals. In the district final it was all Eagles though, they controlled a 25 point lead at halftime and cruised to Coach Eric Flannery’s 18’th district championship in 23 seasons.

Toledo/Akron Region

Toledo 1 district: Unsurprisingly Toledo Whitmer had their way through to the district finals, coasting against overmatched opponents. They set up a matchup against Start who avenged a blowout loss to Toledo St Francis to dominate the Knights in the district semis. In the district championship, the top seed Whitmer took a surprising loss to Start 31-30.

Toledo 2 district: Sylvania Northview entered the playoffs unbeaten and ranked in the top five in the state but I didn’t even expect Northview to make it to the district final. I had the team they would lose to incorrect as I thought Toledo St John’s would upset Northview, but John’s got upset by Perrysburg who then took down unbeaten Northview. Lima overcame a slow start against Holland Springfield and a big fourth quarter push got them into the district championship against Perrysburg. Lima played another tough game but was able to pull away with a 14 point victory over Perrysburg to advance to the regional tournament with a matchup against Start to see which team will represent Toledo in the Akron regional championship.

Barberton district: STVM came into this district as overwhelming favorites and they wasted no time by dismantling the first two playoff opponents to set up a district championship against Copley. Copley got back to a district final after making a regional final the previous season, the Indians took down Wadsworth in a close battle and then avoided Hoban after Walsh Jesuit upset Hoban in the sectional finals. Copley proved too tough for Walsh to handle in the district semis. Finally, in the district championship, Copley slowed the game down and forced a 13-7 halftime score in favor of the Irish. However in the fourth quarter, Copley got the score to 22-21, in the end, the Indians couldn’t pull off the upset but gave STVM all they could handle in the process.

Elyria district: Lorain entered the playoffs as huge favorites and got running clock victories in the first two rounds of the playoffs. On the other side, Olmsted Falls and Lakewood looked ready to have a third battle after the home team won each of the first two games of the year. This third one didn’t disappoint as the game went into overtime and the Bulldogs came out on top winning a one-point game in overtime, a common theme among district semis on Thursday night in NEO. That set up a district championship where Lorain seemed destined to cause a rematch with STVM but Olmsted Falls had other plans. Behind a balanced scoring effort and a huge first quarter that put the Bulldogs up 13, they never trailed after that despite Lorain making it a one-possession game at one point in the fourth and Olmsted Falls was able to advance to Akron to try and make another upset against STVM.

Columbus region

Columbus 1 district: This district starts and ends with Thomas Worthington. Worthington came in as the 17 seed and after a double-digit win over Groveport Madison, that set up a battle with the second seed Hilliard Bradley. Worthington pulled off the gigantic upset which set them up with a matchup against Pickerington North who had three straight 20+ point wins to advance to the district championship. In that district championship, Jalen Sullinger had an incredible scoring outburst but it wasn’t enough as the athleticism of Pick North showed out and their size advantage was evident with Thomas Worthington playing without Ohio commit Ben Wight.

Columbus 2 district: Despite Pick Central being an overwhelming favorite to advance to the regional part of the playoffs, but Big Walnut was a team that impressed me a lot. After upsetting Gahanna in the sectional finals, Big Walnut pushed Pick Central before the Tigers got a 46-39 win. On the other side of the district, Reynoldsburg and Upper Arlington both looked like easy picks to advance to the district part of the tournament, but Reynoldsburg needed overtime to win by 2 in the sectional finals. Reynoldsburg survived that game and took down Upper Arlington by two points to set up the third game with Central. That game didn’t disappoint, Reynoldsburg and Pick Central fought an intense battle but it was the Tigers who came out for a third time this season, 50-49.

Columbus 3 district: Dublin Coffman was voted the top team in the entire Columbus region, but couldn’t make it to the regional tournament after Olentangy Orange upset Coffman 77-67 in the district semis. On the other side of the bracket Newark, Walnut Ridge, and Chillicothe created arguably the deepest half of any district in the region. Walnut Ridge had no trouble blowing out Chillicothe, but that momentum came to a quick halt when Newark got off to a huge lead in the first half over Walnut Ridge. Ridge came storming back with the full court press but it was too little too late. Olentangy Orange wasn’t able to ride their momentum after beating the top overall seed in the Columbus region and lost to Newark 65-53 in the district title.

Columbus 4 district: The upsets in the Columbus region started in the sectional semis when 11’th ranked Logan got upset by 28’th seed Grove City. The Chieftains didn’t score a point in the final five minutes and change which caused overtime and then missed a potential game-tying putback which rolled off the rim. Olentangy Liberty then cruised through that part of the district and set up a matchup with the sixth seed, Hilliard Davidson.  Davidson won games by 8, 11, and 2 points to make the district championship. Sean Marks and Olentangy gave Davidson all they could handle in the district semis, but Davidson got revenge on Olentangy for an early season upset to advance in the playoffs. The district title was played at a much faster pace than expected, with Liberty getting a 75-65 win behind a great performance from Ben Roderick.

Cincinnati region

Dayton 1 district: This district was headlined with Moeller and they cruised to a district title with a 57-15 victory to advance to the sweet 16. The other side of the bracket was more interesting because West Clermont got upset in round one by Fairfield and Winton Woods got the reward of losing to Moeller by beating Turpin by one in an intense game.

Dayton 2 district: This district was dominated by Mason and Centerville who won all of their games heading to the district final by double digits. Xenia got carried by Samari Curtis in their overtime victory over Miamisburg. In the district title game, the Elks continued their win streak by winning a physical contest over Mason.

Dayton 3 district: In the top side of the bracket Lakota East were the favorites and they got a tough win over Princeton after the Vikings survived an upset bid against Saint Xavier. On the bottom, I predicted the sixth seed Kettering Fairmont to make it to the district title and they beat Butler and then got revenge on Huber Heights Wayne however Ryan Hall’s run ended to East in the district final because Lakota East played tough defense en route to a 50-36 win.

Dayton 4 district: The top part of this district was crazy and that’s because it was the most balanced sectional of the southwest Ohio region. Oak Hills got upset by Elder who made it to the district championship. Sycamore was the 16’th seed and they upset the 11’th seed Walnut Hills and then took down 6’th seeded Hamilton as well before falling to Elder. On the bottom side Springfield and Sidney were favored to meet and that’s exactly what happened. The battle of athletic guards of Ra’Heim Moss and Andre Gordon didn’t disappoint but the Virginia Tech commit Gordon’s career ended with a 65-60 loss to Springfield. In the district final, Springfield dominated Elder on defense to win 55-35.

This sets up a sweet 16 with a good balance of favorites and Cinderella candidates, we’ll see who can make it to Columbus for the state final 4 which should be fun as usual.

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