2019 OHSAA State Championship Recap

The 2019 OHSAA boys basketball state championship weekend has come and gone and four more state champions were crowned on Saturday in the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio. I arrived in Columbus on Friday afternoon and saw the Division I semifinal games as well as all of the state championship games. In this article I’m going to break down these games and discuss some of the top performers from these games. If you have any comments about these articles make sure to tweet at me, @mikerothou and let me know what players I need to see during the summer, I will be trying to do some things with AAU season and summer camps and showcases.

Division I semifinals

Archbishop Moeller 72 Vs Saint Edward 52

Game recap: The first time seeing Moeller didn’t disappoint as the Crusaders shot above 50% in every single quarter of the game. This team is just so deep on both ends of the floor and their combination of depth, star power, senior leadership, and youth was incredible. Logan Duncomb made a big impact at the start of the game, he pinned Spencer Crane down low a couple times, getting position early. He drew two early fouls on his matchup, which helped keep him engaged for all 12 minutes he was on the floor. Duncomb also gave the Eagles difficulty on the defensive end, as he blocked three shots. I’m surprised that Moeller went away from him so often in the second half but he still made a big impact when he was in the game. Max Land made a play that really stuck with me, which exemplified the difference between Moeller and basically every team in the state. Early in the second quarter Land hadn’t really made any impact on the game and was basically invisible for the five-six minutes he was on the floor to that point on both ends. Land then made a backdoor cut, caught a difficult pass in traffic, and finished through contact for an and-1 layup. Land being able to make that play is so elite for a kid who isn’t one of the top offensive threats for his team. Moeller gets players to buy into a team oriented concept, with players with division I offers taking a backseat at times to help the team win, and Land did this early but made his mark late. He ended the game with 11 points, five rebounds, missed one shot from the floor and was 5-5 from the free throw line. Speaking of another guy who really buys into the team is Alex Williams. When you first look at him you will be amazed by his body and strength and he uses this to his advantage on the floor. Williams won’t be pushed around by many players at the high school level despite being a sophomore. Williams has good touch around the hoop and was 6-7 from the free throw line throughout the weekend. However Williams doesn’t yet look comfortable from downtown in the fast paced action of the game, as he missed all three of his attempts with a bad miss in that group. For Williams to take the next step in his game, I’d think adding a reliable outside shot is very attainable and should be a main priority as he becomes more of a go to option next year for Moeller. Saint Edward didn’t shy away from the challenge of facing the top ranked team in the state, Eric Flannery and his Eagles have experiences taking down top ranked teams. In the first half, Ed’s didn’t really play all that poorly and was still down 13 points. That was the challenge that was between them and a trip to the state championship game. In the second half I thought Ed’s did a much better job at passing the ball up the floor in transition, it’s hard to beat Moeller in the half-court with any offense, but with the lack of spacing the Eagles have on their team it’s almost impossible. The second half allowed their drive first guards like Meechie Terry, Montorie Foster, and Grant Huffman have a little more success in the open court. Devontae Blanton has been the most consistent offensive performer for the Eagles most of the time I’ve seen them this season and has blossomed to their top prospect. His jumper isn’t pretty, but he makes shots consistently enough from the outside for me to ignore his mechanics and accept the fact that it works for him. In this game he was the only player to make more than one 3-pointer and he drilled three from long distance. His aggressiveness around the rim has also been something he’s brought almost every time I’ve seen the Eagles this season, he drew a couple fouls but was 0-3 from the free throw line. Grant Huffman was the Eagles second best player in this game, his ability to not create separation from his defender but still ruitenly finish in traffic with double clutch layups is impressive. The problem is that many of his finishes around the rim are difficult and can sometimes be altered by elite level athletes. Huffman also missed a couple easy looks around the rim but I think those were just lapses in concentration and not an issue with his game at all. Huffman’s defense is also very impressive, he doesn’t have elite foot speed but he keeps himself in good positions and is a good off ball defender. Meechie Terry played his final high school game and he will be missed for fans in Ohio. His athletic ability was no more evident than when he threw down a crazy dunk on Deuce McBride in the second half. Terry has turned it on throughout his senior season and was really productive in the open court on cuts against Green in the regional final but against Moeller everything on offense is tough. Terry still did a good job attacking the hoop without turning the ball over and finished at an adequate rate. Both teams actually played a very clean basketball game, with Moeller ending with 10 turnovers and Saint Edward only making 7. Finally, Montorie Foster was the only other Eagle in the scoring department in this game. Foster was pretty average in this game after recently getting his first division I offer from Eastern Kentucky. Foster excels in the open court and could explode in AAU but on Eds with Huffman, Terry, and Blanton doing a lot of ball handling he can get lost in the shuffle. Foster needs to become more of a threat in spot up situations to become more of a threat off the ball. Simply put, Saint Edward didn’t have enough scoring options and Moeller at a level that was going to be impossible to match without an outlier outside shooting performance, which the Eagles didn’t get.

Top performers

Alec Pfriem: Pfriem was incredible this weekend and it all started in the semis against Eds. He’s a senior with winning experience (four trips to the state final 4) and it showed when it counted. He won’t blow you away with athleticism or a ridiculous handle, but he’s such a productive basketball player. He found the ball around the hoop a lot and hit a couple mid-range shots and then you look at the scoreboard and it says he has 20 points and is the leading scorer. His feel around the rim is clear and he hit a couple layups with spin throughout the weekend, this is a huge plus in his game. Pfriem also does a lot of little things to win, he finished the game with 10 defensive rebounds (boxing out) and also had a 5-2 assist to turnover ratio. Overall he played like a senior who would do anything to leave with another state championship and he ended up doing just that.

Deuce McBride: McBride only needed five shots to make his mark on this game, and there’s no doubt he did that. He isn’t a volume scorer for Moeller and can pick his spots really well, which he did an excellent job of doing on Friday night. He hit a couple mid-range pull-ups and the only 3-pointer he took of the game. McBride does a great job of not forcing looks, he had three assists and zero turnovers and played lockdown defense. It was a very impressive performance from the West Virginia commit on the big stage. Both McBride and Pfriem played 31 minutes and one second, not sitting until the final 59 seconds of the game.

STVM 58 Vs Olentangy Liberty 49

Game recap: The second game of the night session Friday evening was pretty ugly. Neither team had much consistent success scoring the basketball and missed a lot of shots that weren’t even close. The two teams only combined for 19 total turnovers but with the abundance of missed shots, this game from an aesthetic standpoint was not the prettiest to watch. From the STVM perspective, Seth Wilson played by far the worst game I’ve ever seen him play since I started watching him during his freshman season for the Irish. I’m really not sure where it went wrong for him but he didn’t find looks early and looked frustrated throughout most of the second half. It’s important to see players more than once though and Wilson’s efforts in the championship game didn’t go unnoticed but on Friday evening the Sophomore point guard was very subpar. Wilson did actually lead the Irish in rebounds, which showed that he stayed engaged on the defensive end. Chris Painter played his heart out on both ends of the floor and absolutely earned his spot in the state championship game. Malaki Branham was solid with a couple impact plays in the first half but he sat for a long stretch in the second quarter which didn’t make sense. A player with Branham’s skillset shouldn’t be playing under 20 minutes in a state semifinal game when he isn’t in foul trouble for the Irish. Branham also blocked 4 shots and was a presence on the defensive end of the floor. Darius Cone played good minutes for the Irish and his versatility on defense was important against a couple of Liberty players he defended. Cone also finished well in transition but was really poor from the line, going 4-10. On the Liberty side, they never seemed comfortable on the offensive end. STVM is one of the quickest teams in the state and their ball pressure gave Liberty fits all night. STVM also got into passing lanes and took away easy passes which caused confusion for the Liberty offense. Nick Nakasian seemed sped up by the Irish defense and he only had four points and was 0-5 from 3-point range. Joey Thatcher is an incredible knockdown shooter and a good floor general but limited by his size and strength. He made three, 3-pointers and was really the only consistent presence on offense for Liberty besides Ben Roderick.

Top performers

Lunden McDay: McDay did things that seniors do to win games in March. He hustled, defended, and protected the basketball. His defense and athleticism are why he’s a good college prospect and both of those traits were on display in the state semis. He defended Ben Roderick adequately when he matched up with the elite scorer. Where McDay stepped up was on the offense end of the floor, not known for scoring the basketball, McDay made some huge shots around the rim and ended with a team high 21 points. His 3-point shot is still a work in progress but he has shown some flashes with it this season, going 1-3 tonight. Overall McDay did an excellent job of using his size when he found smaller defenders on him in transition and finishing around the hoop.

Ben Roderick: If there’s one thing that you will take away from watching Roderick is how great of a scorer he is. Roderick is relentless in attacking the hoop and putting pressure on a defense. With only one of his teammates finishing in double figures and his team shooting 7-22 in the first half, Roderick took over offensively in the second half. His willingness to drive into lanes with defenders all around him and score is elite and despite not wanting to ever go right he made a layup in a little traffic with his off hand. Roderick struggled from the outside this game but his mechanics are fluid and I have a lot of faith that he shoots the ball well at the next level. Some of the reasons why Roderick hasn’t gotten quite the recruiting attention that he might hope for were on display on this night however. Roderick is a fluid athlete but isn’t really quick on the ball and sometimes struggles to create his own shot. His handle isn’t quite where it needs to be yet and he probably has to play the small forward position at the next level because of a combination of these skills and his size. These knocks are mostly nitpicking a fantastic player who should excel at a mid-major level and could be on all conference, but they are reasons why the likes of Ohio State haven’t fully bought in just yet. He left it all the court and didn’t disappoint at all the only time I got to see him in action in his career.

Division III championship game

Harvest Prep 55 Vs Lutheran East 42

Game recap: Harvest Prep was the more disciplined and experienced team and that made the difference in the state championship game. This was an experience mismatch with Harvest Prep being led by a group of seniors and junior floor general CJ Anthony against Lutheran East, who’s top scoring options are all Sophomores and one junior. Harvest Prep defensive unity was incredible, they moved with the ball exceptionally whether they were in man or zone defense. Their wings played great rotation when someone would get beat off the dribble and their rotations were top notch, this held Lutheran East to 2-26 from 3-point range. Lutheran East came in with a clear size advantage but Elijah Glenn played his heart out and competed against talented bigs in Nehemiah Benson and Jay Billingsley all game. Despite Harvest Prep only blocking two shots, Glenn and other Warrior defenders gave the Falcons trouble around the rim and defended without fouling. Glenn made some shots from the outside as well and put together a total effort, playing over 31 minutes, the most in the game. Nehemiah Benson and Jay Billingsley both played around 25 minutes but kept being taken out for short stretches and never seemed to find a rhythm offensively. Benson really needs to improve his outside shooting this summer to take another step offensively. Billingsley was rather unimpressive for the first time I’ve seen him in person, he didn’t look as explosive vertically as he did in highlight tapes and looked to not have a super high motor. He had to come out some times when Lutheran East wants to press, which makes sense because of his body size, so he should probably be looking for a more half-court team at the next level. Ej Farmer really struggled with his shot selection and ended shooting 3-18. He wasn’t as bad as these numbers suggest because he started forcing shots when down double digits late in the game, but he still had selection problems. He seemed to get frustrated with the help defense that came from Harvest Prep when he would drive and looked slower than what he looked earlier in the year, maybe suggesting that he was still a little banged up. Farmer did a good job at avoiding turnovers but settled for long three pointers while fading away from the hoop too often and was disappointing in general. Farmer is best in the open court and with the game being played at a much slower pace than what Lutheran East usually runs, it was not the best situation for his to show off his skillset. Jalen Knott was a guy who provided some defensive energy off the bench for Lutheran East, and looked hungry on the court. He isn’t super skilled but plays really hard and is aggressive when attacking the hoop. He got three steals in the 12 minutes he was on the floor and seemed to provide a bit of a spark to the Falcons when their energy levels were low.

Top performers

CJ Anthony: Anthony is a very polished point guard and showed off his talent to win a state championship. He has a really good set shot and is capable of having success on and off ball, he’s much more of a threat in spot up than most ball dominant point guards. His ball handling and body control is elite, he drew 10 fouls in this game alone. His main weakness is quickness and explosiveness, he seems like more of a slow twitch athlete and is a little stocky in the chest and legs. He has a lot of strength for a point guard but this limits his change of direction skills and caused some problems when he tried to drive, which led to him having a game high four turnovers. Anthony has a very high basketball IQ and this shows on defense when he takes his chances for a steal but also rarely got beat off the bounce by the Falcon guards. Overall Anthony is a very good high school basketball player who took advantage of playing with an experienced group of seniors to finish a memorable season for Harvest Prep. For Anthony to improve his college stock he probably needs to get a little quicker because he doesn’t look like a primary ball handler but guards who can shoot, pass and defend at his level are fairly rare.

Soul Hines: This was a tough decision between Hines and Glenn but I thought that Harvest Prep won this game based on the perimeter defense they played and that was all Anthony and Hines making plays. Hines isn’t much of a volume scorer or self creator but he fills in nicely within an offense and didn’t miss a single shot. He’s an elite spot up shooter and doesn’t force the issue. Defensively Hines has the quickness to stay with almost any guard and plays with a lot of intensity. I was very impressed with the chemistry Hines and Antony specifically had together but all of Harvest Prep played like a unit.

Division II championship

Trotwood-Madison 77 Vs Columbus South 73

Game recap: This was the best game played that I saw of the weekend and one of the most exciting games of the season for me. Trotwood-Madison does such a good job of advancing the ball instantly past half-court immediately after a rebound, steal, or made shot. It makes sense why they became the first team in OHSAA history to score over 3,000 points in a season. Trotwood was getting out Trotwooded in the first three quarters though. Columbus South matched their pace with pleasure and held a lead for most of the game. Trotwood doesn’t get back on defense all the time due to their lack of depth (only 6 players played over 3 minutes) and pace of play. South took advantage of this ruitenly by throwing the ball down the court and getting easy transition layups. South wasn’t always clean with these long passes as a couple times the ball went all over the gym but in general they got more easy chances than silly turnovers, and whenever a game is played at that frenetic pace, turnovers will come in high school basketball. On the Trotwood side, Sammy Anderson got things really going early. He scored a lot around the hoop in the first quarter and drove relentlessly into traffic, finishing with with seven made field goals and 10 free throw attempts. Anderson didn’t always find success, as the guards on South used their quick hands to force Anderson into six turnovers. Carl Blanton was a little off all night offensively, he really struggled from the outside, got two of his shots blocked and had seven turnovers. Justin Stephens seems like a great dirty work guy for Trotwood and he was really solid on both ends of the floor. He provides little to no spacing but sets good screens and gets offensive rebounds. On the defense end he had the responsibility of matching up with Samual Barton for most of the game and made things difficult for him. For Columbus South they had some trouble staying out of foul trouble. The refs did an excellent job of letting the kids play and keeping the pace going of the game, but that didn’t stop Ta’Quan Simington from fouling out. Simington has a tight handle but never got into a rhythm because of his early foul trouble and only played 19 minutes. Treohn Watkins is a good athlete and a solid defensive player but he had some problems making shots in this game. He got some good lucks from the outside but went 2-8 from 3-point range and missed a potential go-ahead shot at the end of the game. Watkins has offensive talent but will be disappointed with how his high school career came to an end. Alvin Byrd seemed to always find himself in the right place offensively and had a very efficient 13 point performance. He didn’t do anything extraordinary but he hustled and made shots around the rim, and sometimes that’s all you need to do to be productive. Marcus Johnson showed some flashes of his size and athleticism combo that makes him such an intriguing prospect but had trouble handling pressure from Trotwood. Johnson had a team high five turnovers, Johnson will need to have some offensive development before he becomes a productive player at the next level but the tools and effort is there. Finally, Samual Barton played his heart out this game. He’s a little chunky but that didn’t stop him from playing over 28 minutes and not looking totally gassed except for a few stretches in the fourth quarter. It seemed like the amount running that Trotwood would force him to sit often but he stepped up to the challenge. Overall South put on a great performance in their hometown and were deserving of winning a state title, but Trotwood was just a little better late and was itching for that state championship after coming oh so close the past two years.

Top performers

Trevell Adams: Adams comes off the bench but you wouldn’t know that based on how he plays. Always giving 100% on both ends, Adams soared for a couple highlight chasedown blocks that brought the biggest crowd of the day to their feet. His timing on these blocks were perfect and effort to get back on defense into the play speaks volumes about his commitment to his teams success despite coming off the bench. Adams doesn’t have much of an outside game on offense but got to the rim and found success finishing against Stephens and the other Rams around the hoop. Overall, Adams played amazingly and was one of the best performers I saw this entire weekend.

Amari Davis: Davis is one of the smoothest scorers in the entire state and when it was time to step up for his team in the second half, he stepped up. Not known as a 3-point shooter, Davis buried two huge triples in the second half to help Trotwood take some momentum. Davis does most of his work in the mid-range and around the rim, but his mid-range shot wasn’t falling at all this afternoon. Davis didn’t let this affect his game as he continued to apply pressure to the defense whenever he could, and found success in the second half after being invisible in the second quarter when South went on their biggest run of the game. Davis also applies the right amount of effort on defense to still carry the offensive workload he is required to manage while playing every second for the fastest paced team in the state. Davis wasn’t leaving Columbus without a state championship after falling short twice in his career, and did everything possible to win that elusive state championship.

Division IV championship

Convoy Crestview 58 Vs Berlin Hiland 38

Game recap: With two separate 10-0 runs in the first half and a dominating third quarter, this was the biggest blowout out of any of the state championship games. With the Etzler brothers, Air Force commit Wade Sheets, and others, Crestview had a clear size advantage over Berlin Hiland and got worked on the glass. The 31-14 difference in rebounding was a major advantage as well as the efficiency that Crestview had on offense helped them cruise to a state title. Javin Etzler wasn’t as good as he was against Richmond Heights in the state semis but he still ended with a double double and shot above 50% from the floor. If that doesn’t put into perspective how dominant Crestview can be, I don’t really know what does. Derick Dealey hit two 3-pointers and was efficient from the free throw line to wind up with double figures in scoring. On the Hiland side, they played really clean basketball, they just didn’t hit enough open shots to keep up and couldn’t compete at all on the glass. Sam Haberger was probably their best player on the floor, he provided some sparks on offense when they went on a 19-9 run to help tie the game at 19 but that was the last point the game was close. Harberger was good with the shots that he did take, and I wish he looked for himself more often and tried to go at the Etzler brothers to maybe get them in foul trouble. Andy Miller was the other offensive threat and finished with a team high 13 points. Miller seemed passive when given space around the arc and then straight canned his only 3-point look of the day, it makes me wonder why he wasn’t taking more of them throughout the game when his team was struggling to score.

Top performers

Wade Sheets: Sheets is going to college for his talents on the football field but he was impressive on the hardwood and leaves Crestview with a state championship thanks to his efforts. Sheets isn’t a volume scorer but has a smooth jumper and uses his natural football body and strength to bully smaller wing defenders. Sheets also got a really nice isolation play where there was movement with every player on the other side of the ball and Sheets had a simple sweep and go to the hoop and got a wide open layup. I’d imagine that play is designed for one of the Etzler brothers when they are cooking, but Sheets was hot and executed that play for another easy score. Sheets only missed two total shots and one of them was blocked, a great offensive performance in a state title game.

Kalen Etzler: My first time seeing Kalen in person didn’t disappoint at all. He went 6-10 from the floor, hit an insane off the bounce triple and had a nice dunk. All in all he showed why he’s one of the top prospects in the state. Etzler’s dunk was coming right when Hiland decided to try and trap Crestview. Crestview was handling it easily and was getting open looks around the hoop, just none good enough for that exclamation point and finally with about two minutes to go Kalen rose up uncontested and sent the Crestview fans into a frenzy knowing a state title was minutes away. I want to see how Etzler handles playing against players his size this summer or next year, but his talent is obvious regardless of who you see him play against and his level of competition doesn’t concern me because of his AAU success. If you think Etzler can’t be one of the top prospects in the state because of the competition level he plays you would be severely mistaken.

Division I championship

Archbishop Moeller 52 Vs STVM 44

Game recap: After beating STVM by over 30 in the regular season and scoring almost 100 points, the championship game was much more competitive. STVM got up early thanks to some lockdown defense and Moeller struggling from the field. The two teams went to the locker room tied after neither team was able to score in the final three minutes of the half. On the Moeller side, they were much more reliant on their two stud seniors Alec Pfriem and Deuce McBride, who had 35 of their 52 points while the rest of the team shot 6-22 from the floor. Deuce McBride was his usual consistent self but wasn’t getting as many easy looks as he did against Saint Ed’s the previous night. McBride doesn’t look for the 3-point shot too often but he’s capable of knocking down those shots if needed. Michael Shipp had a much better game than what he played the night before, he helped Moeller get out of a slow start with a couple early buckets. His floor spacing really helps drivers like McBride and bigs like Alex Williams and Logan Duncomb. Duncomb wasn’t very productive, missing each of the shots he took but he still had six rebounds in 18 minutes of action. I’m surprised getting the ball to him down low wasn’t a focus against Keyshawn Jones to start the game, but Moeller didn’t really get anything going early. Max Land played really poorly after being really solid against Saint Ed’s. Land seemed rushed on offense and couldn’t find the net until the last two minutes of the game. This play also concerned me because Land has the athleticism to throw down a thunderous dunk but instead opted for a layup when he was wide open in transition. I’ve seen plenty of players miss these types of layups because they aren’t used to not dunking the ball when they are that open, it seemed like Land was a little nervous for the moment. Land still played tough defense and got three offensive boards but just wasn’t finishing the looks he got. Alex Williams had a little more trouble scoring down low against a deeper team at the forward spot but still made some plays around the hoop to help Moeller win. Both teams were below 10 turnovers and played pretty mistake free basketball for most of the 32 minutes. On the STVM side, Lunden McDay didn’t have the same offensive success he had against Liberty but was exceptional on the defensive end. When guarding either McBride or Land, Mcday made it difficult for either to create much offensively and got two steals. McDay played his heart out, not leaving the game for one second and husted his way to five offensive rebounds, a performance made by a reliable senior. Malaki Branham was having a pretty solid game before exiting due to an ankle injury, he played 13 minutes before going out and when he was in the game the Irish outscored Moeller by five points. If Branham stays healthy then maybe we are crowning a different state champion but fate would side against the Irish.

Top performers

Alex Pfriem: Pfriem played like a senior and got the job done for Moeller when it counted most. His finishing around the hoop is really impressive for a guy with his athletic tools and he was very smart with his shot selection in the title game. He got to the hoop often and was able to finish over the STVM defense, him and McBride helped the Crusaders to a 30-12 advantage in the paint. Pfriem once against excelled on the defensive glass with eight total rebounds, leading the game in that stat category.

Seth Wilson: After playing very poorly against Liberty, Wilson made a complete 180 with his performance by tying for the game lead in scoring with 19 points. Wilson isn’t the quickest player but is shifty with the ball and can create space for himself to pull-up in the mid-range or from 3-point land. Wilson shot the ball pretty well and hit three 3-pointers, the most in the game. Wilson is also one of the best players I’ve seen in the mid-range (McBride is up there as well) and he found some success from that area of the floor. Whenever STVM needed the bucket in the second half (while Branham was hurt) Wilson was always the guy taking the shot and he typically delivered. At times it felt like he was the one really keeping the Irish within striking distance on the offensive end as nobody else on the floor had success creating for themselves. Eventually Wilson’s efforts came up short but after such a disappointing semifinal performance it was good to see the Sophomore play with so much confidence on the biggest stage.

That’s my entire recap of the OHSAA state tournament with full breakdowns of the games I was able to attend. This also marks an end of my coverage for players in the high school basketball season for the 2018-19 season, to all the seniors that I got the pleasure of watching, I will follow you in your collegiate careers. For any Juniors, Sophomores, or Freshman, I can’t wait to get back on the grind in the summer and see all the improvements you players make until next season.

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