Sunday, May 26, 2024

Northwest Ohio well represented at OHSAA boys basketball state tournament

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DAYTON, Ohio — When Jake Diebler was introduced Monday as Ohio State’s new head basketball coach, he spoke passionately about the importance of Ohio high school basketball.


What You Need To Know

  • The OHSAA boys basketball state tournament begins Friday on the Spectrum News App, with Saturday and Sunday’s games on Spectrum News 1 and the Spectrum News App
  • Friday’s semifinals are Lima Central Catholic vs. Berlin Hiland and Russia vs. Richmond Heights in Division IV; Ottawa-Glandorf vs. Harvest Prep and Lutheran East vs. Preble Shawnee in Division III
  • Saturday’s semifinals are Ursuline vs. Alter and Maysville vs. Shelby in Division II; Delaware vs. St. Ignatius and Toledo Whitmer vs. Centerville in Division I

As a 2005 Division II Ohio High School Athletic Association state champion at Upper Sandusky High School, Diebler can say that with credibility. 

He also talked about the strong history of players from “the 4-1-9”, the traditional area code for Northwest Ohio. Moving around from Gibsonburg to Fostoria, then Upper Sandusky (the son of a high school basketball coach), he knows what he’s talking about in that regard, too.

Those two things converge in “the 9-3-7” this weekend with the OHSAA boys basketball state tournament at the University of Dayton Arena.

Three Northwest Ohio schools have reached the final four, including Toledo Whitmer (Division I), Ottawa-Glandorf (Division III) and Lima Central Catholic (Division IV). You could even include Division II’s Shelby, which straddles the imaginary Northwest/Northeast Ohio border, but is an original member of the 419-area code. 

More impressively, for the 11th time, Ohio’s Mr. Basketball comes from the state’s upper-left quadrant, as Ottawa-Glandorf’s Colin White earned the honor. He’s the ninth player named since it was first awarded in 1988:

2024 – Colin White (Ottawa-Glandorf) 

2016 – Zavier Simpson (Lima Senior)

2013 – Marc Loving (Toledo St. John’s)

2008 – William Buford (Toledo Libbey)

2007 – Jon Diebler (Upper Sandusky) (Jake’s brother)

2004 – Jamar Butler (Lima Shawnee)

1994 – Aaron Hutchins (Lima Central Catholic)

1992 – Greg Simpson (Lima Senior)

1991 – Greg Simpson (Lima Senior)

1989 – Jim Jackson (Toledo Macomber)

1988 – Jim Jackson (Toledo Macomber) 

That matches Northeast Ohio in winners (11), but one more player, as Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s LeBron James was a three-time recipient.

Let’s break down the eight semifinals played in order this year from Division IV through Division I, the last time we’ll have four divisions in basketball, which expands to seven in 2024-25.  

Division IV State Semifinal: Lima Central Catholic (26-2) vs. Berlin Hiland (22-6); Friday at 10:45 a.m.

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The action begins Friday morning with Lima Central Catholic taking on Berlin Hiland. The Thunderbirds have three state titles, all since 2010, but this is LCC’s first trip to state since winning it all in 2016.

Head coach Sean Powell has his own state title, coming with Botkins in Division IV in 2021. His son Jayden Priddy was on that team, and younger brother Jordan is a sophomore (and leading scorer at 15.1 points per game) in Powell’s first season at Lima Central.

A player at Lima Shawnee, and previous head coach at Lima Bath, Powell has big shoes to fill with the Thunderbirds. He’s just the third head coach since 1978, and the previous two (Bob Seggerson & Frank Kill) each won state championships. 

It’s been a big turnaround from a year ago when Lima Central Catholic went 11-13. So far, the T-birds have a 15-game improvement in the win column.

On the other bench, the Hawks are making a third straight trip to Dayton, and the fifth state tournament appearance in the last six years (not counting 2020). 

Falling in the semifinals each of the last two years, Hiland is going for its first state championship since 2012.

Head coach Mark Schlabach has the pedigree, with a 418-92 record at the school (512-110 overall), including 10 final fours and two state titles. 

The small Holmes County community has quite the basketball tradition, with the boys and girls’ programs combining for 33 final fours and nine state championships. Since 1986, one of those programs has reached the state tournament 27 of 39 times, and since 1997, it’s 23 of 28 times.

It’s been anything but a given that the Hawks would find their way back this year. The team overcame the loss of seven seniors from the 2022-23 squad, and season-ending injuries to seniors Alex Yoder and Connor Beachy. In fact, only three players have appeared in all 28 games. 

Another senior, Sammy Detwiler is playing in his third final four, and leads the team with a 16.3 scoring average.

Hiland was sharpened by its usual challenging schedule, including losses to two Division III final four teams (Ottawa-Glandorf and Lutheran East). 

Division IV State Semifinal: Russia (27-1) vs. Richmond Heights (17-9); Friday at 2 p.m.

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The other Division IV semifinal is a rematch from last year when Richmond Heights topped Russia (pronounced ROO-she) 65-51 on the way to a second straight state championship.

The Raiders have balanced scoring (five players average between 9.2 and 10.4 points per contest) and a rugged defense that kept a whopping 17 opponents under the 40 mark. 

Russia has been dominant with a 27-1 record (only loss to Anna) and have captured six playoff wins by an average of 40 points. 

It’s driven by a large junior class (11 on the roster) and a group that plays several sports with success. The Raiders’ baseball team won a state championship in 2022, and came up one game short of a repeat last year. 

Richmond Heights, meanwhile, is attempting to become just the fourth school since 1922 to win three straight boys basketball state titles, joining Dayton Stivers (1928-30), Columbus Wehrle (1988-90) and Cincinnati North College Hill (2005-07).

The Spartans saw a 49-game winning streak end with an 0-3 start to the season. Richmond Heights had a slow beginning (5-8 record at one point) but have won 12 of its 13 games since then. The schedule includes wins over Pickerington Central, St. Ignatius (in the Division I final four) and St. Edward, with losses to Garfield Heights and Lutheran East (Division III state semifinalist). 

With those back-to-back championships, the Spartans bring a 19-game postseason winning streak to Dayton and have won five playoff games by an average of 44 points this year. Richmond Heights is one of four teams making a fourth straight trip to the state tournament (Centerville, Ottawa-Glandorf and Lutheran East). 

All five starters average in double figures, led by junior Dorian Jones, one of Ohio’s top recruits in 2025. So is classmate De’Erick Barber who scores 10 points a game to go with eight assists a contest. 

Division III State Semifinal: Ottawa-Glandorf (24-3) vs. Harvest Prep (23-4); Friday at 5:15 p.m.

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Friday evening belongs to Division III, and two teams that were here a year ago square off first. Ottawa-Glandorf (making a fourth straight appearance) has lost in the title game in each of the last two years (to Cincinnati Taft in 2022 and Lutheran East in 2023). 

The Titans’ Colin White, named Ohio’ Mr. Basketball, joins LeBron James as the only players in OHSAA history to start for a final four team all four years in their career. He averages 24.6 PPG, and is just five points shy of 2,000 for his career, which would make him the first player in Putnam County history to accomplish that feat. 

He gets some help from Caden Erford, who chips in with just under 14 (13.9) points a night. Combined, that duo is responsible for 59% of OG’s scoring. 

Like Berlin Hiland, this is a school that produces final four teams on both the boys and girls’ sides. It’s the second time in four years both programs reached the final four, with Ottawa-Glandorf’s girls losing in the Division III championship game last week. Combined, they have made 17 state tournaments (11 from the boys) and won three state titles (all boys). 

The Titans battled three other state semifinalists, knocking off Shelby (Division II) and Hiland (Division IV), while falling to Lima Central Catholic (Division IV). 

You shouldn’t be surprised to see Harvest Prep in the state tournament, especially following its district title win over Columbus Africentric. Under head coach David Dennis, the Warriors are 11-0 in regional tournament games played at Ohio University’s Convocation Center in Athens, including triumphs over North Adams and Malvern last week.

Harvest Prep won a state title in 2019 by beating Lutheran East but lost to the eventual champion Falcons in last year’s state semifinal. 

One player to watch is Adonus Abrams, who scores it at a 14.8 per game clip, while dishing over four assists a game, and thieving four steals a contest. The Warriors can score it, averaging over 84 points in the postseason, and have hit the century mark three times this year, topping out at 127. 

After a mid-season 2-4 lull, Harvest Prep has won its last 19 straight games.

Harvest Prep lost a tough, 63-61 decision to Ottawa-Glandorf on a last-second shot by White in the regular season two years ago. 

Division III State Semifinal: Lutheran East (21-5) vs. Preble Shawnee (24-3); Friday at 8:30 p.m.

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The second Division III semifinal contrasts Lutheran East, which is making a fourth straight state tournament appearance, winning it all in 2021 and again last year. Meanwhile, Preble Shawnee is in the final four the first time ever. 

If you don’t count 2020, when the pandemic canceled the tournament before reaching the state level, the Falcons have qualified for seven consecutive state tourneys, winning it all three times. 

“The Lue” is paced by Mr. Basketball finalist (and Michigan State signee) Jesse McCulloch who finished second in the voting. He averages a double-double, with 22.5 points and 14.1 rebounds each time out. 

Seniors Anthony Bruce, Chauncey Brashers and Ronald Taylor are also key contributors on a team that has hit the 90-point mark in four of its past seven games. 

The Falcons knocked off Richmond Heights and Berlin Hiland (both in the Division IV state tournament) in the regular season, while losing to St. Ignatius, which is in the Division I final four. 

The Arrows shoot straight with their own Mr. Basketball finalist in Mason Shrout. The 6’5” senior owns a 57.8 field goal percentage, converting 45.3% from behind the three-point line, and 82.4% at the free-throw stripe. 

He averages 24.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and four assists a contest, and holds nearly every career school record. He’ll move on to Purdue-Fort Wayne to continue his career. 

Strong defensively, Preble Shawnee allowed just over 43 points a playoff game, and got over the hump after losing in the regional final a year ago. 

The magic number for the Arrows is 49. When Shawnee hits that point total, it is 24-0, but 0-3 when failing to do so. 

Division II State Semifinal: Ursuline (24-3) vs. Alter (21-7); Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

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Exactly 30 years ago, both Alter (Division II) and Ursuline (Division II) reached the state tournament, played that year at St. John Arena in Columbus. The Fighting Irish won a state title (in its only final four before this year), while the Knights lost in the semifinals to eventual state champion Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph. 

Now, in 2024, they’ll face each other. One has the shortest trip of any teams that made it to Dayton (Alter from nearby Kettering, which is 6.3 miles away), while the other has the longest bus ride (Ursuline is 245 miles away in Youngstown). 

Irish head coach Keith Gunther is in his 21st year on the bench, and coaching his son, Jaylen, who leads the team with a 14.7 scoring average as a freshman. Jaden Payne, a 6’7” senior, adds 11.7 PPG and will play next year at Malone. 

Ursuline has been a roll, winning 12 straight, and 18 of its last 19. The Irish have run through postseason opponents, taking the six tournament games by an average of 36 points. 

Alter is back for the second time in three years, with only a 2023 regional final loss to rival Chaminade-Julienne keeping the Knights from three straight states.

Speaking of threes, this is a team that can let it fly, converting 222 three-pointers on the season. Gavin Leen (55), R.J. Greer (52) and Joe Brand (49) lead the Knights’ bomb squad, which made 14 in the regional final against Wyoming, and another nine in the regional semifinal against Jonathan Alder. 

Greer is one of the top players in Ohio among juniors, with his 15.6 PPG average attracting the attention of Michigan, Florida, North Carolina State, Penn State, Cincinnati, and others. 

There is some size, too, with a front court of Charlie Uhl (6’8”), Brady Conner (6’6”) and Matt Lunne (6’7”). That height allows for an aggressive defense that has held ten opponents to 40 points or less. 

Four players (Connor Watkins, John Keighley, Collin Wehner and Carter Sheets) were starters on Alter’s state runner-up Division IV football team that lost in the championship to Cleveland Glenville. 

Division II State Semifinal: Maysville (25-3) vs. Shelby (25-2); Saturday at 2 p.m.

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There’s tremendous buzz in Muskingum and Richland Counties where some pretty serious droughts came to an end this year. 

Maysville captured its first regional championship since 1971, getting back to the state tournament for the first time in 53 years. It’s the first final four for Shelby, which won a district championship for the first time since 1957.

The Panthers found themselves down 15 to Vincent Warren in the regional final, before a 55-point second half propelled them to the win. The magic started in the regional semi, when Alex Bobb (25.8 scoring average) banked a winning three-point shot as time expired to get past Columbus Hartley.

A pair of sophomores carrying scoring averages of 15.3 (Gator Nichols) and 11.3 (Jordyn Watson), helped Maysville to a school-record 25 wins. The Panthers have 20 straight victories after a 5-3 start to the year.

Shelby also closed its regional final with a strong run (22-6) to knock off Lutheran West, which reached the Division II championship game a year ago. 

The Whippets also boast a school-record 25-win season and finished second in the final Ohio Associated Press High School poll in Division II. Their only losses were to Lexington (19 straight wins since then) and Division III state semifinalist Ottawa-Glandorf. 

Mr. Basketball finalist Alex Bruskotter has a 22.6 per game scoring average, including a 53-point outing against Ashland. The Wright State signee is a three-time all-Ohio performer, and trails only Larry Siegfried (national champion at Ohio State, NBA champion with Boston Celtics) in the school’s career scoring mark. 

While Shelby’s boys haven’t made the final four previously, the girls did in 1992. Natalie (Britt) Lantz was on that team and is currently Shelby’s head girls basketball coach. Her son, Casey, is second on the team with a 12.6 scoring average. 

Division I State Semifinal: Delaware (27-1) vs. St. Ignatius (24-3); Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

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Another program making its maiden state tournament voyage is Delaware. The Pacers district title was just the second (1986) in school history and took down Olentangy Orange in the regional final to advance. 

Senior Jesse Burris leads the team with a 15.6 scoring average, and the program’s all-time leading scorer will continue his career as an Ohio Bobcat. 

Highly recruited junior Landon Vanderwarker (6’7”) contributes 15 points a game after transferring to his home public school district after playing at Northside Christian, where he was first-team all-Ohio in Division IV last year. 

Delaware is hoping the most successful basketball season in school history (record 27 wins) translates to the Pacers first ever OHSAA team state championship in any sport. 

Their opponent has captured 46 team state titles in nine different sports. St. Ignatius’ only basketball championship came in 2001, although the Wildcats are back in Dayton for the third time in four years.

It’s the eighth state tournament for St. Ignatius, which first made it in the very first one held, 101 years ago in 1923.

Coached by Cam Joyce (son of legendary Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce) St. Ignatius rotates through 10 players, helping to overcome the loss of Air Force-bound Sam Springer, who is out with an injury.

Quinn Woidke leads the team with 13.7 points a game, and has offers from Duquesne, Radford, Miami University, Ohio, Furman and Kent State. 

Senior Reece Robinson (9.5 PPG) knows where he is headed next year, to play for his dad (Daniyal) at Cleveland State.

Junior Damon Friery averages 11.9 PPG and is considered one of the top players in the state in the Class of 2025. He has nine offers, including the likes of Georgia, Penn State, Arizona State, Virginia Tech, Dayton and Duquesne.

Division I State Semifinal: Whitmer (25-2) vs. Centerville (19-8); Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

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Toledo Whitmer is making its fifth final four appearance and seeking the school’s first state title. The Panthers punched their ticket to Dayton with a last-second tip-in by Napoleon Jemison to beat Garfield Heights in the regional final. 

Yet another highly regarded junior, Antione West, leads Whitmer with a 20.5 scoring average. First-team all-Ohio as a sophomore, West has heard from several schools such as Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia, Dayton and Xavier to name a few.

Another junior, reserve Carter Lowe, has already committed to play at Ohio State, albeit as an offensive tackle in football, one of the top at that position in the entire country for the Class of 2025. 

The Panthers are coached by Anthony Stacey, who was the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year in 1999-2000 at Bowling Green.

Centerville won it all in 2021 and gets to make the short trip up from suburban Dayton for a fourth straight year. It’s a remarkable achievement when you consider the Division I players that have come through the program (Gabe Cupps at Indiana, Tom House at Florida State and Rich Rolf at Charlotte) in recent years.

That trend continues with Jonathan Powell, who signed to play at Xavier next year. In the regional final, ironically played at Xavier’s Cintas Center, Powell’s late three-pointer was the difference in a 70-69 win over Moeller in double overtime. 

Either the Elks (2021-24) or Crusaders (2017-19) have been the Region 4 champion the last eight years (2020 was not completed due to COVID-19).

Centerville dropped its last three in the regular season (and last four of six) and played a difficult schedule including matchups with St. Ignatius (94-92 win in double overtime against fellow Division I final four team), Moeller (beat twice), defending Division I state champion Hoban, and schools from Indiana and Louisiana. 

It doesn’t matter what part of the state you are from, or root for, it promises to once again be a thrilling weekend in the Gem City. 

The schedule on Sunday begins with OHSAA Championship Gameday 15 minutes before each final game and returns with a postgame show immediately following. Former Buckeye George Reese joins Brett Hiltbrand for studio coverage. 

10:45 a.m. – Division IV Championship: Watch Here

2 p.m. – Division III Championship: Watch Here

5:15 p.m. – Division II Championship: Watch Here

8:30 p.m. – Division I Championship: Watch Here

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