Half a dozen Cincinnati boys’ basketball clubs are still in the hunt for an Ohio High School Athletic Association state championship after a historic round of district finals last week in Divisions I, II and III.
- 3: Cincinnati programs ended district title droughts lasting at least a decade
- 2: Coaches added another championship nylon to impressive careers
- 1: The team, led by one of the cits best prep players of all time, is back in the regionals after three years of early playoff exits
Here’s what to look for in this week’s regional tournament action from Xavier, Kettering and Vandalia.
Continued:OHSAA District Finals: Fairfield wins district title; Lakota West, Turpin, Sycamore Falls
Continued:OHSAA Boys Basketball: Georgetown, Taft and Mariemont Win DIII District Championships
Continued:OHSAA men’s basketball: Woodward and Roger Bacon enter regionals with district titles
Continued:All Southwest Ohio District Men’s Basketball Teams Announced
Fairfield (22-4) vs. Wayne (18-8) – 6 p.m. Wednesday at Cintas Center
Fairfield survived a thriller against Walnut Hills, 55-52, to win its first district title since 2012.
Fairfield’s last winning season came in 2015 before DJ Wyrick got the job in 2019. In two years under Wyrick, Fairfield is 36-9 with a pair of GMC titles (one outright) and his first district title in 10 years.
Fairfield had just six players on the ground against Walnut Hills, but they delivered the game as junior Deshawne Crim scored a game-high 20 points, Logan Woods finished with 19 and Kollin Tolbert had 11. This trio of guards led Fairfield all season and each scored double. figures per night, with striker Owen Bronston.
Continued:Fairfield Boys Basketball Tops in GMC, Battle-Tested for the Playoffs
Wayne pulled away from Turpin in the District Championship winning the second half, 30-15. Junior Lawrence Rice, the GWOC’s top scorer, had a game-high 24 points. Down below, 6-foot-7 Aamil Wagner makes life difficult on attacks while RJ Mukes and Juan Cranford Jr. can also score.
Wayne has been chasing his first spot in the Final Four since winning a Division I state title in 2015.
This is a rematch of a December regular season encounter that Fairfield squealed, 71-70. That night, Wayne shot 54.2 percent from downtown (13 of 24), but Fairfield had 21 free throws and led by 15 at halftime. Law firm Crim, Tolbert and Woods combined for 56 points and 21 rebounds while Rice led Wayne with 25 and Mukes added 20.
The winner will face Kettering Fairmont or Centerville in the regional final on March 12.
Woodward (22-3) vs. Roger Bacon (19-6) – 8 p.m. Thursday at Vandalia Butler
Cincinnati’s only Division II regional game is full of stories. Woodward senior Paul McMillan IV is just 19 points away from passing Lebron James for sixth place on OHSAA’s all-time goalscoring list.
In the District Final against Chaminade Julienne, McMillan was often greeted by multiple defenders, but his teammates were heavily involved as Kanye Moreland, Keleise Frye and Ru Mills all scored in double figures.
It’s McMillan’s first trip to the Sweet 16 after reaching the section final as a rookie at Hughes and last season with Woodward.
Continued:‘It’s all about the tournament’: Woodward Bulldogs all-in for playoffs with deep roster
Continued:Woodward guard Paul McMillan IV passes Jerry Lucas on OHSAA’s all-time goalscoring list
“If he (McMillan) keeps playing like that, you’ll keep seeing the Bulldogs progress,” said fifth-year Woodward coach Jarelle Redden, now a two-time district champion.
Woodward has a deep roster with several sophomores getting quality minutes. Can the Spartans slow down an offense averaging over 70 points per game?
“To say this will be our biggest challenge of the year is an understatement,” said Roger Bacon head coach Brian Neal.
The Spartans keep Neal from hanging up his whistle for good as the veteran head coach’s 17th season continues. Roger Bacon has won 12 of 13 and is coming off a 63-38 defeat of Carroll for Neal’s Eighth District Championship.
Senior Rajere Blanks scored 15 points to lead Roger Bacon, who limited Carroll to just 5 of 34 shots in the second half. Neal’s son Andrew had 11 points and three other Spartans added eight. Freshman Jesse Eubanks is a force on the bottom and can also run on the ground.
Roger Bacon is in contention for his fourth regional title under Neal. The Spartans were Division III runners-up in 2017. Woodward last went to the state in 1990.
Georgetown (21-3) vs. Dayton Meadowdale (15-8) – 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Trent Arena
Despite an early 7-0 deficit against an opponent making their first straight appearance for the district title, Georgetown showed no signs of rattling.
The G-Men even trailed by eight in the second half and still rallied to beat Versailles, 58-49, for the program’s first district title since 2007.
This is the program’s first-ever District DIII title. They were undefeated (28-0) DIV state champions in 2007.
A solid guard game has guided Georgetown to 21 wins this season and it starts with junior Carson Miles, who won 28 against Versailles. Miles landed tough shots, wreaked havoc defensively, sealed the game on the line, and consistently found open teammates.
Seniors Nate Kratzer and Blaise Burrows are averaging 30.8 points and 13.1 rebounds per game, while Aiden McGinnis had three hat-tricks against Versailles.
Meadowdale is also enjoying a historic surge, reaching the regional tournament for the first time since 1992. The Lions pulled away from Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy on Saturday with a slew of transition buckets, free throws and a barrage of three-way shots points. Lee Benson and Kalerrio Reaves each average more than 14 points per game. Sean Caldwell hit three triples against CHCA and junior Josiah Scates hit 17.
Mariemont (18-8) vs. Taft (15-8) – 8 p.m. Wednesday at Trent Arena
Taft is on a self-proclaimed “revenge tour” after losing in the state semifinals a year ago. The Senators were 11-8 in the regular season, but bolstered their schedule along with the ever-competitive roster of opponents from the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference.
Taft had not faced a DIII team prior to the tournament and quickly went 4-0 with an average winning margin of 48.2 points. The Senators secured a second straight district title — head coach Demarco Bradley Sr.’s fifth — with a 60-46 win over Indian Lake.
Taft overcame an early 10-point deficit in a hurry behind Southwest District DIII Player of the Year Rayvon Griffith, who had a game-high 22 points. Eian Elmer had a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Brandon Cromer had 10.
Senators have every right to believe that they are pretenders to the state. Can Mariemont ruin the revenge tour?
Mariemont may want revenge in 2020 when Taft ended the Warriors’ season in the Section Finals. But Mariemont has come through for the past two years, reaching the district championship twice and winning its first district title since 1995 with a 47-44 victory over Shawnee.
Different players have been important for the Warriors all year. Against Shawnee, Tim Stewart scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, but senior Luke Rubin (11 points) fired the go-ahead three-pointer with 45.6 seconds left. In the first half, Socko Stalzer (11 points) and Ethan Malafa (eight points, 12 rebounds) delivered.
Mariemont won grueling low-scoring matches, but also competed in some track competitions. The Warriors were the Cincinnati Hills League’s top scoring team this year and prevailed in quick contests against Madeira (78-72), Finneytown (98-69), Deer Park (94-90), Georgetown (76 -68), Norwood (88-58) and Gosen (90-80).
Mariemont has relied on his defense lately, holding every opponent in the tournament to under 50 points. Taft has been held below 50 points only four times this season. Who will give on Wednesday?