OHSAA Boys’ state basketball preview
COLUMBUS – Four new boys’ basketball champions will be crowed Saturday as the 91st annual Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament concludes at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
Mentor and Toledo Rogers knocked off top-ranked opponents to win Division I semifinal games Friday night and complete the championship game lineup. The Division I final will be the Saturday nightcap, tipping off at 8:30 p.m.
Both teams will be seeking their first titles, a theme that permeates throughout the championship day. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s own a combined 15 championship game appearances and 10 titles but the other six teams have just two titles and four finals appearances between them.
Division III gets things going at 10:30 a.m. with Ottawa-Glandorf seeking its third title since 2004 against Versailles.
Division II will pit SVSM against Columbus Watterson at 1:30 p.m. SVSM has won six of its seven previous state final games, including in 2009 and 2011, with its lone lose coming in 2002 against St. Bernard Roger Bacon.
Division IV will start at 4:30 p.m. and features VASJ against Leipsic. VASJ is 4-4 in previous title games, its last win coming in 1995. Leipsic, a neighbor of Ottawa-Glandorf in Putnam County in Northeast Ohio, is making its first state tournament appearance.
None of the teams that finished atop the final Associated Press state polls so much as reached the state finals.
All of the games will be broadcast live by Sports Time Ohio.
Here’s a closer look at each game, in order of play.
Ottawa-Glandorf (25-3) vs. Versailles (23-5)
Time: 10:30 a.m.
Final AP rankings: Ottawa-Glandorf No. 6, Versailles is unranked
Semifinals: Ottawa-Glandorf defeated No. 3 Ironton, 61-60 (ot); Versailles defeated Leavittsburg LaBrae, 64-52
Key players: Ottawa-Glandorf – Sr. G T.J. Metzger, Sr. G Matt Kaufman, Sr. F Michael Rosebrock; Versailles – Soph. G Kyle Ahrens, Sr. G Chad Winner, Jr. F Evan Phlipot
Notable: Ottawa-Glandorf has won consecutive overtime games to reach the state final, first beating Carroll Bloom-Carroll in the regional final and then Ironton in the semifinals. Overall OG has won 10 straight and its three losses are by a combined 11 points. Metzger scored 25 points for the Titans against Ironton. They do not have a deep bench (the starters played all but 12 of the 181 minutes against Ironton) but Versailles doesn’t go much extremely deep itself. The Tigers bring strong physical presence to their game and are a good rebounding team. Ahrens had 18 points, including the go-ahead bucket with 13 seconds left in the regional final win against Roger Bacon and equaled junior Damien Richard for top scoring honors against LaBrae with 21 points.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (20-9) vs. Columbus Watterson (27-1)
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Final AP rankings: SVSM is unranked; Watterson No. 2
Semifinals: SVSM defeated No. 9 Vincent Warren, 70-51; Watterson defeated No. 7 Kettering Alter 53-42.
Key players: SVSM – Fr. G V.J. King, Sr. F Nick Wells, Jr. G Jalen Hudson; Watterson – Sr. F Bryan Jackson, Jr. F Matt Hughes, Jr. G Matt Lehmann.
Notable: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: SVSM has this freshman… King has had people talking about alum King (LeBron) James after averaging 17 points a game and earning second-team All-State honors. The Irish got off to a sluggish start to the season against a typically tough schedule while waiting for some of its players to return from a state football championship run but have now won 11 in a row. Watterson, winners of 22 in a row, is making its first state tournament appearance and did so in grand style in the semifinals by ending the 49-year career of Alter coach Joe Petrocelli one game shy of a 10-year anniversary state title rematch with SVSM. The Eagles pulled away in the fourth quarter to advance despite an off-game by Jackson, their second-team All-State player. Jackson played just 17 minutes and scored three points, but Hughes scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Lehmann added 14 points in the victory. Watterson avenged its lone loss of the season against Columbus Brookhaven with an overtime win in the district finals.
Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (24-4) vs. Leipsic (25-4)
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Final AP rankings: VASJ No. 2; Leipsic is unranked
Semifinals: VASJ defeated Troy Christian 67-36; Leipsic defeated Lancaster Fairfield Christian, 61-58.
Key players: VASJ – Sr. G Duane Gibson, Jr., Sr. F Demonte Flannigan, Soph. C Carlton Bragg; Leipsic – Jr. G Zach Kuhlman, Sr. G Devin Mangas, Sr. G Aric Schroeder.
Notable: Both teams are nicknamed the Vikings. This is only matchup of a private school vs. a public school out of the four championship games but VASJ is a good example of why there has been such uproar of debate about separating tournaments and competitive balance measures. Since losing back-to-back games to Division I teams Cleveland St. Ignatius and Shaker Heights, VASJ has won seven straight games by at least 20 points, including six games by at least 31 points. All four of its losses were against Division I teams. Gibson Jr. was named first-team All-State this week, while Flannigan was on the second team. Leipsic brings a 10-game winning streak into the game, its last loss being against Division III finalist Ottawa-Glandorf. These Vikings won’t be afraid to push the pace. It’s the style that’s gotten them to this point. The term upset tends to get overused, but if Leipsic wins this one it’s more than appropriate.
Mentor (24-5) vs. Toledo Rogers (21-7)
Time: 8:30 p.m.
Final AP rankings: Mentor No. 8; Rogers is unranked
Semifinals: Mentor defeated No. 1 Columbus Northland 80-69; Rogers defeated No. 3 Cincinnati Walnut Hills 58-51.
Key players: Mentor – Sr. F Jeff Foreman, Jr. G Connor Krizancic, Sr. G Brody Nelson; Rogers – Sr. G Tony Kynard II, Sr. G Clemmye Owens V, Sr. F Devonte Pratt.
Notable: Somebody is coming away with their first title as both teams are making their first championship game appearance in their second state tournament appearances. Neither team has a player on any of the AP All-Ohio first three teams. One more commonality: Both teams lost their regular season finales against teams they had beaten previously before starting their postseason runs to this game. Mentor handed Northland its first loss of the season in the semifinals, pulling away in the fourth quarter as Foreman (20), Krizancic (17), Nelson (17) and Brandon Fritts all scored in double figures. Rogers rallied past Walnut Hills in the final two minutes in a game that had six ties and 16 lead changes. Walnut Hills is the third top-10 team Rogers has beaten during the tournament. Kynard II had 16 of his 25 points in the first half and finished the game off with his third assist of the night on an alley-oop slam to Tribune Dailey Jr.