COLUMBUS — Anyone that wanted to see a boys state championship basketball team should have gone to Bowling Green State University last week.
Norwalk, Crestview and Lima Central Catholic all came out of Stroh Area en route to the state tournament and each took home the top prize on Saturday at the 92nd annual tourney. Defense was a big reason why the trio knocked out a pair of defending state champions to win tourney titles.
Norwalk limited Columbus Bishop Watterson to 19 first-half points, Crestview held St. Thomas Aquinas to 26 points through three quarters and LCC surrendered only 25 points in the first half to high-scoring Cleveland VASJ as all jumped to leads and went on to capture crowns.
It also gave Edon grad Jeremy Best his first championship as a head coach at Crestview while Frank Kill, a Defiance College graduate, made it a trifecta with titles as a player (Lincolnview 1997), assistant coach (LCC 2010) and now as head coach.
Quite a statement for this part of Ohio.
“That’s the reason why our schedule gets us ready,” Kill said of the good basketball played in the northwest part of the state. “We knew Crestview was a talented team, they gave us one of our losses.
“Northwest Ohio should be proud. Our guys were cheering on Crestview and vice versa. That’s what you do.”
QUOTES OF INTEREST
• Will Frank Kill retire? When it LCC won state in 2010 it marked the end of Bob Seggerson’s reign as LCC coach: “I thought about it. I’m losing hair and I can’t wait to shave. But I’m not retiring and leave these men shorthanded. I’m definitely coming back. Maybe 28 years later I’ll retire.”
• Crestview’s Damian Helm on how being starting pitcher in state baseball tournament as a junior helped at state basketball: “At first we were shellshocked there (state baseball). Speaking for the baseball players (on the basketball team), going there and getting a taste for state is a huge advantage for us here.”
• Norwalk coach Steve Gray on season thoughts: “My greatest fear was our lack of size (only one starter taller than 6-2) would catch up to us. But never quesion the heart of a champion and these guys are champions.”
• Jordan Johnson was quarterback of a Norwalk playoff football team and almost didn’t come out this season. “He was arguing with himself about playing basketball,” Gray said about his defensive wizard. “I talked to Jordan’s mom after the 10th (football) game and she said he will play. It was the right decision.”
• Norwalk has had some outstanding teams in recent years but could never make it to state in Division I before dropping down to D-II this year. “It’s much different,” Jeff Thomas said. “When you go to the regionals in Division I they’re much bigger. In D-II there are some big players and some outstanding players but not as many of them.”
• Talk about a different way to prepare. Upper Arlington practices for an hour before every game. “We call it a walk-through but it’s flat out get after it,” UA coach Tim Casey said.
• One of St. Ed’s losses this season came on a 3-1 trip out west, something the team does annually. “Every year we go away we come back a better team just because we know each other better,” head coach Eric Flannery noted. “The tournaments we go to I think helps us bond.”
• Columbus Watterson could have been the fourth team ever from Columbus to win back-to-back state titles. Columbus East 1968-69), Columbus Bishop Ready (1972-73) and Columbus Wehrle (1988, 89 and 90) all won more than one in a row.
• VASJ came up short in its quest to become the first school to win state titles in all four divisions.
• Saturday was the first time this season Watterson lost with its full team. In regular-season defeats to Middletown and Upper Arlington one starter was missing for the Eagles, which use mainly a six-man rotation.
• Watterson has an enrollment predominately female with 61 percent girls. The Watterson girls basketball team plays in Division I.
• After watching numerous D-IV tourney games including the regional and state level this season, this writers feels the best three teams in Ohio would be: Crestview, New Madison Tri-Village and Wayne Trace.
• An Aquinas student hit a half-court shot during a contest prior to the fourth quarter of the D-IV state finals to win a $1,000 gas card. The Knighs could have used him against Crestview. It was one more point (3-2) than state co-player of the year Austin Hill had at that juncture of the game. Hill, who averages 17 points per game, scored 17 in two games combined at state, thanks in a big way to the defense of Crestview in the finals.
• Crestview is the first team to finish unbeaten (29-0) in Division IV since New Knoxville in 2008.
• The 29 wins by Crestview are the most by any boys team in state history in 53 years. Ayersville finished with a 30-0 record back in 1961, the most single-season wins ever in Ohio.
• The LCC-Roger Bacon semifinal game was a hard one to watch, tying the state all-time record for foul shots attempted in any Final Foour game with 55. The previous D-III state semifinal mark of 38 was set by Archbold and Bedford Chanel back in 1996.
• VASJ 6-4 freshman Jaylen Harris is considered a Division I prospect according to his head coach but played only one minute in the semifinals.
• Danny Hummer of Upper Arlington had major hip surgery and missed playing basketball for four months prior to the season. Hummer had 10 points and 10 assists in the semifinals.
• Some coaches are in the business for three and even four decades and fail to make it to statte. Lousiville Aquinas head coach Matt Hackenberg is just 28 years old and in his second year at the school. Aquinas finished 16-11 last season and 18-12 this year.
• St. Ed’s used a good formula in beating Cleveland East Tech, hitting 27-39 field goal attempts, 4-6 on 3-pointers and 16-17 at the foul line in taking a 74-45 lead after three quarters en route to an 89-64 victory. St. Ed’s finished the game with an astounding 24 assists.
• Attendance was up some for this year’s tourney. Last year the top attended game was 13,851 for the Versailles and O-G D-III final. Two games topped that this year, with both Upper Arlington-Trotwood Madison and Watterson-Norwalk exceeding 14,000. A large crowd was also expected for the D-I finale (the announced attendance came after press time) with Upper bringing 8,000 fans to their D-I semifinal contest.
• Defiance head coach Kirk Lehman was among those honored at halftime of Saturday’s D-IV championship game for more than 300 wins at the varsity level.