BEXLEY, Ohio -- After breezing past a football playoff depleted East Knox team over the weekend, Granville faced a much more stout Bexley squad on Tuesday featuring Lions' leading scorer Damian Davis. The Aces were able to control the pace of the game from the opening tip and rode a wave of great outside shooting to an impressive 68-53 victory.
Both teams came out from the opening tip deploying their half-court zone defenses, which led to long possessions early on as each offense adjusted. Granville was able to carve out space on the perimeter with quick rotations and ball movement, opening up looks for senior sharpshooter Brody Ley to get his shot off; Ley was automatic on these chances, hitting three first quarter triples and converting on two free throws to push the Aces lead to double digits. The Bexley attack was effectively neutralized in the opening period and Granville led 18-8 after one quarter.
However, the talented duo of Bexley senior guard Damian Davis and sophomore wing Chris Mitchell began to find holes in the Aces defense as the game progressed. Davis was able to penetrate the extended zone more consistently in the second period, slashing into the paint either to draw fouls or find Mitchell for open looks beyond the arc. After two made threes from Mitchell and another by Davis, the Lions pulled within four points with just under three minutes left in the half. Granville was able to counter with two big threes from junior Jaden Rudder, which stretched the Blue Aces lead back out to 33-24 at the end of the first half.
The third quarter is when Granville was at their best, completely shutting down Bexley’s offense while also finding many of the same opportunities from beyond the arc that they relied on in the first half. Ley and Rudder opened the second half with threes on back-to-back possessions, pushing the Granville lead again into double-digits, where it would remain for the rest of the game. The Blue Aces held the ball for over a minute at the end of the third, setting up a last-second shot for senior Jake Stone, and he converted on the three-point chance from the corner as the clock ran down, giving Granville a 49-30 lead after three.
Bexley fought back in the final period, as Davis and Mitchell began to regain their footing on the offensive end. Mitchell converted his third three-pointer of the game and Davis cashed in his 10th free throw of the game on a potentially momentum-swinging and-one with just over three minutes left in the game. However, it was not enough, as the Lions were forced to foul after Granville repeatedly broke Bexley’s full-court press. Stone made three late free-throws, and senior guard Dom Varrasso sealed the win with four straight clutch conversions from the line. The Blue Aces closed out the game with their reserves on the court and a 68-53 road victory.
The bright spots for Bexley were their dynamic slash-and-kick duo of Damian Davis and Chris Mitchell. Davis led all scorers on the night with 21 points and adding in six assists, two rebounds, two steals and a block. Mitchell finished with 13 points on three made threes, grabbing three boards and dishing an assist as well. Junior forward Cade Phillips chipped in four points and six boards and senior wing Max Dresbach added two late threes to bring his scoring total to six. Bexley falls to 1-1 on the year with the loss.
Four Blue Aces finished in double-figures in the win. Granville was led in scoring by Ley, who finished with 20 points on five threes and added four rebounds. Rudder tallied 16 points which included four threes of his own, with four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Senior guards Jake Stone and Dominic Varrasso each added 10 points and a steal with a combined nine assists. Junior big man Will Skerbetz had eight points and three boards.
Brody Ley (6’3 WG / Granville / 2020): Ley proved during his junior season to be one of the area’s deadliest three-point marksmen, and came out with his outside game clicking on all cylinders in our first viewing of him as a senior. The lanky wing-guard has a smooth high-release jump shot that is consistent whether he is rising up off of a spot-up or off the dribble, and can get his shot off with very little space. Ley is always looking to find an opening on the perimeter, and with the Bexley zone forcing the Aces to rely on outside shots, the opportunity was rife for the sharpshooter and he did not disappoint. Ley has become a priority for various Div. III college programs in Central Ohio due to his instant-offense potential and will look to lead an experienced Granville team that has high hopes in the Licking County League and beyond.
Jaden Rudder (6’0 WG / Granville / 2021): New to the Blue Aces starting lineup, Rudder flashed his developing outside game in the Aces win, showing that he can be relied on as a spot-up threat opposite Ley, which could be a scary sight for Granville’s opponents this season. The junior utilized a confident and repeatable jumpshot in key moments and was able to gravitate towards the holes in the Bexley zone to find open looks. Rudder showed no fear in taking open outside looks and could prove to be a high-level third option for the Blue Aces next to Ley and Jake Stone, which will be vital for them to hang with the heavyweights in Division II. If Rudder can force opponents to respect his outside shot and maintain his ability to slash and convert off the dribble, he could carve himself a consistent scoring role on this talented Aces team.
Damian Davis (5’9 PG / Bexley / 2020): One of the breakout players in the 270 Hoops Fall League Open Division, Davis showed major confidence and maturity that will be needed from him as the lead guard for the Lions. The senior has an incredibly quick first step, which he used to gain ground on perimeter defenders and drive past them into the paint, which forced the defense to collapse and either foul him on the shot or leave perimeter players open for him to kick out to. Davis made it his mission to draw contact in the lane and rely on converting from the charity stripe, which was effective, as he made 10 free throws on the night and displayed a keen understanding for the importance of attacking the rim against the Aces stout zone defense. Davis also showed the ability to knock down open threes, and while his perimeter game is not his main priority he proved that he can make big shots from outside when needed. Look for Davis to be the go-to playmaker for a Bexley team that relies heavily on his aggressive and efficient decision making from the lead guard spot.
Chris Mitchell (6’3 WF / Bexley / 2022): Mitchell, also a 270 Hoops Fall League alum, is an intriguing talent in the class of 2022 that looks to be growing in confidence as he is looked to as a main offensive threat for Bexley opposite Davis. A long, athletic wing who usually makes a living driving and rising up to the rim for his offensive looks, the Aces defense forced Mitchell to rely on his outside shot, and he was up to the challenge. Mitchell possesses a smooth jump shot that he is able to get off by rising above contesting defenders, and works well as a perimeter threat playing off of Davis’s slash-and-kick game. Mitchell will be tasked with creating his own offense due to his athleticism and efficient shooting ability and should develop into a solid second option to Davis for this Bexley team as just a sophomore.