COLUMBUS, Ohio -- While there were 50 games in Central Ohio on Tuesday, none were bigger than the battle on 4841 Livingston Avenue. That game delivered on the hype coming in, as Walnut Ridge used its intensity, physicality and athleticism to grind out South for its 15th-straight home win and complete control of the City League South division, 71-64.
Let's take a look at some of the top games and storylines in the area on Tuesday, as well as a new look at updated power rankings after Tuesday's showdowns.
For the second-straight game, Walnut Ridge has beaten a top-ranked unbeaten. The Scots are on fire, having not lost to South in regulation in the last three matchups and winning the previous two. The front court duo of VonCameron Davis and Kaveon Ross were highly impressive, however, juniors Leon Douglas and Myles Garrett provided huge impact for Walnut Ridge - which are reasons why this team is better than last year.
Don't sleep on Briggs. The Bruins are 7-3 and picked up a signature win against Eastmoor on Tuesday. Winners of their last three games, Briggs' only two losses in league play are to Walnut Ridge and South by a combined 20 points. Not bad considering those programs have blown everyone else out. Andrew Grubbs continued a breakout senior season with 20 points to lead the Bruins on Tuesday.
Quintin Aden picks up his first win of his career for Independence, as the Sixers get in the win column. It may be a long process for Aden and his staff, but we have no doubt that they'll have Independence competing in the division very soon.
Linden picked up a huge home win and might have saved its hopes of winning an elusive City League North divisional title by knocking out Northland on Tuesday. The Panthers seem to have turned a corner, as junior Chance Groce is playing the best basketball of high school career, which has had a great impact on the rest of the team. Linden can really make a statement and turn its season around when they travel to Beechcroft on Friday for a game with big importance in the City North.
Since losing to Mifflin on Dec. 17, Beechcroft has proceeded to score 225 points in its last two games, demolishing International and Whetstone. The Cougars are young, but hungry to win the City North as they're now tied at the top with Northland and Mifflin. Sophomores JJ Simmons and Amani Lyles combined for 51 points in Tuesday's win.
Pickerington North avenged a home loss to a much different Dublin Coffman team last year by rolling past the Shamrocks on Tuesday. Casey George continued a breakout junior season by scoring nine of his team-high 21 points in a 20-7 fourth quarter that won the Panthers the game. North has now won seven-straight games since losing to Hilliard Bradley at Nationwide Arena, beating quality teams like Pickerington Central, Centerville, St. Charles, Reynoldsburg, Northland and Dublin Coffman.
In a top 10 showdown at Pickerington Central, the Tigers outlasted upstart Westerville South despite a very slow start to the game. The Tigers outscored South by 10 points from the second quarter on to improve to 7-3. Central can make things interesting and force a three-way tie atop the OCC-Ohio if they can knock off unbeaten Gahanna at home on Friday.
A young Westerville North picked up a huge win on the road at Marysville that might do great things for its confidence. Despite beginning its season with four-straight losses, Westerville North has turned it around a bit, going 5-3 in its last eight games with quality wins over Olentangy Liberty and Marysville. Senior guard Chace Perkins continued his breakout season with a team-high 14 points, while the Warriors held talented Marysville junior duo Jack Christian and Garrett Taylor to 20 combined points.
And then there was one. At 12-0, Gahanna is the last unbeaten in Division I with South's loss at Walnut Ridge. A 19-6 fourth quarter and 20 points on three triples from Sean Jones was enough for the Lions to register yet another quality victory. Defensive praise is in order for Gahanna senior Nate Staib, who took the assignment of defending talented Liberty junior guard Henry Hinkle, holding him to eight points. Staib has been excellent this season, holding some of the area's best guards in Hinkle, Casey George and Brock Waits well below their averages. That type of defense is why Gahanna is still unbeaten. If they can go on the road and beat Pickerington Central on Friday, Gahanna will be in great shape going forward, with division bullies North and Central coming to their place for the back half of OCC-Ohio play.
Olentangy got a much-needed win on Tuesday when they banded together in the second half and knocked off Upper Arlington. Losing four games this season by three points or less, Olentangy has hung tight with some of the best teams in the area but haven't been able to seal the deal. Sophomore guard Ethan Smith paced the Braves with 19 points in a win that'll give them great momentum heading into a stretch of four-straight home games.
Reynoldsburg may have saved its season on Tuesday when the Raiders went on the road and knocked off New Albany without senior Sean Moore. Winners of its last two games, the Raiders picked up their first signature win of the season in the OCC and will look to keep that momentum rolling into two-straight road games at Lancaster and Whitehall. Tuesday saw the emergence of junior forward Zaveon Croff who powered the Raiders with 16 points and nine rebounds in an expanded role with Moore's absence.
Hilliard Bradley got back in the win column with a dominant defensive effort on Tuesday. Matt Allocco and Keaton Norris continued to power the Bradley offense, combining for 26 points.
Dublin Jerome lost another heartbreaker as the Celtics fell to 5-7, with nine of its 12 games being one possession games. Delaware Hayes seniors Paul Burris and Nate Griggs were dominant, combining for 40 of the Pacers' 48 points. For Jerome, freshman Ryan Nutter was the only player in double figures with 10 points.
Much like Pickerington North, Thomas Worthington has not lost since the Cardinals took on South at Nationwide Arena. The Cardinals won its seventh-straight game as Jalen Sullinger and Joey Zalewski powered them against Darby. With two winnable games back-to-back this weekend against Worthington Kilbourne and New Albany, the Cardinals could be rolling with a nine-game win streak when they pay a visit to Hilliard Bradley on Jan. 17.
For a program that has never won more than 14 games since its inaugural season in 1991, Kilbourne is in great shape to surpass that number as the Wolves are off to an 8-4 start and have won its last five games. Junior Mitchell Tomasek continued a hot streak with 13 points to lead the Wolves on Tuesday. Kilbourne will be put to the ultimate test when they head to hated rival Thomas Worthington on Friday for what could be a statement game for the program if they can find a way to come out on top.
The one undefeated team that nobody is talking about is North Union. The Wildcats are on fire at 9-0 and are in a position possibly go unbeaten in the regular season in the Central Buckeye Conference. A major test looms on Tuesday on the road at London. Junior guard Preston Crabtree has been fantastic for North Union, as the Wildcats are the only team left unbeaten in Division III.
Trey Woodyard went for 22 points and 10 rebounds as London had no problem with Northwestern on Tuesday. After an 0-2 start to the season, London has bounced back nicely and won eight of its last nine games and will be put to the test in its next two games against Jonathan Alder on Friday and North Union on Tuesday. Fortunately for the Red Raiders, both games are at home.
At 8-2 with its only losses coming to Westerville South and Huntington Prep's regional team, Jonathan Alder is playing great team basketball and look to be on a mission to win the Central Buckeye Conference and its first district title since 1979. The aforementioned game at London on Friday will be huge, as the Pioneers lost in heartbreaking fashion in a conference title game at London last year.
Buckeye Valley is for real, folks. With wins over #1 (D3) Worthington Christian, #1 (D4) Grandview Heights, London, Linden-McKinley, Delaware Hayes and Wellington, the Barons are alone atop the MSL-Ohio after taking down the Warriors on Tuesday. Dylan Thompson continued what has been a statement sophomore season by out-dueling reigning MSL-Ohio player of the year DJ Moore to the tune of 19 points on five triples. With a deep roster of size, shooting and toughness, Buckeye Valley is going to be a major force in Division II and will have a real shot to win its first district title ever this March.
A major shakeup went down in the MSL-Ohio on Tuesday as Columbus Academy knocked off Whitehall, who came into the matchup unbeaten in league play. Carter Warstler had a huge game with 30 points to power the Vikings, whose win now has Buckeye Valley alone at the top in the division, despite playing in it for the first time ever this season.
Fairfield Union improved to 11-0 with a 19-point win over Hamilton Township on Tuesday. The Falcons have a commanding lead in the MSL-Buckeye and will be a tough out for anyone they play thanks to their size and versatility. An intriguing matchup looms on the road at Chillicothe on Tuesday, as the Cavaliers have the size and toughness inside to bother the Falcons.
Let's take a quick look at our updated rankings across Division I!
T-1. Gahanna (12-0): As the lone unbeaten and with a win over Walnut Ridge, Gahanna deserves the top spot. The Lions will be put to the test on Friday at Pickerington Central. With the way they play team defense and sell out for one another, Gahanna will be tough for anyone to stop, as we won't be surprised if they come away with a second road win in Pickerington this season.
Strength of record points: 24
T-1. Walnut Ridge (7-2): While they lost to Gahanna at the buzzer in a game that the Scots could have won, back-to-back wins over No. 1 and unbeaten Hilliard Bradley and South push Walnut Ridge for a tie at the top. No team in the area had a tougher three game stretch than Walnut Ridge and with two statement wins under their belt, the Scots seem like a sure bet to run through the City League South now. Going 42 years since its last Division I district title, Walnut Ridge will be a real threat to snap that streak come March. And it also might be time to start talking about VonCameron Davis as the best player in program history since Ed Stahl led the Scots to its only state title back in 1971.
Strength of record points: 22
3. Hilliard Bradley (10-1): The Jags have one blemish against Walnut Ridge in a game that they feel was stolen from them by questionable officiating late. Bradley is still a threat to come out of the region and we see it being extremely difficult for anyone to beat a Matt Allocco-led team again.
Strength of record points: 26
4. Pickerington North (9-3): North is rolling and don't seem to be slowing down any time soon. Going on the road and knocking off Dublin Coffman on Tuesday, the Panthers have two winnable games this weekend against Grove City and Logan. With its losses coming to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Hilliard Bradley and Gahanna, North has been through the gauntlet already.
Strength of record points: 26
5. South (11-1): The Bulldogs faced its first bit of adversity when they were clearly not the most athletic team on the floor for the first time all season on Tuesday against Walnut Ridge. South might have needed this adversity, as they've only been told how good they are for the last 10 months after running to the Division II state title game. With some winnable games on the upcoming schedule, South will be ready when Walnut Ridge comes to their side of town later this season.
Strength of record points: 23
6. Thomas Worthington (10-2): The Cardinals have won seven-straight and are on fire. Thomas Worthington seems to have found its identity and have played with greater toughness as of late, things that will help them when they pay a return visit to Hilliard Bradley next Friday in a game with huge implications in the OCC-Cardinal.
Strength of record points: 14
7. Pickerington Central (7-3): Central picked up another top 10 win on Tuesday against Westerville South. The Tigers can turn its season around in the OCC-Ohio on Friday when they host Gahanna. If Central can't take care of business, they'll fall two games behind the Lions in what could be an uphill battle to win another conference title.
Strength of record points: 18
8. Westerville South (7-4): Despite falling to Pickerington Central on Tuesday, Westerville South fought hard and kept it competitive throughout. The 'Cats can retain its lead in the OCC-Buckeye on Friday when they pay a visit to Westerville Central on Friday in what should be a difficult matchup.
Strength of record points: 15
9. Olentangy Orange (8-2): Orange improved to 8-2 by shutting down Hilliard Davidson at home on Tuesday. The Pioneers have a more difficult than perceived matchup against Westerville North on Friday at home. The Warriors are rolling and beat Olentangy Liberty by 20 earlier in the year, the same team that handed Orange one of its two losses.
Strength of record points: 13
10. Canal Winchester (7-2): Canal Winchester was the only top 10 team who did not play on Tuesday, as the Indians are preparing themselves for an all-important road matchup at Newark on Friday. Since joining the OCC-Capital prior to the 2016-17 season, Newark has won 17-straight conference games at home and has yet to lose. Tough uphill battle for Canal Winchester on Friday, but if they can get the job done, they'll keep their spot among the top 10.
Strength of record points: 9
Next five up: Newark (10-2, 16 strength of record points), Westerville Central (8-2, 13 strength of record points), Reynoldsburg (6-5, 10 strength of record points), Groveport (7-4, 11 strength of record points), Briggs (7-3, 5 strength of record points)