COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's hard to believe but we've already reached the mid point in the season. With nearly every conference halfway through league play, let's take a look at each league.
It's been the Des Watson breakout season in the CCL, as the 6-foot-5 junior has dominated the league and has the Stallions in a position to win the league. DeSales won a split of the CCL last season and behind Watson will be a strong bet to win an outright title, having already beaten St. Charles and Bishop Ready on the road - two wins in which Watson combined for 66 points.
For the first time since the 1986-87 season, Mifflin is on top of the City League going into the back half of conference play. The Punchers split the North title that season with Linden-McKinley, who coincidentally they play on Friday for complete control of the league. With Mifflin not appearing in a City title game longer than any program in the top half of the division, the Punchers essentially hold a two-game lead over everybody else, which could be even more strengthened if they're to beat Linden-McKinley on Friday.
Walnut Ridge and South have dominated the league as the Scots took complete control with its home win over the Bulldogs last Tuesday. The Scots hold a virtual two-game lead over South, as they could afford to lose the next meeting against the Bulldogs, while still going unbeaten against the rest of the league and still represent the South division in the City League title game. The Scots senior class is determined to win more than just a City title, as Walnut Ridge has big-time aspirations in the postseason. Briggs has been a huge surprise, as the Bruins have beaten every team in the league not named Walnut Ridge and South and will have a shot at win No. 10 on Friday at rival West.
Westerville South has been the surprise story this season in the division, as the 'Cats have already surpassed last season's win total of six. With its only blemish in the league coming on the road against Olentangy Liberty, South is rolling and will be tough to stop in a conference where it seems anyone can win on any given night. There's not a ton of separation between No. 1 and No. 6 in this league, which always makes for entertaining league nights.
Not much has changed in the Capital division, as Newark still runs the conference despite dropping a game at Groveport a few weeks back. The Wildcats have won the league title in every season they've been in the Capital and will likely have to win on the road at Canal Winchester in the returning meeting on Feb. 14 in order to make it a fourth-straight.
It's honestly unreal how dominant Hilliard Bradley has been in this conference. No team since Northland (2006-14) has had a longer conference win streak than Hilliard Bradley, as the Jags have won 50-straight OCC-Cardinal games, not losing since Jan. 22, 2016 against eventual state champion Westerville South. The Jags will face the biggest threat to its historic win streak on Friday when Thomas Worthington comes to town. The Cardinals gave the Jags a scare on Dec. 6 when Bradley hung on to survive on the road, 49-46. Thomas Worthington has won nine-straight games and is playing with great confidence and belief which will make Friday's matchup at Bradley an all-out war.
We can't remember this division ever being THIS bad as Marysville, who has lost to Division II Bishop Watterson and Division III North Union by double figures, leads the Central and beat both traditional bullies Dublin Coffman and Upper Arlington. We are not trying to be harsh on the Central, but it's been by far the weakest OCC conference in the last few years, with division teams having a 14-31 non-conference record. Marysville has been the surprise, despite its non-conference struggles, and will most likely have to win at Dublin Coffman on Jan. 31 in order to win its first OCC title in decades.
It's been Gahanna's season so far as the Lions are still unbeaten and picked up HUGE road wins at both Pickerington Central and Pickerington North. Sean Jones has been the best player in the conference and has his Gahanna team playing at an elite level on both ends of the floor. The Lions have been the most consistent team in the league and will be tested this Friday on the road at Reynoldsburg. Gahanna hasn't won a share of the league title since 2016, but look to have a great shot to end that streak behind its special sophomore Jones. We would not be surprised to see this league account for three of the four district titles in Division I this year.
Fairfield Union has dominated the league so far, holding a lead over the rest of the division and going unbeaten against everyone not named Chillicothe. The Falcons have a deep rotation of guards, wings and bigs and are playing the type of basketball that leads us to believe that they'll be a big threat in the Southeast District this postseason.
Harvest Prep owns this league and will have a chance to essentially win the division on Friday when the Warriors host unbeaten Rosecrans. The AP No. 1 in Division III vs. the AP No. 1 in Division IV. It doesn't get much better than that. Outside of the bullies, Millersport has been a surprise, as the Lakers have two league wins, which is more than they've had in the last several years.
From top to bottom, this might be the toughest league in the entire area night in and night out. Anybody can beat anybody as the Ohio division has given us a few big upsets already this season. In its first year in the league, Buckeye Valley has been highly impressive as the Barons have rolled out to a 5-0 start and have impressive wins over Grandview Heights, Worthington Christian and Wellington. They'll get the biggest test yet when they travel to Whitehall on Friday in a game where they can really create some distance between themselves and everyone else in the league.
Watkins Memorial has been the biggest surprise in the LCL-Buckeye as the Warriors stand alone in first place after picking up wins over every team in the division in the first half of league play, none bigger than its 48-36 win at Granville on Dec. 18. The Warriors have been pretty impressive under first year coach Jamie Caudill, as they've picked up non-conference wins over OCC opponents Lancaster and Hilliard Darby.
Heath and Johnstown own this league, as the two schools are a combined 6-0 against the rest of the division. The Bulldogs of Heath have been one of the area's biggest surprises, as they're still unbeaten at 13-0 and can virtually lock up an LCL-Cardinal title if they're to defeat second place Johnstown at home on Friday. In the bottom tier of the league, Utica beat Newark Catholic, Northridge beat Utica and Newark Catholic beat Northridge. Craziness.
For the second-straight year, Jonathan Alder and London have dominated the Kenton Trail division with the Pioneers holding a one-game lead after winning on the road at London last Friday. Alder has been dominant defensively, holding teams to an average of 37.6 points per game, the best in the entire CBC.
North Union has been a big surprise in Division III, as the Wildcats are the only unbeaten remaining in the area. Picking up a tough win at London this past Tuesday, North Union has a real shot to run the table in the rest of the regular season if they can continue to play at the level they've began the season at. The Wildcats have some real pieces and will be a threat come tournament time.
In the North division of the Ohio Heritage Conference, Fairbanks is the early leader, winning all seven of its games in league play. The Panthers have one of rural Central Ohio's better young talents in junior forward Braylon Green, who leads the Panthers with 14.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
In the OHC-South, Cedarville has been the early standout. While five of the six teams in this division are not members of the Central District, Madison Plains is the only local squad and the Eagles have been a bit surprising with four league wins and a few close losses.
TJ Pugh and Shelby have been the story of the MOAC, as the junior guard has the Whippets out to an outstanding 10-1 start including a perfect league record. Pugh is averaging 21.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals on the year, as he's helped lead the Whippets over Ontario twice, which might just be what Shelby needs to win the league.
In the KMAC, Centerburg and Northmor have been the standout leaders thus far. They'll go at it on Friday in a battle for the top spot in the league in what could be a classic. Outside of those two, nobody else in the KMAC really has a realistic shot to win the division.
In the MOCAL, Delaware Christian has a perfect league record and a huge road win at Shekinah Christian under its belt. They've won just about every league game by double digits, minus its win over Shekinah, which will make the rematch on Jan. 24 a great one. We expect the MOCAL will be on the line in that meeting that comes a week from Friday.