COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The COVID-19 season has allowed matchups that we might not have seen otherwise under a normal schedule where frequent cancellations and postponements aren't a thing.
I had the chance to catch two Saturday afternoon games where young talent rose to the occasion. Let's take a quick look at both of those games.
After falling apart in the final minute in a loss to Olentangy on Friday night, Dublin Jerome (4-4) quickly responded as sophomore point guard Ryan Nutter engineered a potential momentum-changing win for the program on Saturday.
Knocking off state No. 1 (Division III) Worthington Christian (11-1) on Saturday, 42-40, the Celtics became the first team to hand the Warriors a loss in 12 games. Relying on its sophomore trio of Nutter, Luke Kuhlman and Lachlan MacDonald, Jerome played an excellent defensive game against a Warriors team loaded with firepower.
Making junior guard DJ Moore work for every single of his 18 points on Saturday, Jerome's defensive gameplan worked to perfection, as the Celtics played the gaps and made Worthington Christian beat them with contested threes.
Nutter ran the show at the point guard position, being the 'calm' that the Celtics needed with the ball in his hands. Hitting contested mid-range jumpers off the bounce, delivering high-level passes to open shooters and cutters and leading the Celtic charge on defense, Nutter looked like that of a future Division I lead guard.
MacDonald and Kuhlman both matched Nutter's 11 points, as the sophomore trio combined for 33 of the Celtics' 42 points on Saturday.
Holding Worthington Christian to eight points in the fourth quarter, Jerome finally put together an all-around performance against an elite team - a win that could do things for these sophomores going forward.
For Worthington Christian, the Warriors fall to 11-1 and will likely drop from its No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll.
In a game that wasn't scheduled until just a few days ago, Columbus Academy (3-3) held off a late rally from Big Walnut (4-2) to win, 52-50.
We were intrigued with the front court matchup between Academy junior Kevin Reeves and Big Walnut senior Caleb Conard. This matchup delivered, as the two 6-foot-7 forwards went back and forth on both ends of the floor.
It was the guard play for Academy which made the biggest difference, as junior guard Tanner Compton and senior guards Brady Hess and Jared Kass provided the Vikings with valuable scoring all game long.
Big Walnut got solid scoring production from Conard, senior guard Jagger Barnett and junior guard Carter Imertreijs in the loss.
Ryan Nutter (6'3 PG / Dublin Jerome / 2023): High-level lead guard who is as elite as they come at passing the ball and creating advantages for his teammates. Nutter stepped up to the challenge of going up against one of the state's best lead guards in DJ Moore and proved he belonged. After a struggling performance on Friday night against Olentangy, Nutter went straight to the gym and put up 1,000 shots in the late hours of the night, working on his pull-up jumper and three-point shot. That proved to be effective, as Nutter's hard work was rewarded in a highly efficient showing where he led the Celtics to their best win in the early stages of his career. Nutter knocked down a trio of impressive pull-up jumpers in the mid-range, hit a step back three and was very effective passing the ball against tight pressure defense.
DJ Moore (6'3 PG / Worthington Christian / 2022): Moore was the focus of Jerome's defensive game plan, as the Celtics made the Liberty commit work for everything. We were impressed with Moore's three-point shooting ability, as he stepped up and powered the bulk of the Worthington Christian offense with 18 of their 40 points. Moore has elite quickness and speed, as he does a great job of changing pace and direction. The junior applies great pressure on defense and is one of the smartest defenders off the ball, as he's always a threat to disrupt the passing lanes.
Kevin Reeves (6'7 PF / Columbus Academy / 2022): In my first viewing of Reeves, I was encouraged with the potential he has as an athletic rim running, rim deterrent big man. Reeves owned the glass the defensive end of the floor, had three blocks and a couple scores inside. The junior will need to improve his touch around the rim, however, he has the motor and toughness part figured out already, which will only aid him along the way as he becomes stronger and more physical. We think Reeves has scholarship potential if he can polish his game and add more skill on the offensive side of the floor.
Caleb Conard (6'7 PF / Big Walnut / 2021): One of the very best unsigned senior prospects in the area, Conard had a solid performance against Academy. The 6-foot-7 forward knocked down a three and put the ball on the deck and scored it at the rim a few times. Conard is a very good athlete and has a slender frame that he'll be able to add weight to without losing his quickness and explosion. While he didn't shoot it from the perimeter as well as he has in earlier viewings we've had of him. Conard is still a threat on the wing and is one of few bigs in the area who can consistently stretch the floor. With Division II and III programs prioritizing him, Conard is a late-blooming big to keep an eye on.