COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's a seismic culture shift occurring on the east side of Columbus. No, it's not coming from the Columbus City League. It's not coming from the OCC, either.
It's coming from Patriot Prep Academy.
After years of struggles in Division IV, the program is emerging behind a talented senior class who is playing as one strong, singular unit. With every member of the roster and coaching staff playing as one, a culture of togetherness is flowing within this team, which created for a major moment on Wednesday.
The Eagles (6-2) picked up arguably its most important win in recent memory, knocking off Division I Westland (0-7), 54-49.
Patriot Prep relied on 25 points from senior wing Darius Ogburn to overcome the Cougars. Ogburn scored 20 of his game-high 25 in the second half alone, attacking the rim with authority, knocking down two threes and cleaning up the glass.
Despite trailing 26-21 midway through the third quarter, Patriot Prep turned in a 15-5 run fueled by Ogburn and sophomore guard Chris Towns to take a 36-31 lead into the final frame. Towns continued to create offense for his teammates in an impressive fourth quarter for the Eagles where they held off several mini runs from Westland.
Ogburn led all scorers with 25 points, putting together a masterful performance against a Westland team that had plenty of athleticism and length to throw at him. Senior guard Dwyane Gilmore added 14 points, finishing most of his buckets near the rim, as the majority of his production came in the second half.
Senior Xavier Smith-Lindsay added seven points and infectious energy, making every hustle play that needed to be made. Smith-Lindsay's motor, toughness and attitude clearly affect the rest of the team, as he was the first guy to pick up a teammate when they hit the deck and the first guy to celebrate the success of others.
Eric Clemonts had six points and Towns had two to round out the scoring for the Eagles. Towns was terrific as an initiator on Wednesday, using his elite speed and quickness to create opportunities for his teammates. While he only scored a single field goal, Towns had more assists than Westland's entire roster, creating opportunity after opportunity for his teammates.
For Westland, junior wing Drew Panning led all Cougar scorers with 13 points. Panning had the first five points in the game and showed flashes of his eye-popping athleticism at 6-foot-6.
Junior forward Noah Reynolds also finished in double figures with 11 points, while senior guard Derrick Bogay pitched in nine. Junior wing guard Sohn McGee added six points and a handful of impressive athletic plays.
For Patriot Prep Academy, the Eagles added another impressive win following a 2019-20 campaign where they finished with 16 wins. This year's version of the team is much improved from a year ago, with its only losses coming to quality opponents in Division II Bishop Hartley and Division III Centerburg.
The Eagles will be a force to deal with in Division IV, as they're a senior laden group with quality guard play, a terrific wing scorer in Ogburn and a passionate coach in Curt Caffey who is getting the best out of his roster. Patriot's coaching staff also features long time City League coach Bob White, who spent more than 30 years as the head coach at Columbus East before spending the last few years on staff at Northland.
If the Eagles continue to buy in to Caffey's message and play as one unit, they could emerge as the dominant force in a wide open Division IV. They made a major statement in late December when they beat defending district runner up Berne Union by 31 points.
For Westland, coach Rob Hayes is still in the process of a rebuild in culture and toughness. While it's been a tough start to the season, Westland has a couple talented players who could be even more productive if they work together and fight harder through adversity.
Darius Ogburn (6'5 WG / Patriot Prep Academy / 2021): Every year we seem to find a diamond in the rough who becomes our sleeper for that season. Last year it was Elgin's Ryan Sheridan and this year it appears that Ogburn is that guy for us. The 6-foot-5 senior wing put together an amazing showing on Wednesday, scoring 20 of his game-high 25 points in the second half to power the Eagles to a huge win. Ogburn has an elite frame, as he offers broad shoulders and a lengthy wingspan to go along with his athletic gifts. The senior attacked the basket at will, finishing through contact several times. He hit two catch and shoot threes on each side of the perimeter, had a handful of steals on impressive athletic plays and even blocked two shots near the rim. Ogburn has a 3.8 GPA and has put in four years of hard work at Patriot Prep, turning the program into a force to be reckoned with this year. Looking to major in physics, Ogburn is a hard working and humble kid deserving of an opportunity at the next level. We saw enough IQ, natural talent, athleticism, length, shot-making ability and toughness to believe that he has a chance to be a very good player in college. This is the type of kid that will come in on day one and be ready to work. You can't go wrong with a young man like that.
Chris Towns (5'7 PG / Patriot Prep Academy / 2023): We absolutely love the way Towns plays basketball. The 5-foot-7 sophomore may have been the smallest and youngest player on the floor for the majority of the night, but you would not have noticed by watching him. Commanding the point guard spot for the Eagles, Towns was the primary source of creation for Patriot Prep, breaking down defenders on the drive and using his elite-level speed to create separation. Towns is a terrific passer who has great vision, creativity and confidence, as he was a one-man press breaker for large stretches of the second half. Despite having elite speed and cat-like quickness, Towns is still able to play under control, which is a rare quality and difficult to defend. While he only finished with two points, Towns had the greatest impact on the game out of any player, as he provided Patriot Prep with reliable ball handling, efficient offense and tough pressure defense. Towns has some intriguing athletic tools, a high IQ and is a naturally tough kid with a never ending work ethic that comes from great stock, as his parents are elite people who have raised an amazing group of siblings.
Drew Panning (6'6 WF / Westland / 2022): The 6-foot-6 Panning is one of the more impressive athletes in the 2022 class, as he offers great length and leaping ability. He nearly put a defender on a poster on Wednesday, as a good ball fake and baseline drive led to a head at the rim collision that Panning was unfortunately unable to finish, however, he was fouled on the play and converted at the line. The 6-foot-6 junior has a pure shooting stroke and can get from three-point line to the rim in only a few strides. He still needs to polish his game and cut down on turnovers in order to reach his full potential. With his length, athleticism and ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shot and attack closeouts on the drive, Panning is a late bloomer to keep an eye on over the next year.
Sohn McGee (6'5 WG / Westland / 2022): McGee is a big, athletic wing with some raw, natural talent. He had two major blocks in transition, showing off his high-level athleticism and explosiveness. McGee is able to get to the rim off the bounce, as he can change direction and showcase strong body control. He still needs to work to find better shots, however, he's got enough upside, potential and love for the game for us to believe in him going forward. McGee can get to his spots, he plays with passion and seems to really enjoy himself on the floor. As he matures and improves his game, McGee could be a late blooming sleeper that emerges in the area.