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MLK Prep Shootout: Day 1 Top Performers

By Emma Ervin, 01/16/21, 9:00PM EST

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Bella Ward and Aja Austin had monster games at the MLK Prep Shootout

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Pickerington Central hosted the inaugural MLK Prep Shootout on Saturday, as we caught all four games of Day 1. While there was a bit of a scramble in the early morning when Liberty Union needed replaced for the 5:15 p.m. game, Pickerington North thankfully stepped in to keep the shootout on schedule.

Let's take a quick look at the results of the games and the top performers.

Gahanna 65, New Lexington 50 

North Central (IN) 67, Pickerington Central 40

Westerville South 60, Pickerington North 27

Dublin Coffman 69, Vinton County 56

Aja Austin (6’1 C / Westerville South / 2021) – Austin, a Delaware signee, is absolutely unstoppable in the post and is one of the best true centers we have seen this season. Ten minutes into the game, Austin had 19 points and a handful of boards. Occasionally, Austin will bring the ball up the court with the confidence of a seasoned point guard. She is aggressive in transition and runs extremely well from post to post. She accounted for more than half of the total points scored in the first half, between both teams. Austin will be a great competitor at the next level, as she is the area's leading scorer so far this season.

Bella Ward (6'0 F / Gahanna Lincoln / 2022) - Ward, a Butler commit, dominated all parts of the game today. She has an unbelievable vertical that consistently leads to second chance points. On any given day, she is the strongest player in the gym and it has surely paid off because Ward rarely misses when being fouled. One of my favorite parts of Ward’s game is her ability to snatch a defensive rebound and push hard in transition for a wide open layup. There is a reason Ward is a D1 recruit. 

Aubri Spicer (5'10 G / New Lexington / 2023) - Spicer is the offensive catalyst for the Panthers. Whether it is running hard in transition, aggressively attacking the basket, or shooting a high percentage from three, she excelled at it all. Spicer plays the top of the zone where she uses her length and athleticism to quickly close passing lanes and consistently communicates. She handles the ball equally well with both hands but could add a little. We were impressed with her smooth pull up jump shooting, as she was a threat to stop on a dime and rise up with great balance and consistency. Just a sophomore, Spicer has a bright future ahead of her. 

Cassidy Lafler (5’11 F / Dublin Coffman / 2022) – Lafler had a huge first half tonight for the Rocks, scoring 13 points through the first two quarters. Defensively, she did a great job challenging Bentley and forced her to take hard shots. She makes great cuts, oftentimes leading to uncontested layups. She plays a very physical game that defenders struggle with. Lafler is the perfect role player for the Rocks and could make a big impact on a program at the next level.  

Nakaih Hunter (6’0 F / North Central (IN) / 2021) - Hunter, an IUPUI commit, is a strong, athletic forward for North Central. The lefty has a smooth, accurate shot from 15 feet and in and occasionally hits a three but is outstanding in the post. She is always moving to put herself in a positon for an offensive board in the lane where she finishes strong through contact. She is fun to watch in the high post due to her elevated passing ability. Hunter has the skill and opportunity to make a big impact at the next level.

Morgan Bentley (5’10 G / Vinton County / 2021) – Bentley, a Rio Grande commit, can flat out shoot. Given very little space, she will knock down a three right in your face. After connecting on several, the Coffman defense tightened and she started attacking the basket where she finished well through contact. Bentley has a nice handle and passes the ball efficiently. She is an absolute workhorse, does whatever it takes and never quits. In tonight’s game, Bentley became the all time leading scorer for Vinton County.

Olivia Cooper (6'1 F / Pickerington Central /2023) – On a night where shots weren’t falling for the Tigers, Cooper was the offensive spark they needed in the second half. Her perfectly timed cuts led to easy baskets and were the biggest part of Central’s 9-0 run to start the second half. She has a high motor, great skill and excellent basketball IQ, making her one of the elite forwards in the 2023 class. Cooper should be on everyone’s radar.

Laila Marshall (5'8 G / Gahanna Lincoln / 2023) - Marshall is playing like a seasoned veteran for the Lions. Today, she dropped a cool 15 points. She always has the ball on a string, both in a one on one situation and in transition. She anticipates well on defense leading to countless opportunities in transition. Marshall made a big impact from three in the corner in the first quarter. Given a little time, this sophomore will grow into a solid college prospect.

Zoe Guice (5’6 G / Westerville South / 2024) – Guice is one of the best freshmen we have seen in the area this season. She has great court vision and facilitates the Cats’ offense well. She was all over the place on defense, picking up multiple steals and constantly pressuring the ball. Guice has great quickness, speed and a lot of natural ability. As she matures and becomes stronger, she could blossom into quite the player, however, she will have to earn every second of playing time this season under her father and head coach Jermaine Guice. This freshman could be a star in the making with more development.

Tara Flynn (5’11 F / Dublin Coffman / 2022) – Flynn is a high impact, high motor forward for Coffman. She is lengthy and athletic, creating matchup nightmares for the opposition. Her length impacts dozens of shots from both the three-point line and the block. As the most consistent rebounder for the Rocks, she is the catalyst for transition points. Flynn isn’t afraid of ball handling responsibilities and acts like another point guard on the floor. The lefty could use a bit of work on making her shot more fluid, but she has lots of potential.

Tegan Bartoe (5’8 G / Vinton County / 2022) – Bartoe has a high motor and an equally high basketball IQ. Her passing ability is outstanding and she puts her teammates in positions to score because of her skill with the drive and dish. She has a beautiful, quick release three point shot off both the dribble and pass. Bartoe is one of the best guards we have seen in the 2022 class and if she isn’t on your radar, she should be.

Tanyuel Welch (5'8 G / North Central (IN) / 2022) - Welch is a great basketball player. She plays both the point guard and shooting guard positions for the Panthers and excels at both. She handles the ball cleanly under pressure and has one of the purest three point shots we have seen this season. She is lightening quick and uses that to her advantage in transition. She is an elite perimeter defender and a huge part of everything North Central does. Welch is undoubtedly a scholarship player.  

Aaliyah Younger (G / Gahanna Lincoln / 2024) - Younger continues to evolve as a player and leader. She is starting to communicate well on both offense and defense. She plays her best basketball attacking the basket where she can finish with either hand. She is a good perimeter defender who is always pressuring the ball. She’s got cat like quickness and has was all over the place defensively. A little strength will go a long way for this freshman who has a lot of upside and plays with zero fear.

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