NEW ALBANY, Ohio -- One of only two boys games in the area on Tuesday, New Albany and Franklin Heights did battle in what used to be an OCC-Capital rivalry.
Since the latest realignment, these two teams are now in separate divisions as New Albany has moved to the tougher Ohio division where the Eagles have had to take on area bullies Gahanna Lincoln, Westerville Central and Pickerington North a total of six times.
That strength of schedule clearly made a difference as the Eagles (6-11) rolled at home, using a 31-8 first half to blow past visiting Franklin Heights (5-15), 64-28.
Balanced scoring was the name of the game for New Albany, as six players scored between seven and 13 points. Junior Josh Evans had the strongest night of anyone on the floor, going for 13 points, six rebounds and two steals while playing excellent defense on the perimeter.
Freshman guard Braylen Nash had a good night, showing off a smooth shooting stroke to finish with 10 points, while junior guard Sam Dunn added 10 points as well.
New Albany forced Franklin Heights into tough looks all night long and caused a handful of turnovers in the first half.
The Falcons came out playing tough defense, holding New Albany without a field goal for three minutes and maintaining an early lead. That lead would be short lived, however, as New Albany jumped out to a 15-5 first quarter lead and never looked back.
Franklin Heights struggled to find consistent offense, however, junior guard Artrell Saunders provided the Falcons with someone who could create offense off the bounce. Saunders scored the bulk of the team's 20 second half points, going on his own 7-0 run in the third quarter.
These two teams will meet back up a week from tonight in the first round of the Division I sectional tournament.
Josh Evans (6'3 WG / New Albany / 2022): We are big fans of Evans' game, as the lanky 6-foot-3 wing is highly productive on both ends of the floor. Evans provided instant impact when he came off the bench on Tuesday, creating deflections and turnovers on defense. The junior can really defend the ball, as his length, quickness and foot speed really bothered Franklin Heights' smaller guards. Leading all players in rebounds on Tuesday, Evans was constantly on the defensive glass, shoring up every board near him and limiting second chance opportunities. Evans has a reliable outside jumper, knocking down two threes, while showing the ability to put the ball on the floor and finish near the rim. With great length and a passion for defense, Evans is a late blooming sleeper in the 2022 class to keep an eye on. We look forward to seeing how he develops over the next year after Tuesday's promising performance.
Braylen Nash (6'3 PG / New Albany / 2024): Stock. Riser. Nash has a really, really smooth game as a 6-foot-3 lead guard with dead eye marksmanship from the perimeter. The freshman is a confident ball handler who can really pass it, as he did not make many mistakes on Tuesday and constantly found open shooters on the move. When he wasn't facilitating, Nash was a major threat from the perimeter, as he knocked down two beautiful threes that did not even touch the rim. The 6-foot-3 freshman has a lengthy frame and looks like he's not even close to being down growing, as a few more inches could really make him an intriguing lead guard prospect more than he is already. With a great work ethic and drive to succeed, Nash is a young player that people in Central Ohio will want to remember for years to come.
Sam Dunn (5'8 PG / New Albany / 2023): Dunn is a crafty, reliable point guard that makes plays and does not make mistakes. After cutting his teeth on the varsity level as a freshman last year, Dunn has made even more strides in his game, as he had a strong performance on Tuesday. The 5-foot-8 sophomore has a high IQ and enough quickness to get by defenders where he's a solid under the rim finisher. Dunn is a reliable outside shooter and competes on the defensive end of the floor. On a New Albany team with a lot of young talent, Dunn is going to be someone that opponents will hate to go up against as an upperclassman. We look forward to seeing how the Dunn and Nash backcourt looks for the next few seasons, as both underclassmen can really play.
Justin Perry (6'6 PF / New Albany / 2022): Despite being one of the best long term prospects in the 2022 class, Perry comes off the bench for New Albany and did an excellent job in accepting his role and providing what the Eagles needed from him on Tuesday. The 6-foot-6 junior is an explosive athlete with great burst. He did a solid job rebounding, causing deflections and making things happen on both ends of the floor. The junior had an impressive baseline toward the end of the first half and knocked down his only three-point attempt in the first quarter to stretch the New Albany lead. Perry is still developing and has a ways to go to reach his potential, however, we liked what he showed on Tuesday in his role as an energy guy for the Eagles.
Artrell Saunders (6'0 PG / Franklin Heights / 2022): One of few offensive weapons on the Franklin Heights roster, Saunders was the key cog for the Falcons on Tuesday. The 6-foot junior scores it exclusively off the dribble, as he was not shy about creating looks for himself on Tuesday. Saunders knocked down two threes, had two nice finishes at the rim and an impressive transition dime assist. Saunders and fellow junior C'Antai Kerns-Hill form a solid backcourt for the Falcons, who have had their best season in the last seven years with five wins this season. The Falcons are competing at a higher level than ever this season, as they have a chance to be even better next year.