COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Wednesday's season opener in the City League presented a matchup between a head coach in his first game versus one of the longest tenured single school head coaches in Columbus.
Shawn Williams, who played under Ramon Spears at South, had the opportunity to coach his first game at Centennial against his former coach. Things looked optimistic as the Stars, rolling out of the game with home floor energy, jumped out to a 12-5 lead early on.
That's all the fun Centennial had on Wednesday, as a costly technical foul with less than a minute left in the first quarter turned a 14-10 Stars lead into a 30-15 halftime deficit. From the technical on, South dominated the first half, creating chaos with its full court pressure and hitting timely shot after timely shot in a 50-31 road win.
Spears got the best of his former pupil, as the longtime South head man did an outstanding job of pulling Centennial's size away from the basket with the Bulldogs' weave action.
Sophomore lead guard Maurice McCall dominated on both ends of the floor, impacting the game in every way to set the tone for the Bulldogs. South does not have the size they've enjoyed in the past, however, they have a deep rotation of quality guards who appear to have bought in to Spears' system already.
McCall, sophomore Lajames Washington and junior wing Terrance Cody each led the Bulldogs with eight points each.
For Centennial, the Stars really struggled to overcome South's early run. Senior guard Marlin Byron led all scorers with 14 points, while junior Cameron Straughter added nine points.
Both teams will move on to Saturday's All-Ohio Basketball Showcase when South takes on defending Division IV state semifinalist Richmond Heights, while Centennial will take on Groveport Madison.
Maurice McCall (6'4 PG / South / 2024): McCall has a special feel about him. The game looks almost too easy for him, as he is always in control, never sped up, always makes the right play and competes with a confidence and bravado that is uncommon for underclassmen. While he only scored eight points, his impact went far beyond the box score as he was the most dominant player on the floor by a long shot. McCall is an elite level athlete that led the game in rebounds, assists, steals and likely blocks, as he was everywhere to be found on both ends. The sophomore has great size on the perimeter and a quick twitch that is hard to come by for guards of his stature. McCall's vision, passing ability and playmaking potential give him some of the best upside of any lead guard that we've covered in the City League. If he can continue to improve his game and start to dominate as a scorer with the natural tools he has, McCall can play at any level that he wants.
Lajames Washington (6'2 hybrid guard / South / 2024): Washington is the perfect backcourt mate for McCall, as the two big guards have a similar IQ and feel for the game. The South sophomore doesn't try to do too much, as he plays an efficient game and makes an impact on both ends. He is a strong finisher at the basket, has a solid handle and is a very good passer that keeps the ball moving. Washington and McCall will be a terror for City League teams to deal with for the next three seasons.
Marlin Byron (6'0 PG / Centennial / 2022): We like the game of Byron, as he is a physical guard who can get to the rim and make plays. He led all scorers with 14 points, as he was in attack mode all night long and made the most of his opportunities. Byron is one of the most experienced players on the team and will be relied upon all season in Williams' first campaign. Any time a program undergoes a turnaround, the veterans in the first year of said turnaround are as important as anyone, as Byron can leave an impact on this Centennial program that could last for years. Spears' South program is a prime example of that, as the lead guard from his 2016 team, Tamal Watkins, was live in person at Wednesday's game, still giving back to the program six seasons later. Every game counts. We look forward to seeing if Byron can fill this role for Centennial as Williams looks to turn the program into a top contender in the City League North.
Terrance Cody (6'3 WG / South / 2023): Cody brought tremendous energy off the bench for South, as his athleticism and finishing ability made an impact. On a South team that is stock full of smaller guards, Cody will be an important part of this team off the bench with the unique impact he can provide. Donning a 21 number that has been worn by a handful of stellar South players over the last decade, Cody has a chance to be the next one in a long line of memorable Bulldogs.
Henri Young Jr. (6'7 stretch forward / Centennial / 2023): While he didn't have the best night, the potential is clearly there for Young Jr. He has one of the longest wingspans of any player in the area and a slender frame that he can continue to bulk up. The junior wing has a natural jump shot that he can knock down with consistency and the agility to run the floor like a guard. The next step for him will be to develop into a better rebounder and rim defender, traits that can bring him highly sought after value with his length and shooting potential.
James Fuqua (5'9 PG / South / 2022): The senior came off the bench in the first half and provided instant impact on both ends of the floor. Fuqua is a super quick guard that is a natural playmaker and one of the best shooters on the team. We look forward to seeing Fuqua carve a niche on this team, as he has a unique skill set and play style that will help the Bulldogs down the line.