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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Returning for the first time since before COVID-19, The Challenge was back at Africentric on Saturday. Hosted by Africentric head coach Michael Bates and Pickerington North head coach Jason Bates, the rotating venue event pits the top programs from the City League against the OCC each year.
Let's take a quick look at the results from the games and a top performer from each team.
Olentangy Orange 70, Northland 58
New Albany 58, Walnut Ridge 56
Pickerington North 83, Eastmoor Academy 69
Hilliard Bradley 63, Beechcroft 46
Africentric 76, Dublin Coffman 71
Dailyn Swain (6'6 SG / Africentric / 2023): Swain continued to show off his unique scoring ability with a 28 point performance in his team’s win. He has a really nice mid range pull up game and uses his natural height to shoot over defenders. Coffmann tried to change who guarded Swain, but it didn’t matter as he scored on everyone. He has long strides which allows him to get into the lane with ease and finish over any defenders. Swain also had five blocks in the game and controlled the glass on both ends of the floor. He has asserted himself as one of the best players in the class of 2023 and will look to repeat this performance again. Virginia Tech and Marquette were among many college programs in attendance, as the ACC Hokies extended Swain an offer following his performance.
Ajay Sheldon (6'1 hybrid guard / Dublin Coffman / 2022): Sheldon poured in 31 points in the loss to Africentric after his legendary 38 point performance Friday night against Upper Arlington. The senior guard lived at the line and hit 12 free throws in the game. He used pump fakes effectively to draw fouls which put a ton of pressure on the defense. Sheldon hit tough shot after tough shot with heavy contests on most of them. He had the ball on a string and used his deep bag of dribble moves to get past his defender. The Ohio U commit has proven to be one of the best scorers in the area and can get a bucket at any time in the game.
Mike McCollum (6'3 SG / Olentangy Orange / 2023): McCollum took home game MVP for his team after dropping 17 points. The junior hit three triples with two of them coming from around NBA range. Once the defense started to step up, McCollum used this to his advantage to get in the lane and finish. He was also at the top of Orange’s zone and moved the ball well to his teammates. He was a good rebounder for a guard and even took the ball up on occasion. McCollum’s best attribute is his shooting and will need to continue to do this consistently for Orange’s success moving forward.
Dominique Aekins (5'11 PG / Walnut Ridge / 2024): Aekins was in control of the game from start to finish for the Scots. He was the primary ball-handler for his team and did a great changing pace off the dribble. He dropped in 19 points and did most of his damage at the free-throw line with eight made foul shots. He made big-time plays down the stretch for his team and was an integral part of his team’s comeback that eventually fell short. He kept his point guard mentality while dishing to his teammates multiple times. It was impressive to see Aekins' understanding of the game as a sophomore. As the starting guard for his team, Aekins has to keep finding the balance of scoring and passing - the mark of a great point guard.
Blake Pistro (6'5 stretch forward / New Albany / 2022): Pistro was the ultimate stretch four in this big win over Walnut Ridge. The 6-foot-5 senior hit four triples and finished with 16 points overall. He also finished with a double-double with 12 rebounds and four of them being on the offensive end. He boxed out bigger defenders well and grabbed almost every defensive board. He played good post defense and moved his feet well on defense to take two chargers. Pistro is a great second scoring option and needs to continue to stretch the floor for the Eagles moving forward.
Arness Lawson (6'2 hybrid guard / Pickerington North / 2025): Lawson might have been the most impressive player I watched today because he is just a freshman. He dropped in 15 points and did almost every else for his team. Lawson racked up a ton of rebounds and assists as the defense started to focus on him. He also does some things that you just can’t teach such as diving for loose balls and taking charges. He possesses an elite understanding of the game that most freshmen (heck, even many seniors) don’t have. Lawson recently picked up an offer from Ohio University and is a player I think can play at the Power 5 level. Proving to be a top option on one of the best teams in the area, while again only being a freshman, has helped Lawson stamp himself among the top prospects in his class.
Dior Conners (6'2 hybrid guard / Pickerington North / 2022): A day removed from a 34 point performance on Friday night, Connors dropped in 24 points to lead all scorers in the game. He scored at all three levels and hit two threes and a variety of tough finishes at the rim. His elite mid-range game is something that few players possess at this level. He is really quick on defense and does an excellent job keeping his defender in front of him. He sat at the top of Pick North’s 2-3 zone and racked up a bunch of steals. He didn’t let pressure from other defenders bother him as he was really composed during the course of the game. Conners has proven to be a really strong scorer that Pick North will need over the course of the season. Scholarship programs need to give Conners some real attention because his best basketball is still ahead of him. This could be a guy where we look back in eight years and wonder how he didn't have bigger and better offers.
Robert Dorsey (5'10 PG / Northland / 2022): Dorsey poured in a game-high 28 points and scored from all three levels. The senior hit two triples and multiple tough mid-range fallaways. Dorsey was at his best when he was getting downhill and attacking the rim. He finishes through contact well and with both hands. The 5 foot 10-inch guard also thrived at the top of Northland’s zone. He had numerous steals due to his ball pressure and quick feet. He was quick to turn defense into offense and had a few transition buckets as well. Dorsey is the leader of his team and the top player on opponents’ scouting reports. He has been a consistently strong performer for four-straight seasons now, something that few high school players accomplish.
Dennis Asoro (6'8 C / Eastmoor Academy / 2022): Asoro did all of his damage in the paint and racked up 20 points and 13 rebounds. He showed great patience down low and found ways to get his defender in the air to score. Asoro also has outstanding anticipation for blocks and does a great job contesting at the rim. The senior had four blocks in the game and impacted almost every shot taken in the paint. He is a rock-down low for Eastmoor and needs to show his impact during City League play. Division I and II junior colleges would be wise to offer him. Asoro has a ton of natural ability and untapped potential that could make him a pro one day. We believe in him that much.
Jeb Bischoff (6'0 SG / Hilliard Bradley / 2024): Bischoff really stepped up for his team as Cade Norris was being double-teamed all game. Bischoff hit six triples in the game and does a nice job being ready to shoot when he catches the ball. This attention on him allowed other teammates to become open which he took advantage of to find them for open shots. Just a sophomore, Bischoff has a burner that only a few players in his class possess. Bradley will need this second option behind Norris if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs this year. The Jags can count on their defense to travel, however, they will need to score just enough to win the toughest games and Bischoff can help them do that.
Amani Lyles (6'8 hybrid big / Beechcroft / 2022): Lyles’ outside shot was taken away by the Bradley defense which caused him to work more inside. He finished with a team-high 16 points and commanded the paint for Beechcroft. Lyles has a nose for the ball and snatched down every rebound that came off the rim. His ability to move at 6-foot-8 is very unique and not something most players have. Lyles has all the physical tools to be successful and needs to be the do it all unicorn for Beechcroft this year. Division I programs looking for a versatile big with significant upside should give Lyles a call.
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