COLUMBUS, Ohio -- On Tuesday night, two dozen of the best juniors in the greater Columbus area descended on Central Crossing High School to participate in the 270 Hoops Battle for the City.
The junior class is extremely talented and competitive from top to bottom, and it showed on Tuesday. The OCC team ended up winning 88-83 with entertaining performances from both squads.
While the Battle For The City is a fun, exhibition style all-star game, competition and strong effort is still greatly emphasized and ultimately rewarded. The below top performers delivered a combination of high-level effort along with notable play.
E'Moni Finch (5'8 G / Westerville North / 2023) - Finch, the MVP of the 2023 game, is one of our favorite players to watch in the area. She plays with a bit of spunk and isn't afraid of a challenge. Her smooth left-handed shot is deadly from three, knocking down four in the game. She makes great decisions on when to shoot, drive and pass and is as versatile as they come. She can finish at the rim or deliver a picture perfect pass to an open teammate on the opposite block. On Tuesday, she finished with 16 points, four assists, one block, one steal and one rebound. Finch is a tenacious, lock-down defender and will be one of the best players in the OCC next season. We are excited to see where Finch and Curry-Brown can carry the Warriors.
Kayla Curry-Brown (5'8 G / Westerville North) - What can't Curry-Brown do?! On Tuesday night, the stretch guard nearly had a double double thanks to her rebounding effort (8 points, 8 boards). She is one of the best offensive rebounders we have seen and has a natural ability to track the movement of the basketball. She extended nearly a dozen possessions thanks to offensive rebounds and tips. She finishes strong through contact at the rim and converts at the free throw line. Curry-Brown has an extremely high motor and an equally high basketball IQ. She and Finch will be an entertaining duo next year for Westerville North.
Nelia Guice (5'9 G / Westerville South / 2023) - Like her younger sister Zoe last week, Nelia brought the energy and was a play making machine on Tuesday. Guice is not afraid of contact and was consistently active on the offensive and defensive boards, totaling seven on the day. She scored in a variety of ways, both finishing at the rim and from three. She pushes the ball in transition, tosses some perfectly timed passes and is always looking for a way to get her teammates involved. Guice will be part of the core of a talented Westerville South squad who has all of the pieces to make some major noise in the OCC and beyond next season.
Trinity Jackson (G / Pickerington Central / 2023) - We really like where Jackson's game is heading. The lengthy guard made all sorts of impact plays in a start studded contest on Tuesday. She is a solid presence on the offensive boards, has a beautiful midrange jumper and alters many shots. She has great lateral quickness which explains why she is a lock down defender on both guards and posts. Most importantly, Jackson is a competitor. Heading into her senior campaign, she should see decent floor time and will be an asset in helping the Tigers return to state.
Kiki McElrath (5'6 PG / Bishop Hartley / 2023) - McElrath, the 270 Hoops Junior of the Year, is still continuing to impress. The junior, who led the Hawks to the State Semifinals in 2022, is one of the most talented guards in the area, if not the state. This season, she took on more scoring responsibility and found creative ways to do so. She has elite handles and a nasty fade away, mid-range jump shot. She can get to the rim and finish through contact and is really starting to perfect her three point shot. In Tuesday's game, she knocked down three from deep and took home first place in the three point contest. She is incredibly fun to watch in transition and plays with tremendous joy. Several juniors helped McElrath finish second in the dunk contest and it was the most fun we had all week! Kiki will be the center of attention this coming season and she hopes to lead the Hawks on a return trip to State. Coaches, offer this young talent NOW!
Ariel Grace (PG / Africentric / 2023) - Grace has a chance to be the next great point guard to come out of the Africentric system. She has a great command of both the game and the ball. She makes smart decisions on the offensive end and isn't afraid to play tough defense. While she is a point guard by nature, Grace has the ability to score and can score a lot of points in a hurry. In the third quarter, the junior scored seven points and added another four in the fourth to help fuel the Central Ohio comeback. She added on three boards and two steals to finish out her well rounded performance. Grace will be the floor general for the Nubians next season and she hopes to lead them back to the State Tournament and possibly a State championship.
Taliyah Morgan (C / Walnut Ridge / 2023) - This was our first look at Morgan and we were impressed with what we saw! The Central Ohio team was down nearly 30 points at halftime and thanks to Morgan's efforts in the third and fourth quarters, the squad pulled within single digits. Over the last two frames, she scored ten points and gathered seven boards, giving her a double double on the night. She was a dominant force inside that could not be stopped inside the paint. If Morgan can increase her foot speed on the defensive end and add another move or two to her tool belt, she could compete as one of the best in the City League next season. We are excited to see what she can do!
Other notable performances:
Ceylone Brooks (5'9 G / Upper Arlington / 2023) - Brooks has started to expand her game. She is handling the ball consistently and scoring from all levels. She had 13 points and 2 rebounds in the win. She will be the leader of a UA squad who looks to rebound after losing a large senior class.
Clarke Jackson (G / Gahanna Lincoln / 2023) - Jackson is athletic as they come and really sharpening her basketball skills. She had 10 points and 5 rebounds on Tuesday. She is a great facilitator and will be a leader of the Lions next year.
Olivia Keeney (G / Grove City / 2023) - Keeney is really coming on strong to end her junior season. She finished the game with 8 points and 8 boards. It will be exciting to see what she can do next season with the Greyhounds.
Sydnie Smith (5'10 F / Bexley / 2023) - Smith is a strong and relentless forward, especially on the offensive boards. She scored 7 points and gathered 6 rebounds in the Battle. She could help Bexley reach new heights next season.