COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Week 4 of the Central Ohio High School Fall League brings along playoff time as the young men compete for a title before heading off for their own school’s regular season. Outside of those teams there were also young players on the court taking on the challenge of getting better by still competing despite not getting to the playoff round. Before we get to the players that stood out on Saturday morning, first a recap of what happened in the playoff games
In the championship bracket, three of four games were decided by four points or less and all of them were within eight. With 6:30 remaining in the game on court 1, the Lakers led by 11 before a Pistons team led by dominant Grove City senior forward Kraig Gilbert made a comeback before falling by a score of 57-54. On court 2, in a close game the entire way, ultimately it was the guard play from the Pacers as they outpaced New Albany’s Daneal Krylov and the tough Warrior team. The court 3 game looked like it was going to get out of hand early, then a furious rally attempt fell short as two free throws with 2 seconds remaining gave the Nets a 48-47 win over Westerville Central’s Devin Martin and the Knick team that showed its grit late in that game. Finally, back on court 1, an undermanned Raptor team led by Derek Goodman and Noah Gamble who only had five total players played very well but lost to a deep Celtics team 43-35.
Nohah Nichols (Tri-Valley): Playing two solid games on Sunday, Nichols was a big key in his team advancing to next week’s championship day in the gold division. He showed that he could bang inside the paint, going right into shot blockers chests and finding success at the rim all afternoon. Nichols got numerous and-1’s, absorbing contact with his strong frame while still getting the ball in the basket. The Tri Valley product also showed his court vision with a couple laser beams in the halfcourt to cutting teammates. If he can keep up that level of production, his team will be a tough out in the gold bracket next week.
Ethan Payne (Northridge): Sinking the game-winning free throws with two seconds remaining in the playoff game to advance to next week may have been his biggest moment, his effect on the court was felt all afternoon. The forward held down the paint on the defensive end of the court, contesting and altering shots in the lane during both games. His strength made it difficult for other forwards and bigs to get position in the paint. Payne was also money around the rim, consistently finishing after setting good screens and even absorbing contact in the process. The confidence built from hitting clutch free throws in a tough win should bode well for his team heading into next Sunday.
Braylyn Dyer (Marion Harding): Dyer was all over the court on Sunday, doing a little bit of everything for his squad as they advanced to next week’s championship round in the championship division. He played scrappy on defense, with his active hands causing jump balls in the paint and knocking the ball out of players hands. Dyer’s quick first step allowed him to aggressively attack the hoop when the ball was in his hands. The senior was a good decision maker too, not getting sped up while playing with good pace and was unselfish with the basketball. He helped hold off a furious rally to make it to next week.
Caleb Ervin (Gahanna Lincoln): Despite not getting the results he or his team desired, Ervin played his butt off and his motor ran hot all afternoon. His energy was off the charts, getting after it on both ends, creating chaos defensively and contesting every shot in sight while getting to the paint consistently on offense. The freshman used a quick handle and strong upper body to get in the lane. Ervin got on the floor for loose basketballs and had good timing when rebounding as well. His impact was felt on the court during both games on Sunday, even though his team is going home earlier than they all wanted.
Jovon McBride (Hamilton Township): Stepped into the playoff game and was instant offense, getting in the game and immediately burying back-to-back jumpers from the college three-point line. He had a sick euro-step into a reverse layup in transition that brought onlookers and his teammates out their seats. McBride showed a quick handle of the ball and the ability to break down his defender before getting in the lane and making a play. The guard was smart with his decision making, never forcing bad shots or passes, quickly deciphering what he wanted to do. Jovon had a really good showing in helping his team advance to championship Sunday.
Noah Gamble (Olentangy Berlin): Despite not advancing to the championship round, Gamble controlled the pace for his undermann team as they fought hard in their playoff game. The guard got his team into their offense, making sure everyone was in the right spot before delivering perfect passes where his teammates could score. He had good vision and fit the ball through some small windows in transition for buckets. Gamble hit just enough shots to keep the defense honest as well. He had a huge block in transition and was tough on defense, staying in front of ball handlers, playing physical and forcing contested shots over him. A loss on Sunday should not overshadow a good showing from the Olentangy Berlin product.
LJ Foster (Walnut Ridge): Fresh off a visit from Dennison, Foster was a key to his team’s advancement due to his hot shooting and defense. He drained two three’s from deep, knocked down mid range jumpers in transition and finished at the rim, proving to be a threat from anywhere on the court. The __ saw the court well and routinely hit the open man in both transition and the half court. His length and quick hands defensively caused problems for ball handlers, even completely snatching the ball out of the opponent’s hands mid dribble. Solid basketball from Foster is a reason why his team might be the favorites to win it.
Isiah Pearson (Dublin Scioto): A young man that played smart and sound on both ends of the court, being the key reason his team is in the silver bracket championship round coming up. He got out in transition and finished at the basket a few times, racing past defenders in the open court. Pearson’s long arms helped him play the passing lanes and get his team out in transition for easy scores. The lefty has a smooth looking jumper that he got off consistently by creating space with a crafty handle of the ball. That silver bracket championship final four looks like it will be a dogfight to win, Pearson and his team seem ready for the challenge.
Lakin Rex (Upper Arlington): His length and presence defensively really made a huge difference as his squad marched forward to the gold bracket championship round. A young man that didn’t need plays called for him because he was good at catching and finishing in the paint, as well as crashing the offensive glass to get putbacks. Rex finished through contact too, showing some strength inside the paint. The Golden Bear product blocked multiple shots from drivers and altered more that came in his area. He anchored the middle of the defense for his team and it showed as they held opponents to very low scores.
Week 4 at the Central Ohio Fall League brings the playoffs with it, with eight teams vying for a spot in next week’s championship round. Outside of those teams, there were also young players on the court taking on the challenge of getting better by still competing despite not getting to the playoff round. Before we get to the players that stood out on Saturday morning, first a recap of what happened in the playoff games.
In the opening game of the 7th and 8th grade division, the young men flooded the surrounding areas of the court as a tough Virginia team took its big swing early and had the game tied at 21 before the explosive Virginia Tech team made its run and exploded to a 68-40 victory. Versatile and athletic wings dominated the court as Louisville got out in transition and pulled away late in a 63-40 win over Notre Dame. In a thrilling game full of future star guards in the area, it was Florida State who got past Clemson due to their ability to get easier shots than the sharpshooting Clemson team. Finally, defense ruled in the Pittsburgh and Duke game, with both teams being held under 30 points, but it was Pittsburgh being able to escape with a 28-26 win.
Mark Pinkston (Gahanna South MS): An explosive guard with an electric quick handle, Pinkston was amazing in both games on Saturday morning. He kept his team in the game in the opener by hitting key shots at timely moments, especially from three, to have his team within arms reach with minutes remaining before ultimately falling in game 1 and bouncing back with a huge playoff win. Pinkston showed his shiftiness when he made his defender fall before draining a three that brought his crowd and teammates out of their seats. His court vision was sensational, getting teammates the ball in stride where they could finish or no-looks off the dribble as he got in the paint. Mark Pinkston has the makings of a future star point guard in the area.
Evan Draher (St. Matthews): This young man brought real energy during his time on the court for his team, helping them beat a tough team in game one and repeating that performance in the playoff game as well. He was active on the defensive end of the floor, using his length to disrupt ball handlers rhythm and get into passing lanes for deflections and steals for his team. Draher filled lanes in transition, always being a threat to score the ball on the break because of his speed and the ability he showed to finish at the rim as well. His team is advancing to the championship round next Saturday, and he did a lot of the little things to help get there.
Ethan Stewart (Gahanna South MS): Stewart had a dominant playoff performance coming off of a solid first game. He moved well without the ball, cutting through the lane for easy baskets at the rim. His corner three put his team up 13 early and they did not look back from there. He was vocal on the defensive end of the court, calling out screens and making sure everyone knew what was happening. Stewart played with energy and seemed to always be in the right place on both sides of the court. Entering championship weekend, Stewart and his team are ready to show that they are the best 7th and 8th grade team in the Central Ohio Fall League.
Danny Bentley (Jonathon MS): One of the more productive perimeter players in the building, Bailey was active on both ends of the court for both games. He was a key to a tough win in the first game, in what was one of the most talent rich games the league has produced this year, with his shot making and the way he constantly pushed the pace while looking to make plays. Bailey stayed attached to his man defensively and forced tough, contested shots. He also rebounded at a good rate and got up the floor in a hurry in transition, finishing at the rim with different floaters and layups. His back-to-back three’s in the playoff game pushed the lead to 19 and ended any hopes of a comeback attempt. Bailey played two complete games on both ends of the floor, playing a pivotal role in his team remaining unbeaten in the Central Ohio Fall League.
Jaxon Rollins (Ridgeview MS): In a defensive battle of a playoff game, Rollins defense was stellar in the playoff game on Saturday. His strength made him tough to push around on the interior and his quick feet allowed him to get out on the perimeter and defend physically without fouling. He got his hands on the ball when ball handlers drove the lane and got his team out in transition a couple of times. Rollins played tough throughout the morning and made sure that his team was going to be one that is going to be a problem in the championship round next weekend.
Malcolm Myser (Bexley MS): One of the most consistent sources of offense for his team, Myser showed that he could knock down shots from all over the court. He drained multiple three’s, especially in the playoff game in the midst of a flurry from his team, knocked down mid range jumpers and finished at the rim too. His handle of the basketball was smooth and he was able to weave through the defense on his way to the rim as well as make plays for teammates in the halfcourt. Despite his team taking a tough loss in the playoffs, Myser made an impact on the game to keep his team in it.
Logan Frazier (Genoa MS): Another really good shooter that went down in the playoffs today, but even in defeat Frazier proved that he was amongst the better shooters in the gym. He showed off a quick release and moved well to get open on the perimeter and was always ready to shoot when the ball touched his hands. Frazier had a dependable handle of the ball and was able to get past defenders in the open court. He was a scrappy defender, never giving an inch to offensive players and dove on the floor for the ball.
Charlie Burks (Grace Christian MS): Even though his team did not enjoy the success he is used to, Burks showed flashes of an excellent lead guard. His instincts on both sides of the court shined throughout the entirety of the fall league, including today as he picked the pocket of opposing guards by cutting them off and trying to create in transition for his team. His strength as a guard was his biggest asset, not only being able to overpower other guards but also shrug them off as he drove to the hoop. This young man was solid the entire time at Reynoldsburg - Summit and will be a tremendous player in Central Ohio as the years progress.
Timothy Dukes (Ridgeview MS): Another young man who did not get much spotlight due to his team success, but after this past Saturday he deserves some recognition. Dukes controlled the first game he played in today as a guard, putting together the flashes he has shown over the past month. He got to the basket numerous times and finished through contact as well. Dukes stepped behind the three-point line and knocked in a couple jumpers as well. The young man was good on the break, hitting teammates for easy scores.