PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Tipping off on at Pickerington Central, the Scholastic Play by Play Classic offered another glimpse of what district title Saturday might look like in a few short weeks. Let's take a look at the matchups and top performers from the event.
In the opening game of this year’s Scholastic Play by Play Classic, we saw an intriguing matchup that brought back good memories for Columbus hoopers of the last decade.
With the event being put on by former Northland legend and Ohio state star Jared Sullinger, his Vikings were plotted against Thomas Worthington in the opener. The star player this season for the Cardinals has been sophomore Jalen Sullinger, nephew of Jared.
Despite an excellent effort from Jalen throughout the entire game, Thomas Worthington fell, losing to Northland 62-61.
Without senior big man Ben Wight on Saturday, the Cardinals lacked quite a bit of height. Northland opened up the game with an inside score from 6-foot-9 junior Isaiah Ingle, and it looked as if he may have his way all afternoon.
This would not be the case however, and a fantastic hustle play from sophomore Isaac Settles led to a bucket at the buzzer, trimming the Northland lead to 14-13 before the end of the quarter.
Sullinger dominated the entire first two quarters, tallying a game-high 16 points at half. Despite his excellent play, Northland led at the half 30-28. The guard matchup was great throughout, as Northland’s Keeley Elmore also led his team with nine points at the break.
The third quarter spelled the same action that we saw the entire game, as Sullinger had another solid quarter with six points, but Northland took a 47-43 lead into the fourth.
Sullinger knocked down a floater early in the fourth to tie the game at 49, but Elmore answered with an extremely tough finish for an and-one, extending the Northland lead to 52-49 with 5:50 left to play.
Settles responded with four points of his own, but a big block from Ingle leading to a score from sophomore Makhale Massey in transition helped Northland take a 56-54 lead with 3:20 to go. Settles then went on a 5-0 run of his own, but still trailed 60-59 with 1:40 to go.
After Sullinger knocked down two free-throws to tie it at 61, Elmore was fouled going to the rim and knocked down one of two to take a 62-61 lead. Thomas Worthington was given 2.2 seconds on the clock, but could not get a shot off, ultimately falling to the Vikings.
Sullinger (26 points) and Settles (25 points) did most of the scoring for Thomas Worthington as they lacked depth due to injuries.
Elmore led the Vikings with 19 points, four rebounds and seven assists in an excellent showing. Massey also contributed 12 points and freshman Rob Dorsey scored nine points. Ingle had a good interior showing as well, finishing with six points, four rebounds and four blocks.
In game two of this year’s Scholastic Play by Play Classic, we saw a game of runs between Westerville North and Bishop Hartley. The Warriors held off a Hartley team who was hungry for a bounceback win, coming out on top by a score of 62-59.
Hartley opened up the game scorching from the perimeter, as senior Morgan Safford knocked down two triples after a three-pointer from Ryan Heuser, helping the Hawks jump out to a quick 9-4 with 4:35 to go in the first. Safford finished the quarter with nine points on three triples, pushing the Hartley lead to 19-12 after the frame.
The game took a drastic turn in momentum in the second quarter however, as Westerville North opened up the frame on a 13-3 run. This surge was led by an all-around offensive effort for the Warriors and helped them build a 25-22 lead with 4:03 to play in the half.
The Warriors finished the half out strong, going into the break with a 27-26 lead and all of the momentum in this one.
They carried this energy into the second half, and a pair of three-pointers from senior Jeremiah Keene helped push the lead to 45-34 with 1:43 to go in the third. This was a large part of another big run for Westerville North, helping put them in the driver’s seat for the time being.
Hartley finished the quarter on an 8-1 run, however, and two free-throws from Safford helped them trim to Warrior lead to just 46-42 after three.
Keene continued his excellent game by starting out the third on a 5-0 run by himself, and this extended the Westerville North lead to 53-44 with 5:17 to play in the contest.
Hartley continued the theme of runs after this and back-to-back three’s from Heuser and Safford cut the Warriors lead to 58-57 with 45 seconds to go.
An intentional foul was called on the Hawks with 20 seconds left, but Westerville North could not convert.
After missing three of four shots at the line, senior Chance Perkins knocked down two shots for a cold free-throw shooting team to help them hold on and come out victorious.
Safford dominated for Hartley, finishing with a game-high 26 points to go along with seven rebounds. Junior Kylan Kortokrax also chipped in with 11 points, and Heuser had nine.
Hartley is back in action on Monday at home against Grove City Christian.
Keene led the way for Westerville North with an impressive showing of 23 points and four assists. He was followed up by Chance Perkins with 14 points. Senior Charles Perkins also finished with a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Warriors will have a tough test next Friday against Olentangy Liberty.
In the biggest game of the day at this year’s Scholastic Play by Play Classic, we saw an OCC non-league matchup that brought a lot of eyes to the gym.
Olentangy Liberty dominated Pickerington North in the matchup, winning 75-64.
The game saw two of the area’s best players square square off in Olentangy Liberty senior Ben Roderick and Pickerington North sophomore Jack Sawyer. Roderick came out of the gates firing, as he scored the first seven points of the contest and the Patriots jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead.
Pickerington North started out slow, but six points from sophomore Casey George off the bench helped them cut the lead 13-10 at the end of one.
Olentangy Liberty picked up a load of momentum early in the second when senior wing Nick Nakasian threw down a monster slam in the lane to extend their lead to 17-10 early on.
Liberty created a multitude of open looks in the first half after breaking the Panthers press, and this continued when Nakasian laid in another lob, extending their lead to 32-23 with 1:11 to go in the half. Liberty rode this momentum into the half, taking a 35-27 lead to the intermission.
The second half started out with both teams trading buckets, but back-to-back three-pointers from Nakasian forced a Pickerington North timeout with Liberty leading 49-38 late in the third. The Patriots scored another five unanswered points after this and took a sizeable 54-38 lead into the final frame.
Olentangy Liberty increased their lead to as much as 17 points early on in the fourth with a three from sophomore Henry Hinkle, but Pickerington North would not go down without a fight.
After forcing several turnovers late, the Panthers cut the Liberty lead to single digits, but it was not enough. Liberty continued to create easy looks after breaking the Pickerington North press, allowing them to hang on and come out win a huge win.
Pickerington North was led by Sawyer, who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Idris Lawrence had another impressive outing finishing with 18 points, and George finished with 11 points.
Liberty was led by Roderick with 25 points and six rebounds. Nakasian was named the game MVP as he finished with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists. Hinkle also contributed 10 points and senior Joey Thatcher finished with nine points and five assists on two three-pointers.
We saw two teams with completely different identities clash in the fourth game at this year’s Scholastic Play by Play Classic. Ottawa-Glandorf rode a 23-5 third quarter and excellent three-point shooting to take down Africentric, winning 64-48.
Africentric came out of the gates firing and used excellent defense and timely shooting to jump out to a 9-0 lead with 2:30 to go in the first. The Titans answered with an 11-4 run to end the frame, however, and cut the Nubians lead to just 13-11 before the end of the quarter.
Africentric built on their lead early in the second and a four-point play from junior guard Austin Morris helped them take their largest lead of the night, ahead 23-14 with 5:35 to go in the half.
Ottawa-Glandorf began to heat up from outside after this, and seven first half three-pointers cut the Nubians lead to 32-30 at half.
The Titans turned it on in the third, using an all-around team effort to dominate the Nubians for the entire second half. They started out the half on a 13-0 run and jumped out to a 43-32 with 3:58 to go in the third. This was thanks in large part to their dominant three-point shooting, especially from sophomore Brennen Blevins, who knocked down six three-pointers of his own.
They rode this wave through the end of the game, knocking down 14 triples on their way to a dominant win.
Sophomore Eli Burke had a breakout showing for Africentric, going for 21 points. Junior guard Cali Davis also had an impressive outing, finishing with 13 points and five assists.
For Ottawa-Glandorf, Blevins had a great outing finishing with 20 points. Senior Ethan White also contributed 11 points for the Titans. They had three players finish with at least three triples of their own.
Two of the best and most well coached teams in the area went at on Saturday night at the Scholastic Play by Play Classic. Hilliard Bradley outlasted Newark in the matchup, taking down the Wildcats 43-42.
The game played exactly how everyone thought it would, a low-scoring affair in which both teams used timely shooting to keep it close throughout. Both teams take pride on the defensive end of the floor, and this was evident all night.
It started out fairly slow paced, and junior guard Matt Allocco played right into this, finishing the first with a very efficient six points. This helped build the Jags lead to 11-9 after one.
Bradley then opened up the second quarter on a quick 5-0 run capped off by a three from senior Zach Hummel to increase their lead to 16-9 with 5:48 to go in the half. Bradley controlled most of the frame, taking a 23-17 lead into the break.
However, Newark came out of the gates firing to open the second half. After two three’s from junior Jaden Woods and sophomore Kade Bafford, West Georgia commit Keyshawn Heard hit a three of his own to cap off a 9-0 run and help Newark take a 26-23 with 5:36 to go in the third.
To nobody’s surprise, Hilliard Bradley answered the run immediately. After a tough score from Allocco and another triple from Hummel, Bradley regained the lead 30-26 with 4:24 to go in the frame. They rode this momentum into the fourth, leading 35-32 after three quarters of play.
The Jaguars locked down Newark in the final quarter, as they did not make a single field goal and still came out on top. The Wildcats decided to hold the ball trailing 35-34 with four minutes to go in the third, and it ultimately led to a turnover.
Bafford led Newark with 12 points and four steals. Heard also contributed 10 points and Woods chipped in with eight.
Hilliard Bradley knocked down their free-throws and made timely hustle plays late to come out on top. They were led by Allocco with 20 points, as he dominated the Newark defense the entire night. Junior Chris Mayfield also finished with nine points and did everything that you need to in order to close out a game against a well-coached team. Hummel also contributed six points and six rebounds.
In the nightcap of of this years Scholastic Play by Play Classic, the host Pickerington Central Tigers took on perennial Cleveland power Garfield Heights in a big matchup.
The Tigers once again proved that they are legitimate regional title contenders, dominating the Bulldogs on their way to a big 79-60 win.
The game opened up extremely even, and Pickerington Central took a 13-12 lead into the second.
This is when the Tigers began to gain momentum, and a three-pointer from junior Tahleik Walker helped them extend their lead to 20-14 with 6:15 to go in the half. Walker had an excellent showing on Saturday night against a great Garfield Heights backcourt. The junior is one of the best perimeter defenders that you will find anywhere in the area.
With Garfield Heights trailing by 10 points with under a minute left in the half, sophomore Meechie Johnson banked in a wild half-court shot at the buzzer. This cut the Tigers lead to 33-26 at half and looked to be a big momentum swing for the Bulldogs.
Insert Javohn Garcia and Garner Wallace.
The senior Garcia and sophomore Wallace dominated the entire second half for Pickerington Central. With the Tigers leading just 41-33 early in the third, Garcia scored six straight points and extended their lead 47-35 with 3:25 to go in the third.
Wallace scored the next two baskets for the Tigers, including a transition slam, and they took a comfortable 57-43 into the final quarter.
The Tigers controlled the rest of the game, and a poster from Wallace shut down any chances of a Garfield Heights comeback. The Tigers closed out the day in fashion, with a win in front of the home crowd.
Meechie Johnson led Garfield Heights with 22 points and five assists. His cousin, Sonny Johnson, also finished with 19 points. Senior big man Brison Waller also contributed 14 points and eight rebounds.
For Pickerington Central, Wallace added to his breakout as of late, finishing with a double-double of 30 points and 10 rebounds. Garcia dominated all night, finishing with a stat line of 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Walker and senior Jaidon Lipscomb each finished with nine points.
Jalen Sullinger (5'9 PG / Thomas Worthington / 2021): Sullinger thoroughly dominated Saturday's opener, as Northland really didn't have a matchup for the 5-foot-9 sophomore. Scoring on all three levels, Sullinger was efficient in everything he did in a high usage role. With arguably the best pull up jumper that you'll find in the area, Sullinger used that to his advantage to dominate Northland at the point guard position. The sophomore is very good at passing while on the move, as he sees the weak side of the floor and can deliver pinpoint passes. Sullinger finished with 26 points in a very good performance for the sophomore. In the hours following Saturday's game, Sullinger was offered by Kent State, as he was the first point guard in the sophomore class to receive a Division I offer.
Garner Wallace (6'5 WF / Pickerington Central / 2021): Wallace's breakout week continued on Saturday in the biggest way as he went for a career-high 30 points and 10 rebounds to lead Pickerington Central over Garfield Heights. Wallace is playing with elite confidence right now, as he has scored 100 points in his last five games since entering the Tiger starting lineup. The 6-foot-5 sophomore has a motor that was made in a Lamborghini factory, as he gives max effort on both ends and is a great helpside defender. Wallace punished Garfield Heights in transition with a litany of fastbreak buckets, finishing at a great level at the rim. While Wallace's perimeter game still has room to grow, he has the effort and toughness part already figured out, which for some guys never happens. If Wallace continues to play at this level, Pickerington Central will be a threat to win the regional title for the third-straight year.
Ben Roderick (6'6 WF / Olentangy Liberty / 2019): Fresh off a visit to Ohio State and every OSU blog finally realizing how good he is, Roderick went for 25 points to lead the Patriots over Pickerington North. The 6-foot-6 wing knocked down five threes, got to the rim and finished from all over. Roderick hit some tough, tough shots off the dribble, showcasing a near unguardable step back three at the lefty hit at a high clip. Clearing waiting for high-major offers to roll in, Roderick could get what he's been so patient for with continued performances like Saturday's. While his defensive acumen will need to continue to improve, Roderick clearly talented enough offensively to play at the highest level of college basketball.
Matt Allocco (6'4 WG / Hilliard Bradley / 2020): The joke before the game was the first team to score 45 would win between Hilliard Bradley and Newark. On Saturday, the winning team had 43, as Allocco's Jags held off an upset bit from the Wildcats. Allocco's clutch performance at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter allowed Bradley to take down Newark without making a single shot from the field in the final period. The 6-foot-4 Allocco is almost entirely a slasher at this point, as he is one of the area's best at putting his head down and getting to the rim. The leader of this Bradley team, Allocco is an excellent communicator on both ends of the floor and totally sets the table for the Jaguars.
Keeley Elmore (5'10 PG / Northland / 2019): Elmore continued what has been a dominant senior season with an MVP performance in the win over Thomas Worthington, finishing with 19 points, four rebounds and seven assists. The 5-foot-10 senior is a flat out warrior at the point guard position where he's capable of consistently knocking down outside shots, while having the speed and quickness to get by defenders to the rim, where he has the strength to finish through contact. With just one juco offer, Elmore deserves to see a spike in his recruitment, as you won't find many guys tougher at the point guard position than him.
Nick Nakasian (6'4 WF / Olentangy Liberty / 2019): Always known as an elite motor guy, Nakasian was fantastic in Liberty's win over Pickerington North. Finishing with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists, Nakasian had his fingerprints all over Saturday's win, as he played an efficient game and showed an expanded offensive game by knocking down three triples and throwing down two powerful dunks. Committed to Division III Carnegie Mellon, Nakasian is an elite student who is playing the best basketball of his career for a Liberty team that will challenge for a district title and more.
Jeremiah Keene (6'1 CG / Westerville North / 2019): While Keene had a slow start in Saturday's win over Hartley, the senior made up for it in a big second half where he led his team to the victory. Going for 23 points, Keene scored 15 after halftime, knocking in a trio of threes and showing great transition scoring ability. Keene has one of the quickest first steps of any player in the area, as he can get into the lane whenever he wants. The senior has shown a better shot selection and is playing some of his best basketball during a hot streak for Westerville North which has included wins over Upper Arlington, Olentangy Orange, Olentangy and Bishop Hartley in the last eight days.
Kade Bafford (6'0 PG / Newark / 2021): Bafford is as tough as they come and a great leader at the point guard position. The 6-foot sophomore got Newark going early on, posting up a smaller defender and scoring with back-to-back turnaround jumpers off the glass. After that, Bafford knocked down a pair of threes and had a strong score at the rim through contact late in the game. On the defensive end, Bafford is a physical defender with active hands, as he forced a pair of on-ball steals. A high IQ player that plays with no fear, Bafford has started every game in his Newark career at the point guard position. Look for him to develop into one of the area's toughest guards over the next two years.
Javohn Garcia (6'3 PG / Pickerington Central / 2019): Turn me up. Garcia did that and then some on Saturday against Garfield Heights, finishing with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists to lead the Tigers to their fifth-straight win. A downhill slasher that loves to get to the rim and finish with athleticism at the bucket, Garcia did exactly that in an impressive performance. The 6-foot-3 guard can change speed, direction and stop on a dime, while showcasing improved vision as a passer on the move. The top unsigned guard in Central Ohio, Garcia should be a priority for schools in the MAC and Horizon League, as he picked up a few mid-major offers in the last week.
Makhale Massey (6'5 WG / Northland / 2021): This has been a breakout year for Massey and he continued that on Saturday in the win over Thomas Worthington, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists. While Massey has been an excellent shooter off the ball this season, we didn't get to see much of that from him on Saturday, however he made an impact in the game as a slasher, rebounder, help side defender and shot blocker. With plenty of tools and a great motor, the sky is the limit for Massey, who has a Division I bloodline already with his father Kyrem Massey starring at Kent State in the early 2000s.
Jack Sawyer (6'6 WF / Pickerington North / 2021): The five-star football prospect had a difficult matchup against a Liberty team that clearly was looking to let anyone other than Sawyer score on Saturday. Despite that, Sawyer finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals, showing off his overall game against a quality opponent. The 6-foot-6 sophomore is as strong as they come around the rim and has enough finesse and quickness to get by athletic wings. If Sawyer wasn't Power 5 bound for football, he would be a highly recruited forward in the 2021 class.
Morgan Safford (6'4 WG / Bishop Hartley / 2019): The only player on the Hartley roster to score more than 11 points on Saturday, Safford had his hands full against Westerville North. Finishing with 26 points, seven rebounds and three assists, Safford nearly did enough to lead Hartley to a win. A volume shooter who has never seen a shot he doesn't like, Safford knocked down five threes on Saturday and put his head down and got to the rim whenever he wanted. The best unsigned wing guard in the 2019 class, Safford would be a quality look for low-major Division I programs at this point.
Eli Burke (6'1 PG / Africentric / 2021): Stretching out to 6-foot-1, Burke has continued to improve this year and Saturday was a good showing for him. Finishing with 21 points, Burke knocked down a pair of threes, got to the rim with good quickness and body control and knocked down four of five attempts at the free-throw line. A smart and composed ball handler that can make things happen off the dribble, Burke is one of the very best point guard prospects in the sophomore class in the area. As Burke continues to evolve into a leader, this Africentric team will only get better.
Isaac Settles (6'5 WG / Thomas Worthington / 2021): After a forgettable performance in a loss to Dublin Jerome on Friday, Settles redeemed himself with 25 points and five rebounds against Northland. Nearly leading the Cardinals to a come from behind win, Settles did a great job of getting by defenders (Massey for most of the game) and creating contact, where he knocked down 14 of 18 free throw attempts. With a college-ready frame and high-level athleticism, Settles has to continue to improve his motor and overall toughness to reach his sky high potential.
Isaiah Ingle (6'9 C / Northland / 2020): Ingle has come as far as any junior post prospect in the last year, as Saturday was his best showing yet. Finishing with six points, four rebounds and four blocks, Ingle's presence in the paint made a big difference from a Northland team that needed every one of his defensive efforts. In a tie game late in the fourth quarter, Ingle absolutely sold out for a two hand block where he injured himself, but the hustle play led to a transition score from Massey to give Northland a lead. Ingle has improved his motor and overall toughness, as he will only continue to improve as he gets stronger and shows more consistency. Ingle could be a guy who a year from now will have his college paid, as it's hard to find guys with his size and shot-blocking ability in Central Ohio right now.
Idris Lawrence (5'10 PG / Pickerington North / 2021): Lawrence has yet another impressive outing on Saturday, finishing with 18 points, two assists and two steals. One of the tougher guards that you will find anywhere in the area, Lawrence is relentless in getting to the rim. This showed on Saturday, as he lived at the free throw line for Pickerington North. The lefty also showed a smooth outside stroke by knocking down one three-pointer in the contest. Idris has extremely good lateral quickness and feet, making him one of the best defending young guards around. With a motor unlike many others around, look for Lawrence to step up as a solid secondary scoring option for a Panthers team desperately in need of one.
Chace Perkins (6'2 WG / Westerville North / 2020): Perkins had a bit of a breakout performance in the win over Hartley, going for 14 points. Perkins played hard for 32 minutes, giving Westerville North great minutes, as he showed an ability to finish through contact at the rim, while beginning the game with a three-point field goal. Perkins and his twin brother Charles, both finished in double figures, as the latter junior had a double double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.