GAHANNA, Ohio -- Even though the scoreboard read 63-51 in favor of the Gahanna at the end of the night, Grove City gave them all they could handle, consistently keeping themselves within striking distance all game and rarely ever falling behind by double digits.
The first quarter was a complete opposite to the rest of the game, as Grove City came out in a 3-2 zone and Gahanna shot them right out of it. They did this by producing three of their five makes from beyond the arc in this quarter, courtesy of two from senior Elijah Thomas and one from junior Zane Leitwein. The Lions took a commanding 17-10 lead into the second quarter, looking like the far more talented team.
The second quarter was all offense and very little defense from both teams. The Greyhounds knocked home five three pointers in this quarter, a result of the team defense from Gahanna which was very off and looked incredibly lackadaisical throughout a majority of the game.
Thankfully, the Lions picked apart a mismatch on the inside as Grove City had nobody physically capable of guarding freshman center Josh Whiteside, who led the team with six points in the second quarter and got to the free throw line five times. The young big had an obvious mismatch that was picked apart perfectly.
In the second half, we began to see the Lions creep further and further away despite strong performances from the Grove City guard duo of senior Sam Stoll and sophomore Brock Waits.
However, Gahanna woke up on the defensive side of the ball, as they only gave up twenty points in the second half. This was along with continuing to expose their advantage down low, this time with junior Jaiden Davis and sophomore Maceo Williams. The big trio of Williams, Whiteside, and Davis combined for 27 points exclusively down low and at the free throw line.
With an eight point edge going into the final minute, the Lions iced the game with free throws and came away with an 11 point victory.
Gahanna was led in scoring by Elijah Thomas and Sean Jones, combining for 25 points along with their dominant big trio down low that took advantage of an easy mismatch throughout the game.
The Lions improve to 11-6 on the season and will look to continue to improve their resume traveling down to Chillicothe on Saturday when they take on Zane Trace.
Grove City was led by sophomore Alex Coffey, leading the Greyhounds with 13 points. With a roster made up of mainly sophomores and juniors, it will be interesting to see how they can continue to improve over the next few years and develop talented players like Cole Crager and Brock Waits.
However, they do fall to 8-10 on the season, and will look to recover from a three game losing streak at home on Tuesday when they take on Westland.
Sean Jones (5’9 PG / Gahanna / 2022): At 5-foot-9, Jones is not the most physically imposing player you will see on the court, and certainly does not play like it. Offensively, the guard made a strong impression with the tightest handle that I have seen all season. Combine that with his great speed and burst off the dribble and that makes him a pretty hard player to stay in front of in transition and the half court. This goes along with a phenomenal tight space handle where he can sliver his way through tight spaces in the halfcourt with counter moves to every single one of his dribble moves allowing him to get to the rim whenever he pleases where he can finish with elite body control. He also flashed some great deceleration ability to create space on his lone pull up jump shot, even though it was missed, being able to stop on a dime on top of his burst and handle is a trio that all guards need to have in order to be successful high usage creators. We have seen Jones’ passing equity on display multiple times and raved about his feel as a playmaker. Unfortunately, we did not get to see much of that tonight but he did make simple decisive reads both in transition and in the halfcourt. The freshman also flashed his weak side vision, which we saw attacking the zone where he rifled a pass once getting into the lane and a great read driving baseline leading to a wide open three.
Defensively, the freshman maybe the quickest lateral defender in the area as well. He really upped his defensive intensity in the second half, and it led to multiple easy breakaway finishes in transition, possessing both active hands on the ball and great anticipation skill in the passing lanes off of it to come up with a plethora of steals.
Jones will continue to be one of, if not the most productive player in the area for the rest of his high school career. It is very rare to find a guard with his level of feel as a playmaker and splendid athletic tools. Obviously his jumpshot will continue to be a work in progress, but I do not see a reason why it cannot continue to improve and the freshman can maximize his creation ability throughout his career. He should also be an elite point of attack defender on the ball as well. I would like to see him continue to develop as an off ball defender, but he is still significantly ahead of the learning curve in that area for anyone his age too.
Cole Crager (6’3 WF / Grove City / 2020): Although Crager did not play significant second half minutes, he showcased his offensive value in the first. At 6-foot-3, Crager is much more of a wing than forward, but he is the tallest player for the Greyhounds with an exceptional frame so he is forced to play out of position. Offensively, he has average handling coordination for a wing, and should be able to attack off spot ups in straight line drives where he has a solid first step off the dribble. The junior can take advantage of that skill with his shooting ability where he knocked down a spot up three pointer and one off movement.
Defensively, he had an extremely tough assignment forced to guard the Gahanna bigs. He did communicate nicely in the bottom of the Grove City zone. In the few possessions of him defending in space, he appears to be fine staying with other low usage wings at the next level, but nothing more.