REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio -- Reynoldsburg came into this matchup looking for revenge after losing to Pickerington North at home over a month ago. With an electric atmosphere provided by the home fans, the Raiders were more than up for the challenge of taking on the Panthers, who just came off a major blowout win against Canal Winchester and were riding a three game win streak.
Unfortunately, that was not the case as the Raiders fell 53-48.
The first quarter started out with both teams feeling eachother out. Reynoldsburg came out in a box and one with all their attention focused on junior Hunter Shedenhelm and sophomore Jack Sawyer, shadowing Shedenhelm running the baseline and shading two defenders on every Sawyer post up.
It also took Reynoldsburg some time to feel out the persistent half court traps from the Panther defense. Unfortunately, the Raiders struggled to rebound out of their zone, leading to a few put backs and Sawyer finding ways to score on the perimeter and in transition. This led to ten of Pickerington North’s 14 first quarter points for the Ohio State football commit, as the Raiders found themselves trailing 14-11 heading into the second.
The physical play style that developed late in the first half carried on into the second quarter and so did Jack Sawyer’s elite play, who picked apart the Raider zone in every way imaginable on offense.
Reynoldsburg senior Ben Fort attempted to put his team on his shoulders as well as the quarter was dominated by both teams stars. However, Fort desperately needed help from the other talented Raiders who were nowhere to be found as they trailed 27-21 heading into halftime.
The Raiders opened up the third quarter on a 10-2 run behind the home crowd and the senior duo of Fort and Xavier Prince, both stud athletes that thrived running out in transition, and provided a spark for the home crowd, leading 31-29 with four and a half minutes left in the third.
During this run, the Panthers really struggled to get anything going in the halfcourt, as the Raiders defense was much more effective to start the second half, limiting the touches of Pickerington North’s two leading scorers.
Later on in the quarter, the two sport stud came back alive with five late points including a three off a baseline out of bounds set to give the Panthers a 37-34 lead going into the fourth.
Reynoldsburg was down a starter in the beginning of the fourth as senior Sahmi Willoughby had to sit down for the first few minutes of the final quarter due to foul trouble. The senior forward provided a spark of energy in the third as well with a huge block meeting Sawyer at the rim. Without their senior in the bottom of the zone, the Panthers quickly advanced their lead and began to try to milk the most out of every possession around the four minute mark.
The Raiders did not give up though, as they finally received some help from their role players as sophomore Josiah Mobley knocked down two big three-pointers late in the fourth.
However, it was just a little too late. Even the rim rocking putback dunk from Fort on Sawyer could not muscle Reynoldsburg to a win. Pickerington North iced the game with free throws after a gritty performance by both teams.
Pickerington North extendeds their winning streak to four games and now boasts a 16-4 record and will look to continue their push into the tournament against Dublin Jerome on Tuesday.
Reynoldsburg now falls to 15-5 with four of their losses coming to Pickerington schools. They have a quick turnaround at Eastmoor tomorrow and will attempt to bounce back.
Jack Sawyer (6’6 WF / Pickerington North / 2021): Anyone within the Central Ohio area with social media has heard of Sawyer’s commitment to play football at Ohio State. However, he happens to be an elite basketball prospect as well. Sawyer dominated the entire first half with 19 points compared to Reynoldsburg’s 21 team points.
The 6-foot-6 hybrid could be a wing or a four man at the collegiate level. Offensively, Sawyer is wildly versatile. At his size, he is already built like an NFL linebacker, with a strong open court handle and ability to make plays as a grab and go threat, taking advantage of his tremendous rebounding ability. As a transition handler, Sawyer is capable of finishing at the rim or making any read asked as a passer, whether that is strong/weak side corner, to trailers, or to rim runners. In the halfcourt, Sawyer’s collegiate calling card will likely be his jumpshot, but the variety of ways he can apply his shooting stroke is what’s appealing. He is capable of being a spot up floor spacer that can attack the basket with a solid first step. The sophomore also has incredible mid-range touch and shows enough shot creation ability to work well off flare screens, curls, and as a ball screener where he can knock down pull ups and eventually develop as a passer off movement along with attacking the lane, as he flashed a feel for the weak side of the floor along with having the size and strength to make any play possible. When working him in ball screens, if a team switches, it’s a gigantic mismatch. He has a fadeaway and a jump hook in his post arsenal. Both of these shots are hard to contest because of his high release and leaping explosion.
Defensively, Sawyer’s motor is always running. He did play a largely non-perimeter role on the defensive end, but still is such an incredible mover at his size that he should be fine staying with low usage wings that are not much of an on ball threat until we see otherwise. He had a strong showing as a rim protector today even though that will not project to much if he chooses to have a collegiate future. He did make some solid rim rotations from the strong and occasionally weak side of the floor that were tremendous to see out of such a young player.
Bottom line, Jack Sawyer is the best player that I have scouted all season, and that is not meant to be disrespectful to any of Central Ohio’s stars in any way. There’s just too many avenues for him to be a seemingless fit in any collegiate offense. I would like to see him continue to grow as an on ball defender that can stay with any wing regardless of their on/off ball capabilities along with continuing to develop his passing vision when attacking off the dribble, which is already solid for his age. I see no reason why the sophomore could not pursue a two sport career in college if he wants to.
Ben Fort (6’5 WG / Reynoldsburg / 2019): The senior looked the absolute best he has ever looked when I’ve seen him on both ends of the floor tonight, as he tried to will his team to a victory. Fort scored over half of his team’s points with 25 in the game. The 6-foot-5 wing is known for his shooting capabilities, but can be a little inconsistent at times. He is an elite athlete with a shifty handle that likes to work out of high usage situations. Unfortunately, in the games prior, Fort would not make use of his handle to put pressure on the defense by getting into the lane, showing a tendency to settle for tough pull ups far too often. That couldn’t be further from the truth tonight, as he shot only one shot from beyond the three point line. The rest of his time was spent in attack mode, as Fort took advantage of his tremendous first step and burst off the dribble. Even though he still needs major work on his frame, Fort finished at the rim consistently thanks to his leaping explosion and length.
This was far and away the most engaged I have seen Fort play off the ball defensively as well. He rarely ever missed a rotation within the zone and was willing to chase Shedenhelm around the arc. This was all on top of coming up with a pinned block on a down rotation at the rim and a steal anticipating in the passing lanes. He also showcased tremendous recovery speed that gives him a significantly greater room for error than most collegiate prospects with a slower reaction time.
Currently, Fort only has one Division I offer from IUPUI. If the senior can continue to build on these performances, he will definitely be doing himself a huge favor. I’d like to see him continue to tighten his handle, continue to improve as a spot up shooter, and start to develop some passing equity when getting into the lane off the dribble. Fort still has loads of potential both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball whether it is on or off the ball. Today was a major step in the right direction for him.