COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It’s that time of year again. With the Division I sectional tournament tipping off all across the area this weekend, it’s time we break down each bracket. Let’s take a look at what’s about to happen in Central Ohio.
The Rocks locked up the top seed after an undefeated regular season heading into the tournament draw. While Coffman suffered a loss on the final night of OCC league play, the Rocks are still a threat to make it out of the region. This team put up offensive efficiency numbers that might not have ever been seen before this season, as the Rocks might actually prefer to be looked at as an underdog at this point.
With only one blemish to Hilliard Davidson on its resume, Bradley comes in with great confidence and momentum. The Jags have won 43-straight OCC-Cardinal games and have the area’s best defense. Bradley can make it out of the region if they can prevent late game slippage like they've had in its last three losses to Hilliard Davidson (2x) and Pickerington Central (regional final). Don't be surprised if a guy like sophomore AJ Mirgon breaks out in this tournament.
If the district tournament draw showed us anything, it's that Pickerington Central is the top threat in this tournament. The Tigers have the easiest path to a district final, as its potential semifinal opponent could be No. 15 Gahanna, a team that Central demolished last week. With back-to-back regional titles under its belt, Central is as confident as any team heading into the postseason.
Behind Ben Roderick, the Patriots have the likely Division I district player of the year on its roster - which is never a bad thing. Rolling through the OCC-Buckeye, Liberty is playing with great chemistry, as this deep group of seniors have played together since early grade school. The route to a district final could prevent a few challenges, specifically with No. 11 Logan, who has the firepower and ball movement to play with the Patriots.
Despite replacing nearly its entire rotation, Jason Bates’ program did not take a step back this year, winning a second-straight OCC-Ohio title and becoming the only team in the area to beat Pickerington Central. Behind super sophomore Jack Sawyer, the Panthers felt confident enough to jump into Bradley’s bracket, which could offer up a district final of whey protein proportions.
The Wildcats are the only team in the area to beat Bradley in the regular season in the last two seasons, as Davidson did it in back-to-back years. With the area’s largest front court and a cast of seniors who love playing for one another, Davidson is a legitimate threat to win a district title this year. Already knocking off Liberty earlier in the season on a buzzer beating turn around from senior Jacob Drees, Davidson could get a rematch against the Patriots at the Columbus Convention Center for the night cap on March 9.
Another team that had a whole lot of production to replace, Reynoldsburg has been very solid for 22 games. The Raiders have yet to register a win over any team in the top five, however, they competed close in four games against the Pickerington programs. Senior wing Ben Fort can be as good as any player in the area when his motor is running, which if it is in the district semis and finals, the Raiders might just be able to right the ship for a second-straight district title.
There may not be a team more confident than Upper Arlington right now. With success flowing through the program at all levels (shoutout UA’s freshman team), the Golden Bears feel they can beat anyone in the area when their star Max Martz is on the floor. Handing Coffman its only loss of the year, the Golden Bears will have to more than likely beat Reynoldsburg in a district semifinal before a potential showdown against Pickerington Central in the finals, which would be the first tournament meeting between the two programs since the 2014 regional semifinals.
The Wildcats won an outright OCC-Capital title a week ago by defending home court and dominating Canal Winchester. While Newark is young and unproven, the Wildcats feel confident that they can set up a potential rematch against Dublin Coffman in a district final, which will be the first time these two programs have met up in that setting since 2014. It will all depend on the play of senior Keshawn Heard, who really sets the tone for Newark.
After a blazing hot start to the season that included a 14-0 start, Canal Winchester has fallen back to earth a bit, suffering losses to Groveport, New Albany, Newark and Pickerington North. The Indians will be challenged right out of the gate in the first round by No. 18 Dublin Jerome, who jumped right on them at the tournament draw.
The Chieftains were deserving of a top 10 seed in our opinion and will have a chance to show why over the next few weeks. Senior wing Bo Myers is as good as any player in the area and could add to his already legendary career as Logan’s all-time leading scorer by making a run to the district finals.
Logan should be able to get past No. 28 Grove City in the sectional semis before running into No. 22 Westerville North in the sectional finals. North is the best team seeded in the 20s when playing at their top level, as seniors Jeremiah Keene and Phil Alston are both scholarship-level prospects that can get going.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, Logan could play No. 4 Olentangy Liberty in the semifinals. We would kill to see a Bo vs. Ben matchup, which might just be the best head-to-head player showdown that you’ll see all year.
If Logan can upset Liberty, awaiting them in a district final could be No. 6 Hilliard Davidson,who shut down Myers and the Chieftains in a December win at Capital. The road will be tough, but Logan’s deep group of seniors are more than capable of completing it.
In the early stages of the season, Walnut Ridge was considered a top five team in the area. While the Scots tapered off with late season losses to Africentric and Eastmoor, Walnut Ridge quickly regained momentum by knocking off Hilliard Davidson at home.
That home court advantage could be the key, as the Scots have won 11-straight in the friendly confines of 4841 Livingston Avenue. Junior forward Von Cameron Davis is a one man wrecking crew and will be a tough matchup for any team that comes their way.
The first round matchup against No. 33 Marysville could be challenging, as the Monarchs have quality size and plenty of outside scoring potential. However, we see the Scots forcing turnovers and running everything through Davis for a win.
In the second round, No. 14 Chillicothe poses a legitimate threat, as the Cavaliers have scholarship talent of their own in juniors Jayvon Maughmer and Brandon Noel. Chillicothe jumped right on Ridge and clearly preferred that matchup. Fortunately for the Scots, that sectional final matchup will be at home, which gives Walnut Ridge a distinct advantage against a Cavaliers team that has yet to play in that type of environment.
If the Scots get by Chillicothe, likely matchups against Newark and Dublin Coffman await them. Walnut Ridge has the talent and athleticism to beat both teams and win its first Division I district final since 1971, however, the Scots will need to get consistent guard play and involve fellow junior Kaveon Ross to get it done.
The only area team outside of Hilliard Davidson to beat Olentangy Liberty, Orange is a disciplined team with the potential to beat anyone in the area when their shots are falling. Senior point guard Bryson Lane is having a tremendous season and is looking to help the Pioneers reach the district finals for the first time since 2013.
In order to get there, Orange will have to beat the winner of No. 20 Delaware Hayes and No. 24 Westerville Central before a district semi matchup against top-seeded Coffman. Orange is very familiar with Coffman, as the Pioneers feel they have the offensive firepower to hang with the Rocks.
It was rumored the Cavaliers would go the way of Coffman for a district final. Doing just that, the Cavaliers accepted a stiff challenge on the road against Walnut Ridge in the sectional finals.
With top-end talent in Maughmer and Noel, Chillicothe has plenty of size and skill in its front court. In the back court, junior Tre Beard is a talented guard who knows how to set the table for the rest of his teammates. If the Cavaliers can find a way to win in a hostile environment at Walnut Ridge, a potential district semifinal matchup against Newark could be a classic battle between two former OCC foes.
With a signature win over Logan in the later stages of the regular season, Chillicothe feels they can play with anyone but will have a tough road in order to get to Dublin Coffman in a potential district final.
The Braves’ record may not be sexy, but Olentangy is a legitimate contender that had a top 10 resume heading into the tournament draw. With wins over Hilliard Davidson and Upper Arlington, Olentangy has beaten some of the stiffer competition that the area has to offer.
Matching up with No. 19 Northland in the sectional finals, Olentangy has another week off before hitting the floor again. Behind its all-time leading scorer in Sean Marks, Olentangy is a sharp shooting team that can beat anyone when its shots are falling.
You could see a rematch with Hilliard Davidson in the district semifinals, a game the Braves feel they can win once again, having already taken down the Wildcats this year.
The Celtics won 11 games in the OCC-Cardinal, sweeping Delaware Hayes and rolling over Thomas Worthington in the second matchup. However, outside of conference Jerome is just 3-5, which will make its sectional semi matchup at Canal Winchester an intriguing one. The Celtics will be prepared and will play a total team game, which if they play hard for all 32 minutes, will have a chance to upset the Indians.
A sectional final matchup against Tri-Valley will be winnable for the Celtics if they are able to survive Canal Winchester. If Jerome gets that far, they will more than likely take on No. 5 Pickerington North in the district semis, a team that the Celtics are familiar with after taking on the Panthers last Tuesday. Upsetting the Panthers to end the regular season last year, Jerome will come in with confidence in each matchup, however, they will need to prove that they are capable of beating top teams outside of their conference.
The Warriors have been up and down all season long, however, they may have found their footing three days ago when they overcame adversity and scored 30 points in the fourth quarter of a big win at Dublin Jerome.
With enough talent to play with anyone, North will most likely have a difficult sectional final matchup against No. 11 Logan on the road. If the Warriors play like they did on Tuesday, they should be able to compete in that game, which could serve up an upset if Keene and others get rolling.
A potential district semifinal against Olentangy Liberty will be extremely difficult, as this year’s Patriots team seems to have North’s number, however, anything can happen when teams match up for a third time in a single season.