Three games in two days will determine who moves on to next weekend’s State Championships in Columbus. With Cincinnati guaranteed to have a participant in both Divisions I & III will Taft be able to pull off a win in Division II to give The Queen City three teams in the state capital?
· Middletown vs Fairfield: Friday at Cintas 7:30 – The Middies are one of Ohio’s storied programs (although they haven’t been to the Final Four since 1983), while Fairfield has never advanced past the Regionals. These two teams will meet on Friday night and history will be made for one school. The Indians have been one of the surprise teams of the season, a team that CPHR has even wrongly picked against in earlier rounds. They have shown tremendous toughness, discipline, and resolve to beat opponents like LaSalle, Troy, and Withrow. Middletown had their peaks and valleys during the regular season but ended up winning the GMC (including a 60-53 defeat of Fairfield in league play). In the tournament the Middies have defeated talented teams like Winton Woods, Princeton, and Moeller in convincing fashion. Coach Andrews has a team full of great athletes and a superstar on top of his game in senior guard Geovonie McKnight. Expect Fairfield to rotate defenders and change defensive schemes on McKnight to try and slow him down; when you slow down McKnight you take away the heart and soul of the Middletown team. Offensively you never know who the points will come from on a deadly shooting group of Indian players. Senior Jeff Woods has been hot lately, but Keon Benjamin might be their most dangerous player off the bench and seniors James Turner and Kyle Smith are known to make plays. Fairfield plays seven guys with six being seniors so experience is not a problem. While Middletown might play some younger players, three of their main five are underclassmen, all their players have showed poise in the big moments (especially in their last outing where they defeated Moeller with clutch free throw shooting). With two league rivals meeting in the regional final again the game promises to be intense and exciting.
o Prediction: In a game full of tough minded and physical teams CPHR feels that Middletown’s athleticism edge will be just enough. With both teams knowing each other so well we will probably see a low scoring affair but we think that the Middies advance with a win by a narrow margin.
· Taft vs Dayton Dunbar: Saturday at Kettering Trent Arena 3:00 – Many people are calling this the de facto State Championship game as the two most talented Division II teams in the state (and possibly the best two teams in the state regardless of division) will meet for a spot in the Final Four. Dunbar starts three players who have signed with Division I colleges in strong PG Andre Yates (Creighton), smooth forward Deontae “Teddy” Hawkins (Wichita State), and bruising scoring forward Gary Akbar (Cleveland State). They also feature the state’s best young point man in freshman Amos “AJ” Harris and a talented athletic junior forward in Damarion Geter. We all know what Taft is about, tough play from their seven man senior rotation, led by five players that have been together since they were knee high. Adolphus Washington should be too much for Dunbar to handle down low as he is too big for the powerful Akbar to contain and too strong for the 6’7 Geter or 6’7 Hawkins. The athleticism of Dwayne Stanford could give the Wolverines problem, as could the shooting of Jalean Lowe and the playmaking of Dwayne Stanford. One of the interesting matchups in this game will be who Coach Pullen, of Dunbar, puts on Taft PG Orlando Berry Jr who’s experience gives him an advantage on Harris while his quickness might be too much for Yates. The Senators will have to guard Dunbar as well though. Does Taft have an answer for Akbar? Washington might not have the foot speed to contain the lefty, and the Senators certainly don’t have another player strong enough to guard him. How about Yates, who’s size could overwhelm Berry but he also has the speed to give Freeman or Lowe fits. The individual matchups in a game that will not be lacking in talent will probably determine the outcome between two teams who have been waiting all year to play each other.
o Prediction: The arena is going to be sold out and rocking, we know that much. As for the game, this is a tough one to pick. Both teams excel in scoring the ball in the full-court game, as well as forcing their opponents into turnovers to create easy buckets. Whoever executes in the half-court should win. Because of that we’re going to take Taft because they have Mr. Basketball candidate Adolphus “Diesel” Washington. The will to win and discipline of Taft might be just enough to advance them back to States.
· Summit vs Roger Bacon: Saturday at Kettering Trent Arena 7:30 – The Spartans have proven time and time again that they’re one of the premiere defensive teams in Southwest Ohio, and have some of the region’s best young offensive talent led by sophomore wings Austin Frentsos and Carlas Jackson; as well as junior Erik Edwards and freshman Dahmere Epperson. However, Summit has been consistently productive all season long on both ends of the floor. Guards Kevin Johnson and Antonio Woods are going to get loose at some point in the game, we know that. They key for Summit might be senior post Holden Hertzel, who has been unstoppable late in the season with his power and skill down on the block. If Bacon can find a way to stop those three from scoring then they should have a good chance to win, provided they can also prevent Summit senior sharpshooter Tommy Kreyenhagen from getting a look off. Summit has the overall talent advantage and like Bacon is a disciplined defensive team. But Bacon has the heart of a champion which can never be overlooked.
o Prediction: Summit advances to the Final Four.