Lost in Regional Finals 84-50 to Lutheran East
Who is Back: Braylon McClardy (Sr)- All District, Cade Davies (Sr)
Who is Gone: Nate Biggers- All District, Eli Walton
Burning Question: Are the Red Wolves competing again for a District run?
Outlook: Heights made a nice run to the Regional Finals before running into Lutheran East. The Red Wolves have a nice duo in McClardy and Davies back and could again be a challenger in NE Ohio.
Division III State Champions
Who is Back: Jesse McCulloch (Sr)- Michigan State commit, Anthony Bruce (Sr), Ronald Taylor (Sr), Kirr Knany (Sr)- transfer from ISA, Chauncey Brashers (Sr), Malsi Pearson (So)- transfer from Buchtel, Alex McCulloch (So)
Who is Gone: TJ Crumble- (1st Team All District) transfer to Richmond Heights, Cody Head (1st Team All District), Nelson Johnson, Icare Bakadisula- transfer to Combine Academy (NC), Alan Mallory- transfer to Maple Heights
Burning Question: Will the Falcons be able to repeat with the amount of guys gone?
Outlook: The Lue is back to defend their title with McCulloch and the addition of Knany to be one of the biggest teams in Division III. Several departures through transfer changes how this team looks, but there are plenty of seniors add experience to repeat another title.
Mentor Lake Catholic
17-10 (Crown Conference)
Lost in Regional Semifinals 61-36 to Lutheran East
Who is Back: Peyton Budrys (Sr)- 2nd Team All District, Cross Nimmo (Jr)
Who is Gone: Aidan Fitzgerald (1st Team All District), Nick Brandt
Burning Question: Can the Cougars build off their postseason success?
Outlook: Cougars could be more competitive in the Crown Conference and could see themselves back in the Regionals.
Lost in District Semifinals 60-50 to Canton Central Catholic
Who is Back: Eric Snow Jr (Sr), Aidan Duncan (Jr), Cooper Hughes (Jr)
Who is Gone: Dom Locklear, Keenan Hughes
Burning Question: Can Trinity battle within NE Ohio with their talent back?
Outlook: With several returning pieces, Trinity makes a case to be a sleeper in NE Ohio.
22-4 (Inter-Valley Conference)
Lost in District Finals 65-61 to Garaway
Who is Back: J’Allen Barrino (Sr)- District Co-Player of the Year, Mitchell Minor (Sr)- 2nd Team All District, Dylan Phillips (Sr), Rodney Smith (Jr)
Who is Gone: Jason Barrino
Burning Question: Will the Hornets get over the District hump and advance to a Regional round?
Prediction: The Hornets are arguably the best team in the District and are returning plenty of talent. Should be able to take a District title this year.
18-4 (Buckeye 8)
Lost in Sectional 54-53 to Buckeye Trail
Who is Back: Alex Reese (Jr)- 2nd Time All District, Tevn Williams (Sr)
Who is Gone: Denali Jackson- District Co-Player of the Year
Burning Question: Will the Riders avenge their upset loss without their top guy?
Outlook: The Purple Riders were upset in their first game after a fantastic regular season. While they lose Jackson, Reese has plenty of upside and can be a name to watch. Could contend with Malvern for the District title.
16-8 (Inter-Valley Conference)
Lost in Sectionals 54-49 to West Muskingum
Who is Back: Dantae Faiello (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Lukas Gilland (Jr), Nick Petro (Sr), Luke Williams (Jr)
Who is Gone: Jordan Wigfield (3rd Team All District)
Burning Question: Can the Valley break through and make noise in the District?
Outlook: Sandy Valley is returning a bunch of talent and should again be a team to watch with Faiello leading them.
15-9 (Ohio Valley Conference)
Lost in District Semifinals 48-46 to South Point
Who is Back: Will Davis (Sr), Brody Buchanan (Jr)
Who is Gone: J.D. Thacker (2nd Team All District), Chase Allen (3rd Team All District)
Burning Question: Can the Dragons make more noise in SE Ohio this year?
Outlook: Fairland is one of the best programs in SE Ohio and has pieces returning to replace 2 All-District departures. The Dragons have scoring in Davis and Buchanan and should be a team to watch.
17-7 (Ohio Valley Conference)
Lost in Sectionals 49-43 (OT) to New Lexington
Who is Back: Braden Schreck (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Shaun Terry (Jr)- 2nd Team All District
Who is Gone: Ty Perkins, Ethan White
Burning Question: Can the Tigers make a run moving down to Division III?
Outlook: Tigers return arguably their two best players from last season. Moving down to Division III should be good for them and a District title isn’t out of the question.
22-2 (Southern Ohio Conference II)
Lost in District Finals 54-46 to North Adams
Who is Back: Myles Montgomery (Jr)- District Co-Player of the Year, Bennett Kayser (Jr)- 2nd Team All District, Jackson Shoemaker (Jr)
Who is Gone: Adam Crank, Joe Hannah
Burning Question: Will the Falcons get out of the Districts this year?
Outlook: Minford enters the year the clear favorite in SE Ohio and have one of the best guards in Montgomery. On paper no reason why they can’t compete for a Regional title.
Lost in Regional Semifinals 57-44 to South Point
Who is Back: Bransyn Copas (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Carson Osborne (Jr)- 2nd Team All District, Jayce Rothwell (Jr)
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: Can the Green Devils get beyond a District title again?
Outlook: Returning most of their production from last year and have a good scorer in Copas. Should compete in the SHAC and make another run to the District title.
22-4 (Ohio Valley Conference)
Lost in Regional Finals 55-38 to Africentric
Who is Back: Caleb Lovely (Sr)- District Co-Player of the Year
Who is Gone: Jordan Ermalsvich- 2nd Team All District, Jackson Childers- transfer to Expressions Prep (WV)
Burning Question: Can Lovely get the Pointers back to the Regionals?
Outlook: One of the best teams in SE Ohio last year, the Pointers will have a hard time repeating with the loss of Childers (transfer). Lovely is one of the best players in the District, but depth could hold them back.
24-1 (Southern Hills Athletic Conference-II)
Lost in District Finals 43-38 to Green
Who is Back: Larkin Friend (Sr)- 3rd Team All District
Who is Gone: T.J. Mootz (1st Team All District), Wyatt Collins (3rd Team All District), Tytis Cannon
Burning Question: Do the Lions have enough back to repeat a District Final repeat?
Outlook: The Lions lose a lot of talent from an undefeated regular season team. Friend will be leaned on to replace the scoring gone with graduation.
21-4 (Tri Valley Conference)
Lost in Regional Semifinals 55-51 to Hiland
Who is Back: Tariq Cottrill (Sr)- District Co-Player of the Year, Andrew Airhart (Sr)- 2nd Team All District
Who is Gone: Caden Chapman (2nd Team All District), Billy Ward
Burning Question: Are the Lancers the team to beat in SE Ohio?
Outlook: Federal Hocking is returning one of the best players in the District in Cottrill and will be the favorites to again make a run to Regionals.
14-9 (Southern Ohio Conference-II)
Lost in District Semifinals 34-30 to Notre Dame
Who is Back: Eli Roberts (Jr)- 1st Team All District, Tyler Sommer (Sr)- 3rd Team All District, Hunter Barnard (So)
Who is Gone: Will Collins
Burning Question: Will the Jeeps be experienced enough to make a deeper run in Districts?
Outlook: Norm Persin takes over as the head coach and inherits a young but talented team. Jeeps could be the favorite out of SE Ohio.
19-4 (Mid State League-Cardinal)
Lost in Sectionals 68-52 to Strasburg-Franklin
Who is Back: Grady Labishak (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Xander Daniels (Sr), Brendan Bernath (Sr)
Who is Gone: Weston Hartman (2nd Team All District)
Burning Question: Will Rosecrans have the experience to contest with Hiland?
Outlook: Labishak returns and has seniors around him to make the Bishops a contender in Eastern Ohio.
19-10 (Inter-Valley Conference)
Lost in State Semifinals 69-63 to Convoy Crestview
Who is Back: Sammy Detweiler (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Alex Yoder (Sr)
Who is Gone: Carson Habeger (3rd Team All District)
Burning Question: Can anybody compete with the Hawks in the East District?
Outlook: Returning Detweiler is key offensively and Yoder’s size will give Hiland an inside presence. Hawks are the favorites again out of Eastern Ohio.
15-9 (Mid Ohio Valley League)
Lost in Sectionals 73-30 to Hiland
Who is Back: Tucker Howell (Jr)- 1st Team All District
Who is Gone: Loghan Brown
Burning Question: How will the Seminoles respond after an earlier exit last season?
Outlook: Howell’s return gives the Seminoles a chance to move up in the East District.
20-6 (Northeastern Athletic Conference)
Lost in District Finals 81-54 to Cornerstone Christian
Who is Back: Duncan Moy (Sr)- 1st Team All District
Who is Gone: Brad Hamilton (1st Team All District), Cole Burnett
Burning Question: Can Moy get the Braves past the District hump in his final season?
Outlook: Badger has one of the best players in NE Ohio in Moy. With some support guys graduating, Moy will have to play elite basketball for the Braves to return to the District Final.
Lost in Regional Semifinals 93-52 to Richmond Heights
Who is Back: Quinn Kwasniak (Jr)- 2nd Team All District
Who is Gone: D.J. Niles (2nd Team All District), Ryan Merrill, Carter Armstrong (transfer to Cleveland Heights)
Burning Question: Can Kwasniak lead CCA with the loss of so many role guys?
Outlook: Cornerstone Christian has one of the best coaches in NE Ohio and one of the best players. Will make a case to return to Regionals.
20-5 (Portage Trail Conference)
Lost in District Finals 70-50 to Richmond Heights
Who is Back: Layne Miller (Sr)- 1st Team All District
Who is Gone: Nick Coffman, Mason Williams
Burning Question: Is there enough returning to support Miller?
Outlook: Mogadore got to the District Finals last year before running into Richmond Heights. They return their top guy in Miller and will try to replicate last season’s run.
Division IV State Champions
Who is Back: DeErrick Barber (Jr)- 1st Team All District, Dorian Jones (Jr)- 1st Team All District, Hosea Steele (Sr)- Mars Hill commit- 1st Team All District, TJ Crumble (So)- 1st Team All District- transfer from Lutheran East, Jeremy Wilson (Sr)- 2nd Team All District, Demarris Winters (Jr)- 2nd Team All District
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: Is there anyone in the state that can battle with the Spartans?
Outlook: Richmond Heights was already returning all 5 starters, and then added a Top 25 national prospect in Crumble. There are few teams in the state capable of competing with them in Division IV.
Warren John F Kennedy
19-6 (Portage Trail Conference)
Lost in District Finals 71-58 to Dalton
Who is Back: Michael Condoleon (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Nick Ryan (Jr)- 1st Team All District, Jaden Rishel (Sr)- 2nd Team All District, Nico Ciminero (Sr)
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: What is the Eagles ceiling in a loaded Northeast Ohio?
Prediction: JFK has plenty of talent returning with 3 All-District players coming back. The Eagles will be a team to watch out of NE Ohio.
20-5 (Green Meadows Conference)
Lost in District Finals 35-22 to Patrick Henry
Who is Back: Landon Brewer (Sr)- District Co-Player of the Year, Carson Altimus (Sr), Zaine McMichael (So)
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: Are the Archers on par for a return to Dayton?
Outlook: Brewer is coming off a fantastic season and has several pieces around him. The Archers will be a tough team with a rich history recently.
25-4 (Northwest Conference)
Lost in State Finals 70-26 to Richmond Heights
Who is Back: Wren Sheets (Jr), Tommy Heffner (Jr)
Who is Gone: Gavin Etzler (2nd Team All District), Nate Lichtle, Mitch Temple
Burning Question: Do the Knights have enough back to return to Dayton?
Outlook: Crestview made the fantastic run through the tournament before falling short to Richmond Heights. WHile 3 of the top 5 are gone, Wren Sheets is back and looked great in the Summer. Crestview still will be a tough team in NW Ohio.
20-5 (Sandusky Bay Conference-River)
Lost in District Finals 46-45 to Mohawk
Who is Back: Evan Kreais (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Donovan Elmore (Sr), Braylon Martinez (Jr)
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: Are the Chieftans ready to challenge for a District title?
Outlook: Hopewell-Loudon made the District Finals and return all their top players. Another District run is very possible.
Lima Central Catholic
Lost in Sectionals 58-42 to Bluffton
Who is Back: Carson Parker (Sr)- 2nd Team All District, DeMarr Foster (Sr), Angelo Collins (Jr), Jordan Duncan (So)- transfer from Moeller
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: How will LCC fare moving down a division?
Outlook: LCC returns much of their top guys last year and adds Duncan from Moeller. Moving down to Division IV could end up working for this group as they’ll be a sleeper in NW Ohio.
18-4 (Midwest Athletic Conference)
Lost in Regional Finals to Convoy Crestview 41-40
Who is Back: Jack Knapke (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Austin Niekamp (Sr)
Who is Gone: Jadyn Mescher (3rd Team All District), Tate Hess
Burning Question: Will the Flyers again run the tables in the MAC?
Outlook: Marion Local returns plenty of size with Knapke and Niekamp after a great postseason run last year. Should again be the top team in NW Ohio.
Miami Valley Country Day
12-12 (Toledo Area Athletic Conference)
Lost in Sectionals 44-34 to Ayersville
Who is Back: CJ Majors (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Amani Dickerson (Sr), Amani Chandler (Sr), Ty Lewis (Fr)
Who is Gone: David Parcher
Burning Question: Are the Eagles ready to take the next step towards the District run?
Outlook: MVCD has a great core coming back and has been on the rise for a few years. With some seniors coming back as well as the addition of Lewis, the Eagles will have a chance to contend for a District title.
19-4 (Sandusky Bay Conference-River)
Lost in Sectionals 58-47 (OT) to Arlington
Who is Back: Konnor Emsberger (Sr)- 2nd Team All District, Isiah Perez (Sr), Carter DuBois (Sr), Ryan Adelsperger (Jr)
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: Can Old Fort take an open District?
Outlook: The Stockaders bring back almost everyone, including Emsberger, from a solid team. The District is more open this year meaning Old Fort could contend for a Regional run.
18-5 (Blanchard Valley Conference/Putnam County League)
Lost in Sectionals 52-45 to Delphos St. John’s
Who is Back: Aiden Harris (Sr)- 3rd Team All District, Colin Harris (Sr)
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: Are the Rockets able to take the next step and get through Sectionals?
Outlook: This group has a proven scorer in Harris and looked good a year ago. As long as they continue to compete, could be another sleeper in NW Ohio.
17-5 (Northwest Ohio Athletic League)
Lost in Regional Semifinals 56-42 to Marion Local
Who is Back: Lincoln Creager (Jr)- 2nd Team All District, Mack Hieber (So)
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: Is Creager/Hieber a strong enough duo to win the NWOAL?
Outlook: A young team last year, the Patriots return 2 great players in Creager and Hieber and should be one of NW Ohio’s best teams this upcoming season. Could even make an argument for a trip to Dayton.
16-9 (Toledo Area Athletic Conference)
Lost in District Semifinals 45-44 to Antwerp
Who is Back: Kalon Butler (Sr)- 3rd Team All District, Xandyr Hesson (Sr), Conye Gaston (Sr), Karter Koester (Jr)
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: Will the Eagles have the experience to improve in their District?
Outlook: Toledo Christian has most of their production back from last year and has the program and history to be one of the notable programs in the area.
15-10 (Knox Morrow Athletic Conference)
Lost in District Finals 50-38 (OT) to Patriot Prep
Who is Back: Grant Bentley (Sr)- 1st Team All District, Jaxon Wenger (Jr)- 2nd Team All District
Who is Gone:
Burning Question: Is Northmor the new team to beat in Central Ohio?
Outlook: Division IV in Central Ohio is wide open and there are not a lot of teams that make strong cases to win. Northmor has a nice upperclassmen led group with deep postseason success. The Golden Knights might be the favorites for now.
23-4 (Mid Ohio Christian Athletic League)
Lost in Regional Finals 52-50 to Hiland
Who is Back: Carter Jury (Sr)
Who is Gone: Landon Vanderwarker- District Player of the Year-transferred to Delaware Hayes
Burning Question: What will the Lions look like now without Vanderwarker?
Outlook: After a historic run to the Regional Finals last year, Northside Christian now loses their top player and looks at a new coach as Kevin Weakley comes over from Worthington Christian. Central Ohio in Division IV is wide open and if the Lions can buy in to Weakley and previous successes, they could still be around in the District race.
Lost in Regional Semifinals 54-45 to Jackson Center
Who is Back: Chris Stokes (Sr)- 3rd Team All District, Dominic Sammons (Sr)
Who is Gone: Keith Prysock (1st Team All District)
Burning Question: Can Patriot Prep return to Regionals?
Outlook: Patriot Prep loses their top guy from last year, but return their next top guys and should be one of Central Ohio’s top teams.
Sunday was a great day at Lourdes University as I watched the Toledo Top 64 hosted by Anthony and Shane Garcia. With players from all over NW Ohio, the event featured some high quality competition and some great storylines. Here’s what impressed me:
2024 Guards Showed Out
Plenty of senior guards used the event as an opportunity to show what they can do. Jalen Brown from Emmanuel Christian jumped off the page right away. The PG caught my eye early with his shooting touch as well as his finishing through contact. Twice in the first game, Brown rose up for a shot and took a bump on the perimeter, but still finished. Also showed some bounce with a transition dunk.
Defense was also on display with CJ Majors from Maumee Valley. The 6-foot guard picked up full court on Antoine West and sat down on the perimeter. Utilized his length to clog passing lanes and alter skip passes. Just a tough competitor all together.
Max Dawson from Willard showed why he’s one of the best shooters in the state with a strong performance in his games. What I liked about Dawson was his shots weren’t bad looks or forced. Everything was in rhythm and fluid. When opponents got closed out on him, Dawson put the ball on the floor and could create some offense with the dribble attacking.
Size Is Not An Issue In NW OH
If there was one takeaway from the event, it’s that there is some size up in the Northwest and plenty of options. Charlie Wood (Jr) was a name I had heard a lot about and he showed plenty of potential at 6-foot-10. While there are areas he needs to improve yet, the ceiling is high with him having 2 more years of HS action at Swanton HS. Several D2 programs were watching Wood as he showed he has the size to be a target at that level.
Kaeden Carruthers (So) might be one of the more intriguing prospects as he is technically a wing at 6-foot-6, but I could see him transforming more into a stretch 4. A former Emmanuel Christian player, Carruthers transferred to St. John’s and will have a chance to stand out as he continues to develop. He moves well up and down the floor and can be a problem with his stronger frame when he gets a head of steam.
Alan Horton (So) is another player that changed high schools as he will be suiting up with Toledo St. Francis this Winter. Horton has a great frame and while a little wirey, he shows confidence at the rim and attacking with whoever is defending him. Still has some moments of clumsiness, but Horton turned heads with a two-handed slam off two feet in the first game.
Household Names Live Up To The Hype
While the event was targeted for smaller school prospects, some scholarship athletes showed why they are notable names in the area. Antoine West (Jr) is one of Ohio’s top players in the 2025 class. This was on full display as West consistently had paint touches and made plays beyond scoring. His court awareness and vision allowed him to get guys involved in the halfcourt.
Lima Senior’s Jekel Cotton (Jr) was another name everyone knew entering the event and he did not disappoint. Cotton showed he can score however and whenever he wants to. While his go-to is a 3PT shot either off the dribble or off the catch, Cotton used his shooting potential to get guys in the air with a pump fake and attack hard for points in the paint.
More of a household name in rural NW Ohio, Austin Niekamp (Jr) from Marion Local showed great strides in his confidence and play around the rim. Already known to stretch the floor out as a big, Niekamp was confident battling on the blocks, demonstrating good vision out of the post and made some great passes out of a post move. Overall he looked more confident with the ball in his hands and embraced contact wherever possessing the ball.
The Future is Bright
Several young players showed they can hang during the event as some made their first appearances at all at the high school level. Ty Lewis (Fr) was a big that impressed in the first game. Standing 6-foot-7, Lewis looks like a TE with his strong body and looked to establish position on the post when he was in. Still very raw, the Maumee Valley rookie showed me he can be a force to reckon with as time passes and he continues to improve.
Mack Hieber (So) from Patrick Henry was a name I especially wanted to see as I had heard good things during the Grassroots season on him. While Hieber didn’t jump off the page offensively, he showed more unselfish and team-first plays that caught my eye. Always looked to make a better pass and was unselfish himself making decisions with the ball. Hieber has good size already at 6-foot-5 and as he improves his guard play can be a solid name for scholarship programs to monitor.
I would argue the most put together player in the event was Race Kowalczyk (So) from Toledo St. John’s. When it comes to intangibles, Kowalczyk took the cake. Made good reads and passes, scored the basketball from multiple levels, moved without the ball and was a leader for his team. I was espeically impressed with Kowalczyk’s demeanor under the rim as he utilized quick footwork and a soft touch to score several times around the rim.
Finally, Nate Miles (So) put on a great showing in the game I checked out his team. Impactful on both ends, Miles played his game, was not phased with ball pressure or defensive rotations. Well-rounded scorer with a go-to off the dribble. Even impressed with some good post play utilizing an up-and-under against a bigger team in the matchup I checked out.