Posted On: 12/30/17 1:00 PM
One of the premier matchups on the Northeast Ohio Prep schedule did not disappoint.
Garfield Heights, ranked No. 22 in the nation by MaxPreps, survived an upset bid in an 85-76 overtime win over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the NEO Elite Classic in front of a sold-out gym in Garfield Heights.
The game was loaded with Division I prospects including Garfield’s 6’9” Alonzo Gaffney, arguably the best junior in the state, and Demetrius “Meechie” Johnson Jr., a 6’0”freshman point guard who is among the top players in his grade in Ohio if not the country.
Gaffney at 6’9’played really big in overtime providing solid rim protection as the Bulldogs outscored the Irish 15-6 in the extra session. Senior guard Alex Heath, 5’9”, scored seven in the OT to lead the way for Garfield Heights, which improved to 7-0 with the win while St. V dropped to 3-3. St. V led by 10 in the second half but could not hold on. Heath (2018) finished the contest with 23 points and was named the MVP.
St. Vincent-St. Mary was led by its standout freshman guard Seth Wilson. The 6’1” guard proved to be as good if not a smidgen better than Johnson. He was able to score inside and outside and in one sequence came up with a nice steal, led the break and dished the ball off for a score. He was taken off the floor late in the fourth quarter before returning for the game’s final minute.
He drained an unbelievably clutch 3-pointer in the game’s last 2 seconds of regulation to force overtime. He finished with 23 points while Meechie scored 13 and played all 32 minutes.
Gaffney, who connected on 3 3-pointers in the first half, scored 15 points, blocked four shots and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Donovan Forte (2018) scored 10 and Julian Whiteside 13 for Garfield.
Forte has already signed with Jacksonville State.
Scott Walker scored 15 and Jalen Ross 14 for St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Who’s better Meechie Johnson or Seth Wilson?
Can’t say at this point. Wilson hit a 3-pointer that was insanely clutch. Meechie played a strong floor game with six assists and hit a big 3-pointer in overtime to extend the Garfield lead to 7.
Garfield duo blending nicely
Meechie Johnson scored 50 in an early-season Garfield win creating speculation that it could create friction on the team.
The belief held by some in the NEO Prep Basketball world was that Gaffney — one the top prep players in the state in his class — might bristle at Meechie getting all those touches and all those points.
But Gaffney said that’s just not the case. He loves playing with Johnson and calls him “the best freshman in the country.”
“I love playing with Meechie. It’s great. He’s the most unselfish player. I love playing with him and Alex Heath. Very unselfish players,” Gaffney said after the Garfield win over St. Vincent-St. Mary.
As for Meechie going off for 50, Gaffney did not have a problem with it.
“If he goes off for 50 that’s great,” said Gaffney.
Michigan State is reportedly very high on Gaffney and had a scout at the St. Vincent-St. Mary game.
Garfield coach Sonny Johnson, who helped organize the two-day slate of games, said approximately 30 college coaches attended the event.
Heath gets a thumbs-up from Coach Izzo
Heath won the game MVP for his 23-point, nine assist effort in the win over St. Vincent-St. Mary. He scored 25 earlier this year with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in attendance. Michigan State is intensely recruiting Gaffney, which is what led Izzo to watch the Bulldogs.
After the game, Izzo spoke with Heath and encouraged him to keep working at his game. Heath is an intriguing prospect. He committed to Mercyhurst earlier this year, but could end up drawing the interest of mid-major Division I schools if he continues his strong season.
Is this Garfield Heights team better than the LeBron-led St. V’s teams?
Garfield Heights has been so impressive that none other than LeBron James himself lauded the squad on Twitter after he watched them play. But could they have beat LeBron’s old high school teams if the two met?
Dru Joyce II, who coached the LeBron era St. V’s team as well as the one that played Garfield, had a strong opinion when asked the question.
“Hell no, hell no. We’d have beat them by 30,” said Joyce.