Posted On: 12/5/17 6:00 AM
Heading into the first full week of high school basketball, we’re taking a look at the top games in Ohio.
The Cleveland area’s Marquee Matchups feature a pair of defending State Champions.
Cleveland Heights continues their challenging schedule against the defending Division III State Champions, who have moved up a division for Competitive Balance. Both teams will come into Thursday night undefeated, as VASJ took care of an improved Euclid team and Cleveland Heights won back-to-back games at the Great Lakes Classic on opening weekend.
VASJ reportedly played a fast-pace and deep rotation against Euclid, with players like 6’6” freshman Evanell Lighty and junior 6’0” guard Jordan Calhoun complimenting senior point guard Jerry “Gene” Higgins. Higgins squares off with Cleveland Heights point guard Yahel Hill, a 5’10” senior who scored 30 in their opener. It will be a matchup of two of the top unsigned point guards in Ohio that will be especially interesting when Heights has the ball because of Higgins’ toughness as an on-ball defender.
Cleveland Heights has an edge in experience, as they go eight deep with seniors in the rotation. Big-time football prospect Tyreke Smith is going to be a handful for VASJ in the paint. They’ll also get production from Javon Roberts, Keith Jackson, Grayson Green, and Isaiah Higgins.
It doesn’t get any easier for Joes on Friday night, as they’re home for a big-time matchup against St. V. We get, arguably, the two best Division II teams in Northeast Ohio on the floor in a non-conference game.
The Irish will be looking for their first win on the season after dropping a one-possession game against Pickerington Central last weekend. Freshman point guard Seth Wilson scored 24 points in his high school debut. They’ll also get strong guard play from senior Scott Walter and junior Chris Painter. 6’2” hybrid Lunden McDay (2019) gives them toughness around the basket. This will also be back-to-back nights of premier point guard battles for VASJ, as the experienced 5’9” Higgins can initiate Wilson, a lead guard who will a lot of games in his own right as the years go on.
After sitting out the first nine days of the season, Benedictine will host Garfield Heights in the home opener. Garfield Heights opened up their season with a dominate performance over Cleveland JFK in a game where their entire starting five was in double figures.
The points won’t come as easy for Garfield Heights in this one, as Benedictine has enough size to at least make them work for rebounds. Post players like 6’6” seniors Mario Caywood and Bryan Washington won’t get pushed around. Around the perimeter, 6’2” lead guard Davin Zeigler likes to push the ball up the floor, which could help against the Bulldogs pressure. Sophomore 6’5” guard Andy Barba can spread the floor with his catch-and-shoot ability.
If last Saturday was any indication, Garfield Heights will look to make opponents uncomfortable by being aggressive on both ends. The length and quickness of 6’9” juniors Alonzo Gaffney and Brison Waller along with senior Taj’mal Toney allows them to try and force turnovers in the backcourt. If the 3-pointers are falling for Gaffney, Alex Heath, and Meechie Johnson, Benedictine will need to remain poised and avoid a track meet with Garfield. They also bring a lot of toughness off the bench to go along with their high-powered starting lineup.
Cornerstone disappointed in their opening weekend, losing to Shaker Heights and Cleveland Central Catholic at the Great Lakes Classic. Meanwhile, St. Eds beat crosstown Lakewood in their opener. Sophomore guard Grant Huffman was injured in their game against Lakewood. Eds also plays Beachwood the night before.
With Huffman likely sidelined for this game, sophomore Montorie Foster will likely assume full-time point guard responsibilities. Junior Demetrius Terry will join him in the backcourt to deal with CCA’s senior Mike Bothwell. Bothwell could see some double-teams and other defensive schemes in this one, as nobody else on the CCA team proved themselves as a real threat over the weekend. Looking for a big season from 6’5” wing Devontae Blanton too, as he’s in his second year as a starter for the team. Blanton is a flexible player who makes plays with the ball but will also help 6’7” senior Emmett Chambers on the boards.
In their second big game of the weekend, STVM gets a rematch of the Division II State Semifinal. The preview for this game can be found here.