Posted On: 01/16/18 1:02 PM

Going to throw a changeup today by writing about the teams at Flyin’ to the Hoop, rather than the prospects.

The weekend provided insight into the statewide picture at the midway point. We have a respectable grasp on many of the top teams in Division II and Division IV after their showing. Also, a few Division I contenders showed their true colors on the big stage.

Who’s better than Pickerington North?

Hot take: This is the best team I’ve seen in Ohio this season; and absent of Moeller and Wayne, I’ve seen all the Division I teams considered for the top spot.

Pick North can play various styles because of their dynamic nine-man rotation. Inside, they have a bruiser, a finesse scorer, a defensive specialist, and Mr. Basketball candidate Jerome Hunter. On the perimeter, Corey Baker looked comfortable in his first game as a distributor. Then, Dondre Palmer leads a group four guards who  give it all on defense.

Beating a then-undefeated Princeton team by 13 points a couple days after winning at Dublin Coffman was a statement that should echo through gymnasiums and film rooms across the state this week. The Panthers are a problem.

Division II run-around

Trotwood and St. Vincent-St. Mary, the two teams who met in a State Semifinal a year ago, were the best two Division II teams on display. However, Fairland and Hughes weren’t far off. Trotwood plays a familiar style and almost took down McEachern (GA), a team who beat Pickerington Central by 24 two days later. St. Vincent-St. Mary’s balanced roster, mobile athleticism, and backcourt chemistry overcame a monster game from Fairland’s 6’8” forward Kollin Van Horn (33 points and eight rebounds). Hughes’s positionless, up-tempo identity works with Giovanni Santiago at the helm. The Big Red should run the table in the regular season With transfer Dominic “DJ” Brewton back.

Division IV: Fort Loramie looked beatable

While the undefeated Loramie Redskins remain Division IV front-runners after their win against Thurgood-Marshall, a team like Minster could beat them. Minster handled Franklin Monroe, as their slew of guards capitalized against soft defense. Minster’s junior center Jarod Schulze is a game-changer with his 6’9” size and ability to finish inside.

This postseason race is more wide-open than we thought coming into the weekend. Even an athletic Cornerstone Christian team could (literally) pressure Loramie into a rough offensive night if they meet.

 A year away

Pickerington Central has lost four of five and struggled to compete with McEachern, even for a single half. Jeremiah Francis will presumably be healthy next season to go along with backcourt mates Josiah Fulcher, Javohn Garcia and Jaidon Lipscomb.

Outside of two complimentary starters, Sidney’s entire team is back next season. A year’s time isn’t enough to address their size problem. Yet junior stud Andre Gordon wlll be back and he hides a lot of their issues.

Olentangy Liberty could shoot from middle of the road to extremely above average next season. It’ll be the senior year for their top three guys (Ben Roderick, Mitchell Kershner, and Nick Nakasian). Their collective blend of perimeter length, scoring, and defense could be special next season.

It’s definitely not time to look ahead for Garfield Heights. But, maybe this season is more about getting big-game experience and building chemistry than winning a State Championship. While the buzz should rightfully remain high around the program, they’ll need to improve in order to beat teams like Pickerington North, Moeller, and others. While still a top ten team in Ohio this year, the Bulldogs have dropped two in a row and their wins against Bendictine, Shaker Heights, and St. Vincent-St. Mary came by an average of six points (needing overtime twice). Next year, they return Alonzo Gaffney, Meechie Johnson, Brison Waller, and Jesse Laster (this doesn’t include potential transfers and capable sophomores not in this season’s rotation). So, look, Garfield Heights in 2017-18 is still very tough. Next year though, that may be the year.

Springfield just wins

The 10-0 Wildcats find a way to win close games. They’ve won by single-digits three times already this season, including an overtime thriller against Cleveland Heights. Most impressed with their resiliency because they had no momentum for a (roughly) five-minute stretch in the second half. Even against a experience Heights group, they kept rotating in their sophomore guards and got just enough from each to pull it out in OT. Springfield’s strengths are the full-court diamond defensive look and 6’6” senior Leonard Taylor’s ability to spread the floor and attack against the opposing team’s big.

photo: @PNbasketball on Twitter