D-IV State Semifinals: MVP, Breakout Performer, a Look Ahead and More

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Posted On: 03/22/18 3:02 PM

Cornerstone Christian (21-7) will play Marion Local (24-4) for the Division IV State Championship at 10:45AM on Saturday. The two eliminated Hiland and Pandora-Gilboa respectively in the semifinal round at The Jerome Schottenstein Center on Ohio State’s campus Thursday morning.

Top performances from the games included Ohio’s Division IV Player of the Year controlling the first matchup, a couple sleepers from Northwest Ohio trading buckets in the second, and many more. Keep scrolling for full prospect breakdowns and a look ahead to Saturday’s game.

MVP: Mike Bothwell (2018), 6’3” G, Cornerstone Christian

The Furman signee and the D-IV POY has developed into the best off-the-dribble 3-point shooter in the 2018 class — a weapon facilitated by his quick and secure handle. Even though CCA struggled in the third quarter, his contested buzzer beater from beyond the arch regained momentum heading into the final eight minutes.

Bothwell is also an excellent communicator on defense which came in handy against a well-trained motion offense. His size was also a factor on rebounds and in defending smaller guards.

Defensive MVP: Eli Phillips (2019), 6’3” F, Pandora-Gilboa

After being torched by Marion Local senior big man Tyler Mescher in the first ten minutes of the game, Phillips made adjustments and began locking him down. Instead of fronting the post, he allowed Mescher to catch on the block. Phillips stayed disciplined by going straight up. Phillips recorded a ridiculous eight stocks (blocks + steals).

Top Unsigned Prospect: Nathan Bruns (2019), 6’6” W/F, Marion Local

Things weren’t looking good when Bruns went to the bench with two fouls less than three minutes into the game. They survived the first with him missing most of it. 

Then, he turned up in the second half and finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Bruns was extremely clutch in the closing minutes. Down two with about 2:30 left, Bruns stole an offensive rebound and finished an and-one to take the lead. They stayed ahead the rest of the way. He also secured the final defensive rebound of the game over the top of several of other players. The kid is a gamer.

Breakout Performer: Drew Johnson (2018), 6’6” W, Pandora-Gilboa

The Huntington commit was en fuego in the first half, scoring 19 points and only missing two shots. He was way more aggressive and physical than usual, converting shots on tough secondary post moves. Mostly though, Johnson was feeling it with the quick-release left-handed stroke from the wing. He scored efficiently, hardly dribbling more than twice when he touched it. Excellent shot creator.

Top Unsigned Senior: Kendall Saunders (2018), 6’5” F, Cornerstone Christian

Saunders exploited his size advantage on the block, scoring on quick post moves in the first half and controlling the glass in the second. The Canadian native totaled 13 points and 14 rebounds altogether. 

We like Saunders as a stretch forward at the next level but were impressed with his ability to adjust to a more traditional center role. Showed a soft touch around the basket and drove the gaps when he caught outside. Most importantly, he protected the rim by stepping in for charges and altering layup attempts.

Glue Guy: Tyler Mescher (2018), 6’1” F/C, Marion Local

The short and stocky post player led Marion Local in scoring in their win over P-G. He constantly is moving off from the ball and understands where and how to post up. Mescher also communicates like crazy on defense and can knock-down shots from the elbow. They’re able to rely on his consistent energy.

Under the Radar Prospect: Martel Ferrell (2018), 6’6” W/F, Cornerstone Christian

Although Ferrell wasn’t able to find his scoring touch against Hiland (going 0/4 from the field, finishing scoreless), he showed defensive versatility against an all-guard lineup. The unsigned senior switched everything and shows fluidity at 6’6”. 

At this point, the senior class is pretty thin with unsigned wings between 6’5”-6’7”, making Ferrell’s physical tools all the more intriguing for NAIA and D-III programs. He may be a year or two away from reaching his potential because of his thin body and lack of polish. 

Top Sixth Man: Ja’Shawn Robinson (2019), 6’4” C, Cornerstone Christian

Although Robinson did pretty much nothing offensively, his defensive role stood out. The junior looks like a defensive end and is listed as a center but was asked to defend Hiland’s point guard full-court. Robinson is extremely light on his feet and ball-handlers struggled with his size.

What to look for on Saturday

Marion Local’s size should translate to a good matchup for Cornerstone in the final. While the Patriots from Northeast Ohio remain heavy favorites, the Flyers are no pushover. They’re tough and resilient, which we all saw today during a one-possession game against P-G. CCA is more athletic and we expect them to force Marion Local to play faster than they’re accustomed to, just as they did to Hiland today. Therefore, controlling the pace will be crucial for either squad.

Both teams dominated the paint in their games today. This championship will bring together two of the largest and most formidable frontcourts in Division IV. Expect this game to be a war in the paint. Even though Marion Local may have a slight advantage down-low, Mike Bothwell should be the difference once again as CCA wins their second State Title in three years.