Every Final Four Team’s Most Important Player

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Posted On: 03/20/18 5:00 AM

No matter how rigid a defense, how cohesive an offense, how excellent a gameplan, one-possession basketball games almost always come down to a guy. The guy.

Remember last year? That Trotwood versus St. Vincent-St. Mary State Semifinal game. Trotwood was arguably the best team in Ohio at the time. STVM was executing at a high level against their patented defensive pressure.

As teams, both were doing their thing.

Then, tied at 60-60 with 32.9 seconds left, it came down to the guys.

Unfortunately for Trotwood, their All State senior Torrey Patton lost the ball two dribbles into the possession.

Even without the privilege of a timeout, STVM’s guy, Jayvon Graves, knew what to do. At the end of a hectic possession, the ball ended up in his hands and he converted a runner at the buzzer.

Bottom line: Both teams lived and died by their guys.

That’s what happens in basketball. At the end of the day, it’s who you got? It’s why coaches spend hours scouting. It’s why LeBron has been to seven straight Finals. It’s why we spend summers in the gym identifying talent. It’s why the best guy at the YMCA wins every pick-up game on Sunday morning. Basketball is about a guy. This weekend, here are the guys.

Africentric: Manning “Tre” Baumgardner III (2018), 6’1” PG

The Minnesota State signee already converted the most important shot of his life in their Regional Final, a buzzer beater to defeat Archbold. He has the ability to dominate a game from the point guard spot with his patience, court awareness, and scoring ability.

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

Ohio’s two-time Division IV Player of the Year was an obvious choice for CCA. Bothwell has extended his range since their last State Tournament trip. He’s capable of stretching a defense and often rattles off double-digit scoring quarters. Much like Baumgarnder, Bothwell is a lock-down perimeter defender too.

Deer Park: Damani Mcentire (2018), 6’2” G

Mcentire has proven to be the missing piece for Deer Park in his first season playing OHSAA ball. Having bounced around the Midwest throughout his high school career, Mcentire may be the most unfamiliar name on this list. So let us help you understand his importance with simple raw stats: Mcentire averaged 18.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 5.5 steals this season.

Hiland: Scott Troyer (2018), 5’10” G

Scott Troyer and his brother Kobe lead the way for Hiland. At 13.9 points per game this season, Scott was named Second Team All Ohio in Division IV. He sets the tone for Hiland’s explosive offense, which is capable of pulling away from opponents in a hurry with their 3-point shooting.

Lexington: Cade Stover (2019), 6’5” W/F

As we mentioned yesterday in the Regional Recap, Stover totaled 41 points and 23 rebounds in Lexington’s wins over Wauseon and Bay last week. He’s rated as one of the top outside linebackers in the country and it’s not hard to believe. Stover is one of the most physically imposing players in Ohio. His combination of force and mobility provide a matchup nightmare for opponents.

Lorain: Devon Grant (2019), 6’0” PG

No prospect in Ohio had a more pronounced breakout than Grant last weekend. Just unreal. He put Eds and St. John’s to bed with his nasty handle and off the dribble shooting. Grant has a reliable snatch-back dribble that is sure to create space for the mid-range jumper. If the game gets close late, there may not be another player in Columbus this weekend who you want taking a shot more than Grant.

Lutheran East: Jordan Burge (2018), 6’3” W

Burge’s ability to draw helpside defenders on the drive is instrumental to Lutheran East’s success. The reigning D-IV State Champions surround Burge with shooters who are especially dangerous with their feet set. Continually making the right play when putting pressure on the defense is key for Burge and the Falcons.

Harvest Prep: CJ Anthony (2020), 5’11” PG

The youngest player on this list will have the ball in his hands often for an undefeated Harvest Prep team. His composure and ability to create is crucial. Also, the D-III Final Four is loaded with lockdown perimeter defenders, so Anthony might need to win some of those possessions late in the game in order for them to prosper.

Marion Local: Nathan Bruns (2019), 6’5” W

Bruns is the best defensive player in Ohio that you’ve never heard of. Marion Local has been on straight lock-down this season and the versatility that Bruns provides is why. He can defend 1-5 this weekend while also being their second leading scorer and leading rebounder (averaging 14.6 points and 7.0 rebounds).

Meadowbrook: Trey Singleton (2018), 5’10” PG

Singleton scored 25 points per game this season for Meadowbrook. He can score the ball at all three levels and is pretty good at drawing separation. The question for Singleton and Meadowbrook is if he’ll be able to create looks against more athletic competition this weekend.

Moeller: Jaxson Hayes (2018), 6’10” C

The presence of a bouncy 6’10” Texas signee frees up the mismatches for the rest of their frontcourt. Furthermore, Hayes is going to have a ridiculous size advantage all weekend. His shot-blocking and rebounding ability could be the difference for Moeller.

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

The Huntington signee needs to be excellent if P-G is going to finish this run with a win. His outside shooting sets up playmaking opportunities, as defenses must account for his jumper. Also, Johnson will need to come up big on the glass and interior defense against physical opponents.

Pickerington Central: Javohn Garcia (2019), 6’3” PG

Garcia has been a revelation for the Tigers in Jeremiah Francis’s absence. The junior is a D-I prospect in his own right. Most importantly for now though, he’s the most important piece of this Pick Central squad. He has a nose for the ball on defense and is able to get into the lane and create for others.

Solon: Sincere Carry (2018), 6’0” PG

The Mr. Basketball candidate is Solon’s engine. His playmaking ability in the open court is facilitated by his court awareness. Carry has a lot of trust in his teammates, especially Mike Bekelja and Trent Williams, often finding them after beating his own man. Most importantly, Carry must control pace. They want to play fast, yet composed.

St. Vincent-St. Mary: Lunden McDay (2019), 6’3” W

When McDay is feeling comfortable on the perimeter and flying in for weakside rebounds STVM is at their best. McDay is a versatile athlete that fills the gaps. While he may not take the final shot or have the ball in his hands on those possessions, his variety of skills is important.

Trotwood: Myles Belyeu (2018), 6’3” hybrid

One of the top unsigned seniors in action this weekend, Belyeu is the emotional and statistical leader for the Rams. He’s another player who can defend multiple positions also. His tenacity attacking the rim and shaky ball-handlers embodies what it means to be a Trotwood player. Belyeu is a freight train when attacking the rim, daring opponents to try and stop him from getting a layup.