Johnson's star continues to rise
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The 88th annual Ohio boys' basketball state championships were full of excitement and great plays. This year's edition was very intriguing, though some of the headliner schools and players (read: Columbus Northland and its star Jared Sullinger) lost on the way to the championships. Ohio has four divisions, starting with the the largest schools (Division 1) to the smallest (Division 4).
Here's a look at how each title game played out:
Division 4: This game featured teams with contrasting styles. Jefferson Township (Dayton), with its fast-paced style, took on Newark Catholic (Newark), which thrives in a half-court game. Newark Catholic won the tempo battle, but it was Jefferson that won the game, 59-52. Undersized junior power forward Cody Latimer led Jefferson with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Latimer is a beast inside; his strength and athletic ability were huge for the Broncos. Michigan State-bound big man Adreian Payne had 11 points and nine boards for Jefferson before fouling out.
Division 3: This game, between Orrville and Lima Central Catholic (Lima), was highly contested as both team were physical and played extremely hard. The game came down to the last possession as Orrville missed a 3 and a follow-up at the buzzer as Central Catholic escaped with a three-point victory. Junior guard Austin Stolly came off the bench to lead LCC with 16 points.
Division 2: Everyone assumed Dunbar (Dayton) would destroy Port Clinton. Dunbar supposedly had more talent and better athletes. Port Clinton showed great heart and effort and made a game of it for three quarters. In the end, Dunbar was too much; the powerhouse program bested Port Clinton 64-50 to win its third state title in five years. ESPNU 100 guard Geron Johnson led Dunbar with 24.
Division 1: This was expected to be a hotly-contested game with the perennial Greater Catholic League power, Moeller (Cincinnati), taking on the Twin Towers of mighty Jackson (Massillon). Jackson, however, was too much for Moeller and the game turned out to be a rout. Jackson featured a dominating performance Kent State-bound PF Mark Henniger with 21 points and 12 rebounds. The game was close at the half, but Jackson blew it open in the third quarter, outscoring Moeller 24-5 en route to a 57-34 victory.
Geron Johnson SG/PG (6-3, 185)
2010, Dayton, Ohio/Dunbar, undecided
Johnson is a super athletic combo guard. He is very quick and explosive and is very hard to keep out of the lane. He had a great overall performance in Dunbar's semifinal win over Cleveland Benedictine -- posting 14 points, eight boards and six assists -- and dominated the state final. Johnson is a streaky shooter with range beyond 20 feet. He is great at creating for others and finishing in the lane. Johnson is a great passer with fantastic vision and creativity. He is a special talent and one of the country's best unsigned seniors.
Josh Egner PF (6-7, 210)
2010, Massillon, Ohio/Jackson, signed with Akron
Egner is an athletic power forward who can impact games with his leaping ability. He has been known for his inconsistent production but really stepped up in Jackson's semifinal defeat of Gahanna Lincoln (the team that put the mighty Columbus Northland out of the state tournament). In that contest, Egner had 23 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Moreover, he also impressed with four monster dunks. Egner has great bounce and can create some off the dribble. He should be a factor as a mismatch 4-man at Akron.
Although his team lost, the Division 2 semifinal was the coming-out party for 2011 PG Desmond Ridenour (Cleveland/ Benedictine). Ridenour slashed his way to 16 points and handed out four assists. Ridenour has always been physically gifted. It was just a matter of time before he came into his own. He is a strong penetrator who can get in the lane and score or find a teammate with a pass.
• Dunbar (Dayton) has now won three of the past five Division 2 state titles. The Wolverines previously won in 2006 (led by currently NBA guard Daequan Cook) and 2007 (led by current Dayton forward Josh Benson).
• Since 2000 the 12-team Greater Cincinnati Catholic League (GCL) has had a team in the Final Four of either Division 1 or Division 2 in all but two seasons .
• This year's state playoffs featured eight players who have signed Division 1 scholarships: C Adriean Payne of Dayton Jefferson (Michigan State); PF/C Griffin McKenzie of Cincinnati Moeller (Xavier); PF Josh Egner of Massillon Jackson (Akron); PF Mark Henniger of Massillon Jackson (Kent State); SG Rob Brandenburg of Gahanna Lincoln (VCU); SG Cameron Wright of Cleveland Benedictine (Pittsburgh); PG/SG Derek Jackson of Cleveland Benedictine (Central Michigan); and PG Ryan Bass of Dayton Dunbar (Oakland). SG Anthony Jackson of Gahanna Lincoln and Johnson of Dayton Dunbar have a chance of making the number 10 in the spring.
John Stovall is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He has worked as part owner and director of scouting for Prep Spotlight Scouting Service and magazine for 15 years.