|Esa Ahmed-6'7 PF/C Shaker Heights|
Although I was not present (injured my knee bowling with my sons on Friday), my sources of information informed me that I missed some great games at the Ohio AAU State Tournament in Cincinnati this past weekend! The event hosted approximately 81 teams from 8th - 11th grades. Let's start with one of the best games of the tournament. The semi-final match up between U-15 All-Ohio Red and the King James Shooting Stars (formally Cincinnati Knights) was a longtime coming, featured some of Ohio's top 9th graders (Ohio's Top 30 Players), and was a straight slug fest. Not only was the action on the court heated, I understand the tension carried over off the court as passions ran a little hot (as did the facility) with the standing room only crowd that gathered at Landmark HS in Cincinnati. According to the people I spoke with, the game was nip and tuck throughout the contest, with neither team being able to mount more than a 4-5 point lead throughout the game.
One of the featured match-ups of the game pitted 2 of Ohio's top post players in Cleveland's Esa Ahmed, and Cincinnati's Nate Fowler. Although the debate over who the top guy is in the state has been raging for years, the argument may have been settled on Sunday, as it has been reported that Ahmed had a monster game and proved difficult to guard. Although Fowler is the bigger of the 2 players, Ahmed is quicker and more agile, and can use his perimeter advantage to drive around bigger defenders. On Sunday, those offenders were Fowler and Tony Anderson (formally ran with All-Ohio). Ahmed may have logged in the bigger performance in terms of scoring, but Huber Heights' D'Mitrik Trice inflicted much of the damage as well with his clutch shooting and timely buckets. Although Trice has not been the featured guard on that loaded squad so far this season, it sounds like his play over the weekend represented a breakout of sorts.
|Amos "AJ" Harris-PG Dayton|
By the time the final horn had sounded, All-Ohio had grabbed bragging rights (I understand there was a lot of that) with a 69-54 win. Make no mistake, because of the number elite players in this game, and the fact that both teams are Ohio's best, this game was the most important game of the year in any division. Unfortunately, we may only get to see the match-up i time per year! The standout performers for Red were Esa Ahmed, D'Mitrik Trice and VJ King. My sources also tell me that AJ Harris did nothing to be dethroned as the top PG in the class as his play was at a high level. In addition, it has been reported the Luke Kennard may have been the leading scoring, despite an off shooting night (by his high standards), and MaCieo Teague is reported to have logged in a solid performance as well. According to Coach Q, Newark's Jordan Dardis deserves to be mentioned among the top PGs in the state, based in part on his size (6'1) and his "complete game." To be honest, Dardis has never really been on our radar, but from most accounts, he can go.
Because of questionable scheduling, the best game of the tournament for the 9th graders was the aforementioned semi-final game. Consequently, in the Championship game of the division, All-Ohio Red easily defeated All-Ohio Black to claim the gold medal with a 68-43 victory. Although Black reportedly played Red close early in the first quarter, Red eventually flexed their muscle, took control of the game and eventually got the W. On their way to the final game, All-Ohio knocked off the Ohio Hoopsters (+35), Ohio Crossover (102-32), Dayton Metro (71-30), Cincinnati Lakers (76-43), King James and All-Ohio Black.
|Cincinnati Lakers-2012 Ohio AAU Champions|
In the 8th grade division, we may have a brand new #1 ranked team in the state, as Charles Riggens' Cincinnati Lakers avenged an earlier loss to Team Lima in the championship game of the King James Shooting Stars Classic in Akron several weeks ago and are now back-to-back state champs. This time around, employing a 2-3 zone for most of the game to neutralize Team Lima's athletic advantage, the Lakers jumped to, and sustained a double digit lead until the clock showed zeros. According to Riggens, the guard play of Jeremy Larkin and Rodrick Caldwell, coupled with solid post play of his bigs; Jake Houserman and Andrew Homer, was the difference in the game. The Lakers' win was even more remarkable considering they were without the services of his son, Ashon (cramps) and John Bubenhofer (concussion). For the record, cramps also took it's toll on team Lima, as Jalen Thomas did not play and Tree Cobbs struggled with the issues.
On their trek to the championship, the Lakers defeated Hidden Gems, All-Ohio Red, Cincinnati Royals, Nova Village, Cincinnati Bulldogs and Team Lima. It should be noted, Coach Riggens was really complimentary of the Bulldogs' and the play of Tommie "TC" Wells and Hunter Lampley. We are not surprised at his assessment, as both players have excelled at our elite showcases in the past. For team Lima, Xavier Simpson deserves special mention for the way he ran his team. Team Lima's path to the championship game included wins over Ohio Varsity (80-20), All-Ohio Purple (79-39), Ohio Warriors (56-38), Dayton Heat (16 +) and All-Ohio Elite (52-44).
The top 4 finishers in the 8th grade divisions were the Lakers, Team Lima, Cincinnati Bulldogs and All-Ohio Elite. On another note, unfortunately, the fact that the King James Shooting Stars dropped out of the event on Thursday was a source of disappointment for many fans, as a lot of people wanted to see the individual and team match-ups that would have been created had they shown up. I also heard that several other players had good weekends, including Columbus' Seth Towns, Tyrus Battle, Ruben Flowers, Tree Cobbs, Derrick Daniels, Jerron Cumberland, Trey Smith, Wells, Lampley and Jalen Tate.
Finally, it has to be mentioned the Jerry Watson's All-Ohio Red teams pulled a clean sweep of the 3 high school divisions. The U-17 squad squeezed by a very talented Queen City Prophets team with an overtime victory in the semis, before taking down Martin Wolverines by about 10 points to claim the title. In the U-16 division, All-Ohio Red pulled out a close one against the Shining Stars to claim the gold.
The AAU State tournament was not the only show in town this past weekend, as there was a small interstate shootout between 3 of Ohio's top 6th grade teams and 3 of Kentucky's best squads right across the river at the Midwest Sports Complex in Florence. The 3 Ohio teams included All-Ohio Purple, Pickerington Wildcats and Dayton Metro, while Kentucky featured Lousiville's Spiece Gators (ranked #1), Kentucky Thunder (ranked #2) and the Shinning Stars (D-II AAU State Champs).
In terms of the format, each team played 3 games against the opposing state's teams. It looks like Ohio had the better day, as no team finished worse that 2-1, while 2 Kentucky teams left town 0-3. Kentucky's Spiece Gators got 2 wins against Pickerington and Dayton Metro. The final tally is as follows: AOP (3-0), Pickerington (2-1) Dayton Metro (2-1), Spiece Gators (2-1) Kentucky Thunder (0-3) and the Shinning Stars (0-3). It should be noted that the Thunder was without their best player. Standouts for All-Ohio were Kane Cooper and Jackson See. For Dayton Metro, Antwon Johnson and TK Robinson and Drew Ashurst were the top guys. Pickerington's standouts include: Seth Goodsoon, Isaiah Speelman and Xavier Henderson.