HS State Tournament Recap

23 Mar
Kipper Nichols led St. Ed's to a D1 State Title

Kipper Nichols led Cleveland St. Ed’s to a D1 State Title in an overtime thriller

Another year of high school basketball has come and passed in the Buckeye State, and when the dust had settled just four teams were able to leave this weekend’s State Championships in Columbus with the gold trophy.

Cleveland St. Edward’s defeated Upper Arlington in overtime in Division I, Norwalk trumped Columbus Bishop Watterson in Division II, Lima Central Catholic upset Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s in Division III and finally, Convoy Crestview dominated Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas in Division IV.

As they always do, the state tournament games produced some memorable moments, and spectacular performances. Here’s a quick look back at the weekend that was, and the players who stood out….

  • Kipper Nichols – ’15 SF Cleveland St. Edward: In one of the most memorable games that TDP has ever seen, it was senior wing Marsalis Hamilton who hit the three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime on Saturday night, however, it was the play of 6’6 Ed’s wing Kipper Nichols that kept the Eagles in the game. Nichols was simply sensational on Saturday as he willed his way to the rim time after time for buckets. One of Ohio’s top juniors, Nichols projects as one of the state’s most mature and versatile prospects, who is more than capable of consistently knocking down the perimeter jumper.
  • Ben Haraway – ’14 PG Norwalk: There can’t be many feelings better than scoring 30 points in the State Championship game, but to find out we’d have to ask Ben Haraway. The 6’0 scoring point guard from Norwalk was electric on Saturday in the final, taking defenders off the dribble and scoring at the rim over and over again. A tough competitor who is also a pesky defender, Haraway’s speed and strength were too much for defenders, as he led Norwalk to an emotional win in front of a pro-Tuckers crowd. Haraway will be taking his talents to D2 Malone University next season.
  • Martyce Kimbrough – ’14 SG Lima Central Catholic: A speedy shooter with major confidence, the D2 Indianapolis University signee had a great weekend in helping LCC cut down the nets. Kimbrough made jumper after jumper in the first half of the title game against Cleveland VASJ, showcasing long range and a serious will to win. A guy who was potentially slept on by scouts coming from a smaller population area like Lima, Kimbrough should be a prolific scorer at the next level, where at 6’1 he’ll likely play some at both guard positions.
  • Xavier Simpson – ’16 PG Lima Central Catholic: As good as Kimbrough was in the first half, it was Simpson whose game management sealed the deal for LCC in the second half. Battling a slight ankle injury the entire game, Simpson finished floaters, scored in transition, made great passes and overall provided the winning spark that LCC needed. Ohio’s top ranked point guard in his class by this publication, look for Simpson to be one of the biggest names in the state next season, regardless of class.
  • Kevin Vannatta – ’14 SG Upper Arlington: Along with senior point guard Danny Hummer, there are few players that participated over the weekend, if any, who TDP respects more as competitors. Vannatta led the UA Golden Bears all the way to one shot away from a D1 State Title, showcasing tremendous heart along the way. The UNC-Ashville signee scored around the rim, played with physicality and showed lockdown ability as a defender, giving UA a chance to make history and making their fans proud at the same time. Known for years as one of the tougher players in Ohio’s 2014 class, Vannatta, along with Hummer, will be sorely missed in Columbus.
  • Dazhontae Bennett – ’14 SG Trotwood Madison: While his team wasn’t able to play as well as they usually do in an emphatic loss to Upper Arlington in the semi-finals, Bennett showed that he belonged on the court as much as anyone on Friday night, going off for 23 points the loss. The 6’1 senior scored from all over the court, knocking down his patented mid to long range jumper off the dribble. No one gets more elevation in the entire state in the senior class, and Bennett showcased that at a high level as well, blocking shots, rebounding and making some acrobatic finishes. Potentially one of Ohio’s top unsigned seniors, Bennett projects as a future star at the junior college level next season.
  • Cody Calhoun – ’14 PG Columbus Bishop Watterson: He’s never going to be the most talented player on the court, but you’re never, ever going to be able to doubt the heart of the 5’10 floor general. Calhoun was great on Saturday in the loss to Norwalk, attacking the rim with his strength advantage to finish several key shots in the lane. While his team did not get the win, Calhoun still will graduate with a State Title to his name, as Bishop Watterson did win one in his junior season. Besides Calhoun, tremendous credit needs to also be given to senior forward Matt Hughes, who might have been the only player on the court capable of matching Calhoun’s intensity.
  • Carlton Bragg – ’15 PF Cleveland VASJ: At times it was fellow juniors Derek Pardon or Brian Parker who were leading the show for the Vikings in Columbus. However, it was the scoring of Bragg that kept the Vikings in the game, and helped them get to where they were. The defending State Champions were unable to repeat this season, but did make it all the way to the finals, as the 6’9 Bragg scored 23 points in the final. Playing with more aggression than he sometimes does, Bragg was particularly impressive attacking the rim off the dribble, while making enough jumpers and post plays to keep the defense guessing. Ohio’s top ranked junior by every scouting service, Bragg will be tracked closely by every college in the country over the spring AAU circuit.

NEWS AND NOTES:

  • On Monday (3/24) at 7:45 PM ET, Ohio’s Mr. Basketball, 2015 SG Luke Kennard, will make his college announcement live at Franklin HS. The junior is still considering Duke, Kentucky, Ohio State and Michigan, and told TDP that his decision will surprise some people. The Blue Devils of Duke are probably considered the favorites here, but we won’t be surprised if Kennard selects any of those four finalists. Follow along with TDP on Twitter tomorrow, as we’ll be live from Franklin HS with coverage.
  • Parker Ernsthausen – ’14 PF Toledo St. John’s: Not one player in Ohio saw a quicker spike in his recruitment than Ernsthausen, who went from a D3 recruit with no exposure to a D1 commit in just a couple of months, as the 6’9 forward gave a verbal pledge to Wright State. With athleticism, skill, size and great upside, Ernsthausen projects as an intriguing long term prospect who should be fun to watch develop.
  • Johnny Davis III – ’14 PG Cleveland Beachwood: Davis became the second senior to commit to a Division I college on Sunday afternoon, when the 5’10 PG from the Cleveland area chose Furman. After a huge senior season in which he put up great scoring numbers, Davis was considered one of the hottest point guard prospects still remaining in the region, and is a great fit in the Southern Conference, where his lack of size will be countered by his IQ, skill-set and desire to win.
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