Editor’s note – This is a part of a continuing series of previews for the third annual Ohio Valley Hoops Classic Basketball Tournament that will be played Dec. 2-4 at the Southern State Patriot Center in Hillsboro.
The 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 matchup between Hilliard Bradley and Cincinnati Oak Hills is exactly the type of game that was envisioned when the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic was conceived three years ago. It pits one of the top teams from the Cincinnati area against one of the top teams from the Columbus area. And, on paper, the two teams appear to be about as evenly matched as two teams could be.
Hilliard Bradley finished last season with an 18-6 record, including an 11-3 finish in the Ohio Capital Conference Cardinal Division. Two of those three conference losses were to state champion eventual Westerville South and the other to 22-4 Dublin Jerome (a 2015 OVHC participant).
Oak Hills finished the season with a 16-8 mark while playing a brutal schedule. They lost twice to Moeller by three points each time, to Mason by two points, and to LaSalle in overtime. They had wins over Lakota East, St. Xavier and Elder.
Both teams return the nucleus from last season’s squad, and both teams have players receiving Division I college interest. Leading the way for Bradley is 6-0 junior guard Braden Norris, the coach’s son. Norris averaged 16.5 points per game last year while earning first team OCC honors. He has a Division I offer from Binghamton University and interest from other D-I programs. Fellow junior Isaiah Spellman, a 6-6 forward, averaged 16.6 points and also earned first-team all OCC honors. Speelman has several Division II offers and interest from smaller D-I programs.
Oak Hills has a couple returning stars also. Seniors Ryan Batte (6-4 wing) and Luke Rudy (6-5 forward) were both first team all GMC performers a year ago. Batte has committed to play for Division II Ashland University. Rudy is receiving interest from some smaller Division I schools as well as Division II programs.
Both squads have an outstanding supporting cast. Brandon Wieck (6-3 junior) and Nick Deifel (6-3 junior) both started for the Highlanders a year ago and return. Cam Nabor, a 6-1 senior guard, missed last season due to a football injury but returns this year. Jake Woycke, a 6-2 junior guard, is an all GMC quarterback who brings toughness to the table. Junior Jack Rondy and sophomore Zach Hummel played major minutes last season for Bradley. Kory Taylor, a 6-6 junior, returns after missing last season with an injury. And, the Jaguars have a couple highly regarded freshmen in Matt Allocco and Chris Mayfield.
Both teams also feature veteran coaches who know a thing or two about winning. Mike Price has won 312 games in his career at Oak Hills. He is also a well-respected, longtime AAU coach. Brett Norris has won 290 games in his high school coaching career, including a state championship at Delphos St. Johns in 2002.
It is hard to imagine this game being anything other than a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire battle. Both teams will get after each other with a hard-nosed, man-to-man defense. Both teams will spread the floor on offense and both have some skilled players who can shoot the ball. It should provide a good clinic for young players and young coaches in attendance.
This story was submitted by Bennie Carroll, the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic director and girls varsity basketball coach at Blanchester High School.