One of the goals of the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic was to give local teams an opportunity to share the stage with some of the elite teams in Ohio and Kentucky and give local fans a chance to see some of those teams in action. The Fairfield Lions and East Clinton Astros will renew a local rivalry at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon. (We will have more on that game later) If Lions’ and Astros’ fans want to come a little early, they can see two teams with their sights set squarely on a state championship. And, for those worried about missing some college football; worry no more. The event’s premier sponsor, R + L Carriers Hometown Showcase, will have their mobile event hauler on-site for fans to browse through and learn about the company’s history and career opportunities, as well as watch some college football on their large HDTV’s! .
The three o’clock game will be a battle of big cats, both literally and figuratively. The Jaguars of Cooper High School were 31-5 a year ago and the state runners-up in Kentucky. The Hilliard Bradley Jaguars were 25-2 advancing to the district finals before losing to Upper Arlington. Hilliard Bradley returns four of five starters including OCC-Cardinal Division player of the year, Bradon Norris. The 6’0” guard is committed to play at Oakland University next season. 6’6” forward Isaiah Speelman will play at Cedarville University next year. And, 6’3’ sophomore Chris Mayfield and 6’6” freshman Jack Pugh are both highly regarded players. Belmont College commit and all-state performer, Adam Kunkel, returns to lead the way for Cooper. Chris McNeil, Braydon Runion, and Blaine Walters all started for the Jags last season on their run to the Kentucky state championship game.
Cooper and Bradley aren’t the only two teams playing on Saturday with a legitimate chance at a state championship. Proctorville Fairland lost only two games a year ago; one to the aforementioned Hilliard Bradley team, and one in the Division III state semifinals to Cleveland Saint Joe and Alonzo Gaffney. Fairland returns all five starters, including first team all-state selection Isaiah Howell, and Gaffney has transferred to Garfield Heights.
The Dragons will find out quickly just how good they may be this year as they take on Division I power Centerville. In spite of playing in one of Ohio’s toughest conferences, the GWOC, the Elks finished last season 17-9 advancing to the District finals before falling to Mason. The game provides a somewhat rare opportunity for an elite small school to test its mettle against a quality big school opponent.
The early bird fans on Saturday morning will be treated to an up-tempo, athletic game when always tough Chaminade-Julienne takes on a very talented Columbus Linden-McKinley team. CJ is led by lightning quick junior guard Milton Gage and 6’4” senior Kojay Usianeneh. McKinley counters with 6’4” guard Faizon Tucker, and Columbus City League selection from a year ago, and 6’7” post D’amonte Jones.
The noon game on Saturday features two teams coming off highly successful seasons and looking for more this year. The Williamsburg Wildcats were co-champs of the SBC National Division last season and return all five starters from a year ago. The Bethel Bees were undefeated champions of the Cross County Conference and District runners-up in 2017. Bethel brings the most prolific scorer of the event in senior Caleb South. The All-state performer averaged 25 points per game last season and has scored 1640 points in his career.
The Saturday morning session includes five games and begins at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 2 at Southern State Community College. The final game of the session will feature East Clinton battling Fairfield. Tickets for the event will be available at both those schools. Tickets are also available online by visiting www.ohiovalleyhoopsclassic.com, or tickets may be purchased at the door.
This story was submitted by Bennie Carroll, manager of the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic.