LORAIN – Two of the Cleveland area’s top players, one you have heard of and one that has yet to burst onto the scene, went toe-to-toe Tuesday, Dec. 22 at Lorain High School.
North Olmsted senior Andy Lucien, a 6-8 high flier that achieved instant fame with a powerful dunk at Westlake High School last season…a dunk that made ESPN’s Sports Center Top 10 plays…has verbally committed to play next season at Division I Cleveland State.
Lorain junior Nazihar Bohannon, a 6-5 bundle of rebounding energy that wears his emotions on his sleeve, has yet to make a college decision…but he has at least one interesting option that goes way beyond basketball.
Lucien scored 19 points and pulled down a game-high 20 rebounds, but Bohannon’s 22 points and 16 rebounds were enough to lift Lorain to a 74-72 win and keep the Titans regular-season unbeaten streak alive at 27 games.
His offensive rebound of a Kevin Davis missed free throw allowed Lorain (6-0) to seal the deal. He snuck inside Lucien with 36 seconds left and the Titans leading by a basket, 72-70, and grabbed the rebound, kicked it out to Davierre Andrews who tossed it back to Davis.
The Eagles fouled Davis again with 25 seconds showing on the clock, but this time he connected on a pair to seal the win.
Bohannon scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the fourth quarter.
“That was a killer,” Eagles coach Jason Frolo said of Bohannon’s rebound. “As coaches, those are probably the most frustrating thing…giving up an offensive board on a free throw. Especially in that situation. We were down two (points) and we get that we have the chance to tie or take the lead. They get it back and we were playing catch-up from there.
“That was kind of the big dagger, right there.”
These are the things Lorain fans have come to expect from Bohannon. Last season, as a sophomore, Bohannon was the second-leading scorer and top rebounder on a Lorain team that advanced to the regional finals.
He also was the team’s spiritual leader as well.
Bohannon looked forward to facing Lucien.
“It was difficult. Andy’s long and I think if he stood straight up his hands would touch his knees,” Bohannon said. “It was fun because he’s a high-caliber kid, he was on ESPN and any time I can go against someone like that it’s good.”
As a receiver/defensive end for the Lorain football team, Bohannon turned some Division I heads on the gridiron. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer brought Bohannon down for a visit, where he got to spend some time with basketball and football teammate from last season, Rashad Berry.
It isn’t all about athletics, though. Bohannon is enrolled in the early college program at Lorain County Community College, he has very high test scores and, due to his interest in becoming a chemical engineer, is on the radar of some schools that usually are not in play for an athlete of his caliber.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology…the top chemical engineering school in the world…is recruiting Bohannon.
A $60,000 a year scholarship to MIT would be a much different route than most athletes would pursue…but Bohannon is not like most athletes. During the football season he said he wanted to use his athletic ability to get the best education possible.
Another thing that stands out about Bohannon is this…no matter how many people you talk to, when discussing Bohannon it usually goes back to how he isn’t just a great athlete, but a great kid as well.
Frolo, after his team fell to Lorain, talked about Bohannon.
“He’s unbelievable,” Frolo said. “I told my guys, outside of my team, Naz is my favorite player in the area. I just love how hard that kid works. He plays with such intensity and emotion. He makes them go.”
In the Lorain win Bohannon made numerous big plays down the stretch. His runner in the late at the 6:27 mark of the fourth quarter gave Lorain its first lead since leading 10-9 early in the first quarter. Late in the game he went right at Lucien on two straight possessions, scoring once to give Lorain a 71-66 lead before drawing a foul on the Titans’ next possession.
After the game he was more concerned with pointing out how senior Anfernee Smothers kept Lorain in the game with 10 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks in the first half. He also wanted to make sure Davis, who hit three 3-pointers in the final 1:37 of the first half, got his due.
“That was great. Anfernee kept us in it and kept it tight,” Bohannon said. “Not only Anfernee but Kevin Davis when we went on a run and he hit three straight threes. That was huge for us.”
After a disappointing first half that saw him shoot just 3 for 11 from the floor for eight points, Bohannon refused to let his team down.
“My coach told me to dominate (Monday) and in the first half I felt like I really didn’t get a chance to,” he said. “As the game went on I looked up and saw we were down going into the fourth. I took it upon myself to say, ‘It’s my team and I’m going to get us through here, win, lose or draw.’
“I wanted to let it be on me.”
That was just fine with Lorain coach John Rositano.
“(Bohannon) is a tough match,” Rositano said. “You put a little guy on him and he will overpower you. You give him someone with size and he’ll just go by you.”
Area high school basketball fans will want to see Bohannon and the Titans in action, and there are plenty of opportunities coming up. Lorain has one of the area’s most difficult schedules. On Jan. 12 they will travel to Lakewood to face St. Edward before, later in the week on the 15th, heading to Bedford for a conference tilt with the Bearcats.
The Titans will host Medina and 7-foot Michigan recruit Jon Teske Jan. 19 before travelling to Garfield Heights for a road contest Feb. 2.
“It’s great to have an early test,” Bohannon said of the North Olmsted game. “Our goal is to be playing late in March and in the playoffs we’re going to get tested…the games aren’t going to be easy. A close game is great.”