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NEOSI’s Top 10 High School Boys Basketball Games of the 2019-2020 Season

By Mark Perez

I was given the great opportunity to cover high school basketball this season. The play on the court by the schools across Northeast Ohio was so fun to cover, I’ve decided to rank the top 10 games I’ve attended.

These are games that I went to and wrote about, so games like Warrensville Heights defeating Fairview will not be listed.

Honorable Mentions

Brush Defeats Lorain 67-64

Medina defeats Solon 65-58 in OT

Cleveland Heights Takes LEL Lead After 48-43 Win at Garfield Heights

Mentor Sweeps Shaker in GCC Battle With 83-79 Win

Elyria Catholic defeats Holy Name 82-75 in OT.

No. 2 Holy Name Rallies to Top No. 7 Cloverleaf 70-65 to Advance

10. Edward Wright’s Last Second Free-Throw Lifts EC to 73-72 Win Over Fairview

Full Recap

Elyria Catholic lost at Fairview earlier in the season. I was at Fairview for that game and the matchup between the two teams intrigued me between EC, who I thought played a traditional big-man style of basketball with Branson Taylor in the paint with dynamic guards and wing players against Fairview. The Warriors had one of the best Big-3’s in Division III with Seniors Martin Lowry, Noah Mesaros, and GLC Player of the Year Luke Howes with gritty role players surrounding them to make for a dangerous fast-place style of team.

One of the drawbacks for Fairview is that they are undersized. Conventional thinking for EC would be to exploit 6’6” Taylor. Instead, they decided to fight fire with fire; play smaller and it worked. The Panthers led 70-58 late in the fourth quarter.

After the EC student section chanted “Overrated” at Howes as he split his free-throws. Fairview rallied to tie with a 12-2 run to tie the score 72-72.

EC had possession with 10 seconds left. Edward Wright was able to draw a foul with .6 seconds on the clock while in the shooting motion.

The 80 percent career free-throw shooter took the lead after splitting the shots to secure the win.

Howes tied former Warrior Paul Kerrigan for the all-time leading scorer in Fairview High School with 1,622 points, according to FPCSBN. He became the all-time scoring leader in their next game against Parma.

9. No. 3 Rhodes Rams outlasts No. 6 Parma Redmen 56-52 in Overtime

On game-day, I planned on attending two games. For my mid-day game, I went to Cleveland Heights and Madison. Then, I would take a 15 minute drive to cover Brush and Benedictine. The Brush game was pushed back, so I had to resort to No. 3-seeded Rhodes hosting No. 6-seeded Parma after my Cleveland Heights’ game. Looking back, I was glad that it happened.

During Parma’s warm-ups, there was a stretch for 2-4 minutes where they couldn’t make any threes. My first thought was that Parma was in trouble.

That thought couldn’t have been more wrong for Parma in the Division I, Sectional Final.

When the game started, you could tell Rhodes had size and athleticism advantage. However, they struggled to make threes (1-of-23).

Parma was the opposite from the 3-point line. They shot 40 percent from the arch. Josh Rose (17 points), Brayden Humbel (9 points), and Allan Eason (17 points) caused a lot of problems for the Rams and forced overtime, because Eason hit some key shots.

As the game continued, Rhodes’ Deangelo William’s offensive load was heavier. He dominated the offensive glass with 12 offensive rebounds (17 total) and 30 points to defeat Parma in overtime and advance.

8. Rhodes Overcomes St. Ignatius 50-48 in Overtime

Full Recap

After the Parma win, No. 3 seed Rhodes went to play No. 2 seed St. Ignatius in the Division I, Lakewood District Semifinal in a jam-packed gymnasium.

The first three minutes was a defensive battle until St. Ignatius got into a rhythm faster than Rhodes did as they led the Rams 8-3 at the end of the first quarter and 20-13 at halftime.

Rhodes didn’t give up. They went on an 11-0 run to force overtime.

Williams’ followed up his dominant performance with the play of the game in overtime with an and-1 layup with 1.5 seconds left in overtime to take a 50-48 lead.

The Wildcats had possession after both teams missed a free-throw from Williams’ and-1 and a technical foul on Rhodes following the layup.

On the inbounds pass, Rams’ leading scorer Marlon Landingham (18 points) read the pass and stole the ball to advance to the District Finals for the first time since 2004.

7. Whitehead’s Half Court Buzzer Beater Lifts Lorain Over CCC 40-39
Full Recap

If you ever seen a Cleveland Central Catholic game, you know games are going to get physical, ugly, and low scoring. Especially, against the Lorain Titans, but they were ready for the battle and brought a great spectacle that concluded with a half-court shot by Lorain’s Aaron Whitehead to at the buzzer.

That was Whitehead’s first buzzer-beater of his career and he describes the aftermath of the game-winner like a football game as players and spectators mobbed him in front of the scorer’s table.

The shot would not have been possible had it been for Seth Wilson, who played a key role in a 11-0 run in the third quarter by scoring five of those points and assisting two baskets.

6. No. 1 Seed Cleveland CC Tops No. 4 Seed East Tech 65-58 in Double OT

Full Recap

Considering Cleveland Central Catholic and East Tech are located less than three miles from each other, the Ironmen and the Scarabs don’t face-off often. The last time they played was March of 2016.

Players and coaches on both sides have personal relationships with one another, but the love was put aside as they had to face each other in North Ridgeville High School for the Division II, District Semifinal.

Despite the travel to North Ridgeville, both fan bases came prepared, setting up a great playoff environment.

The game was full of great plays and performances. The most memorable performance was Deshaun Nettles who had almost had a triple double with points (11), rebounds (14), and blocks (nine). He dominated the boards and patrolled the paint with authority.

The fourth quarter was a true nail-biter.

Charles Knuckles hit a deep three to give the Ironmen a 6-point lead early in the fourth quarter during a three-minute East Tech scoring drought.

Both coaches argued that there were missed calls in the fourth quarter that could have turned the tide for them.

Ironmens’ coach Jordan Duke argued East Tech’s Marco Vazquez should have been called for a taunt after blocking Nettles with 1:50 remaining while leading by 3 points.

East Tech Brett Moore pointed out on Twitter after the game that “the refs turned a blind eye to the tripping foul” with six seconds remaining in regulation.

Prior to overtime, Knuckles almost made a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.

In the overtime periods, Cleveland Central Catholic made their free-throws to separate themselves from East Tech. The Ironmen struggled to make their free-throws for a large part of the season. But, in the overtimes, they made 16-of-22 free-throws to pull out the win and advance.

5. Lutheran East Rallies to Top SVSM 76-73 in OT

Full Recap

Coming off a two-game losing streak to Shaker Heights, and St. Edward, Lutheran East hosted Northeast Ohio powerhouse St. Vincent-St. Mary. two of the top three teams in the region faced off.

Lutheran East trailed 26-28 at half, and the Falcons received a spark from Jalin Knott, who was a bench player before being pushed to the starting lineup. He scored 20 points, but hit five threes in the third quarter and kept the Falcons in the game as they trailed 51-45 entering the fourth quarter.

Sencire Harris led the Fighting Irish with 22 points.

Knott also drew a technical foul from Fighting Irish’s Marcus Johnson in the fourth quarter and

Lutheran East rallied back with a 12-3 run. Leading them was Colin Albert with 14 points in the fourth quarter. He also made a game-tying layup with less than 10 seconds to send the game to overtime tied 66-66.

“Mr. Fourth Quarter,” the nickname Albert’s coach Sam Liggins referred to him after the game, took the same attitude into the overtime as he made the game winning basket with less than 40 seconds remanining after Knott grabbed an offensive rebound.

4. Elyria Catholic Survives A Late Rally To Defeat Crestwood 58-56, Advance to District final

Full Recap

Before their Division III, District semifinal, No. 3 seed Crestwood was a 20-3 team that flew under the radar in the Northeast Ohio region.

In the Bedford District semifinal, they went toe-to-toe against No. 2-seeded Elyria Catholic and almost pulled away with the victory.

Crestwood controlled the first half as Trent Jakacki caught fire with 18 points in the first half and a slow Panthers’ start gave the Red Devils the 29-23 lead.

Elyria Catholic came back in the third quarter with a 10-0 run, by utilizing 6-foot-6 Taylor, who had a considerable size advantage on Crestwood, who can also hit free-throws. (8-for-10). Taylor was their second leading scorer with 16 points.

All season long, when a clutch basket had to be made for the Panthers late in the game, Wright was the person they relied on.

With 20 seconds left and down by 1 point, Wright made arguably the most clutch shot of his Elyria Catholic career with a three-pointer to give them the 58-56 win.

For analysis on his shot, read Edward Wright’s Game-Winner, A Moment He Was Made For In Elyria Catholics Win Over Crestwood

3. Chicone’s Three Lifts Mentor to 81-80 Win over Medina
Full Recap

When the Mentor Cardinals and Medina Bees matched up this season, you knew the game was going to be fun to watch.

A GCC championship was on the line. According to Mentor, the school’s football season caused some players not to be in basketball shape, which affected their first matchup against the Bees as they lost 94-81.

The Cardinals were in shape, but then didn’t have Caleb Piks, who suffered a broken finger earlier in the week.

The night was highlighted by a walk-off game-winner from star guard Luke Chicone, who made a three-pointer, while wearing his Kobe Bryant Nike shoes to honor the death of the former Los Angeles Laker great.

The game-winner was captured by Nate Barnes of The News-Herald

What made this game so great was the path the Cardinals had to take to win.

In typical Kobe Bryant fashion, Chicone scored 14 fourth quarter points and led a late-game charge where they scored 11 points in the last 41 seconds. Chicone scored 9 of those points.

Luke Floriea scored 20 points and broke the 1,000 career points milestone. Chicone totaled 25 points to tie the team high with Chad Rogers.

2. Warrensville Heights Wins Thriller Over Elyria Catholic 80-77 in OT

Full Recap

The Bedford District bracket was loaded with talented rosters and great games. But the best spectacle in the district bracket was saved for the final as No. 4 seed Warrensville Heights faced off against No. 2 seed Elyria Catholic.

Omahn Dobbins did not play for the Tigers in last year’s playoff loss against Elyria Catholic.

He was the player to provide the much needed spark for the Tigers’ struggling offense in the first quarter by scoring 15 points and four assists in the first half to lead Elyria Catholic 38-37 at halftime.

Dobbing went toe-to-toe with the Panthers’ guard Wright, who had 19 points, seven rebounds, 3 assists and three blocks in the first half.

Warrensville Heights’ star Junior guard Ramelle Arnold took over the game by scoring 24 points in a back-and-forth second half while Jack Griffin scored 10 of his 20 total points in the third quarter to drive their offense.

The fourth quarter was true theater. Whenever Warrensville Heights needed a basket, Arnold found a way to get a bucket. Jamarion Johnson came off the bench for the Tiger as a scoring threat.

Elyria Catholic didn’t back down, as Wright drained a 73-73 game-tying three-pointer three days after his game-winner against Crestwood to force overtime.

The overtime went back-and-forth for half the overtime to a drought the next two minutes for both teams. The difference was Elias Palmer at the line for the Panthers, who missed both free-throws while trailing 77-78 with 17 seconds left.

Trezelle McQueen’s gave the Tigers a 3-point lead at the line with 14 seconds left, giving Elyria Catholic one more possession. The Tigers off-ball defense on Wright denied him the ball and secured the win.

1. CCC Ironmen Outlast Garfield Heights in Two OT’s 51-48

When I decided to rank my top 10 games of the season, the Ironmen’s double-overtime victory over Garfield Heights immediately came to mind. After examination of every game I’ve covered, this game narrows out to the top of them all.

The environment was perfect in the crowded Cleveland Central Catholic gymnasium, even though it was hot. So hot, in fact, one of the Ironmens’ cheerleaders collapsed, who was fine after the game.

Two teams that pride themselves on defense battled it out to enter the fourth quarter 28-23.

The Ironmen making 42 percent of their free-throws allowed Garfield Heights to come back in the second half and overtime periods.

Tavion Tatum scored the final six points for the Bulldogs, including a buzzer-beater layup to force the first overtime.

The second overtime was forced when Makail Cottingham made a catch-and-shoot three at the buzzer to force the second overtime.

The Ironmen led in the second overtime and held onto the lead after Tyler Jackson’s game-tying three bounced off the rim.

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