Rise to the occasion. The mantra of Trey Burke and the Michigan basketball program on a historic run to the NCAA championship just nine months ago. At the very school where Burke's father, Benji, once coached, Columbus' Eastmoor Academy, another gritty 6' guard has that same killer mentality.
Enter Jahmal Hughes. Heading into the fourth quarter trailing 47-44, Hughes scored 10 of Eastmoor's next 11 points in an 11-2 run lasting over two minutes. Knocking down three consecutive triples from well behind-the-arc, the final one reminiscent to the deep triple Burke hit in the Sweet 16 vs. Kansas, Hughes and the Warriors robbed Westerville North of all momentum in the final moments. Despite immense trouble from the free-throw line, Eastmoor's defensive pressure and clutch rebounding helped the Warriors hold on to a season-opening 66-65 win at home.
But the bearded assassin wasn't a one man show, however. Senior forward Shamonty Manning's 15 points, 13 of which coming in the second half, disrupted the Westerville zone, and gave the Warriors an advantage in the paint.
Lightning quick junior guard Xavier Holston-Sims had himself a solid game, finishing with nine points and eight assists. Holston-Sims didn't have the greatest performance at the free-throw line, however. The junior missed eight consecutive from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, but with the help of the talented seniors on the Eastmoor roster, the Warriors remained unscathed.
One of Eastmoor's greatest strengths is the depth of the bench. Rotating nine players for the majority of Tuesday's contest, Eastmoor received a great lift from 6'5 senior forward Nate Jameson, who pitched in six points and five rebounds. Junior guard Kyle Oglesby put in valuable minutes off the pine, contributing three assists and two steals.
For Westerville North, senior small forward Isaiah Keene had himself quite the coming out party. After spending the last two seasons at the end of the Westerville bench behind a talented group of seniors led by Davidson point guard Jack Gibbs, Keene's patience was tested and his time to shine would be delayed. On the road in a hostile environment at Eastmoor, the 6'5 forward stepped up to the challenge in his first varsity start.
Scoring a team-high 20 points, Keene was deadly from behind-the-arc in the first half, stretching the Eastmoor defense and opening up lanes for the Westerville guards. Scoring 12 of his 20 in the first half, Keene also added eight rebounds to his stat line, an average that the senior is more than capable of maintaining.
Without returning senior Alex Stewart in the lineup Tuesday night (Stewart has been battling knee problems), Fairmont State commit RJ Hutcherson was the lone man in the paint for Westerville. Dealing with foul trouble for the majority of the night, the 6'7 Hutcherson finished with just five points and four rebounds.
Reserve sophomore guard Corey Benton had an outstanding performance for Westerville North, pouring in 15 points off the bench and shooting 6-of-6 at the free-throw line. Coming into Tuesday, many around the North program had questions about the Warriors' depth, but with a gritty performance from Benton on the road, some of those questions should be answered.
Starting junior point guard Austin Armwood had a decent showing, going for 10 points and three assists. Like Hutcherson, Armwood dealt with foul trouble for stretches on Tuesday, but the talented guard should bounce back in the Warriors' upcoming matchup vs. Hilliard Darby on Friday.
Eastmoor travels to crosstown foe West on Friday. West is coming off consecutive 20-point victories behind the high scoring of standout forward Charles Holland.
Ronnie Williams leads Brookhaven to crucial win on road at Independence
After an underwhelming performance in a Friday loss vs. Gahanna-Lincoln, Columbus Brookhaven and Ohio Dominican commit Ronnie Williams redeemed himself in a big way on Tuesday. Traveling to crosstown rival Independence, Williams' 24 points, five assists and four rebounds led the visiting Bearcats to a crucial 66-62 victory.
Williams and the Bearcats received a huge lift in the second quarter, outscoring the Sixers 26-15. While Independence would roar back in the ensuing quarter, the Bearcats would hang on in the final minutes.
Outside Williams, 6'4 junior forward J-Saun Davis had his best performance of the season, pouring in 20 points and giving a glimpse of his untapped potential. Junior shooting guard Shadrick Kimble scored in double-digits for the second consecutive game, totaling 11 points.
For Independence, 6'2 senior guard John Pope and 6'5 junior forward Kovien Dominaus led the way with 18 points each. Underrated senior guard Malik Breckenridge had a solid outing, going for 12 points.
The Sixers look to get their first win of the season on Friday as they open City-League South league play with Walnut Ridge. Brookhaven heads to nearby Linden-McKinley on Friday for what appears to be a more than winnable contest.
Notable Performers from Tuesday's remaining action
Akeian Frederick (6'6 PF / Franklin Heights / 2014):
Leading Columbus Franklin Heights to two consecutive victories, the talented 6'6 senior forward Frederick had his best performance of the season on Tuesday night. Going for a career-high 20 points, Frederick helped Franklin Heights, located on the southwest side of Columbus, defeat Hilliard Bradley 68-48. Frederick is a player not many in the area are familiar with, but with great length at 6'6, and above average athleticism, expect more from the Falcons standout forward. Frederick and the Falcons travel to Mount Vernon on Friday, one of the tougher environments in the Ohio Capital Conference.
Babe Murphy (6'4 SF / Licking Heights / 2014):
After a 28-point outburst to open the season on Saturday vs. Olentangy Orange, the talented senior forward Murphy had another solid performance in a big win vs. Utica. Going for a game-high 21 points, Murphy helped the host Hornets cruise to a 64-34 victory. Usually productive right out of the gate, the 6'5 Murphy led the Hornets to a dominating 22-4 first quarter which set the tone for the remainder of the game. Murphy and Licking Heights travel to Granville on Friday for the first true test of the season.
Mark Fair (6'3 SF / Reynoldsburg / 2016):
While junior guard Lloyd Chatman was the hero for Reynoldsburg on Saturday in a win at Westerville South, the talented sophomore Fair stepped up for the Raiders on Tuesday. Going for a season-high 20 points, the 6'3 forward all scorers in Reynoldsburg's 67-43 home win over Canal Winchester. Fair, who runs alongside Northland's Seth Towns and Gahanna's Matthew Moyer during the AAU season for the VCC Ohio Warriors, has had high expectations up to this point for the Raiders. With a thick build and solid athleticism, Fair has the tools to become a reliable scoring option for Reynoldsburg, a team lacking true length in the post. With talented guards Chatman and Travis Gleason, Reynoldsburg could greatly benefit from more performances like Tuesday's from Fair.
Tyler Primmer (6'4 SG / Teays Valley / 2014):
Scoring 25 of Teays Valley's 47 points on Tuesday, the senior guard Primmer was arguably the area's top performer on the night. In a hard-fought win on the road at Pickerington North, Primmer's 25 points paced the Vikings to their first win of the season against a quality opponent. Holding the Panthers to ten points in the first half, Teays Valley relied on Primmer's shooting down the stretch to hang on to a close win on the road. Playing for Nitro USA in AAU action, Primmer is a quality guard with a college-ready build. Find out more about Tyler on Nitro's website here.
Logan Rostan (6'1 G / Marysville / 2014):
Opening the season with a convincing 68-44 win at Hilliard Darby, Rostan and Marysville have started the 2013-14 season on the right track. The senior guard led all scorers with 22 points, nine of which coming from behind-the-arc. Marysville jumped out to a 22-8 lead on Darby after the first quarter, and with Rostan's scoring antics, the Monarchs never looked back. On a team that finished toward the bottom of the OCC-Capital last season, Rostan and the Monarchs hope to change their fortunes in a division that is rather top heavy. Marysville gets a home matchup vs. division foe Westland on Friday, a team that demolished the Monarchs on their home floor a season ago.