Exciting days are here for the DeSales and Northland high school boys basketball teams.

Exciting days are here for the DeSales and Northland high school boys basketball teams.

The state tournament will be today through Saturday in the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State, and both have a shot to climb to the mountaintop and bring back to their school some cherished and unforgettable hardware.

Northland is making its first trip to state, but DeSales is there for the third time in four years. Stallions coach Blair Albright said this team really has earned its moment in the spotlight.

"This team has truly done it their way," Albright said. "They have great balance, they play great defense and they share the ball all the time on offense. We don't really have any standout stars like we did the past few years, but this is a very good team that has made this year very rewarding."

One of the key links to the Stallions' success is junior Nick Kellogg, who started two years ago when DeSales made its last trip to state. He is a son of former Cleveland St. Joseph and Ohio State star Clark Kellogg, and his brother, Alex, now at Providence, was a key player for the state-qualifying Stallions in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

"What makes us special right now is that you can truly describe us as a team," Nick said. "We have come together throughout the year and have good chemistry and are playing our best basketball at the right time.

"Our strength on the floor is that we can create lots of problems for our opponents on defense because we have five guys who can move out and score on the perimeter. In (an 84-64 win over Vermillion in a regional final last Saturday at Bowling Green) we had seven players score nine points or more, so we are tough to defend. Another thing about this team right now is that we have been so fired up to be at practice. Many teams are tired of practicing at this point in the season, but we just want to keep playing until we can't play anymore and that means this Saturday evening."

For Kellogg, going back to the state tournament is a thrill.

"I have been so fortunate to be in final fours in both soccer and basketball and I have learned that you have to keep your emotions in check," he said. "It is so wonderful to be one of the last four teams playing, but you have to try to keep everything flowing and positive, yet understand how great this is to be a part of."

Nick also credited his brother and father for helping him reach this level in basketball.

"I learned so much from Alex," he said. "Obviously, we had lots of chances to play hoops in our back yard, but he taught me so much about the mental side of basketball. He taught me so much about composure, and I wouldn't be where I am without his help.

"My dad always has helped me so much also by teaching me that my last name would be a curse and a blessing at the same time. When I was younger I wasn't aware of his stature in the sport of basketball, and there is always pressure because of my last name, but what my dad has taught me foremost is that what is most important is your relationships with your family and God and I am thankful for that.

"I loved to play soccer when I was growing up and basketball wasn't as important to me, but now I love to run and shoot and dribble and handle the ball and all the things that basketball brings. Sports have taught me a lot about life. They have taught me about learning in different circumstances, about handling adversity in games, like when you miss a shot or get a bad call or get hurt. Those are things that will happen after you are finished bouncing a ball and I truly believe sports give all of us an edge in life."

Good luck to DeSales, Northland and all the participants in the state tournament.

I'll see you at the Schottenstein Center.