Upper Arlington News

State Tournament Preview

Ball control key against Trotwood-Madison


The Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team's Division I state semifinal opponent is averaging 85 points and has broken 100 seven times, posting a season-high 130 points against Riverside Stebbins on Feb. 25.

The Golden Bears, who face Trotwood-Madison at 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 21, at Ohio State, have seen their share of high-powered offenses in recent weeks, and successfully contained all of them.

UA, which is making its first state appearance since 1939, defeated Gahanna 55-49 in a district final March 8, Pickerington Central 63-53 in a regional semifinal March 13 and Northland 50-36 in a regional final March 15. Those teams averaged 66.7, 75.3 and 75.4 points, respectively, and the Bears have allowed 50 or more points just twice this year.

"They were tall, long and athletic and good teams," guard Harrison Heath said of the Bears' last three opponents. "The key for us is we were able to control the ball in all of those games and come out with victories."

UA's plan will be similar against Trotwood-Madison (25-2), which was ranked fifth in the final regular-season state poll. The Rams' only other state appearance came in 2006, when they were state runners-up.

"They're very athletic, they're very quick and they thrive on turnovers," said coach Tim Casey, whose team is 26-1 and has won 25 consecutive games. "They convert turnovers as well as anybody we've faced."

The semifinal winner will play Cleveland East Technical or third-ranked Lakewood St. Edward in the state final at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at OSU.

Unlike UA, which outside a 12-point first-quarter deficit against Central largely was in control of its two regional games, Trotwood-Madison needed two comebacks to advance.

Trailing top-ranked Cincinnati Moeller by 16 points early in the fourth quarter of their regional final March 14 at Xavier University, the Rams clawed back and upended the Crusaders 62-61 on a 3-pointer by senior guard Chris Mack with 2.3 seconds left.

That was Trotwood-Madison's only lead against Moeller despite forcing 22 turnovers with its pressure defense.

In a regional semifinal March 12, Dazhontae Bennett hit a buzzer-beating jumper in overtime to defeat Huber Heights Wayne 60-58.

Bennett, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, is averaging 24.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.9 blocks and 1.9 steals and was named first-team all-Southwest District. Kendrick Mallory, a 6-2 senior guard who comes off the bench, is averaging 16.1 points and 4.1 rebounds and was special mention all-district.

The rest of Trotwood-Madison's offense is balanced. Junior forward Andre Foster is averaging 9.6 points and 5.6 rebounds, senior guard Jamichael Blanton is averaging 8.7 points and 2.3 rebounds and senior guard Patwaun Hudson is averaging 7.2 points, 4.2 assists, 3.6 steals and 1.7 rebounds.

"We just have to be who we are. We're not going to change that now that we're fortunate enough to be in the state semifinals," Rams coach Rocky Rockhold said. "We'll attack when we can attack. We'll try to get to the rim and put heavy pressure on them. UA has quality kids and they run their stuff very well."

Kevin Vannatta is averaging 18 points and 6.5 rebounds, both team-highs, for the Bears. Danny Hummer is averaging 8.7 points, 4.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals, and Logan Richter and Gabe Akins are averaging 5.4 and 5.2 points, respectively.

UA's only state championship came in 1937.

St. Edward (24-2) has reached state for the second time in three years and eighth time since 1996. The Eagles, who lost to eventual state runner-up Toledo Whitmer in a semifinal in 2012, are led by first-team all-Northeast District guards Marsalis Hamilton and Kipper Nichols as well as guard Tony Vuyancih, who scored 19 points in a 74-47 regional final win over Mansfield Senior on March 15. Hamilton had 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

East Tech (23-4) is making its first state appearance since 1972. Freshman guard Markell Johnson scored a game-high 27 points, including the winning shot, in a 62-60 overtime victory over seventh-ranked Uniontown Lake in a regional final March 15. The Scarabs knocked off defending state champion Mentor 79-63 in a district final March 8.

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