Reynoldsburg Roundup: Raiders boys basketball team exceeded expectations
Following the loss of four of its top five scorers from a year ago and with a new coach, the Reynoldsburg boys basketball team entered the season believing it might fly a bit under the radar.
That made reaching a Division I district final feel all the more satisfying for the Raiders, who were seeded 10th and avenged a regular-season loss to Dublin Coffman to beat the ninth-seeded Shamrocks 57-56 on March 3 in a district semifinal.
On March 6, the Raiders’ season ended with a 77-41 loss at top-seeded Gahanna in a district final to give them a final record of 13-8.
“I don’t think a lot of teams expected us to get this far,” senior wing player Zaveon Croff said. “For us, this has been tough. We’ve got to play harder than most teams because we’re a smaller team. We had a good start, it was rough in the middle (of the season) and (the tournament) win (over Coffman) was a good win for us.”
Despite being 6-foot-1, Croff was among the team’s leading rebounders in addition to averaging 11 points as he earned first-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division and honorable mention all-district honors.
Croff scored 23 points, which included a pair of free throws with 0.7 seconds to go, in the district semifinal.
The top returnee from last season was junior guard Julian Heckman, who averaged 8.5 points and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
A key factor in Reynoldsburg’s success was the return of senior guard Josiah Mobley, who averaged 14.5 points and was first-team all-league and third-team all-district. After playing his first two prep seasons at Reynoldsburg, he moved to Whitehall last winter before returning to the district as a senior.
Andy Moore completed his first season as coach after taking over last May. The Raiders ended last season with Shawn Elliott serving as interim coach during a season in which they finished 14-11 and were a district semifinalist.
“I was telling the guys (after the loss to Gahanna) that other than Julian (and Croff), there was nobody on our team that ever had played meaningful minutes for Reynoldsburg (before this season),” Moore said. “We’ve had a lot of guys step up who have never been in those roles before. (Reaching a district final) means a lot and for these older guys, the seniors and juniors have worked really hard. It’s been an easy transition because these guys have worked so hard.”
Sophomore forward Jabari Mitchell, who averaged 7.0 points and was honorable mention all-league, and junior guard Jonye Madison, who averaged 6.0 points, also will be eligible to return.
Others who should return include junior guards Bryden Burnett and Martize Powell, junior forward Malekai Booker and sophomore guard Zazen Bivens.
Junior forward Nemo Smith, junior guard Kenny Long and sophomore Joseph Spann were others who saw action in the tournament loss to Gahanna.
“Jonye, Julian, Jabari and Martize are guys coming back who played a lot of minutes,” Moore said. “If you’d asked anybody if this team would be in the district finals, they’d have laughed at you. Those four guys know a lot more about how we want things done and how we approach anything. We’ve had a lot of guys step up.”
Girls basketball team
to return strong group
All but two players are eligible to return for the girls basketball team, which won its third consecutive Division I district title.
The Raiders, who were seeded third, beat 34th-seeded Logan 67-23 on Feb. 27 in a district final before falling to Dublin Coffman 60-57 on March 2 in a regional semifinal at Westerville South.
Reynoldsburg finished 16-5 overall and was runner-up in the OCC-Buckeye at 7-2 behind Newark (10-0).
“We put in a lot of work to get here,” post player Alexia Mobley said.
Mobley, who played for the Raiders as a freshman and Whitehall as a sophomore, returned to Reynoldsburg this season for what would have been her junior year but is graduating early. She has committed to Louisville.
Mobley averaged 12.5 points and 12 rebounds and earned second-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division and third-team all-district honors.
The only other senior was backup guard Taylor Starks.
Junior guard Imarianah Russell, who joined the program after spending her first two seasons at Coffman, averaged 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds and was first-team all-league and first-team all-district.
Junior forward Mya Perry averaged 15 points and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Junior guards Makiya Miller and Trinity Ramos also played key roles. Miller averaged 8.0 points and was special-mention all-league, while Ramos averaged 6.0 points and was honorable-mention all-league.
Junior guard Jamiona Ross, sophomore Sam Savoy and freshman wing player Daniya McDonald also were contributors, and others eligible to return include sophomore Taryn Cornett (wing player/post player) and freshman Simone Holifield (guard).
The Raiders had won seven in a row before losing to Coffman.
“We reverted back to how we were at the beginning of the year, where we didn’t share the ball (against the Shamrocks),” coach Jack Purtell said. “We didn’t do that at all, so I’m a little disappointed in that.
“We’ll be OK. We had a little bit of adversity this year. Everyone did with (COVID-19).”
•Record: 13-8 overall
•OCC-Buckeye standings: Pickerington Central (10-0), Reynoldsburg (8-2), Newark (6-4), Groveport (4-6), Lancaster (2-8), Central Crossing (0-10)
•Seniors lost: Zaveon Croff, N’Rique Love, Davion Pirtle and Josiah Mobley
•Key returnees: Zazen Bivens, Malekai Booker, Bryden Burnett, Julian Heckman, Jonye Madison, Jabari Mitchell and Martize Powell
•Postseason: Defeated Dublin Jerome 53-46, def. Dublin Coffman 57-56, lost to Gahanna 77-41 in Division I district final
•Record: 16-5 overall
•OCC-Buckeye standings: Newark (10-0), Reynoldsburg (7-2), Pickerington Central (4-3), Lancaster (3-6), Groveport (2-6), Central Crossing (0-9)
•Seniors lost: Alexia Mobley and Taylor Starks
•Key returnees: Makiya Miller, Mya Perry, Trinity Ramos, Jamiona Ross, Imarianah Russell and Sam Savoy
•Postseason: Def. Westerville Central 78-25, def. Eastmoor Academy 82-32, def. Canal Winchester 71-42, def. Logan 67-23, lost to Dublin Coffman 60-57 in Division I regional semifinal