We are down to the “Sweet Sixteen” in boys high school basketball. This week, the teams will play for the right to go to Columbus and play in the state’s “Final Four”. The Cleveland area has four local teams playing at the Wolstein Center on the campus of Cleveland State University.
The winners of the Grafton, Solon, Euclid, and Brecksville districts will meet in the regional semi-finals this Wednesday night with the first game starting at 6:15pm, and the second starting at 8pm. The team that emerges from the Wolstein Center will play the winner of the regional being played at Xavier University Friday night, March 26th at 5:15pm in Columbus in a state semi-final game.
The four teams playing at Cleveland State are: Mentor, Avon Lake, St. Edward, and St. Ignatius. Each team had to play at their best to get here. Mentor and Avon Lake will play the first game at 6:15, followed by St. Edward and St. Ignatius at 8pm.
How Mentor (20-3) got here: Champions of the Euclid district. Defeated Willoughby South 115-50; defeated Ashtabula Lakeside 75-66; defeated Lyndhurst Brush 88-73….The team with the most offensive firepower. Led by the high scoring tandem of Cole Krizancic (27 points in the district final) and Jaron Crowe (26 points in the district final). Will be the overwhelming favorite versus Avon Lake. Will be looking for their first state tournament appearance.
How Avon Lake (17-7) got here: Champions of the Grafton district. Defeated Elyria 48-43; defeated Berea (a team that they had lost to twice in the regular season) 50-47; upset 2nd seeded Brunswick 54-44; shocked top seeded Medina 52-46. Will be looking for their third big upset against Mentor. Shot 66 percent from the floor in beating Medina. Undersized team that gets great guard play from sophomore Eric Stuczynski and senior Ronnie Willoughby.
How St. Edward (19-3) got here: Champions of the Brecksville district. Defeated Copley 67-26; defeated Parma 81-48; defeated Richfield Revere 67-46. Has already beaten St. Ignatius (twice) and Mentor in the regular season. Played the most difficult schedule of the four teams, with only one loss coming to a team from Ohio. Big frontline led by 6-10 Louisville recruit James Price and 6-9 Matt Stainbrook. Exceptional guard play from junior Delbert Love and sophomore Myles Hamilton.
How St. Ignatius (19-4) got here: Champions of the Solon district. Defeated Brecksville 56-38; defeated Shaker Hts. 59-45; defeated Warren Harding 79-66. Has won eight games in a row since a February 12th loss to St. Edward. Balanced team both in size and scoring. Led by senior guards Tom Parker and Tyler Hammond (21 and 18 points in the district final). Will be looking to avenge two regular season defeats to St. Edward (59-54 and 57-53).
Predictions: Mentor over Avon Lake; St. Edward over St. Ignatius
Regional Champion: St. Edward. The Eagles defeated Mentor in the regular season by using their height advantage and wearing down the Cardinals. Look for a very entertaining final, as this has the makings of a classic.