Doesn’t get any better than Alter girls, Trotwood vs. Dunbar boys

Published: Friday, March 17, 2017 @ 10:03 PM
Updated: Friday, March 17, 2017 @ 10:03 PM

Dunbar’s Devon Baker (left) battles Jared Laski for a loose ball. Dunbar defeated Carroll Bloom-Carroll 71-37 in a boys high school basketball D-II regional final at Fairmont’s Trent Arena on Thursday, March 16, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Dunbar’s Devon Baker (left) battles Jared Laski for a loose ball. Dunbar defeated Carroll Bloom-Carroll 71-37 in a boys high school basketball D-II regional final at Fairmont’s Trent Arena on Thursday, March 16, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF(MARC PENDLETON / STAFF)

There are many contenders for area supremacy every high school basketball season. Sometimes an unforeseen wildcard makes a memorable breakthrough. More often than not, it’s the best of the best that makes a final statement.

That’s what will rapidly play out today. The Alter girls basketball team is looking for one last gem in its unprecedented four-year run, playing in yet another Division II state title game at Columbus.

The boys are up next, and it’s a dandy: Trotwood-Madison vs. Dunbar at Fairmont’s Trent Arena.

All three of those programs have kept area basketball at the highest level over the years, both locally and state-wide.

Alter is a two-time defending D-II state champ. All that stands in Alter’s way is former nemesis Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown (18-10) in a 10:45 a.m. title matchup at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center. Brown set a state record with 37 straight postseason wins and five consecutive titles from 2009-14, which included championship defeats of Alter in 2010 and ’14.

Alter beat Brown in the 2008 title game for its first state championship. This will be Alter’s fourth straight state title appearance. Of the 16 participating girls teams at state, just five are private schools, which includes Alter and Brown.

Think Alter (27-2) is on cruise control? Not a chance.

“There’s a lot of emotions that play into it,” Alter senior standout Braxtin Miller said with a nod to teammate Libby Bazelak following a 50-43 overtime defeat of Ottawa-Glandorf in Thursday’s state semifinal. “Obviously, we’re seniors and we have a lot at stake. There’s a lot of pressure to do your best and be your best because this is our last go at it. We definitely have some pressure to deal with.”

Joining Alter in playing for a state title is Versailles (26-3), which is matched against Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (23-5) for the D-III state title at 5:15 p.m. also at the Schott.

This is a rematch for Trotwood (25-2) and Dunbar (24-3) and the one that counts most, because the winner will advance to next week’s state final four. Trotwood outlasted visiting Dunbar 98-89 on Feb. 4. The countdown to a rematch started before the teams left the court that night.

“Both (Dunbar coach Pete Pullen) and I hoped it would be this,” Trotwood coach Rocky Rockhold said after being pushed by Taft in Thursday’s regional semi, 61-56. “We went on the bracket early on and we said if we’re going to have to play each other, let’s make it mean something. And it does.”

The high-end star quality that has defined previous great Trotwood and Dunbar teams is lacking, but both are loaded with next-level talent. It’s fitting that one will represent Dayton-area basketball at state next week. They are the last area boys teams remaining in the postseason in any division.

“We’ve watched them a million times and they’ve watched us a million times,” Rockhold said. “There won’t be any secrets or surprises. They’re going to do what they do and we’re going to do what we do and see who gets that trip to Columbus.”

What Steve Alford, Bruins players said after UCLA’s loss to Oregon State

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 9:06 PM


UCLA fell to Oregon State on Thursday night in a close contest, 69-63.

Aaron Holiday led the Bruins with 22 points, but it wasn’t enough to get past a Beavers team that saw all 5 starters score in double figures.

Here’s what UCLA coach Steve Alford (and center Thomas Welsh and guard Aaron Holiday) had to say after the loss, via the Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch:

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Baker Mayfield thinks he should be placed higher in mock drafts

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 3:17 PM

Baker Mayfield-Thinks he should be placed higher-in NFL mock drafts

Baker Mayfield might need to dig out the “pretenders” sign once again when the NFL draft arrives in April.

According to the Tulsa World’s Eric Bailey, the former Oklahoma quarterback voiced frustration on Thursday over his placement among quarterbacks in several NFL mock drafts.

“I’m still not in the top 4 of anybody’s QB board,” Mayfield said. “It’s the same thing over again.”

Mayfield went on to say that the “winning speaks for itself” despite many experts acting skeptical over his future career in the NFL, according to Bailey.

The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner’s draft stock has varied widely among prognosticators.

ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his first mock draft Thursday and — the fourth quarterback taken. Others experts, such as ESPN’s Todd McShay, have predicted Mayfield to be a “career backup.”

Regardless, Mayfield’s final season in Norman was one to remember. The question now remains whether or not NFL front offices will think he can keep up that success in the pros when the draft rolls around.

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Bruins fall short of completing comeback: What we learned from UCLA’s loss to Oregon State

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 8:39 PM


At the under-12-minute timeout, UCLA (13-6, 4-3) faced its largest deficit of the night. It didn’t take long for the Bruins to erase it.

What followed was a back-and-forth, bucket-trading thrilling 11 minutes, but it ended in a 69-63 loss for UCLA.

The Bruins fell thanks to a final 3-minute stretch in which Oregon State (11-7, 3-3) had 3 different players make clutch baskets to turn a 1-point deficit into a 7-point advantage. Stevie Thompson Jr. (12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) canned a 3-pointer to extend Oregon State’s lead to 5 and put UCLA into a hole out of which it couldn’t climb.

Here’s what we learned from UCLA’s loss to Oregon State.

Take the lids off, please

This game started about as ugly as they get. Both Oregon State and UCLA struggled to get anything to fall — layups, putbacks, jumpers, you name it. Multiple close looks rolled off the rim, and at the 10-minute mark, the score was 11-10 with Oregon State in the lead. That stagnant start helped Oregon State both stick around and figure out how to get to UCLA’s offense, which has struggled so much lately, it even has troubles on the fastbreak.

Oregon State held UCLA to 37.9 percent from the floor, riding its defense and 8-rebound advantage along the way. A 4-of-13 night from senior center Thomas Welsh didn’t help things, either.

Resilient Bruins

UCLA’s slow start and 8-point deficit could have sank a mentally weaker team, but credit the Bruins for battling back to take a small lead in the latter portion of the second half. A pair of Chrises — Chris Smith and Kris Wilkes — led the comeback.

UCLA also finished 12 of 14 from the line, taking advantage of most opportunities it was afforded. For a moment late in the second, it looked as though the Bruins would escape Corvallis with a win. But then…

Team leaders, stand up

Oregon State’s late surge was as much the doing of the Beavers as it was poor defensive rotation. While Aaron Holiday (22 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds) did as much as he could to help the offense throughout the contest (including getting to the line 12 times, making 11 of those attempts), his defensive effort late allowed Thompson to get open for the corner 3 shown above. Tres Tinkle made a key 3-pointer during that stretch, and poor post defense allowed Drew Eubanks (12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) to get a great look, which he converted for 2 points that ended up being the clincher in Oregon State’s win.

The ugliest part of this sequence, though, came on the offensive end, where UCLA lacked a clear leader.

Kris Wilkes drilled a 3 to cut Oregon State’s lead back to 5 and slow the celebration, but most everyone watching was surprised to see Holiday not demand the ball late.

The result were a few disjointed possessions that downed any comeback hopes for UCLA.

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Washington doesn’t go down easy: What we learned from the Huskies’ loss to Utah

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 7:38 PM

Washington entered Thursday night’s game against Utah with the better record, but didn’t look like it for much of the night.

The Huskies found a way to stay within striking range for the majority of their contest against the Utes, closing Utah’s lead to 4 in a late-game surge, but the earlier mistakes and deficit that followed ended up being too much to overcome in a 70-62 loss. For Utah, the win snapped a 4-game losing skid.

Utah guard Justin Bibbins led all scorers with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Washington guard Jaylen Nowell led the way with 17 points and 8 rebounds for the Huskies.

Here’s what we learned from Washington’s loss to Utah.

Huskies get sloppy

Washington’s 12 turnovers would sink the Huskies on a typical night, but on Thursday, they were bested by the Utes’ 14 miscues of their own. Forcing these turnovers was really the only way Washington remained in the game. All but one of Washington’s starters had at least 2 turnovers each. And yet, in the final minutes of the game, there they were, just a possession from tying the game and another from taking the lead. While Mike Hopkins’ crew needs to clean things up, they should find pride in their relentless push, even if it came up short. Washington was a cleaner game from pushing Utah’s losing streak to 5.

Empty opportunities

While Utah allowed its opponent to hang around, failing to fully put away the Huskies for the majority of the second half, Washington did nothing to help itself. The Huskies made just 10 of 18 free throw attempts and were out-rebounded 44-38. At one point in the final 5 minutes of play, the Pac-12 Network’s broadcasting crew marveled at the fact Washington was still in the game when considering these numbers (plus a 38.5 field goal percentage). Just a few more buckets scored off turnovers would have produced a much different result, but that’s often how these things go.

The bright side: Washington received a fairly efficient game off the bench from Michael Carter III, and saw Jaylen Nowell near a double-double despite shooting just 8 of 17 from the floor. The dark side: Washington allowed 5-foot-8 guard Justin Bibbins secure his own double-double with 20 points and a stunning 10 rebounds.

Deep drought

The Huskies’ run of opportunities left on the floor extended beyond the arc, where Washington made just 2 of 18 3-point attempts. All 5 of Washington’s starters combined to make 0 percent of 3-pointers. An incredibly poor night from the floor in all categories was capped by a nightmarish evening from deep, where the Huskies couldn’t capitalize on open looks. It eventually came back to bite them when they needed more than trading buckets to overcome a long withstanding deficit.