CINCINNATI – The Moeller basketball team entered the national rankings this week. The Crusaders are one of three Cincinnati-area team undefeated entering late January.
With less than a month left before the sectional tournament, let’s take a look at some of the key games and the significant playmakers for the area’s top teams as the month of January concludes.
The “Power 9” is based on strength of schedule, overall statistical success and our staff observations from the season.
Last week’s ranking: 1
This week’s schedule: At Elder Friday. At Wilmington Saturday.
The Crusaders are undoubtedly the team to beat in the state right now. This is a balanced squad with quickness, rebounding, defense and shooting ability. Moeller entered the MaxPreps national rankings this week at No. 23 and continues to be the top-ranked team in the Associated Press statewide media poll. The Crusaders did have their closest margin of victory this past weekend with a 54-51 win over a talented Springfield team. These two teams could see each other in the state tournament. Senior guard Keegan McDowell (Liberty University signee) and sophomore guard Miles McBride each had 15 points against Springfield.
2. Oak Hills
Last week: 2
This week’s schedule: At Lakota East Tuesday. Versus Mason Friday.
Besides Moeller, there might not be a more dangerous team in the city right now than Oak Hills. The Highlanders have won seven consecutive games for the first time in at least 12 seasons. (The Greater Miami Conference site goes back to 2004-05). Oak Hills defeated Hamilton 51-43 Friday night after outscoring the Big Blue 21-14 in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Ryan Batte (Ashland signee) averages 14.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. Senior guard Luke Rudy averages 13.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and is shooting 45 percent from beyond the three-point line. Junior guard Nick Deifel averages close to 10 points and had seven assists against Hamilton. Watch for this week’s game against Mason. It should be a special rematch. The Highlanders defeated the Comets 49-43 in mid-December.
3. La Salle
Last week: 3
This week’s schedule: At St. Xavier Friday. At Walnut Hills Saturday.
Senior guard CJ Fleming returned to game action last week after he was out with a shoulder injury since Dec. 30. Fleming, the Bellarmine signee, didn’t disappoint. He had 60 points in the Lancers’ three games last week -- a win at Colerain and two home games against Canadian opponents. Frankly, the games weren’t close. La Salle returns to GCL South action this week at St. Xavier on Friday and at Walnut Hills on Saturday. The Lancers travel to McNicholas Jan. 31 before a home showdown with Moeller on Feb. 3.
Last week: 4
This week’s schedule: Versus Middletown Tuesday. At Oak Hills Jan. 27.
The Comets struggled early against Fairfield on Friday night and were down 12-5 at the end of the first quarter. Mason was 0-for-9 on three-pointers at halftime. But, this Mason team is too experienced for any letdown. Mason outscored Fairfield 36-26 in the second half. Mason coach Greg Richards told his team to stay patient in the second half, and it executed well in the up-tempo game. Senior guard Eddie Puisis had a game-high 16 points to go along with eight rebounds. Senior forward Matt King, an Ohio Dominican signee, had 14 points and six rebounds. “Between (Eddie) and Matt, it’s been phenomenal,” Richards said. "To have those guys in the amount of time -- they know what to do. I don’t need to say. They are class in how they conduct themselves. Both him and Matt are great students and great leaders.”
5. Summit Country Day
Last week: 5
This week’s schedule: At Cincinnati Christian Tuesday. Versus New Miami Friday. Versus Taft Saturday.
The Silver Knights are 13-0 for the first time since the 2012-13 season when they started 14-0. This squad has a legitimate opportunity in the state tournament but will obviously need to get through Roger Bacon. Three players scored in double figures in last week’s 50-42 win over North College Hill -- the closest margin of victory all season. Senior forward TJ Walker had 14 points, senior guard Alex Dahling had 10 points and junior guard Xavier Johnson added 10 for the state’s top-ranked Division III team. A Saturday night showdown against Division II power Taft will be an interesting contest.
6. Roger Bacon
Last week: 6
This week’s schedule: Versus Chaminade Julienne Friday.
A light schedule for Roger Bacon this week as it plays host to Dayton-area power Chaminade Julienne. The Spartans earned solid wins over Tipp City Bethel (74-54), at McNicholas (56-45) and at Woodward (69-49) last week. Senior guard Craig McGee had a season-high 25 points and eight assists in the win at Woodward.
Last week: 7
This week’s schedule: At Woodward Friday. At Summit Country Day Saturday.
Taft defeated Cleveland East Tech 76-65 Saturday and defeated Aiken 82-57 Friday night. The Senators are just one game behind Hughes in the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference standings. Senior forward Malek Green averages 20.4 points and 13.7 rebounds. The Senators will face a good test with Summit on Saturday.
Last week: 8
This week’s schedule: At Indian Hill Tuesday. Versus Taylor Friday. Versus Mount Healthy Saturday.
Wyoming is one of just three undefeated teams remaining in the Power 9 and the Cowboys are primed for a special tournament run. Wyoming might have to get past Taft at some point in the Division II tournament, but it could be the Cowboys' best opportunity at a state tournament berth in years. Wyoming hasn’t been to the state tournament since 1942. A matchup at Indian Hill on Tuesday will likely be one of the final times Wyoming will be challenged in the regular season. Wyoming senior guard Lonnie Grayson, a West Point signee, averages 21.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He is building a case for player of the year honors.
Last week: Unranked
This week’s schedule: At Western Hills Friday.
Hughes is back in the Power 9 after solid wins against Indian Hill on Saturday (55-54) and at Woodward on Friday (60-52). The Big Red has won 10 consecutive games since a loss to St. Xavier on Dec. 10. Hughes will definitely be a tough out in the Division II tournament. Senior guard Correy Long, a Stony Brook signee, made another buzzer-beater this weekend and is averaging 20.2 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds. Junior guard Giovanni Santiago averages 14.6 points, 6.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds.