By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
A year ago, Moeller entered the Ohio High School Athletic Association Basketball Division I Final Four just two wins away from an undefeated season and a state championship, taking a 27-0 record into the state semifinals and ultimately coming within a basket of perfection – falling to Massillon Jackson, 39-38, in the championship game to finish as state runner-up with a 28-1 record. Moeller is headed back to Columbus again next week and, while the Crusaders have suffered three losses this season, coach Carl Kremer’s team is perfect this calendar year and again just two wins away from a state title.
Moeller earned a second straight Final Four berth Friday night, as seniors Jeremiah Davenport and Jaxson Hayes combined to score 41 points and grab 14 rebounds to help Moeller erase a one-point halftime deficit and defeat Huber Heights Wayne, 65-53, in the regional final at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. Moeller (25-3), which has won 18 consecutive games, advances to meet either Lorain or Toledo St. John’s Jesuit (which play today in another regional final) in the state semifinals at 5:15 p.m. on Friday, March 23 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on The Ohio State University campus in Columbus.
The state championship is 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 24.
The Crusaders would like nothing better than to bring home the school’s fourth state basketball championship, also having won DI titles in 1999, 2003 and 2007. And, if its play in the postseason is any indication, Moeller should have a chance of cutting down the nets eight days from now. In six postseason games, Moeller has outscored the opposition by an average of 24.5 points, winning all by double figures with only Wayne coming closer than 15 points of the Crusaders. Wayne ended the regular season ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press DI state poll, just one spot behind Moeller, and finished with a 25-2 record - its other loss at Springfield, 54-47, back on February 9.
Moeller should be plenty prepared to face the best teams from around Ohio, having played a rigorous schedule and capturing the coveted Greater Catholic League South Division championship with a 6-0 record as it did last season too. The Crusaders have not lost in 2018, and are also unbeaten against teams from Ohio. Moeller’s three defeats were all in December, to Covington Catholic – which plays today in the Kentucky state semifinals in Lexington and beat the Crusaders, 58-53, and two nationally regarded schools at the prestigious Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Bach, S.C., in Long Island, N.Y. Lutheran, 57-45, and Imhotep Charter from Philadelphia, 47-44.
In the Crusaders’ regional victories against Springfield and Wayne, Moeller has connected on 49-o-79 field goals – including 24-of-42 against Wayne. The Crusaders, known for their stingy defense and patience on offense, have benefited from balance all season too. While Davenport and Hayes put up big numbers in the regional final, they received plenty of assistant from junior guard Alec Pfriem – who finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Senior forward Carlos Garcia added nine points, and senior guard Isaiah Payton had four points, six rebounds and five assists.
Consider, too, that Moeller has played all season without senior guard Miles McBride, who teammates insisted be part of the regional championship photograph following Friday’s victory. McBride, named first team All-GCL South last year, was a vital part of Moeller’s season a year ago – averaging 10.5 points and ranking among league leaders in assists, steals and field-goal percentage during the regular season. McBride suffered a season-ending foot injury while playing quarterback for the Crusaders last fall and has not played basketball this season. He will play collegiately at West Virginia.
Entering the state tournament, Moeller is a combined 53-4 the last two seasons.