By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
A year ago, Moeller came within one made basket of an improbable perfect season and had to settle for a 28-1 record and runner-up finish at the basketball state tournament. This year, though, the Crusaders left little doubt during their trip to the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I Final Four – posting a pair of impressive victories last weekend to extend their winning streak to 20 games, remain unbeaten in the calendar year and, in the process, earn the school’s fourth state championship in basketball – having also won DI state titles in 1999, 2003 and 2007.
After recording a 51-44 win over Lorain in the state semifinals last Friday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on The Ohio State University in Columbus, Moeller turned it up another notch in an 83-65 win the next day over Solon – which finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press DI state poll, one spot ahead of Moeller. Solon (27-2), which overcame a 12-point deficit against Pickerington Central in the semis, could not overcome Moeller’s tenacious defense, limiting the Comets to just 21-of-61 shooting, while Moeller built a 20-point advantage, outscoring Solon, 64-24, in the pain and shooting 70.8 percent (34-of-48) from the field.
The 65 points are the fewest Solon scored all season.
Senior forward Jeremiah Davenport, who scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds two days earlier against Lorain, had a team-high 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds and five assists. Senior forward Jaxson Hayes added 14 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots, while junior guard Alex Pfriem scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists. Hayes had a huge game against Lorain in the semis, scoring 16 point, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking three shots.
But perhaps the biggest moment for Moeller’s team at the state tournament was the return of junior guard Miles McBride – who was cleared to play earlier in the week after missing the entire season following a foot injury suffered while playing football for the Crusaders. McBride, a West Virginia University recruit, came off the bench in both games, scoring two points in limited action against Lorain but then scoring 14 points, sinking 4-of-6 field goals and 6-of-7 free throws in the final. McBride had 15 points and nine rebounds in Moeller’s 39-38 loss to Massillon Jackson in last year’ state final.
It was quite a season for Moeller, which will lose three starters – Davenport, Hayes and senior forward Carlos Garcia – to graduation. Davenport, named GCL Co-Player of the Year along with La Salle senior forward Riley Haubner, is signed with Wright State, while Hayes – named the GCL South Defensive Player of the Year after averaging four blocks a game, is signed with Texas. Moeller finishes with a 27-3 record, with the only three losses coming in December and to schools outside Ohio – Kentucky state champion Covington Catholic, New York Class A state champ Long Island Lutheran and highly regarded Imhotep Charter from Philadelphia.