By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
Moeller and Elder, the two hottest basketball teams in the Greater Catholic League South Division, carried their momentum from the regular season into first-round games on the opening weekend of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Boys’ Basketball State Tournament, with each posting victories in their respective Cincinnati-area sectional tournaments. GCL South colleagues La Salle and St. Xavier are set to play their opening tournament games this week.
Moeller (22-0), the defending Division I state champion and No. 1 seed in the sectional, remained unbeaten this season and extended its overall winning streak to 42 games with a 60-32 win against Middletown last Friday at Fairfield High School. Senior guard Miles McBride, who was named both the GCL South Player and Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the week, scored a team-high 14 points to go along with six rebounds, five assists and five steals while helping his team hold the Middies to six first-half points and post another double-digit victory.
The Crusaders connected on 23-of-38 shots, good for 60.5 percent, while outrebounding Middletown (8-15), 33-14, and holding the Middies to just five field goals in the game. Sophomore Logan Duncomb added 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting, while senior Alec Pfriem, named first team All-GCL South by league coaches last week, contributed 10 points and a team-high eight assists. Moeller, which has won 20 of its 22 games by double figures and has not lost since late December 2017, advances to meet Talawanda (1-21) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Fairfield.
Elder (12-10), which closed the regular season by winning five of its last six games, got a team-high 17 points from junior guard Bryson Merz to build a double-digit lead and then hold off a furious late rally behind three-point shooting to record a 47-40 win against Edgewood on Saturday night at Lakota West High School. Merz, who also grabbed six rebounds, knocked down 6-of-11 shots, including 3-of-5 from three-point range against a 2-3 zone defense used by Edgewood (5-18) that forced Elder to work the perimeter and score from long range much of the evening. Junior guard Willard Cluxton added eight points and four rebounds for the Panthers.
Up next for the Panthers is neighborhood rival Oak Hills (16-6), which has won six straight games that includes a 49-43 win against Mason in its last game on Friday, January 15 – the final game of the regular season. Oak Hills finished second behind Lakota East in the Greater Miami Conference with a 13-3 league record. Elder defeated Oak Hills in the annual regular-season matchup, getting a team-high 14 points from junior guard Aidan Byrne in a 45-31 win over the Highlanders on January 22 at The Pit in Price Hill.
La Salle (12-10), which ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak, is anxious to get back on track. The Lancers will play their first sectional game against Milford at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Lakota West. Milford (12-11) opened its postseason with a 55-37 win against Harrison last Friday at West. St. Xavier (10-12), which ended the regular season by losing four of five games, meets Princeton in its tournament opener at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hamilton High School. Princeton (13-9) advanced with a 52-31 victory against Anderson last Thursday at Hamilton. St. Xavier beat Princeton, 44-42, back on December 4 at St. Xavier behind a team-high 15 points from senior Nathan Stockman.