Bob Seggerson: Notes from the boys state tournament

The curtain closed on the 2022-23 OHSAA basketball season this past Sunday with four state champions crowned. I’ve been attending these tournaments the last 6 decades and consider it the Mecca for true basketball fans. This year might have been the most impressive lineup of teams and talent in the 101 years of the tournament. Most of the games were very competitive and came right down to the wire. The level of talent was off the chart and featured numerous players who will be playing at Division I colleges and no doubt a few will eventually land in the NBA. The problem is that many of the most gifted athletes were playing on the same teams together. This trend of top talent migrating to one school is growing and is reflected in the fact that we are seeing many of the same teams back in the state tournament year after year. It is another reason that attendance continues to decline.

Some notes:

Columbus vs. Dayton: Moving the tournament from the Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University to the University of Dayton Arena came as a shock to many fans but it has proven to be a smart one. The general consensus has been that inside the arena, Dayton win hands down, but once the games are over, fans miss the variety and proximity of the restaurants, bars and hotel accommodations available in Columbus.

UD Arena: The atmosphere in the 13,000-seat arena is excellent. The seats in the lower bowl are closer to the floor and the crowds that used to be dwarfed by the Schott give the feeling of a packed house in UD Arena. The largest attendance for this year’s games was the Centerville-Pickerington Central semi-final game. The 8,517 fans at that game filled the lower bowl and produced a loud and energetic atmosphere. That crowd would have appeared lonely in the gigantic, 20,000-seat Schot. The second and third largest crowds this year were the Ottawa-Glandorf games, but that should come as no surprise to fans in the area. Titan nation shows up.

Best Games: The Ottawa-Glandorf/Columbus Africentric semi-final game was terrific. It was a rematch from last year’s semi won by OG. The Nubians made a make a break in the 3rd quarter but OG roared back and won in two over-times, 48-47. Africentric appeared to win on a last second layup by their star, Dailyn Swain, but he wiggled one time too many on the way to the rim and the slow-motion replay at the scorer’s table revealed that his shot was a millisecond late.

Best Coaching Move: Crestview’s Doug Etzler changed the script at halftime of their semifinal game vs. Berlin Hiland, and it resulted in a hard-fought victory for the Knights. Down by one after two quarters, Etzler told his team to abandon their 3-point perimeter game and begin to attack the rim on every possession. It worked and Crestview outscored their opponent 26-7 in the 3rd quarter. Berlin regrouped in the final quarter, but it was too late and Etzler’s strategy vaulted them into the state championship game.

Crowds: I love the atmosphere in the state tournament games and especially the communities that bring an army of supporters and raise the roof. Believe me, it makes a huge difference. Their enthusiastic support can fuel effort and supply intimidation when necessary. The Ottawa-Glandorf fans are a great example of this dynamic at work. I felt sorry for any official who missed a close call at O-G’s end of the floor because it was met with a roar of disapproval that would have blown off the referee’s toupee if he had been wearing one. Crestview had a similar fan base in Dayton. But it was the fan base from Russia that really caught my eye over the weekend. Russia, one of the smallest schools in the state, was making only its second trip to state in school history and I think they brought every resident in the county with them. Not a meek one in the bunch. Russia faced Richmond Heights, considered by many experts as the most talented team in any division. Every time their opponent tried to pull away from the Raiders, their fans would will them back into the game with their passion and encouragement. If there was a noise meter in the arena, they would have broken it. Russia fell short in the game, but their community left an impression that won’t be forgotten soon.

This will be my last column for the season. I appreciate all of the help and support I receive from the folks at The Lima News and from you, our readers.

Reach Bob Seggerson at [email protected].