NORTON, Ohio — Josiah Harris has missed Richmond Heights’ last five games with injury but knew he would be back by this time in the tournament.
Those few games without him showed just how dangerous the Spartans can be, upsetting Division I powerhouse St. Edward on their way to a 15-game winning streak that continued Monday night with their 70 win. -34 against Cuyahoga Heights in the OHSAA Division. Boys’ Basketball District IV Semifinals.
Harris made his comeback, coming off the bench and scoring 10 points in a balanced effort.
That’s how it went all season in Richmond Heights (20-4), no matter the lineup.
“Now we know we have other people we can lean on,” coach Quentin Rogers said. “We have practically throughout the season, if you look at the statistics, we have been like that.”
Harris is the Spartans’ leading scorer, a 6-foot-7 rookie from West Virginia with a regular-season average of 19.7 points. Five other players pushed double digits in his absence, and that continued on Monday.
Maiden scored a game-high 19 points. Four of his teammates scored seven or more points, and the Spartans had 21 assists on 32 baskets.
Harris’ return only improved their balance.
“It opens up a lot of space for us,” Maiden said. “It helps take the pressure off me with JoJo doing what he does and what I do.”
Added freshman guard Dorian Jones, “He’s leading this team.”
The district semi-finals began Monday evening with four games involving teams from the region. Here are some additional takeaways from the tournament:
Lutheran East will play its seventh straight district title game on Friday, following an 82-57 win over Apple Creek Waynedale.
The Falcons have yet to lose a district championship in this streak, which will be tested Friday in Richmond Heights by Columbia (18-6) or Smithville (16-6). These two meet Tuesday night in another Division III district semifinal.
Waynedale didn’t come close, trailing the Falcons 20-11 in the first quarter (13-9). The second seed in the Northeast District West group extended their lead to 40-28 at halftime and kept rolling, as junior Devin Belle scored a game-high 22 points and led four two digits.
Sophomore forward Jesse McCulloch added 14 points, while junior point guard Cody Head scored 12 and second-year Kaleb Burge scored 10.
Norwayne met Lutheran East in the Division III Regional Finals last year. A rematch could come a round earlier with district champions Richmond and Wooster in the regional semi-finals next week at Canton Fieldhouse.
Considering the top seed between the two districts, Norwayne showed why he received that accolade by claiming a 79-56 win over Elyria Catholic on Monday.
Junior Justin Rupp scored 22 points with nine rebounds and five assists to lead the Bobcats (23-2), who seek their third straight district crown on Friday against Oberlin (14-8) or Fairview (17-6). Senior Isaiah Portis added 20 points for Norwayne, who built a 24-point lead over Elyria Catholic late in the third quarter.
Jack Kenneally led Elyria Catholic (15-9) with 15 points before committing a foul early in the fourth quarter.
An 18-win season continued Cuyahoga Heights’ progress under 16-year-old coach Michael Tartara, but Monday’s loss is hardly a deterrent to one of the Chagrin Valley Conference’s top teams.
Three starters will be lost at graduation, but junior David Collins has shown his potential on the bench. Leading ball handler, second Braylan McClardy, faced pressure from one of the state’s best in Richmond Heights.
And freshman Max Bollin did not play due to a hand injury. He’ll be back for what should be another balanced roster next season.
“We talk about it all the time, and I can’t live without it,” Tartara said. “The relationship children have with each other is what drives them to be better. Dominic Belko has been in the shooting range since he was in college and he’s tireless.
Belko will be hard to replace, but Tartara has seen Belko’s efforts before.
“It’s kind of a trickle down,” he said, citing Devon Patel and Nassiem Salem as former guards for exhibiting a similar work ethic. Last year it was
“These guys kind of take the younger kids under their wing,” Tartara said. “Braylan McClardy in sophomore year and Max Bollin in first year, they look up to some of these guys and just see the work ethic.”
While he expects it to stay the same, there could be changes in store for Heights.
“What we’re trying to do is adjust,” Tartara said. “We’ve played in the zone for the past two years because we had undersized full-backs who could put a bit of pressure on. We want to have them on the ground.
The coach hinted that the length and athleticism of his team (Collins and Bollin are between 6-3 and 6-4) could lead to more pressure for a team that could thrive at a higher rate.
Garrettsville Garfield fought his way to the Division III District semifinals in Salem, winning 10 of his last 14 before falling to New Middletown Springfield.
The Tigers (24-1), led by former Hudson coach Jeff Brink, advanced with a 53-28 win.
Brink won for the 350th time in his career, getting 19 points from senior Beau Brungard and 17 from senior Adam Wharry.
In total, there were only seven games around the state on Monday. All happened in northeast Ohio, but that changes on Tuesday.
All four OHSAA Divisions will have at least a few games, including Division I in the Northwest and Division II in Central Ohio, while Divisions III and IV will continue in the Northeast. Divisions I and II will be Wednesday and Thursday for the region. Here’s what’s happening Tuesday for northeast Ohio:
⦁ Oberlin versus Fairview at Wooster in Division III.
⦁ Columbia vs. Smithville at Richmond Heights in Division III.
⦁ Cornerstone Christian v Dalton at Norton in Division IV.
Check out cleveland.com’s District Semi-Final Preview from Monday for more on those games.