EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of articles on the second annual Ohio Valley Hoops Classic Nov. 27-28 at Wilmington College’s Fred Raizk Arena. Twenty teams from around the area will converge on the WC campus to compete in this year’s event.
6:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28
Lakota East vs. Cleveland East Tech
The Wilmington Holidazzle parade will be heading through downtown Wilmington around 7:15. There will likely be some ‘dazzling’ plays happening on Hermann Court on the campus of Wilmington College beforehand when Cleveland East Tech takes on Lakota East.
East Tech is led by Markel Johnson. The 6-1 guard, ranked the 57th best junior in the nation by ESPN, is electric on the basketball court. His high flying dunks are legendary in Northeast Ohio. He already has offers from Florida, Louisville, Arizona State and a host of other D-I schools.
And, according to his coach Brett Moore he is the real deal.
“I have no doubts he is one of the top guards in the nation. And, he wants to be the best. It is not uncommon for him to call and want to get in the gym at 10:30 or 11 o’clock at night,” said Moore.
Lakota East coach Clint Adkins, (former Wilmington High School standout) knows his team has a tough task in trying to stop Johnson.
“Obviously, we have our hands full trying to stop Markel Johnson who is one of the top guards in the nation,” said Adkins.
The truth is, both teams know a little something about winning. Lakota East was 22-3 last year while East Tech was 22-4. Both teams lost some key parts from last year, but they have some firepower returning.
Aside from the aforementioned Johnson, the Scarabs return his running mate at guard, 6-1 Keith Griffin. Griffin transferred to East Tech last year after starting for Shaker Heights as a freshman, and became eligible after the first semester. Together with Johnson he gives East Tech one of the best, if not the best, backcourt combos in the state.
Lakota East counters with an imposing front line led by 6-8 senior Andrew Emrick who has committed to D-2 Fairmont State. He is joined by 6-6 Evan Kuhlman, who also has offers from several D-2 programs, and 6-5 Ryan Middendorf who will play collegiate baseball.
Adkins likes his team. “By the end of the year, we can be a very good team. I like our versatility on offense. We can put five guys on the floor who can all shoot it. It just depends on how quickly we mature,” said the Lakota East head man.
One of Lakota East’s three losses last season was a 60-57 defeat at the hands of an outstanding New Albany team in last year’s Ohio Valley Hoops Classic. Adkins had a message for event organizer Bennie Carroll (who was his coach at Wilmington High School).
“Tell coach Carroll that I thought he liked me. We were hoping for a little easier matchup this year,” joked Adkins.
This matchup will likely come down to which team can best utilize its strengths. East Tech will likely try to use its quickness to force Lakota East into turnovers and speed up the tempo of the game.
Lakota East, on the other hand will look to run its half-court offense to capitalize on its size advantage on the inside. It should be a highly entertaining, highly competitive game.
As a freshman, Markel Johnson hit a 17-foot jumper with three seconds remaining in the regional final against Uniontown Lake to lead East Tech to its first state tournament appearance since 1972. Johnson had 27 points in that game.
In his first season as Lakota East head coach, Clint Adkins’ team won 22 and lost 3 including a share of the Greater Miami Conference Championship.
East Tech is the home of Jesse Owens, renowned Olympic sprinter.