The 35th District is shaping up to be one of the biggest Groups of Death in boys basketball when the postseason begins in March.
With three-time reigning Ninth Region champion Covington Catholic leading the way on paper, two other high-quality contenders met Friday night as Beechwood traveled to the historic gym at Holy Cross to begin the seeding process for the district tournament.
Both teams feel they have the talent to make a long run themselves, and Holmes has some talented players as well, making the 35th one of the deepest in the state.
It was the home team, Holy Cross, drawing first blood Friday night, beating Beechwood 83-65 in the seeding showdown. HC is 7-3 and Beechwood is 10-3.
“It’s a big win for the team,” Holy Cross senior Jeremiah Hicks said. “We came out with intensity throughout the game. It was a good win.”
Holy Cross was led by standout Jacob Meyer, one of the top sophomores in the state. He had 32 points, four assists and six rebounds.
Meyer came in averaging 23 points per game while the Indians had four players averaging in double figures and helping the team average 74 points per game.
Hicks posted 11 points and 15 rebounds, helping the Indians outrebound the Tigers by 15. Senior Brandon McClendon had 15 points. Senior Blake Robinson had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Five different Indians scored early as HC took an 11-5 lead. HC limited Beechwood to 42 percent shooting and made 21-of-23 free throws while Beechwood only made 50 percent (9-of-18).
“Defense was key,” Hicks said. “We’ve got the offense to move the ball and the shooters around, good big men in the paint. But defense won the game for us.”
“We have guys who can score,” head coach Brandon Grammer said. “We have balance. Our guys wanted it and you could see that out there.”
Beechwood led 3-2 early, then HC held a constant lead until the teams were tied at 40 early in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Cameron Boyd.
HC immediately went on a 12-5 run to reclaim the lead. McClendon and junior Dylan Arlinghaus had a pair of baskets apiece.
With HC leading 63-58, Robinson, who hadn’t scored since early in the game, hit an open three and a layup in transition to put the Indians up by double figures at 69-58, and the Indians pulled away from there.
“We are becoming a mentally and physically strong team,” Grammer said. “When they tied it 40-40, we showed our maturity level has grown this year and we were able to fight through that. Last year, we would have forced something on the other end and our guys stayed poised. Our kids are tough and we’re pretty talented, too.”
Will Downton led Beechwood with 31 points, four blocks, three steals and three assists. He hit six 3-pointers. Senior Scotty Draud had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists. Cameron Boyd had 13 points.
Beechwood hosts Simon Kenton Saturday night while Holy Cross travels to South Oldham.
BEECHWOOD (10-3): Downton 11 3 31, Draud 5 6 16, Boyd 6 0 13, Decker 1 0 2, Eviston 1 0 3. Totals: 24 9 65.
HOLY CROSS (7-3): Ward 1 2 5, McClendon 6 3 15, Meyer 9 12 32, Hicks 4 2 11, Robinson 4 0 10, Gibson 1 0 2, D. Arlinghaus 3 2 8. Totals: 28 21 83.
3-pointers: B 8 (Downton 6, Boyd, Eviston), H 6 (Meyer 2, Robinson 2, Ward, Hicks).