Massillon Jackson vs. North Canton Hoover for the Canton Division I District championship Saturday was hyped as a premier matchup. After all, the rivals split in Federal League play.
The Polar Bears instead sent a shockwave throughout Northeast Ohio, leading 35-10 at halftime en route to a 72-40 demolition in front of 3,852 fans at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
Kyle Young, Logan Hill, Jaret Pallotta and the rest of the boys are Medina’s problem now, as the teams will play Thursday in a University of Akron Regional semifinal at James A. Rhodes Arena.
The winner gets Elyria (21-4) or Toledo St. John’s Jesuit (24-2) in the title game Saturday.
“A lot of guys on this team want (to win),” Medina star forward Luke Schaefer said. “This is our last year and last couple of games, so I think people are just starting to become men.”
The Bees (18-7) won’t be in awe because the Greater Cleveland Conference has proven to be the second best in the area behind the Federal with five district finalists and three regional qualifiers. Medina also played against two-time defending state semifinalist Garfield Heights in non-league action.
What Medina hasn’t seen is the size presented by Jackson (24-2).
Butler recruit Kyle Young is 6-foot-7. Toledo-bound fellow senior Logan Hill and likely 2018 D-I college quarterback Pallotta are 6-5, while Ball State baseball pledge Kyle Nicholas (6-3, sr.) and glue guy Ethan Stanislawski (6-2, jr.) are rangy guards.
The bench is no slouch, either, with 6-2 Ohio State baseball signee Dillon Dingler, 6-8 Indiana Wesleyan recruit Michael Zitny and hustle specialists Anthony Mazzeo (6-0, so.) and Sam Shaw (6-3, sr.).
The Polar Bears, who return Young, Hill, Pallotta and Zitney from when they lost to Medina in the 2015 Copley District title game, have only lost to Hoover (65-54) and St. Vincent-St. Mary (74-72).
Notably, Jackson crushed Mentor 85-48. The Cardinals swept Medina 89-67 and 77-60 in GCC play.
“They have so much athletic and basketball talent,” Medina coach Chris Hassinger said. “I mean, you figure all the basketball players they have are D-I players or D-I athletes who are superstars in other sports. You put that combination together with their size and the way they shoot the ball, they’re a tough matchup.”
Jackson shoots .526 from the floor and moderate rates from 3-point range (.355) and the foul line (.685). Young (18.0 ppg on .586 shooting, 6.4 rpg, 1.6 apg) is an Ohio Mr. Basketball finalist and ESPN four-star recruit, while Hill is a Tristan Thompson-like force who posts 12.6 points on .706 shooting to go with 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.
Pallotta (10.0 ppg, 5.4 apg) is a passer, Nicholas is 42-for-97 (.433) from 3-point range and Stanislawski (7.1 ppg, 3.2 apg) is similar to Medina’s Ben Geschke and Colin Szumski in that he intelligently takes advantages of opportunities. Dingler is the only sub who averages more than 10 minutes.
“We’ve got to limit their transition baskets,” Hassinger said. “They love to run and get easy points, and they shoot it really well in transition. We also have to rebound the ball and find easy way to score.”
Medina has thrived with a defense-oriented pace in the postseason but still has sporadically used the transition offense that carried it in the first half of the season. The Bees are making their third regional appearance in the last six years and sixth overall.
Schaefer (19.6 ppg, 1,098 career points) is on a serious roll with 13, nine and 17 points in the last three fourth quarters, while fellow seniors Jackson Sartain (15.1, Medina County-record 91 3-pointers this season) and Geschke (8.4) also will be playing in their second regional games.
Tyler Kaminski (6-7, jr., 3.2) is expected to start at center, with Szumski (5-10, jr., 6.8) or Jimmy Daw (6-4, sr., 5.4) rounding out the lineup. Post Sam McKee (6-5, sr., 7.8) and guards Dylan Fultz (5-10, jr., 4.2) and Kyle Szumski (5-11, fr., 2.4) are off the bench.
Medina closed the regular season with four straight losses, but the Bees have proven that experience and chemistry can carry any team to its biggest goals.
“Everyone’s echoing Coach Hass,” Schaefer said. “That’s the sign of a really good team and a mature team to have guys like that.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.