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Winners and losers from the OHSAA basketball realignment for 2020-21

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 6/18/2020 By Matt Goul, cleveland.com
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Warrensville Heights players celebrate their 80-77 overtime victory Friday, March 6, 2020, vs. Elyria Catholic in the Division III Bedford District championship. © Matt Goul, cleveland.com/(Matt Goul, cleveland.com)/cleveland.com/TNS Warrensville Heights players celebrate their 80-77 overtime victory Friday, March 6, 2020, vs. Elyria Catholic in the Division III Bedford District championship.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — An incomplete season left Warrensville Heights and Lutheran East, among many others, wondering "what if" after celebrating district championships.

In the cases of the Tigers and Falcons, both bring back much of their boys basketball rosters with lofty hopes again next year. They will just be doing it after trading divisions.

Warrensville Heights is up to Division II after winning a D-III district crown this year at Bedford. Lutheran East, which made consecutive state final four runs in Division III before last year's move up to D-II is back down a division.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced its new divisional alignments Wednesday in boys and girls basketball for the 2020-21 school year. Assuming all teams are back on the court after the coronavirus pandemic that prematurely ended last season, some programs should benefit from realignment while others will certainly be at a disadvantage. Here are a few early winners and losers:

WINNERS

? Lutheran East: Primed to challenge St. Vincent-St. Mary this year in Division II, the Falcons not only will be back in Division III but with four returning starters. Senior guards Sirr Hughes and Collin Albert are both All-Ohio caliber players, regardless of division, while 6-foot-7 forward Jay Billingsley has offers from Georgetown, West Virginia and Penn State, to name a few.

Add in fearless defender Jalen Knott, and Lutheran East finished last season ranked No. 2 in the area after scoring an impressive win vs. STVM. They were poised to meet again in the Division II regional finals at Canton’s Memorial Civic Center, until the OHSAA postponed the season the day of their regional semifinals.

With their move back to Division III, that "what if" won't even be answered next year with STVM set to bring back Ohio State target Malaki Branham, point guard Sencire Harris and Ramar Pryor.

Assuming Lutheran East is slotted into the Division III Bedford District — which is no guarantee because multiple coaches told cleveland.com they are hearing blended districts could make a return — there is no chance for the Falcons to even meet up with defending district champ Warrensville Heights.

Moving down is not a surprise for Lutheran East. It had more transfers on its 2018-19 roster, which pushed it up for last season. Since then, leading scorer E.J. Farmer transferred to Cleveland Heights — which contributed to a decreased competitive balance number.

? Warrensville Heights: Are the Tigers really a winner from competitive balance despite moving up a division? This is conditional, depending on their district tournament alignment. As long as coach Brian Swift’s crew don’t end up paired with STVM in Stow, they could have a more favorable district than anything involving the Lutheran East back in D-III.

Then there’s their backcourt.

For as touted as Hughes and Albert are for Lutheran East, as fourth-year starters, Warrensville Heights has its own pair with Ramelle Arnold being joined by Jaden Hameed from Villa Angela-St. Joseph. A family source confirmed this week Hameed is transferring to Warrensville.

As a result, the Tigers have a pair of offensive marvels in their backcourt. Arnold led the Tigers to their Division III Bedford District title with 34 points in their championship win vs. Elyria Catholic. He averaged 21.0 points last season, including a career-high 40 points against University School, while earning a second-team nod on the cleveland.com all-stars.

Hameed has provided VASJ with a scoring punch since his freshman year with two regional runs behind him. He averaged 24.1 points last season and set the Vikings’ career 3-point record. Now, he replaces graduated Omahn Dobbins — another efficient shooting guard — to rev up that backcourt, which includes lightning-quick Jamarion Johnson, who picked up steam as a junior during the Tigers’ postseason march.

? Padua: Moving down from Division I should only help a coach Brian Ansberry's developing core, which spent a year in D-I with freshman point guard Akinlana Popoola and sophomore Dan Peterson leading the way. They will not only be a year older, but independent with an open schedule to prepare for a postseason that won't be as imposing.

LOSERS

? Warrensville Heights: OK, remember that part about the Tigers' move to Division II being conditional? Consider this: Warrensville and Springfield Northwestern just missed the cut with the smallest adjusted enrollments in Division II at 206. Both schools added just one to their initial enrollments of 205 boys before competitive balance is added.

Two years ago, the Tigers similarly just barely missed the cut and competed in Division II. Last season, they played in Division III with the same enrollment of 205 but a competitive balance adjustment to 207 — which was the highest in Division III.

That's how close some of these teams are from bouncing between divisions.

? Cleveland Central Catholic: The Ironmen spent the 2017-18 season in Division I. Since then, coach Jordan Duke's program reached back-to-back district championships and won one.

They won't be in North Ridgeville next year for a third time.

Competitive balance figures are based on the previous season's rosters, and Central Catholic had 11 seniors on last season's postseason roster. That includes all five starters.

Few schools are paying more for their previous season than the Ironmen. Their added competitive balance enrollment of 166 ranks fourth among Division I schools, behind St. Edward (254), St. Ignatius (210) and two-time state champ Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller (230).

? Benedictine: The Bengals moved up to Division I last year, and that remained the same for coach Rob Stircula's program. Benedictine saw an increase in its competitive balance figure, from 104 to 128 in this year's configuration.

? Elyria Catholic: The Panthers, who lost to Warrensville Heights in lsat year's Division III Bedford District championship, are moving up. They added Holy Name's Jack Kenneally, a 6-6 wing who announced his transfer earlier this year on Twitter, but they are graduating a significant senior class with sharpshooting Edward Wright and 6-7 Branson Taylor.

? Anyone who wants to appeal: The OHSAA noted on its new division alignments that it will not recalculate them.

Division I alignment

Division II alignment

Division III alignment

Division IV alignment

GIRLS TAKEAWAYS

? First, competitive balance multipliers are significantly smaller in girls basketball.

Gilmour had the state's largest competitive balance increase to its girls enrollment figure with 84 added to a base number of 150. The Lancers' adjusted 234 enrollment number isn't enough to push them above Division II.

? A close second went to Laurel, which finished the regular season No. 1 in the cleveland.com area rankings. The Gators added 79 for an enrollment figure of 279, but they also will remain in Division II. The cutoff between Divisions I and II for next season are between 335 and 333 girls.

? No team moved up to Division I. In fact, Archbishop Hoban and Hathaway Brown are the only programs that would be in Division II without competitive balance, but they had previously been slotted in D-I. An all-girls school, Hathaway Brown has an additional 56 to its initial enrollment figure of 287. Hoban had 49 added to its initial enrollment of 302.

Hoban, which finished last regular season 12th in the area, had been considered one of the top teams in the state before STVM transfer Lanae Riley had to sit out the second half of her sophomore season.

? Only three teams moved up to Division II in the entire state. Lutheran East is one of them. The Falcons should be ready for it, despite graduating standout Tyra Eppinger to graduation. They are slated to bring back 6-2 senior Tamia Farris, who averaged a double-double last season, and sophomore guard Aleeona Robinson.

? East Tech and Trinity moved down to Division III, which should help both programs with their top players slated to return next season. Coach Mel Burke's Scarabs, a regular in the Senate League championship picture with three-time champ John Hay, will return junior guard Jada Ward after she averaged 19 points per game.

Trinity is slated to return four of coach Kevin McNamara's top players, including seniors Anna Ibos and Jaida Malone.

Division I alignment

Division II alignment

Division III alignment

Division IV alignment

Contact sports reporter Matt Goul on Twitter (@mgoul) or email (mgoul@cleveland.com).

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