Cincinnati basketball is making a habit of recruiting winners. Class of 2011 UC basketball target Jeremiah Davis led his Muncie Central team to a Class 4A Boys Basketball Sectional Title Saturday night.
The 6'3" guard is one of the many winners Coach Mick Cronin has recruited. Cincinnati freshman Lance Stephenson led his Lincoln High Railsplitters to an unprecedented fourth consecutive Public School Athletic League Class AA in 2008. They also won the Federation Tournament twice.
Jaquon Parker took his King's Fork High School to State Championship in Virginia his final year of high school. Cincinnati Junior Eddie Tyree helped his Canal Winchester team to a District Championship back in 2005 prior to his Thomas More College days.
Darnell Wilks played high school basketball for Pioneer Christian Academy, state title winner in 2007. Big man Yancy Gates won two District Championships with Withrow High School.
Two plays embody the exciting mix of athleticism and basketball brains Davis' possesses. Trailing on the fast break Davis showed amazing closing speed. Almost ten feet ahead the dribbler sprinted toward the basket. As the Pendleton Heights forward rose up Davis took two giant steps from the free throw line, as quick as a blink. He pinned the layup everyone in the fieldhouse already believed made, up against the backboard.
"I saw Lebron James on Sportscenter the other day, so I had to do a little Lebron James impersonation," reflected Davis.
Mere moments later Davis took to the runway. Replicating a move Michael Jordan invented Jeremiah took off from the top of the key in pursuit of an errant free throw, caught it off the rim, and completed a bank shot in one seamless motion. The simplicity, the fluidity demonstrated the remarkable body control of Cincinnati's guard of choice.
"I just go and try to get the offensive rebound when my teammates miss," said Davis.
The game itself was riveting with every pulse quickening. High school basketball just means a little more in Indiana. The student sections are a little bigger. The cheerleaders are a little more knowledgeable. The roar of the crowd contains a little more angst.
In the first half Davis' Muncie Central Bearcats trailed 23-14 to a sharply-executing Pendleton Heights unit. Davis scored a free throw, challenged three-pointer, and set up a slashing teammate to cut the lead down to 23-20 with 2:45 remaining in the opening stanza. His flurry of impact made the halftime deficit much more manageable.
In the second half Davis did almost everything right. Unfortunately both he and his team struggled to convert free throws, which kept Pendleton Heights in the game.
In the second half alone Davis missed two of the three free throws earned during a three-point shot attempt. He missed the follow-up FT to his made layup and failed to hit the front end of a one and one. This is all from one of the best shooters in the Midwest.
"I was hurting," said Davis. "I wasn't focusing. When it got to crunch time I had to focus and knock it down."
With the missed free throws and one last minute play Davis almost became the goat.
With 51 seconds remaining, Muncie Central came out of a timeout up two. Davis threw a perfect two-handed chest pass outlet from his team's baseline. His receiver, Adam Botts broke off the route right as Davis released the pass. The ball bounded all the way to the far baseline untouched.
The opposition's shot did miss allowing Jeremiah two exonerating free throws. He clinched the title.
Students rush the floor, big hug for mom, big hug for dad. Mom takes picture with disposable camera while dad leans back in relaxed exhilaration.
Davis posed for pictures in front of student section, high fived nine-year old boys who secretly call him their hero.
Muncie Central Head Coach Matt Fine had plenty of flattering words to share on Davis after the game.
"I am so proud of everyone, in particular him," said Coach Fine. "I am so proud of how he has grown up this year. The turnaround he has had in the last ten games has been phenomenal. His play and his doing the things it takes to win are why we had the turnaround and that is a credit to him as a kid and as a player."
Sure Muncie Central's players did the worst job at cutting down the nets in the history of basketball, essentially cutting patches as opposed to strands. Regardless the Sectional Title and trophy is theirs. The question for UC fans is will Jeremiah Davis be their Class of 2011 trophy recruit.