Marc Loving of St. John’s shoots over Trent Morrisey, left, and Nathan White of St. Francis. Loving, a junior, has committed to play at Ohio State.
The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
The marquee matchup of the Blade High School Basketball Classic will be the day's finale when St. John's Jesuit squares off against Scott.
The former longtime City League foes will renew their rivalry at 8 p.m. Thursday.
"It's a very appropriate centerpiece," St. John's coach Ed Heintschel said. "It's a game between two storied programs that have great traditions of their own accord and there's a great tradition of games that we've played against each other."
Heintschel, who is in his 33rd season, had several teams that played in prior Blade Classics at the University of Toledo's Savage Arena.
"It's always good to play in a tournament like this and to do it locally is great," Heintschel said. "We're excited to get to go down to the Huntington Center."
St. John's (4-2) is 3-0 in its first season in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
The Titans, who are led by dynamic 6-foot-8 junior guard Marc Loving, were picked to win the TRAC title despite having one returning starter.
"We're a work in progress," Heintschel said. "We need to learn to know what it takes to compete at the varsity level. We are really inexperienced except for Marc Loving. But Marc is a good place to start."
Loving, who committed to Ohio State prior to his sophomore season, scored 18.3 points per game and grabbed 7.4 rebounds last season. He scored 17 in a 66-31 win over St. Francis de Sales last Friday. He also had 25 points in a 69-59 victory over Findlay.
Heintschel said the opportunity to play Scott provides extra excitement.
"These teams have such a rich history of playing in big games at the City League championship level and district level," Heintschel said. "It's something we will miss as a basketball program not having them on the league schedule. So being able to play them in this environment will keep that alive."
Scott (4-1, 3-0 City League) also comes in on a high note. The Bulldogs have won three in a row -- all in CL play.
Second-year coach Chris Dames turned a 1-8 start last season into a 9-3 finish. The Bulldogs lost a heartbreaker 72-70 to Rogers in the D-II district final.
"It'll be good exposure for the school," Dames said. "My kids love the spotlight. They come ready to play. It's a nice rivalry."
Scott is led by senior guard Dontonio Kynard, who averaged 19.4 points last season. He is the only returning starter.
In the Classic's first boys game, Bowling Green (3-4, 2-2 Northern Lakes League) takes on Cleveland John Hay (5-3, 3-1 Senate League) at 4 p.m.
The Bobcats, the defending NLL champs, played in last years' Classic, falling 60-56 to Whitmer.
"We're really excited about it," BG coach Von Graffin said. "It was really neat for us to play at the Huntington Center and have the spotlight on us. There are a lot of special teams that have been invited again this year. So we're excited about the opportunity to be a part of it."
Graffin said he likes to schedule non-league games against tough competition.
"More often than not if you put kids in these situations and these venues, it should prepare them down the road for the big games," he said. "There are some quality teams in this big environment. Hopefully there will be some carry-over."
The Bobcats have won three of four and two straight.
"We only have one senior [guard Tyler Dunn]. So it's been a real test for us," Graffin said. "We've had some quality wins. But we're still trying to find ourselves."
Junior Vitto Brown, a 6-7 forward, had a season-high 30 points against Springfield.
John Hay has lost three of its last five. The Hornets won a Senate League title for the first time since 1993 last season.
John Hay is led by 6-3 shooting guard Devon Carter, who has committed to Lehigh. Carter averaged 20 points, six assists, four rebounds, and two steals per contest last season in leading the Hornets to the Division II regional final.
Another team that participated in the inaugural event last season, Central Catholic (4-1, 3-1 TRAC), is back. The Irish square off against Elida (6-0) at 6 p.m.
Central beat Maumee Valley 62-36 in last year's Classic.
Central coach Jim Welling said playing on the big stage elevated his team's play last year.
"It's as close as you can get to an NBA-style arena," Welling said. "With the bright lights and it's a bigger floor … it makes them more enthusiastic to play. For these kids it's a neat feeling."
Last season, the Irish won their first City championship since 1968. Central then defeated both Whitmer and St. John's in the Division I district tournament and made the school's first appearance in a state semifinals since 1949. All five starters from that team are gone.
The Irish have been led by juniors DeShone Kizer (a 6-4 guard), Keith Towbridge (6-5, center), Deontae Cole (6-5, guard), and Cliff Bussey (6-1, guard).
The Irish have won three straight -- all in TRAC play -- after dropping their league opener 45-40 to Findlay.
"This team is really up and down in their consistency," Welling said. "Our team needs to be more consistent on both ends of the floor. That just takes time."
Elida is led by 6-5 senior Reggie McAdams who has committed to play at Akron.
McAdams, who was named All-Ohio second team last season, averaged 19.5 points a game as a junior.
"He is one of the best guards in the state," Welling said. "He can beat you inside and outside. But he is not their whole package. This will be a good test for our young basketball team."
Bowling Green plays Central Catholic Friday night in another big venue. The Bobcats and Irish will tip off at Bowling Green State University's Stroh Center.
"This will be good," Welling said. "It's back-to-back big venues and the competition is really, really good both nights."
Admission is $8 and covers all of the games. There will be festival seating allowing fans to sit in any seat except the first two rows.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.