Boys basketball: CJ holds off Ponitz to reach district final; Dunbar, Alter also advance

KETTERING – The day George Washington III enrolled at Chaminade Julienne, the Eagles became the hunted Division II team in the Southwest District. And a trip to the state tournament at UD Arena became the expectation.

But Eagles head coach Charlie Szabo tells his team over and over that it won’t be easy. And there was nothing easy about Friday night’s 65-57 victory over Ponitz in a sectional final at Trent Arena.

“Competitive wise it was an unbelievable high school game,” Szabo said. “We’ve talked a lot about getting everybody’s best shot, and we sure got Ponitz’s best shot.”

The next best shot will come at the district tournament on March 5 at Xavier’s Cintas Center. The Eagles advanced to that stage for the third straight year and will face the winner of Saturday’s game between Cincinnati Wyoming and Cincinnati Hughes.

The top-seeded Eagles looked vulnerable with four minutes to play after Ponitz star and Wright State-bound guard DayJaun Anderson made a 3-pointer and a 12-footer to put the Panthers ahead 53-52.

But Evan Dickey got the lead right back for CJ to begin a 13-4 closing run that included an 11-of-12 performance at the foul line. Meanwhile, CJ forced contested shots and kept Anderson from getting an open shot.

“We did a good job on DayJaun late,” Szabo said. “He’s an unbelievably talented player.”

Washington, who has signed to play at Michigan, moved to Dayton when his father took a job at Dayton as an assistant women’s basketball coach. But he already knew Anderson as his AAU teammate for All-Ohio Red.

Washington scored 30 points and Anderson scored 24 in his final game. They both had plenty of help, but there were moments it seemed like a one-on-one battle.

“I want to play everyone, and he is 100% one of the best, not just in the city, but in Ohio,” Washington said. “He’s slept on, and he showed it tonight. He is a hell of a player. It was great to have that competition going against him.”

There were times when Washington had to take over, find a good shot and make it. His 15 first-half points were crucial to keep the Eagles close. Ponitz led 36-32 at halftime.

“Ponitz played their butts off,” Washington said. “We’re going to have a lot of games where we’re really going to need to dig down into who we are, and be us.”

Ponitz coach Allen Spears relished the opportunity to play CJ and spoke like the proud coach he is after the difficult loss.

“We put ourselves in position to win the game, but unfortunately sometimes it just doesn’t go your way,” Spears said. “You can play your butts off and still come up short, but we proved that we belonged in the game.”

Ponitz was the No. 7 seed in the loaded Dayton brackets. They lost in overtime to Dunbar and Meadowdale and by two another time to Dunbar. Spears says his program is “all about us,” and that he and his players take everything they do seriously. He said that trait showed against CJ.

“For us to come in here and battle, it means the world to me,” he said. “It means the world to see my kids respond, to see the community come out and watch a basketball game like this. I was just tingling inside.”

Dunbar 47, Tippecanoe 38: Tony Dixon’s second-seeded Wolverines are going to the district tournament for the first time since 2018. He loves that. And he really loves the way his team is playing defense.

Dunbar (19-6) held No. 8 Oakwood to 30 points on Tuesday and made No. 4 Tipp work for every point it got Friday at Trent. The flip side is that the Wolverines are recently well below their 63.8 scoring average.

“Offensively we’re kind of struggling, but we’re locked in defensively,” Dixon said. “And that’s what, as a coach, you got to love because defense wins games, defense was championships. As long as we stay locked in on the defensive end, we can will our way to victory.”

B.J. Hatcher made big buckets for Dunbar and scored 15 points. Eric Brewer also scored 15 and the Allen twins, Antaune and Antone, combined for 15. Stanley Clyne made four 3-pointers and scored 17 points to keep Tipp close until the final three minutes.

Dunbar missed numerous shots around the basket. Dixon said it’s time to get the big pads out at practice this week and work on scoring through contact.

Dunbar’s next game is March 5 at Xavier against Cincinnati Woodward. Dunbar lost 59-57 at Woodward on Jan. 24.

Dunbar continues to dedicate its tournament games to the memory of teammate Daveontae Williams, who died Feb. 6. Several area teams have reached out to the Wolverines to express sympathy and show support. Tipp’s players stood in the formation of the number 10 during the national anthem as a tribute to Williams, who wore that number.

“This means a whole lot for this group,” Dixon said. “My seniors, this is their third year at Dunbar, they came in with me, and given the situation with Dae Dae, this means a lot. I want to say that everybody has been showing so much love.”

Alter 69, Meadowdale 51: The No. 3 seed Knights made it back to districts for the second straight year with a victory over the Lions at Springfield.

They will play at Xavier against the winner of Saturday’s game between Cincinnati Taft, the top seed in the Cincinnati sectionals, and Cincinnati McNicholas.

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