CJ, Dunbar open tournament with convincing wins

With many mesmerized by Trotwood-Madison’s offensive onslaught, three other Miami Valley schools quietly enter the Division II postseason with a legitimate shot at earning the region’s state tournament berth.

Two began their playoff runs Friday at Trent Arena when Chaminade Julienne (13-10) breezed by Waynesville 67-41 in the opening game of the sectional and Dunbar (20-3) dispatched Bellbrook 75-51 in the second.

Alter — another contender — starts its postseason journey Wednesday at Trent against the winner of Saturday’s Carroll-Meadowdale game.

Trotwood, ranked No. 2 in the final AP state poll and No. 6 in the MaxPreps Ohio big school rankings, averages 91 points per game and has beaten Dunbar, Springfield and Centerville in the last month. The Rams’ attention is worthy.

But Dunbar, CJ and Alter are not to be ignored.

“We’ve played 11 teams that are ranked in the state,” CJ coach Joe Staley said. “Most D-II schools would be lucky to have our record.”

“We can’t slip under the radar because of our name,” Dunbar coach Peter Pullen said. “But I think people are concerned about Trotwood because of their power and their style of play and maybe they aren’t as worried about us.”

Christian Montague and P’Hariz Watkins are reasons to fear CJ, which snapped a three-game losing streak. One of six players in program history to reach 1,000 career points, Montague had 29 against the Spartans. Watkins added 21. They headline a roster hardened against a GCL slate and non-league tilts with Lima Central Catholic, Fairland, Springfield, Northmont and Thurgood Marshall.

Waynesville finishes 7-16. Senior Noah Price led the Spartans with 12 points.

“I have been at Chaminade for 32 years,” Staley said. “P’Hariz is the single most improved player from one year to the next I’ve ever coached. He lives with a basketball.

“Christian is flat out a D-I player. I have not seen a guard this year when we’ve matched up with them who could guard Christian. Nobody. He does everything.”

Dunbar, picked to win the D-II state title this week by MaxPreps, has won 10 of its last 11. The loss? To Trotwood (98-89) on Feb. 4. Stormi Cook led the Wolverines with 26 points (seven 3-pointers), while Caleb McConnell and Chris Jackson added 14 and 10, respectively.

Bellbrook finishes 6-17 in coach Donnie Tate’s first season. Juniors Donnie Crouch and Jack Campbell led the Eagles with 13 points apiece.

“This is one of the most balanced teams around and that’s hard to stop” Pullen said. “This is probably the best shooting team we’ve had.”

Dunbar or CJ wouldn’t meet Trotwood until the regional final. Alter could face the Rams in the regional semis.

CJ faces Thurgood in the first sectional semifinal next Monday at Trent. Dunbar plays the Clinton-Massie-Middletown Madison winner in the second. The winners meet in the sectional final March 4 at 8 p.m. at Trent.

Dunbar beat host CJ 73-60 on Jan. 31.

Said Montague: “Hopefully we can stay under the radar and stay focused. We don’t need people talking about us.”