FORT WAYNE, Ind. – According to ESPN, Pickerington Central guard/forward Jae’Sean Tate is the 52nd best player in the class of 2014. After an MVP performance at the Bill Hensley Memorial Run-n-Slam Classic, the worldwide leader may want to rethink their rankings.
In a semifinal matchup against ESPN top five forward Trey Lyles and Spice Indy Heat, All-Ohio Red saw a once 17-point lead evaporating right before their eyes. As Indiana commit James Blackmon was having a monstrous second half, Blackmon scored 24 of his 31 points in the period, the squad from Ohio had gone away from their best player.
With the game tied at 71 with 3:35 remaining, All-Ohio Red desperately needed a basket. Enter Jae’Sean Tate. Tate’s three-point basket on the following possession were his first points since beginning of the second half, but would not be his last.
After Lyles knocked down one of two free-throws to give Spiece an 80-79 lead with 27.3 seconds remaining, Tate did what all great basketball players are known for.
Holding the ball on the perimeter, Tate got past his defender and weaved through 16th-ranked Jaquan Lyle and up over Lyles to put Red ahead 81-80 with 7.3 seconds remaining.
Blackmon would turn the ball over into the hands of Middletown forward Vince Edwards on the following possession. Two Edwards free-throws would send All-Ohio Red into the finals with an 83-80 victory.
Tate’s eventual game-winning drive was the key play in a game of runs. The junior would finish with 23 points, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals. Tate’s 13 second half points, seven of which coming in the last three minutes are just an embodiment of the player he has become.
“I really wanted that win bad and coach knew it too,” Tate said. “When I got it [the ball], I looked at the time on the clock and knew we needed to score.”
While many in Ohio feel Tate is severely underrated, the junior from Pickerington says the rankings don’t matter to him.
“If you’re a player, people will know,” Tate said. “As long as we’re winning, I’m cool with being 52nd.”
All-Ohio Red’s victory over Spiece in the semifinals set them up for a championship matchup against Team Thad out of Memphis.
Jumping out to an early 28-15 advantage, Team Thad was overmatched in every aspect of the game. Red’s three-point shooting and defensive pressure paid dividends in a convincing 77-58 victory.
Only playing a few minutes in the second half, Tate finished with nine points and nine rebounds in the title game.
Former teammate and Gahanna Lincoln forward Javon Bess led all scorers with 23 points in another impressive performance in Ft. Wayne for the junior. Bess was dangerous on both sides of the ball, and set his teammates up for easy points all weekend. Bess and Tate had a LeBron-Dwayne Wade-like cohesiveness in Ft. Wayne, connecting on several rim-rattling alley-oops.
Edwards, who is being heavily recruited by Purdue, was just as impressive. The junior from Middletown had 22 points vs. Spiece, 11 of which coming in the second half. The 6-foot-6 forward was able to score from anywhere on the court, but did the most damage in the paint. Edwards had at least five rebounds in every game over the weekend, many of which on the offensive side that turned into second-chance points.
With Tate and Edwards controlling the glass, Massilon Jackson guard Evan Bailey was deadly from deep. Bailey’s team-leading 26 points vs. Louisville Magic were crucial in a 93-77 quarterfinal victory. The junior’s ability to stretch the floor opened driving lanes for Red, only adding to his value.
All-Ohio Red’s supporting cast was arguably the strongest in the tournament and proved to make the difference. Whenever the team needed a spark, a different player stepped up to the challenge. Westerville Central forward Eric James’ team-leading 19 points in a second-round win over Team Work were vital in a 78-72 win. Reserve power forwards Donovan Benson (Mansfield Senior) and Jaylen Tucker (Northland) put in quality minutes over the weekend, while backup point guard Robert Caldwell (Dayton Strivers) didn’t miss a beat when filling in for starter Shemar Waugh (Northland).
With a talented collection of players, All-Ohio Red is beginning to develop great team chemistry. After a successful weekend in Ft. Wayne, the boys from Ohio are rolling into next weekend’s session in Dallas.
Even if so-called basketball “experts” say Jae’Sean Tate isn’t a five-star player, All-Ohio Red is beginning to adopt Tate’s never-stopping motor, which means danger to any opponent standing in their way.
- Zach Fleer / @YS614