When Columbus celebrates its bicentennial with a basketball game, the perfect location for such a celebration is St. John Arena. With 105 degree temperatures outside and lack of air conditioning inside, the arena had the same feel of when 13,000 Ohio State fans would pack the venue.
Saturday’s game between Cleveland and Columbus represented rivalries both on and off the court. Both cities are well represented in OHSAA Boys Basketball Championships, college basketball, and the NBA. Both locales also compete for business, jobs and a better economy.
Players representing both cities put the latter difference aside to settle one score: Which city produces the better basketball talent? If Saturday’s game was any indication, give Columbus the slight edge as the 614 squad defeated Cleveland’s 216 team 94-91 in the Battle for Ohio game.
Both squads used an adopted son to help bolster their respective lineups. Columbus added Chicago native, former Buckeye, and current Philadelphia 76ers forward Evan Turner to the squad. Cleveland got help from a Canuck in Tristan Thompson who was drafted by the Cavaliers last year.
Though neither had much to gain by playing in a charity game, Turner and Thompson brought star power to what ended up being a competitive game.
“It was good to represent the city of Cleveland and come out here and support a great charity and a good basketball tournament especially,” Thompson said. “As basketball players, our goal is to give back. These people support us and without the fans, we’re nothing.”
Turner was joined by former OSU teammate Jon Diebler and opposed by David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale. Seeing Lighty post up with Turner was a common sight at OSU practice just a few years ago but in a competitive game, not so much.
“That is something we have always been doing, we did that yesterday,” Lighty said. “He’s getting better.”
“We played against each other every day in open gym,” Lauderdale said. “It was just fun to do it in front of the great fans in Columbus.”
Thompson led all scorers with 27 points and had 10 rebounds. Columbus was led by last-minute addition Ron Lewis with 18 points. Lewis played for the Buckeyes’ when the squad reached the NCAA finals in 2007.
Despite being a friendly exhibition, both squads’ coaches were strategic with substitutions and timeouts. Cleveland coach Clark Kellogg burned all of his allotted timeouts and even tried to use one he didn’t have in the final seconds of the game as Cleveland held the ball down by two.
“I don’t think it could have been any better as far as competition or intensity,” Kellogg said. “I think even the quality play for a celebrity game was higher than normal. Guys were playing hard and trying to do the right thing.”
Kellogg enjoyed the experience of getting out of the broadcast booth and coaching the likes of Thompson, Lighty, and Lauderdale.
The game featured many familiar faces as 12 former Buckeyes played in the game. There was something familiar about seeing Diebler draining 3-pointers, Lauderdale bricking free throws, and Scoonie Penn making crafty passes.
“It speaks to their character and their commitment and their willingness to give and that is part of the culture of being a part of this university and a part of Columbus,” Kellogg said. “I think as they have grown into young men, they have understand the importance of being able to use the platform that God has given them through their basketball abilities and try to positively affect others.”
For many players like Penn, the game might be an end of the road. For Turner and Thompson, it is just a warm-up for an upcoming NBA season. And for Lighty, Diebler, and Lauderdale, it was a showcase to professional squads that they can still play.
“There were things I got to work on,” Diebler said.
J. Justin Boggs, Columbus Wired