State Playoffs: Boys Advance to Quarterfinals

Cleveland makes school history with win over Lincoln


Clarion photo Instagram: @chsmensvarsitybball

Fifth year head coach Dondrale Campbell prepares to cut the net after bringing history to Cleveland. The Warriors beat Lincoln to advance in the state playoffs with a quarterfinal matchup against Mountainside March 9 at the Chiles Center.

After a close win against PIL rival and 14-seed Lincoln, the Cleveland boys basketball team has moved on to the state tournament for the first time since 1962.

The final score was 63-53, but that does not show how close this game was.

Lincoln led 16-14 after the first quarter, with it already being clear that Lincoln’s all-PIL twins Moroni and Malachi Seely-Roberts were going to cause problems for Cleveland.

Junior Jackson Cooper put up six of Cleveland’s points, but equally importantly guarded Lincoln’s 6-10 center Graham Eikenberry very well.

Playing on an injured ankle, Cleveland guard Lawson Vella scored the Warriors’ first seven points of the second quarter. Vella scored on a floater with two players guarding him, a contested three, and a putback, all determined plays for someone who wasn’t fully healthy.

By halftime Cleveland led 30-28, and the contrast between the two teams became clear. Lincoln’s leading scorer was Moroni Seely-Roberts with 17 points, while Cleveland had Vella and Stephen Treat with seven, and Jackson Cooper and Christian Green just trailing with six.

As Lincoln fed Seely-Roberts, the Warriors pushed back with balanced scoring from all over the floor.

The third quarter turned this game into a battle between Moroni Seely-Roberts for Lincoln and Christian Green and Jackson Cooper for Cleveland. Seely-Roberts scored 12 of 14 points for Lincoln in the quarter, and Green and Cooper combined for all 12 of Cleveland’s, including back-to-back dunks to tie the game at 42.

Going into the fourth quarter the momentum of the game was hard to read. It was tied, with Lincoln having led for the majority of the third quarter, but with back-to-back steals leading to dunks for Cleveland to end the third, they seemed to be back in control.

The biggest key to the game would be shutting down Moroni Seely-Roberts, and by his standards Cleveland finally did. He still scored seven points, but the Warriors’ defense forced him into tough shots, and the rest of Lincoln’s roster remained cold. This was all the Warriors needed to pull away.

The game ended 63-53. It had settled into a slow stretch of free throws for Cleveland, but ended with an exclamation mark by Christian Green, as he came up with a massive dunk with just seconds to play.

Green ended the game as the Warriors’ leading scorer with 21 points. Cooper put up 17 and also pulled down five rebounds, and also was key in Lincoln center Grant Eikenberry fouling out which made things easier for Cleveland down the stretch.

For the second game in a row, senior forward Stephen Treat put up 12 points. Keeping him on the score sheet will be key for Cleveland going forward.

Moroni Seely-Roberts’ dominance for Lincoln deserves to be remembered. The junior finished with 36 points and 10 rebounds, while the rest of the Cardinals combined for 17 points. It’s hard to blame them for feeding Seely-Roberts as much as they did.

This game lived up to all the hype, and Cooper cited the Warriors’ preparation as the thing that secured their win. “I would say we came into the game just really prepared, watching film, practicing really hard all week, and we had one goal on our mind and that’s just to go to state and to win state,” said Cooper.

This preparation will also be key for Cleveland’s next matchup against 11th-seeded Mountainside. Mountainside pulled off the first upset of the 2022 playoffs, taking down No. 6 Central Catholic 58-49. Mountainside missed just 4 of their 26 shots against Central, so the Warriors’ ability to stay composed on defense will be more important than ever before.

Cooper is confident in the team’s preparation for this matchup too, saying, “the film that we have and the position coach Campbell has put us in, we’re prepared and ready to play and just go get a win.”

Cooper is also very comfortable with this team’s place in Cleveland history, saying, “It’s great to have new history, you know, and be a part of that, but at the end of the day this team is just special and what we’ve built here is more than just one year of history. We’re gonna keep putting up seasons like this and the culture that we’ve built is just unmatched,” he said.

Cleveland will continue making history when they step on the court at the Chiles Center on March 9, and to celebrate that occasion they finished the Lincoln game by cutting the net down in the Cleveland gym.