CINCINNATI, Ohio — Last night on Belmont Avenue, you could find two immensely talented Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference schools ready to square off against one another. One of those teams was Taft who was looking to bounce back after a tough loss in double overtime to the conference leaders in Hughes. The other was Aiken — the home team that desperately wanted to snap their five-game losing streak that hovered over their heads entering the night.
After observing in a moment of silence for the late Kobe Bryant, the two schools tipped things off and it was the Senators who made a statement early on the heels of three of the conferences very best players. Taft freshman Rayvon Griffith wasted no time getting going in this one as he put together an eight point frame that included a highlight worthy moment. The 6-foot-4, 180-pounder blocked a shot on the defensive end and would wind up going coast to coast while showing off a behind the back dribble that ultimately ended in an and-one opportunity. Aside from Griffith, the Senators also got good first quarter production from two seniors — Nekhi Smith and LeRoy Walker. The latter of the two dropped in five points and Smith capped off his seven point period with a corner triple at the buzzer to push the Senators ahead of the Falcons after one, 24-12.
The second quarter was more of the same for Taft as they followed up their initial 24 point frame by scoring 26 in the second. Furthermore, it was the same three cast of characters that led the way. Both Smith and Griffith would go into the locker room standing at 14 points after adding seven and six points in the frame respectively. While Walker was able to propel his total to 11 points. With that being said, despite an the 50-37 deficit for Aiken at half, Head Coach Ty Cass was able to get 11 points from sophomore forward Chance Davis and 9 points from sophomore Lebraun Berry in the first half.
Coming out of the break down 13, Aiken was hoping to climb their way back into the game. However, the Senators got big quarters from two players off the bench in junior guard Brandon Miles and junior forward Yacco Nelson. The two scored 12 points in the period and were a major reason that Taft was able to extend their lead over the Falcons to 71-53 entering the final eight minutes.
In the final period, the Falcons were able to get their first big quarter from Jakada Stone — the CMAC’s third highest scorer. Stone was relatively quiet in the first three quarters but he got rolling late for Aiken with a 12 point quarter. Combine that with Berry scoring 14 points as well, and the Falcons were at least able to make it interesting late. However, Nekhi Smith slammed the door shut by capping off his big night with 12 points and put the finishing touches on this one as the Senators went on to win, 96-85.
The Senators were led by Nekhi Smith, who reached his season high in points with 28 in the win. For Smith, it was his second consecutive outing in which he eclipsed the 20 point mark for Taft as he poured in 25 last Friday in their loss to Hughes. Additionally, Rayvon Griffith would finish with 16 points and LeRoy Walker provided the Senators with 13 points off of the bench.
For Aiken, despite the loss, LeBraun Berry had his best performance of the year by far. Berry would finish with 30 points for the Falcons with 21 of them coming in the second half. Jakada Stone’s big fourth quarter helped him finish with 20 points on the night. Sophomore guard Robbie Cass (14 points) and Chance Davis (11 points) also finished in double figures.
Up next for Taft, they have another conference battle on Friday as they will tangle with Western Hills on the road. As for Aiken, they will be looking to end their six game losing streak against Woodward.