WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- In one of the most-anticipated individual matchups in central Ohio in the last few years, North Carolina signee Sterling Manley led Pickerington Central team on the road against Ohio State signee Kaleb Wesson and defending state champion Westerville South on Tuesday night.
While Wesson won the one-on-one battle, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds, Manley's team took the victory in a 62-57 finish. Manley finished with eight points, three rebounds and two blocks, highlighted by a few power dunks.
"I think I played solid," Manley said. "[Wesson] got some baskets here and there but overall we really canceled each other out. I made some big plays at the end of the game and so did he."
In a matchup of two 6-foot-10 bigs underneath, Manley was solid while he was on the floor, but was hampered by foul trouble for stretches. When he was in the game, however, Manley embraced the challenge of going up against a player the caliber of Wesson, who is ranked No. 77 in the nation by Scout.com.
"It felt good, I mean I probably won't face anybody like that for the rest of the season unless we get a rematch in the playoffs," Manley said. "But overall I felt good, it was a challenge and I took it head on."
Manley versus Wesson was the headliner going into the game, yet it was Pickerington Central sophomore guard Jeremiah Francis whole stole the show, pouring in a game-high 27 points.
Finishing under his average in the scoring column, Manley reflected on where he needs to improve going forward.
"Being more assertive on the scoring end," Manley said. "And really just continue to lead my team in the right direction on the court."
With one of the best resume-building wins of any team in the state of Ohio in their pocket, Pickerington Central (8-0) and Manley set their sights forward, starting with Friday’s matchup against Reynoldsburg (10-1).
In his first matchup against a Top 100 big man since returning from injury, Manley had highs and lows in Tuesday's game. While he was able to stop Wesson a few times, Manley still gave up deep position on the big man from Westerville South, especially on two occasions which allowed Wesson to finish through him resulting in fouls each time for Manley.
While Manley has great length and shot blocking ability, he must continue to add strength to his frame and lower body to prevent giving up the deep position. It’s worth noting that Manley is surrounded by more talent than Wesson, which allows him to play his role as a shot blocker and low post finisher without needing to score on every trip.
Manley's injuries have prevented him from racking up a great deal of experience at the highest level, which should bode well for him going forward as he continues to adjust and adapt to elite competition. And as his offensive game continues to evolve, Manley will start to realize more of his potential.