Shaker Heights boys basketball tops St. Louis power Christian Brothers at Flyin' to the Hoop behind Esa Ahmad's 29 points

DAYTON, Ohio - At Shaker Heights, it’s all about playing its game. No matter who the opposing team is or where it is from, if Shaker’s boys basketball team sticks to its principles, it has a chance to win.

“We didn’t really know them fully, but we just wanted to keep them on their heels,” Shaker Heights coach Danny Young explained of playing a squad he wasn’t familiar with. “My guys like erratic games and my guys like that kind of game, actually. I don’t like it, though.”

Against perennial St. Louis power Christian Brothers College on Sunday at the Flyin’ to the Hoop Invitational, it was defense that jumpstarted everything en route to Shaker’s 76-71 win.

From the opening tip, the Raiders ran their patented press and while it didn’t create many turnovers initially, it created the type of tempo that gave them the chance to win.

After CBC scored the opening bucket, Shaker went on a 9-0 run with a variety of baskets in transition. A few baskets by 6-foot-8 Texas recruit Jordan Barnett knotted the game at 13 before a 3-pointer by Shaker sophomore David Wright at the buzzer gave the Raiders a three-point lead to start the second stanza.

Opening the second quarter with yet another run, the Raiders made more of an effort to get star junior forward Esa Ahmad involved. Opening the quarter with a 7-0 run, they continually attacked. Senior point guard TJ Steele’s 11 first half points paced the Northeast Ohio power to a 27-23 lead at intermission.

New half, same story for Shaker, which is ranked sixth in the Top 25. The Raiders pounded the ball down low to Ahmad and threw a number of different defenses at Christian Brothers. They commanded a double-digit lead throughout the third and finished the quarter on top, 51-43, but would be met with resilience.

Coming out of the gates firing, Christian Brothers chopped the lead to less than a basket countless times in the fourth after a number of buckets by Barnett and 5-11 sophomore Jordan Barnes.

Ultimately, it was too much Ahmad as the Raiders escaped with the win in front of a nearly sold out crowd in Dayton. Ahmad poured in 29 points with nine rebounds.

“Esa has been doing this from game one until game 15,” Young said. “There are a number of colleges who see what I see.”

Ahmad aside, Shaker was able to receive key contributions from Steele with 18 points and Kent State recruit Rosel Hurley, who scored the bulk of his 16 points after halftime.

Barnes led Christian Brothers with 23 points, while Barnett had 15 points and nine rebounds before fouling out.

It was Ahmad who stole the show, though. His inside/outside play was enough to have West Virginia coach Bob Huggins noticeably impressed. West Virginia is one of the countless schools vying for his services in 2015, but Ahmad is sure to make it clear it is about his team first.

"I try to get my teammates involved first, then get myself involved,” Ahmad said. “It's a team game more than it is an individual game”

The victory takes the Raiders to 12-3 and they will look to continue their hot streak Friday against Strongsville.

Rodger Bohn is a freelancer from Chapel Hill, N.C.