March Madness: These 8 will represent the Dayton area in the NCAA tournament

Credit: Dylan Buell

Credit: Dylan Buell

The 2019 NCAA tournament field is set, and the Miami Valley will be well-represented.

Seven of the more than 20 area natives on Division I basketball teams this season play for teams that earned an invitation to the Big Dance.

>>RELATED: Ohio State learns tournament fate

So did one coach who you might remember from a famous moment of a tournament a few years back.

Here is a look at them:

Justin Ahrens, Ohio State 

A three-star recruit from Versailles, the 6-foot-5 guard/forward has played in 24 games so far for the Buckeyes as a freshman.

He played in 24 games (starting four) and averaged 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game while shooting 38.8 percent from 3-point range (19 for 49).

After playing sparingly in the first three months of the season, Ahrens saw 20 minutes or more in five straight games to end the regular season.

His breakout performance came Feb. 26 when he exploded for 29 points in a home upset of Iowa, though that is his only double-figure scoring game of the season to date.

He is the two-time Midwest Athletic Conference Player fo the Year and the conference’s all-time leading scorer.

The 11th-seeded Buckeyes play No. 6 Iowa State late Friday night in Tulsa, Okla.

Kyle Ahrens, Michigan State 

Like his younger brother, Kyle Ahrens came off the bench for a Big Ten squad this season.

The 6-6 redshirt junior entered Sunday averaging 4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 29 games (including eight starts), but his season might be done.

The elder Ahrens has been playing through a back injury much of the season and went down with what appeared to be a serious leg injury during the Big Ten tournament championship game Sunday afternoon against Michigan.

With tears in his eyes, Ahrens was carted off the United Center floor in Chicago with his left ankle in an air cast.

The advertising major missed last season with a foot injury.

He averaged 30.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a senior at Versailles.

The second-seeded Spartans play No. 15 Bradley in a late game Thursday night from Des Moines, Iowa.

Myo Baxter-Bell, Liberty 

A 6-5, 255-pound junior who graduated from Chaminade Julienne, Baxter-Bell played in all 34 games with one start this season for the Flames, who went 28-6 and won the Atlantic Sun Conference. He averaged 4.9 points in 14.9 minutes per game and shot 50 percent from the floor.

Baxter-Bell, who began his high school career at Lakota East, averaged 5.6 points per game last season and 7.9 points per game in 2017 when he was a member of the Big South all-freshman team.

He averaged 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists and tallied a season-high 25 points in a close loss to Dunbar as a senior at CJ. The Eagles were 22-7 overall and won the Greater Catholic League North Division (9-1) and sectional, district and regional championships.

CJ lost 55-50 to Lima Central Catholic in the D-III state semifinals at Columbus.

Baxter-Bell and the Flames are the No. 12 seed in the East regional and play Mississippi State at 7:27 p.m. on Friday night in San Jose, Calif.

Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati 

A 6-5, 205-pound junior from Wilmington, Cumberland entered Sunday averaging 18.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He shot 39.9 percent from 3-point range and was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

That came after averaging 8.3 points per game as a freshman and 11.5 points per game last season, when he scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in an NCAA tournament win over Georgia State.

Cumberland is the all-time leading scorer at Wilmington, where he averaged 29.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.6 steals and 3.2 assists as a senior when the Hurricane advanced to the state semifinals.

The seventh-seeded Bearcats are in the South regional and play No. 10 Iowa at 12:15 p.m. on Friday in Columbus.

A.J. Harris, New Mexico State 

A 5-9, 170-pound point guard from Dayton, Harris made the WAC all-newcomer team last season as he helped guide the Aggies to their 21st NCAA tournament appearance.

The Aggies are going back to the Big Dance this year after winning the WAC regular season and conference tournaments and posting a 30-4 record. They will enter the NCAA tournament on a 19-game winning streak.

>>VIDEO: A.J. Harris posterizes 6-foot-9 Gator with monster dunk

Harris is averaging 9.6 points and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 34.3 percent from 3-point range.

He started his career at Ohio State, where he played 35 games and started four in 2015-16 and averaged 2.8 points and 1.7 assists for a team that went to the NIT.

In high school, Harris was a four-year starter at Dunbar and was a freshman point on the 28-0 Wolverines team that won the 2012 Division II state championship.

The Aggies are a 12 seed in the Midwest regional and face No. 5 Auburn at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Harrison Hookfin, Ohio State 

A 6-foot-5, 220-pound freshman from Lebanon, Hookfin joined the Buckeyes as a walk-on during the season.

A third-team all-area player as a senior for the Warriors, Hookfin shot 52.2 percent from the floor, including 34.3 percent from 3-point range, while grabbing 7.1 rebounds per game last season.

He has played in one game for the Buckeyes so far and grabbed one rebounds.

Ron Hunter (coach), Georgia State 

A Dayton native who starred at Chaminade Julienne and Miami University, Hunter has the Panthers in the NCAA tournament for the third time after winning the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

The 54-year-old is the school’s winningest coach and was one of the faces of the 2015 NCAA tournament when he fell off his stool watching his son, R.J., hit the game-winning shot in a first-round upset of Baylor.

Last season, the Panthers made the tournament as a 15 seed and lost to Cincinnati in the first round.

>>ARCHDEACON: Hunter joins Miami U’s ‘Cradle of Coaches’

This time around they are the No. 14 seed in the Midwest and set to play No. 3 Houston at 7:20 on Friday night in Tulsa.

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

D’Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin 

A 6-0, 187-pound freshman who starred at point guard and quarterback at Wayne, Trice is enjoying a bounce-back season for the Badgers after missing most of last year with a foot injury.

The third-year sophomore scores 12.5 points per game along with 2.6 assists and 2.8 rebounds. He is shooting 42.8 percent from the floor this season.

The 2015 GWOC Player of the Year, Trice was the most valuable player of the 2015 state championship game when he scored 19 points as the Warriors beat Westerville South 65-57.

He also led the Warriors to the state championship game in football that season.

Trice and the Badgers are the No. 5 seed in the South and face No. 12 Oregon in a late game Friday night in San Jose.

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