Led by Division III District Player of the Year Griffith, who is just a sophomore, Taft hasn't lost since dropping a game to Division II Woodward on Jan. 29.
"None of that matters if we don't win a team championship," Griffith said of his individual accolades.
The Senators are 16-4 with two of those losses coming to CMAC champion Woodward. The last available stats on the 6-foot-6 Griffith are 23.5 points per game, 9.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists. There's not a spot on the floor he can't play.
Griffith wasa celebrated eighth-grader two years ago at Oyler who briefly was set to go to Hughes
before enrolling at Taft as a freshman. He averaged roughly 17 points and eight rebounds in his first varsity year, upping those numbers this season. Kent State offered him before he ever played a high school game. Cincinnati, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Kansas, UCLA, Alabama A&M and Grambling have followed.
"Rayvon's coming on," Taft coach DeMarco Bradley said. "The last three games he's checked the best player on the team and done a tremendous job. People in DIII haven't seen him play the one yet but he can go one through five."
Bradley's been there
Bradley assisted Mark Mitchell in 2011's Division III championship and teamed up with him again last season when they were 17-8 in Griffith's freshman year. Bradley is in his second stint as head coach.
"Everyone says this team has the best chance to get there," Bradley said. "Is this my best team? Right now, yeah. Talent-wise? No, not by far."
Bradley notes that many of the 2011 Senators were juniors who were playing varsity as freshmen. And, to prove it's not easy, the 2012 Senators returned most of the same players, but after being elevated to Division II lost to Dayton Dunbar in a regional final.
Most remember Taft's two big men for their careers in football (
Adolphus Washington of Ohio State, NFL and Dwayne Stanford of Oregon).
As a player, Bradley played for current Lakota West coach Jim Leon when Leon won a state title with the Woodward Bulldogs in 1988 and made the state semis in 1989. This is his fourth trip to state, two as a player, one as an assistant and now as a head coach.
"Coach Leon, that's my guy, like my father," Bradley said.
Bradley dialed Leon up for advice before his regional win and has been speaking with him recently as he prepares his own team for the big stage.
Pick your poison
Around their star sophomore Griffith, Taft has seniors JaMarko Berry, Yaaco Nelson and Brandon Miles in the frontcourt providing added length and rebounding. Miles believes tough scheduling will pay off. In addition to their competitive CMAC slate, the Senators defeated Badin, Fenwick and McNicholas from the Greater Catholic League-Coed along with a tough Ross team from the Southwest Ohio Conference.
"I feel like those games prepared us to fight through adversity as a team," Miles said. "It teaches us to stick together. Us fighting through the big games will help us prepare for tight game situations. The best thing we do is stick together, stay together, keep our heads in the game."
Yaaco Nelson adds a 6-foot-4 frame to the 6-foot-6 Griffith and JaMarko Berry and 6-foot-3 Miles. He's hit in double figures in several games and is confident Taft's rapid play will grind down the upcoming opposition.
"I trust my team, my coaches and I trust the game plan we've got going," Nelson said. "I don't think no team can hang with the pace we play once we get it going."
Nelson wasn't happy about losing the CMAC to Woodward but feels the tight games really gave them a push to the postseason. Taft is currently on a seven-game win streak.
Juniors Brandon Comer and Jakeim Sullivan plus senior Dylan Britten and freshman D.J. Jackson are part of the backcourt that makes timely contributions. Cromer had 22 points in a district win over Indian Lake and 18 against Springfield Shawnee for the regional title.
"I just provide energy and shooting," Comer said. "It's a big help. Coach stresses us to run our lanes and as long as I run my lane fast I'm always going to have easy opportunities to score."
Junior Mekhi Elmore, who was a major help this season during eight games, won't be able to play. The Ohio High School Athletic Association did not rule the highly-rated 5-foot-11 guard eligible for the postseason after he transferred from Thurgood Marshall. Still, his influence has made the squad better, according to his coach.
"He helped the other guys really develop," Bradley said. "I had a bunch of younger kids play JV last year and we just got better and better each day."
Elmore averaged 21.8 points and 3.4 assists during his month-long stint on the floor between late December and late January. A year ago he had 27 points for Thurgood Marshall when they won the Division II district tournament over Hughes of the CMAC.
Hitting the road for Dayton shouldn't be any big deal for Taft as they were limited to just five home games all season. From Dec. 4-18 they played Aiken, Western Hills and Woodward at home. They hosted Withrow Jan. 12 and Hughes Feb. 5. The other 14 contests have involved a bus ride.
Taft tips off at 5 p.m. Friday against Worthington Christian who last fell Jan. 9 to Dublin Jerome. The Warriors haven't scored 60 points or more in any of their four games in March. Taft generally averages around 65 per game.
"Worthington Christian will probably be the biggest team that we've played in Division III," Bradley said. "If you look at our schedule, we played a DII-DI schedule. We'll be ready. Our big lineup is more athletic than theirs."
Should the Senators move on, Sunday's Division III championship tip will be 2 p.m. at the University of Dayton Arena.
Full story and photos at Cincinnati.com