COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Four tickets to the Division II and III district finals have been punched after Tuesday's action. Let's take a look at the eight semifinal games around the area.
After storming out to a huge 16-0 lead, South High dominated in their big district semifinal win over Bexley. Tre Watkins led the Bulldogs with 23 points on six three's.
Damian Davis and Nasir Tucker each scored 11 in the loss for Bexley.
South advances to the Division II district finals to take on Bishop Watterson on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Ohio Dominican.
It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.
Despite trailing for 31 minutes and 59 seconds in Tuesday’s district semifinal against No. 2 Jonathan Alder, No. 4 Bishop Hartley and senior Morgan Safford once again found a way to get it done, pulling out the impeccable upset 36-35.
After going into the fourth ahead by two points, a pair of big three’s from senior Jake Koenig and sophomore Jackson Izzard put Jonathan Alder ahead comfortably, leading 34-27 with 4:38 left to go.
Stalling for large amounts of time on offense in the final quarter, the Pioneers looked as if they would simply need to knock down their late free-throws and take care of the ball to advance to a district final on Saturday.
Never say never.
After a huge three from junior Kylan Kortokrax, Bishop Hartley took a timeout trailing 34-31 with 2:04 left to go.
Junior Logan Stevens hit one of two free throws to extend the Jonathan Alder lead to 35-31 with 1:24 left to go. Little did the Pioneers know, this was the last time they would score all night.
With the tables quickly turning in the wrong direction, junior point guard Jackie Santa-Emma picked up three fouls in the span of a minute, fouling him out for the remainder of the contest.
The best ball handler on the entire Pioneer roster, this was bad news for Alder, as Santa-Emma has some of the best poise and decision making of any guard in the area under pressure.
Fouling Safford from the corner on the next possession, the Pioneers sent the Bishop Hartley star to the line to shoot three while down 35-32 with 10 seconds left to go.
Despite making the first, Safford missed the next two and Hartley sent Izzard to the line to shoot one and one for Jonathan Alder.
After he missed the first, Safford grabbed the rebound and threw an outlet pass to senior Ryan Heuser. Once he received the ball back, Safford pulled up for a desperation three from the wing. Being fouled once again, the Hawks were given all the hope in the world.
Knocking down all three at the line, Safford once again proved why he is one of, if not the most clutch player in the area. Leading the Hawks to victory once again, he scored a game-high 18 points.
Junior Colby Rankin also scored seven on a pair of big three’s and played with excellent energy and enthusiasm all night. If I were a coach, I’d teach all my players to play with the grit of Rankin.
Kortokrax also scored six on two huge three’s for the Hawks.
Santa-Emma, Izzard and Koenig scores 10 a piece to lead the way to Jonathan Alder in a devastating loss.
Bishop Hartley advances to the Division II district finals to take on DeSales on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Ohio Dominican.
The pace of this game was going to be a key factor heading into this matchup. Bishop Watterson prefers a half court style of play, and the Beechcroft likes to get up and down the floor to take advantage of their athletes and strong downhill drivers like Davon Wooden and JJ Simmons.
For a majority of the game, the pace favored Watterson as they hung on to a 41-32 victory despite an early second half push from the Cougars.
The first half stayed at Watterson’s tempo as they jumped out to an 8-3 lead at the end of the quarter after the Cougars scored their first points of the quarter off a down screen on a baseline out of bounds set at the buzzer. Senior guard Zach Sawyer stamped his name onto the game early, attacking the Cougar defense and getting into the lane at will.
In the back frame of the half the pace started to favor Beechcroft, as they began to faceguard Sawyer and apply pressure with a full court trap late in the second. That combined with an aggressive scoring mentality off the bounce from JJ Simmons allowed him to get to the free throw line seven times in the quarter, knocking down all his free throws.
Unfortunately, Sawyer still found ways to get open and had a hearty helping of assists in this quarter, showing off tremendous passing vision and reading helpside defenders once he penetrated into the lane. The Eagles maintained a 22-16 lead heading into halftime.
The third quarter started out with two straight buckets from Na’elle Simmons down low for Beechcroft. This was huge for the Cougars, as they really struggled to make Simmons a factor in the first half on the offensive end.
Then, the pace started to pick up, and Davon Wooden had two strong drives to the hoop going downhill. One of which he was fouled on, splitting the free throws. This capped off a 7-2 Cougar run to begin the quarter.
Beechcroft took their first lead of the contest with about 4 minutes left after back to back three pointers from JJ Simmons. After a possession, Beechcroft held the ball for over two minutes to end the third. This was a peculiar decision to let up on the gas, given how they excelled playing their pace in the quarter.
The final quarter could be summed up with one name, Jimmy Patton. Bishop Watterson’s senior forward went on a 5-0 run himself to open the quarter, giving his team a 33-29 lead with three and a half minutes left in the game. The unsigned senior finished with nine of Watterson’s thirteen fourth quarter points as they went on to squeak home a 41-32 victory.
The Eagles did give Beechcroft plenty of chances late in the game, with three turnovers in the last two and a half minutes. The Cougars received open looks, but could not capitalize on the late turnovers, ultimately falling in this one.
Bishop Watterson advances to the Division II district finals to take on South on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Ohio Dominican. Saturday will be Watterson's first district final appearance since 2014 when the Eagles were state runner-ups after winning it all in 2013.
To this day, Watterson's 2013 state title is the last for any area Division II program.
A quick paced game from the start with limited possessions and ball-stoppages, it looked early on like Tuesday’s district semifinal between DeSales and Granville would be a race to whoever could get out in front early and hold that lead for the rest of the game.
Desales did just that, as they took control and maintained a decisive pace on both ends throughout the game, not allowing Granville to pull the game within less than a two-possession margin at any point in the game. The Stallions held on the the lead from tip-off on and pulled out a 39-28 victory over the Blue Aces, securing a spot on the district final.
The first quarter was a game of extremes, as DeSales saw just about every open and contested look they took fall through the net. Meanwhile, the Aces were lucky to get the single bucket they ended up having in the opening period.
DeSales simply played more in check and composed during the quarter, utilizing an effective full-court man defense to frazzle Granville and prevent them from getting in any rhythm. The Stallion playmakers were out in full force on the offensive end and they led 15-3 at the end of the first.
The Blue Aces began to chip into the lead during the second quarter, looking like they were going ride a wave of momentum and possibly make it a game, but DeSales quickly took control back and did not let it up for the duration of the period. While the Aces did end up outscoring the Stallions during the second quarter (albeit, by the score of 4-2), DeSales maintained a firm grasp of the lead at 17-7 going into the half. Sophomore Desmond Watson was working in the paint during the first half and had six points.
Granville showed similar glimpses of hope at the start of the half but yet again were overpowered by the consistency and efficiency of DeSales, who wore away at the Granville attack and converted transition attempts at the other end to maintain and even grow their lead.
The Aces cut the lead to five at one point after a three by junior Brody Ley and a two by junior Jake Stone, but DeSales went on a 9-0 run down the stretch of the third quarter to keep hold of the game. Senior Kayin Derdin led the Stallion attack with five points in the quarter and grew the lead to 26-14 going into the final period.
In a game where possessions were at a premium, DeSales was capitalized on the mistakes of the Aces and converted on the other end to keep the game comfortably out of reach and create a too-little, too-late scenario for Granville down the stretch.
While DeSales pushed the lead out to 14 and looked like they were going to pull away, Granville responded with seven straight points of their own and had possession of the ball with the ability to make it a two-possession game late in the game. However, turnovers by the Aces and late free-throws by DeSales pushed the lead back out to double-digits and virtually ended Granville hopes at advancing with over three minutes left in the game. DeSales held the ball for the last minute of the game and won 39-28, advancing to play Bishop Hartley in the district finals on Saturday.
Granville had a tough time getting any semblance of a rhythm going on either end all night, looking like a team playing not to lose instead of playing to win on Tuesday. They were paced by usual leader Jake Stone, who had nine points, followed by sophomore Will Skerbetz and his seven point effort. Brody Ley added five points for the Aces.
While Granville´s season comes to an end, they will return much of their core that took them to their first sectional title in eight years. However, losing wing Cam Crouch and postman Ben Blanchard to graduation, two seniors who were a part of four-straight LCL titles, won’t be easy for Granville to replace inside.
DeSales took control of the game early and, save for a few Granville scoring spurts, never let up.
Junior Kobe Righter was a steady hand for the Stallions all night and had 10 points that included two threes. Senior Kayin Derdin added nine points and four boards, and sophomores Obed Achirem and Desmond Watson had seven and six points each, respectively.
DeSales advances to play league for Bishop Hartley on Saturday at Ohio Dominican at 6:30 p.m. in a rematch of their crazy February match-up in which the heroics of Hartley senior Morgan Safford were propelled the Hawks to an OT victory. Saturday’s game should only add to the stakes of this CCL rivalry in the district final.
CJ Anthony went for 25 points and five key threes as Harvest Prep steamrolled Amanda-Clearcreek, 74-32.
Senior guards Soul Hines (12 points) and Brandon Beavers (11 points) also scored in double figures, as Harvest Prep showed flashes of the state title potential that this team has.
For Amanda-Clearcreek, seniors Will Riffle and Alex Smith capped off great careers, each finishing with 10 points, as the Aces graduate a senior class that took the program to new heights.
Harvest Prep advances to the Division III district finals to take on Columbus Academy on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Columbus Convention Center.
Jumping out to a 15-4 first quarter lead, Columbus Academy pounced on Africentric and never looked back in a 47-36 district semifinal victory.
Columbus Academy was led by seniors Dorrian Moultrie and Hayden Compton, who combined for 24 points. Junior guard Carter Warstler (9 points) and Chris Boyle (8 points) also provided great production for the MSL-Ohio champs.
For Africentric, senior wing Anthony Bowman was the only player in double figures, finishing with 11 points. Junior guard Cali Davis and sophomore guard Eli Burke rounded out the scoring, adding nine and eight points respectively.
Columbus Academy advances to the Division III district finals to take on Harvest Prep on Friday at 6 p.m. at the Columbus Convention Center.
That's all that needs to be said about Tuesday's Division III district semifinal between Grandview Heights and Worthington Christian. In the third matchup between these two programs just this season, Collier knocked down three clutch triples in a span of a 64 seconds to power the sixth-seeded Bobcats over No. 2 Worthington Christian, 64-52.
Collier's first of three triples came at the third quarter buzzer, which put Grandview ahead 50-34. The junior guard then came back down on the opening possession of the final frame, burying a left wing three to put Grandview up 19 just five seconds into the fourth quarter.
After a Worthington Christian turnover, Collier came back down the floor and hit yet another three, all but sealing Tuesday's game with 6:57 to go, as Grandview went up 56-34.
From that point forward, Worthington Christian never got closer than 14 points, as Grandview advanced to its first district final since 2016.
While Worthington Christian struck first, taking a 4-0 lead through a minute of action, the Warriors never led again after a driving score from Luke Lachey put Grandview up 6-4 with 5:50 to go in the first.
The three ball was the name of the game for the Bobcats, as reserve junior Charlie James came off the bench and had the best half of his life. Hitting three triples from the 3:10 mark of the first quarter until the 5:31 mark of the second, James' final three helped Grandview jump out to a 19-11 lead.
Forcing star Worthington Christian freshman DJ Moore into tough shots all night, Grandview got a great defensive performance from senior forward Manny Day, who was tasked with tracking Moore one-on-one.
Collier made his first mark on the game in the second quarter, scoring 11 of his 13 first half points in the period which helped Grandview lead by as many as 11 points. The Warriors fought back, as a steal and dunk right before the buzzer from sophomore Tyler Kindberg cut the Bobcat lead to 32-24 at the half.
In the opening of the third quarter, Worthington Christian got as close as six points, however, Moore picked up a crucial third foul with 6:38 to go. With its top creator off the floor, Worthington Christian struggled to score in the half court, as Grandview went on a crucial 8-2 run from the 5:22 mark of the period until there was 2:15 left.
Lachey buried his only three of the game from the top of the key, putting Grandview ahead 47-31.
Moore responded with a big and-one finish on the next Worthington possession, however, Collier struck back just 67 seconds later with the first of his three back-breaking triples in crunch time.
Collier powered Grandview with 22 points, knocking down four threes and hitting an array of tough pull-up jump shots. The 6-foot guard is one of the toughest covers in all of the area, as he gets defenders off balance and hits the pull up jumper as well as anyone.
Lachey bounced back from a rough first half, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds, controlling the defensive glass and shutting down any remnant of a Worthington Christian post game.
One of few seniors on the team, Day was the unsung hero of the game, as he finished with 12 points and three key blocks on Moore. Day had a great third quarter, knocking down back-to-back pull up jumpers which set up Grandview's crucial run in the period.
For Worthington Christian, it was all Moore and Kindberg, as the freshman and sophomore guard duo combined for 43 points. Moore had a difficult matchup against a Grandview team that was intent on forcing the ball out of his hands. Despite that, Moore still finished with 25 points, five rebounds and two steals, getting to the rim off the bounce and showing off special ambidextrous finishing ability.
Kindberg was very good off the bounce as well, as the 6-foot-3 wing guard is super explosive. Finishing with 18 points and five rebounds, Kindberg had a strong second half for the Warriors.
Outside of its underclassmen duo, the rest of the Warriors combined for nine points, as Worthington Christian knocked down just a single three-point field goal on the night. With nothing falling from the perimeter for the Warriors, Grandview was able to pack in its defense and force Moore and Kindberg into tough shots in traffic.
Grandview Heights advances to the Division III district finals to take on Johnstown on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the Columbus Convention Center.
Outscoring Pleasant 32-12 in the first and fourth quarters, Johnstown powered past the Spartans and into the district finals. Senior post Owen Hazelbaker led all scorers with 21 points, including 10 in a crucial 18-8 first quarter.
Outside of Hazelbaker, sophomores Jake Lusk and Gavin Foe combined for 27 points for the Johnnies.
For Pleasant, seniors Ethan Warner (20) and Nick Kimmel (12) combined for 32 points, while the rest of the roster contribued 14 combined points.
Johnstown advances to the Division III district finals to take on Grandview Heights on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the Columbus Convention Center. Both programs last won a district title in 2016, when Johnstown was still in Division II.