COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Coming into Saturday's district final between No. 1 South (25-1) and No. 7 Bishop Watterson (15-9), not many people gave Watterson a chance at all.
Despite hanging around for the entire game and even leading for most of the second half, the Eagles could not get it done, as the athleticism and pressure defense of South proved to be too much in the fourth, helping them to a 50-44 victory and their second straight district title.
Coming out with an excellent gameplan and excecuting it to a tee, Bishop Watterson held the ball for almost two minutes on their second possession before Zach Sawyer hit two free throws to take a 2-0 lead. This set the tone for the game.
With the two going back-and-forth for the entire first at Watterson's pace, a big and-one at the buzzer from South junior Trevell Adams helped them take an 11-8 lead into the second.
Adams played an excellent game off the bench all day, as junior wing Marcus Johnson was in foul trouble early on and sat out a majority of the first.
This sparked a 9-0 run that carried into the second, giving the Bulldogs a 17-8 advantage. At this point, most teams would give the game away to South, but Watterson did the complete opposite.
Answering with an 8-0 run of their own behind six points from Sawyer, Watterson cut the deficit to 17-16 with 1:04 left in the first half. After a mid-range from South guard Tre Watkins, Watterson junior Drew Davis scored his only points of the night, hitting a huge three before the buzzer to tie it at 19-19 heading into halftime.
Taking a minute and forty-five seconds to score the first basket of the second half, Sawyer hit a big three to give Watterson a 22-19 lead with 6:15 left in the third.
They held onto this lead for a majority of the third before a triple from Watkins tied it at 30-30 with 2:34 left in the quarter.
Finishing the third on a 5-0 run, Watterson used a huge three-pointer at the buzzer from senior Stephen Garrett to take a 35-30 lead into the final frame. Continuing his success, Garrett opened the fourth with a mid-range jumper to help the Eagles take their biggest lead of the night, ahead 37-30 with seven minutes to play.
With Watterson ahead 42-40 with 2:40 left in the frame, senior Jimmy Patton looked to have a wide-open dunk attempt to ignite the crowd. However, the opposite happened.
After Patton missed the dunk, he hung on the rim and tried to throw it down again, receiving a technical foul and giving South all of the momentum.
This sparked a 10-2 run the end the game for South, as they took full advantage of the foul. Turning up their defensive pressure and getting up the Watterson guard's faces, they created several easy scores and overwhelmed the Eagles for the remainder of this one, helping them run away with the victory.
Sawyer led Watterson with 17 points, while Garrett was an excellent sidekick, scoring 13 and excelling in the mid-range. Outside of the two, Patton was the next highest scorer, finishing with six points.
For South, their guard trio of Watkins, Simmington and Adams combined for 43 of their 50 points. Watkins scored 17, while Adams contributed 13 and Simmington scored 10.
They advance to play Norwalk on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. at Bowling Green University in the regional semifinal.
Tre Watkins (5’11 CG / South / 2019): Watkins was the leading scorer tonight for the Bulldogs with 17 points, playing a vital role down the stretch in his team's victory.
At 5-foot-11, the senior can play both on and off the ball. On the ball, he can get into the lane with his wildly tight handle, where he changes speeds and directions well. A strong pull up shooter when getting into the lane, Watkins also flashes some weak side passing vision in the halfcourt. Off the ball, the senior is one of the better spot up shooters you will find in the area, and his shooting range extends well beyond the collegiate line. He does a fantastic job playing off the threat of his shot, using that to attack spot ups with a blazing first step.
Defensively, Watkins is a strong point of attack defender, but his physical traits limit him to being a one position defender. He’s an aware off ball defender that can anticipate off ball actions and chase his man off screens which he flashed tonight against Zach Sawyer, but can get caught ball watching.
Watkins has made his rounds with the local Juco’s and should be a player that can be an immediate plug in to any team since he projects well both on and off the ball offensively. The senior can excel working off movement like flare screens or hammers, where he can have the option to shoot or attack the lane on top of being a secondary handling option. I’d like to see him continue to improve his awareness as a defender, but Watkins should have an impressive Juco career ahead of him.
Zach Sawyer (6’1 G / Bishop Watterson / 2019): After a strong showing against Beechcroft in the previous round, Sawyer followed it up with another dominating game, almost carrying his team to a victory.
At 6-foot-1, Sawyer is one of the better guard prospects you will find in the area, and somehow is still unsigned with zero offers. He is a quality change of pace ball handler with underrated speed and burst off the dribble. This allows him to get into the lane as a lead ball handler, where he can decelerate on a dime, pulling up with fantastic balance, or finishing before rim protection with a floater, or not being afraid to drive fearlessly into the rim protector and draw a foul. While you can talk about Sawyer’s numbers and skills, it does not do him any justice since his greatest skill is reading and reacting to the defense at a HIGH level. You can see this as a lead ball handler when he gets into the lane and reads help side defenders, which allows him to make any read imaginable, or as a scorer where he can react to his matchup and find the open spot on the floor, improvising his own off ball movement.
Defensively, Sawyer is as tough as they come. He’s not afraid to get into the opposing team’s best player and guard him for 32 minutes straight. His ability to read and react along with his high IQ make him a high level team defender as well, where he is capable of continuously executing proper rotations.
Prior to the past two games of Sawyer’s career, there were serious questions if he had enough athletic ability to play at a high level and he definitely has proved everyone wrong. Sawyer is the type of HIGH IQ prospect that is wildly hard to come by for Division II programs. He will excel working off movement and as a secondary creator.
Trevell Adams (5’11 G / South / 2020): Adams was a key component to the Bulldogs hanging on. He consistently provided timely buckets and ended the game with 13 points.
The 5-foot-11 guard plays on a South roster loaded with talent, but he has continued to blossom as the season has went along. An east/west handler that is capable of changing directions in order to create open looks for himself, the junior excelled as a driver tonight, getting to the rim, frequently finishing through contact, and displaying quality touch on his floaters. Making good decisions within South’s offense as a passer, it was refreshing to see some quality decision making where he would look through multiple progressions.
Defensively, the junior is a solid on ball defender with a strong initial reaction to his opponents first movement. He does have a tendency to fall asleep at times off the ball. I’d like to see him continue to improve in that area in the future, along with his passing vision once getting into the lane when he is improvising. Adams should have a significantly more ball dominant role next season without Tre Watkins. He will definitely be a prospect to keep an eye on in the future.
Taquan Simmington (6’2 G / South / 2020): Simmington had a strong outing and finished the game with 10 points. The 6-foot-2 combo guard possesses elite athletic traits with tremendous north/south burst and top speed.
Offensively, the junior is a solid change of pace handler, but can flash the ability to change directions as well. He is at his best when building up momentum in order to get downhill as a driver, applying his leaping explosion and body control to aide him when finishing through contact. Simmington is a good decelerator, which allows him to flash a mid range pull up game, but can be inconsistent. If developed, this would help him continue to add more scoring value as a ball dominant guard. When slashing into the lane, the South combo guard is capable of reading the rim protector and converting dump offs along with the ability to make simple reads in transition, but I would like to see him improve his overall passing vision.
Defensively, the guard is a strong point of attack defender on the ball with fantastic lateral speed. His tools should give him some positional versatility along with being an aggressive defender in the passing lanes, but he won’t make an impact in that area unless it is a ball denial one pass away. However, he has improved as an off ball defender, executing some simple rotations tonight.
He applies his phenomenal athletic traits in the open court, where he is quite dynamic in an uptempo game where you can hone in on his transition handling and point of attack defense with full court pressure.
Ideally, he should develop a consistent mid range pull up or spot up three for added offensive value on or off the ball. Nevertheless, Simmington has been a breakout prospect this season. If you’re a Division II that plays an up tempo game, he’s worth looking at.