COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Hunter Shedenhelm Game™
Going off for 16 points in the third quarter of a regional semifinal win over Newark, Pickerington North junior wing guard Hunter Shedenhelm powered the Panthers one step closer to the state tournament.
Knocking down five threes and playing lockdown defense on Newark sophomore sharp shooter Drew Ballinger, Shedenhelm went for a game-high 28 points to lead the Panthers to a 61-46 victory over the Wildcats.
Avenging a slow start, North went on a 20-6 run from the 3:19 mark of the first quarter until there was 1:07 remaining in the half in which it led Newark 24-17.
The Wildcats closed on a 4-0 run to trim the deficit to 24-21 at the half, however, Newark had no idea what Shedenhelm had coming.
Scoring all 16 of North's points in the first five and a half minutes of the third quarter, Shedenhelm took the game over, knocking down four threes, hitting a mid-range jumper and taking a steal and scoring on the other end.
Shedenhelm's 16th point of the quarter broke the game open, as North took its biggest lead at 40-32 with 2:28 remaining in the period. Even more impressive for Shedenhelm was the fact that he face guarded Ballinger for the entire game, holding the 6-foot-2 sophomore to zero field goal attempts when he was his primary defender.
Leading 42-33 heading into the final frame, North did not take its foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. While Newark got as close as six with 5:15 remaining, North went on a back-breaking 11-2 run over the next three and a half minutes as a Casey George floater put the Panthers up 55-40.
Cruising in the final two minutes, North advanced to its second regional final in the last three years with a 61-46 victory.
Shedenhelm powered the Panthers with 28 points in a highly efficient showing. The 6-foot-5 junior wing knocked in five threes and had a 9-for-10 showing at the free-throw line. Almost more impressive was Shedenhelm's defense on Ballinger, as the junior did not allow him to attempt a single three-point field goal, which shut down Newark's offense. The Wildcats struggled to stretch the floor without the threat of Ballinger's perimeter shooting, which fed right into North's game plan.
Shedenhelm was joined in double figures by sophomore stud Jack Sawyer, who went for 12 points and eight rebounds. Sawyer was met with physical defense all night, as he missed a few contested layups in the first half. The Ohio State football commit turned it on in the second half and helped North put the game away.
Junior guard Chris Scott had another excellent two-way showing, finishing with 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
For Newark, sophomore guard Kade Bafford led the way with 12 points. The 6-foot guard did a terrific job defending Sawyer one-on-one, taking a charge on him and not giving up much ground despite the size disadvantage.
Junior guards Bobby Crenshaw and Kadin Robinson each added nine points while senior forward Keshawn Heard ended a great career with eight points and six rebounds. Ballinger finished with two points, not scoring or even getting a shot attempt after the 4:55 mark of the first quarter.
With the win, North advances one game shy of its first state tournament appearance in school history. The Panthers will take on the winner of No. 3 Pickerington Central and No. 4 Olentangy Liberty on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Ohio Dominican.
If Central can knock off Liberty, Saturday's regional final will be a rematch of the 2017 regional final where future North Carolina Tar Heel teammates Sterling Manley and Jeremiah Francis powered the Tigers into the state tournament.
With no remaining players from that 2017 team, North will look to ride on the backs of its young rotation into the Schottenstein Center.