COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Walnut Ridge is out for its respect.
After knocking off a second-straight top-ranked unbeaten, the Scots are more than deserving.
Handling South (11-1) at home on Tuesday, Walnut Ridge (7-2) relied on its big-time front court of VonCameron Davis and Kaveon Ross to take a commanding lead in the City League South, 71-64.
Despite trailing 13-11 after a quarter of play, Walnut Ridge never trailed again as back-to-back threes from senior Qian Magwood put the Scots ahead 19-15 with 5:53 to go in the half.
While South tied the game on a major tip slam from senior guard Trevell Adams, Davis immediately struck back, as an And-1 finish from the Kent State signee put Walnut Ridge back on top at 24-21 with 2:36 remaining in the second quarter.
Holding a 28-25 halftime lead, Walnut Ridge came to play in the second half. Despite Magwood picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, Walnut Ridge was never rattled.
Junior guard Leon Douglas stepped up big-time with back-to-back threes and another three-point play from Davis completed a 10-4 run for the Scots that opened the game up at 41-32 with 4:09 remaining in the third.
Another non-senior from the Scots rose to the occasion when JV call-up and sophomore guard Zion Blevins nailed a right wing three to extend the Walnut Ridge lead to 10 points at 46-36.
South managed to claw back toward the end of the period, as a bank three from senior Taquan Simington cut the Scots lead to 50-45 heading into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was all Walnut Ridge, as the Scots never allowed South to get any closer than four points. Davis and Ross proved to be crucial, as the senior duo continued to dominate the glass and deter any type of clean look inside for the visiting Bulldogs.
A Simington three trimmed the lead to 63-59 with two minutes remaining, however, Walnut Ridge closed out the game like a team who now knows how to win, going on an 8-5 run including a big bucket from Douglas and some crucial free throws. With the win, Walnut Ridge now controls its own destiny in a race for its first City League title since 1971.
Only a few days removed from a monumental win over Hilliard Bradley, Walnut Ridge is playing with the confidence of a team that no longer has a monkey on its back. For years, Walnut Ridge was a team that always had hype but never seemed to win big games.
With back-to-back wins over teams ranked No. 1 in the area, the Scots no longer have a black cloud hanging over them. Behind veteran senior leadership from winners like Davis, Ross and Magwood, the latter two key pieces on a Walnut Ridge football team that made a run in the state playoffs, the Scots have a different feel about them this year.
Davis led all scorers with 22 points, getting anything he wanted around the rim and dominating the glass. The Kent State signee created dozens of second chance points for the Scots and forced South into foul trouble with his commitment on the boards and constant activity.
Ross was equally as impressive, helping Walnut Ridge close the game down the stretch. The dark horse for Walnut Ridge was Douglas, as the junior knocked down some big shots, played excellent defense and helped give the Scots much needed reassurance.
Magwood scored all seven points in the first half, as foul trouble limited him in the second half. The Scots' spiritual leader as always, Magwood played foul free basketball for a large stretch in the fourth quarter, helping close the game.
For South, Adams led the way with 19 points, the majority of which in the first half. Senior wing Marcus Johnson added 17 points, coming alive in a fourth quarter rally that fell short. Simington scored all 14 of his points in the second half, really struggling from the free throw line in the early parts of the game.
At 7-2 with its only losses coming against state-ranked Toledo Rogers and Gahanna, Walnut Ridge is a buzzer beating loss against the aforementioned Lions from having three-straight wins over previously unbeaten teams. Proving itself as a legitimate contender in the area, Walnut Ridge has a chance to go win its first Division I district title since 1978, and the City League's first since 2015.
For South, the Bulldogs lose its second-straight game at Walnut Ridge. With two of its three losses since the beginning of last season coming against those pesky Scots, South must play mistake-free basketball the rest of the way to have a chance to tie in the City South division.
Failing to convert at the free throw line and seeming to struggle against Walnut Ridge's size and physicality inside, South will have to find a different way to defend a Scots team that so far has cause problems for all of Central Ohio.