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RIP Roo: South rises to the occasion for fallen hero in thriller against Walnut Ridge

By Zach Fleer, 01/31/20, 11:00PM EST


South senior Marcus Johnson went for a career-high 28 points on Friday

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In its last matchup against Walnut Ridge, South lost its first and only game of the season on Jan. 7.

Tragedy struck four days later when the Bulldogs suffered a loss bigger than any conceivable basketball game.

South High alum and best friend to the basketball program Willie "EBN Roo" Felder Jr. was tragically killed in a shooting on the east side of Columbus on Jan. 11.

In the 20 days following the tragic murder, the Bulldogs have yet to lose, playing with a spirit and energy that only Heaven can explain.

With Roo's smash single "Freak Freak" playing over the speakers all night long, South rose to the occasion and played their hearts out for their fallen friend, punching Walnut Ridge in the mouth early and defeating the Scots in revenge fashion, 77-66.

Felder's childhood best friend Marcus Johnson had the game of his career, going for 28 points to power the Bulldogs to a win that now forces a tie in the City League South division. 

"We've been going to the same schools since kindergarten so [Felder Jr.] was like a brother to me," Johnson said.

The senior Johnson took that inspiration and put in the best game of his life. With Johnson setting the tone with 28 points, the rest of the South rotation stepped up beside him.

Senior Ta'Quan Simington started off hot and finished strong, finishing with 17 points, while senior guard Trevell Adams (13 points) and senior forward Samual Barton (11 points) pitched in massive efforts. 

While Walnut Ridge jumped out early and held a 17-12 lead after the first, the Scots ran into crucial foul trouble with its senior bell cows Von Cameron Davis and Qian Magwood each picked up two fouls in the second quarter.

With the accomplished senior duo off the floor, South took advantage in the form of a 25-6 second quarter that broke the game open and put the Bulldogs ahead 37-23 heading into halftime. Walnut Ridge ran into a massive scoring drought, not registering its first field goal of the second quarter until there was 1:23 remaining in the period.

South rode that momentum and Johnson put together a masterful third quarter to retain its double digit lead in the second half. 

While Walnut Ridge cut the deficit to six points at 41-35 with 4:55 remaining, South went on another back-breaking run. Outscoring the Scots 15-6 the rest of the way in the third quarter, South took a 56-41 lead into the fourth quarter.

The final frame was a showout period for the Bulldogs, as Adams put the finishing touches on the statement win with a monster trip slam in the final minute.

While Walnut Ridge will still represent the City League South in Feb. 15's City Championship game, South gets the last laugh as the Bulldogs senior class will graduate without a home loss to the Scots. 

Johnson's 28 points were certainly the difference, however, the impact that Simington and Barton had on Friday gave South the boost it needed to pull through for the major win.

In the loss, Walnut Ridge was led by Davis who went for 31 points and a lion's share of rebounds. The foul trouble Davis experienced in the first half, coupled with Magwood's similar troubles put Walnut Ridge in a hole they could not come out of.

Senior forward Kaveon Ross added 14 points, while junior guard Leon Douglas pitched in 10, most of which in the first half. Magwood fouled out late in the game and finished with an equal of points in the loss.

Walnut Ridge can reenergize itself heading into the district tournament with a chance to win its first City League title since 1971. The Scots will more than likely take on the winner of Tuesday's battle between Linden-McKinley and Beechcroft. Linden took a major step toward winning the City League North when the Panthers knocked off Northland on Friday, sweeping the season series against the Vikings.

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