COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's time to put a banner up, Westerville Central.
For the first time ever, the Warhawks are district champions. Outlasting Delaware Hayes in an improbable district final matchup on Saturday at Ohio Dominican, Westerville Central used excellent half court defense to hold off the Pacers, 43-40.
In a matchup that only happened due to the top two upsets in the tournament when Westerville Central knocked off South and Delaware Hayes knocked off Pickerington Central, Saturday's game was not nearly as hyped as the game before it.
None of that mattered to Westerville Central, as the Warhawks used a 12-2 second quarter to open up the floodgates against Delaware Hayes. Going into halftime with a 27-15 lead sparked by 15 points from senior Tyler Beckel, Westerville Central positioned themselves to make history in the final 16 minutes.
In order to do that, they'd have to take Delaware Hayes' biggest haymakers. That Warhawks did just that as Delaware Hayes came out firing with back-to-back threes to begin the half.
Despite holding a 35-28 lead with 4:17 to go in the third, Westerville Central took Hayes' best shot as the Pacers went on a 7-0 run to knot the game at 35 heading into the final frame.
Delaware Hayes took a momentary lead to open the fourth quarter but that was short lived as junior MJ Davis nailed his only three of the game to give Westerville Central a 38-36 lead with 5:06 remaining.
Moments later junior guard Quincy Clark finished a crafty three-point play to extend Westerville Central's lead to six at 41-36 with 4:18 to go.
From that point forward, Westerville Central would not finish another field goal, however, it didn't matter as the Warhawks got the stops they needed.
Delaware Hayes went on a 4-0 run as a long two point field goal from Paul Burris trimmed the lead to 41-40 with :42.7 to go. It appeared that Burris hit a three as he was toeing the college three-point line and not the high school three-point line, however, it was called a two-point field goal which prevented Hayes from tying the game.
Landon Tillman knocked in two clutch free throws with 29 seconds to go to extend Central's lead to three at 43-40.
On Delaware Hayes' final possession, the Pacers got a big offensive rebound to retain possession after a missed three from Paul Burris. After a quick timeout, Hayes drew up a look for senior guard Nate Griggs, whose game-tying attempt missed long as the final buzzer sounded on an inspiring run to the district finals for Delaware Hayes.
Despite starting the season 0-5, the Pacers banded together and made a great run to the district finals for the first time in five years.
Griggs led all Pacers scorers with 13 points, getting to the line eight times and converting on seven of them. Senior guard Addison Harvey went for 10 points, Burris added eight points and senior forward Nabil Abdus-Salaam finished with six points and six rebounds.
For Westerville Central, Beckel scored all 15 of his game-high points in the first half. The 6-foot-4 senior stretched the floor with his three triples which played a big role in the Warhawks' 27-15 halftime lead.
Junior guard Tasos Cook battled foul trouble and finished with 12 points while Clark had a tremendous all-around game with eight points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals. Davis finished with four points and his only field goal coming on the go-ahead three in the fourth quarter.
Westerville Central moves on to its first-ever regional tournament to take on Thomas Worthington next Thursday at 7 p.m. at Ohio Dominican.