COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With a rabid Newark crowd cheering loudly behind every single made jumper, the Wildcats seemed to be rolling as a third triple from Kade Bafford increased its lead over Hilliard Bradley to 26-13 with 3:55 to go in a surprising first half of the fourth Division I district final at Ohio Dominican on Saturday.
Unfortunately for Newark, Hilliard Bradley was just getting started. Seeming to flip a switch instantly, Hilliard Bradley made one of the biggest runs in recent district final history.
Responding with a 31-6 run that spanned from the 3:55 mark of the second quarter until there were just over six minutes left in the game, Hilliard Bradley blew the doors off Newark in an absolutely dominant stretch of flawless basketball, 60-50.
It was all sparked by a charge taken from junior Keaton Norris, who is almost picturesque for the culture that his father, Brett Norris, has built in his time at Hilliard Bradley.
With Matt Allocco heating up on the offensive end, the Jags turned excellent defense into high efficiency offense in a run that helped the Jags extend its lead to double digits over the course of the second half.
After Allocco hit two free throws to take a 28-26 lead with 15 seconds left in the first half, Hilliard Bradley never trailed again.
The Jags were so dominant defensively that no Newark player outside of Bafford had more than one field goal in the second half.
Allocco led all scorers with 24 points, going 10-for-11 at the free throw line. The 6-foot-4 Princeton signee got whatever he wanted offensively and helped the Jags control the glass with a team-high seven rebounds.
Norris pitched in 12 points and four dimes, playing excellent defense by taking two charges on Bafford. Sophomore forward Tayshaun Mayfield had a big-time game, as the 6-foot-1 super athlete pitched in seven points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Junior guard AJ Mirgon was a solid secondary scoring option as he added 11 points and key transition offense.
Coming off the bench, senior Chris Mayfield, who has been here every step of the way with Allocco for the last four years, contributed at a high level with his size and physicality.
For Newark, Bafford led all scorers with 23 points, hitting four threes and showing more creation ability off the dribble than we previously thought. The junior guard was critical in Newark's opening game surge, scoring 14 of the Wildcats' 26 points and taking two charges. Unfortunately when Bafford picked up his second foul in the middle fo the second quarter, the wheels seemed to fall off as Newark could not create offense, nor stop Hilliard Bradley.
Senior guard Kadin Robinson hit three triples and finished with nine points while juniors Drew Ballinger and Jaden Winbush each pitched in six points.
In their final game in maroon and white, seniors Jaden Woods and Bobby Crenshaw really struggled, combining for six points and two field goals.
Winning its second district title in the last three years, Hilliard Bradley improves to an absurd 95-8 since Allocco started his first game as a freshman. The Jags will get a major test in the regional semifinals on Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they match up with Walnut Ridge for the second time this season.
Outside of defending state champion Trotwood-Madison, Walnut Ridge is the only team to defeat Hilliard Bradley this season, upsetting the Jags 45-44 on Jan. 4.
Feeling that they got a bad whistle in that loss, Hilliard Bradley will have revenge on its mind in a game that feels more like a regional final instead of semifinal.