PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The road that leads into Pickerington Central is named Champions Way for a reason.
After falling one win short of an OCC-Ohio title last season, the Tigers returned to the top of the ranks on Friday night when they took down Reynoldsburg 63-45 and won an outright OCC-Buckeye title in the first year following the most recent realignment.
Jumping out to a 6-2 lead early in the first, the Tigers seemed to be in control from the jump, however a quick 5-0 run from Josiah Mobley showed everyone in the gym that Reynoldsburg came to play and did not plan on going down lightly.
Despite Reynoldsburg claiming their first lead at 7-6 following the scoring spurt from Mobley, Pickerington Central ended the first quarter on a 7-0 run of their own and built a 13-7 lead after one that they never surrendered in the three quarters to follow.
After the Tigers opened up the second quarter on a 4-0 run to increase their lead to 17-7, Reynoldsburg called a timeout with 6:33 left in the frame looking for a cure for their offensive woes in the first half.
Pickerington Central continued to control the game throughout the final six and a half minutes of the frame, however, as solid second quarters from both Garner Wallace and Devin Royal along with excellent defensive play allowed the Tigers to take a 26-14 lead into the locker room.
Despite Mobley and Reynoldsburg beginning to develop a rhythm offensively to open up the second half, Pickerington Central stayed in a flow on the offensive end that the Raiders ultimately could not keep up with.
After entering the game without Elhadji Thiam, Sonny Styles and Derek Grimes all to injury, Pickerington Central also lost Royal midway through the third due to an ankle injury and lost Josh Harlan late in the frame when he picked up his fourth foul.
The Tigers depth and senior leadership truly showed in these circumstances as Zakai Alexander put together a big second half and key role players such as junior Lance Pressly, freshman guard Juwan Turner and sophomore Gavin Headings all provided solid contributions and energy coming in off of the bench.
Increasing their lead to as much as 20 points in the second half, Pickerington Central cruised in the final quarter and finished the regular season a perfect 10-0 in OCC-Buckeye play.
They were led by 16 points from Royal, 13 from Alexander, 11 from Wallace and 10 from Harlan.
They now set their sights towards the first round of the Division I tournament where they have a rather favorable game on Tuesday night when they host West.
For Reynoldsburg, Mobley led the way with 15 in a solid showing and Jabari Mitchell added 10 of his own.
They fall to 11-7 following the loss and will host the winner of Watkins Memorial and Dublin Jerome in the second round of the tournament next Friday night.