WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- Saturday afternoon’s district final between No. 2 Westerville Central and No. 7 Pickerington North can be divided into three segments.
Westerville Central taking control of a competitive first half, Pickerington North’s dominant third quarter, and the Warhawks improbable run to complete the comeback victory.
In the end, it’s the Westerville Central Warhawks that reign once again as district champions thanks to Landon Tillman’s clutch corner three in the final seconds.
In what has a great case to be the game of the season, Westerville Central defeated Pickerington North by a score of 41-39.
In the first part of what felt like three different games, Westerville Central seized momentum heading into the locker room. The first half had a slow pace that consisted of good defense and longer possessions.
Warhawks standout senior guard Tasos Cook had an impressive first half, scoring on a handful of difficult takes to the rim. Cook helped Westerville Central close the second quarter on a 7-2 run which gave them a 21-14 lead at halftime.
Pickerington North ran good offense and moved the ball, however they couldn’t break through as their open shots weren’t falling. Westerville Central found success in the first half by making the extra pass for uncontested threes and inside scores.
The third quarter could not have been more different or one sided as the Panthers completely dominated the Warhawks. Senior guard Casey George converted an old fashioned three-point play early in the half that catapulted Pickerington North into a 17-2 run.
Pickerington North was in complete control and Westerville Central looked dead in the water late in the third. The Panthers were locking up the Warhawks senior guard trio, allowing them to over dribble and take highly contested shots. Pickerington North took a 31-25 lead into the fourth quarter.
In the final segment of the game, Pickerington North began to sit on their lead, allowing the Warhawks to start their comeback. A tough finish from Panthers junior guard Jerry Saunders gave them a 37-28 lead with 4 minutes left in the game. It was then Pickerington North decided to run some delay game and things started to fall apart.
Westerville Central’s senior trio then went to WORK, coming up with steals and big score after big score. Two Quincy Clark buckets, a Tillman three, and a Cook scoop layup made up a 10-0 Warhawks run that gave them a 38-37 lead with just over a minute left in the game.
Panthers senior Casey George kept Pickerington North’s hopes alive when he scored on a tough take to give his squad a 39-38 lead with less than 30 seconds left. The energy in the gym was second to none this season.
With 7.7 seconds left, Westerville Central took the ball out under their own basket down one, back to back district titles on the line. The ball was inbounded and ended up in the hands of Warhawks senior MJ Davis. Davis proceeded to drive right and find Tillman relocating to the corner. On the catch, Tillman rose up, firing a contested three to the rim.
Nothing but net.
Tillman, in what was possibly the biggest shot of his life, showed up in the biggest way possible. The unconscious shot gave Westerville Central a 41-39 lead with :1.1 seconds remaining.
Pickerington North failed to get a shot up on the ensuing inbound and Westerville Central successfully completed what might be the comeback of the season.
Westerville Central advances to the regional semifinals where they will face the winner of #3 Hilliard Bradley and #6 Pickerington Central on Thursday, March 10 at Ohio Dominican University.
Congratulations to Pickerington North on a great season and best wishes to their graduating seniors, George, Steven Hile, Brent Wippel, Elijah Hawk, and Ben Slayman.