DAYTON, Ohio -- With stakes at their highest level, it takes exceptional performances to make history.
So when the Central District player of the year and Westerville Central senior Tasos Cook battled significant cramp discomfort through an awe-inspired 20 point performance and spent most of the second half on the bench, it took a composed team effort from the Warhawks as they handed Cleveland St. Ignatius a 51-42 defeat in a Division I semifinal.
Cook, fresh off his heroic game-winner in last Saturday's regional final, continued to deliver an all-state worthy performance and was the best player on the court towards a 16-point first half.
With just under five minutes to go in the third quarter and the game tied at 25, Cook and an official made accidental contact that led the senior to have discomfort that he would experience the rest of the game.
Have no worries.
One by one, each Warhawk player stepped up and it started with senior MJ Davis who for the third straight game made timely three-pointers, going back-to-back which gave Westerville Central a 31-27 lead that they would never let go.
Senior Quincy Clark resumed leadership duties with his impact on both ends of the floor. While he scored 12 points, it was Clark's defensive presence that was truly exceptional. The unsigned wing guard did a strong job of pressuring St. Ignatius' guards from feeding the Wildcats forwards, who had a significant size advantage over the Warhawks.
Clark also was credited with three steals, two of which led to significant first half transition points. The six-foot-three captain, who holds several Division II offers, led the Warhawks with seven rebounds, six of which were defensively and helped limit St. Ignatius to just five offensive rebounds.
While sophomore Donovan Hunter did not score, he played a fantastic role on defense as the six-foot-seven forward challenged the St. Ignatius' trio of forwards all six-foot-seven or taller.
Hunter's excellent interior defense was joined by Davis and junior Brad Leonard.
Leonard finished with two points and completed the trifecta of hustle plays with a drawn charge, loose ball recovery and forced turnover.
Seniors Landon Tillman and Mamadi Kaba finished with five and two points, respectively.
St. Ignatius was limited to just 22 second-half points and put themself in a tough hole when they committed four straight turnovers down 43-29 with less than five minutes in the game.
Junior Jon Effertz led Wildcats scorers with 11 points and was the only real St. Ignatius threat from deep as he had three triples.
The Warhawks did an excellent job of limiting touches to Wildcats senior forward Henry Raynor, a Hillsdale college commit, as he was held under his scoring average by 10 points and finished with seven and six rebounds.
Before Cook was limited by cramps in the second half, his performance warranted the demands of a Division I offer as the state's best unsigned senior who scored over his 1,000th career point Saturday.
The good news for the Warhawks is that Cook will play Sunday as Westerville Central competes for their first ever state championship against Centerville at 8:30pm at Dayton Arena.
If the Warhawks can duplicate an inspired team performance they displayed in the semifinal, Westerville Central very well could fulfill its destiny to make history.