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Back Where They Belong

By Mark Francis Jr, 03/11/23, 8:45PM EST


Africentric Wins Eighth State Title

DAYTON, Ohio - - “It’s full circle, it’s just full circle,” were the sentiments relayed over and over again postgame from both assistant Tyesha Moss and head coach Janicia Anderson. Two Africentric graduates who played under Will McKinney and now they are carving out their own legacy at the school they love. Africentric raced away with a 75-62 victory over Chippewa to claim their 8th Division 3 state championship, tying them for first all time in OHSAA history. 

Nubian junior guard Ashtan Winfrey started an explosive first quarter by getting to the bucket and hitting a shot in the paint. Attacking the Chips defense was something that was a theme for the Lady Nubians all evening. Africentric jumped out to an early 7-2 lead in the first quarter before Chippewa’s Sky Regan tied the ballgame at nine as the Nubians called a timeout. 

Whatever head coach Janicia Anderson said in that huddle stuck in the minds of her players, those young ladies took the floor and went on a 7-0 run that was capped by Natiah Nelson’s steal and assist to Janiya Bowers for 2 of her 15 first half points. A small run for the Chips cut it to a 16-13 deficit but consecutive floaters from Ariel Grace bumped the lead back up to 20-13. A three-pointer from Rayanna Howell as time was winding down in the first quarter gave Africentric a 27-13 advantage heading to the bench. 

The Lady Nubians began to pour it on in the second quarter, as Winfrey once again hit the opening bucket, junior Taelynn Clayborn came right behind it then Bowers added another one  to extend the lead to 33-16 early in the frame. Chips senior Annabel Rodriquez stopped the mini run before the media timeout. 

A tough layup and free throw from Africentric junior Rayanna Howell silenced a once rowdy Chippewa student section and got the lead to 38-21 midway through the quarter. Janiya Bowers drained one from deep but the Chips answered back with five straight points to go into the locker room down by a score of 41-28. 

In what was a wild and frenetic third quarter, the Chippewa Chips clawed their way back into the game, slowing down the offensive onslaught of Africentric while starting to hit shots of their own. Chips senior Abby Henegar hit two at the charity stripe and the lead got under 10 for the first time since the first quarter. 

As the Chips continued to fight back, the Nubians continued to hold them off. Whether it was Natiah Nelson’s relentless driving of the basketball or Sam Thompson and her effort on the glass, Africentric was able to make sure they did not surrender the lead. Chippewa scored 24 points in the second quarter, but Africentric stayed the course and put in 17 to secure a 58-52 lead heading into the final quarter. 

It seemed like the Chips simply ran out of gas while the Nubians were still pressing on the gas pedal. Nelson was still living at the free throw line as the fourth waned on, dropping two more and gaining a 60-54 advantage. Sam Thompson grabbed her 10th rebound with 5:05 left in the game and was a terror on glass, finishing with 11 total. 

Playing her best in the bigger game, Thompson said “this is one of craziest things I’ve ever done, ever achieved, it’s just exciting.” When speaking on her mindset heading into the game, she had a simple and effective answer, “don’t mess up, come out and play hard with my team and believe in each other.”

That is exactly what this team did, pulling away in the final quarter. They capped it off with an absolutely filthy layup from Natiah Nelson, who also hit the free throw to go up 71-56. Ashtan Winfrey split a pair of free throws and both teams emptied their bench as the Nubians salted away their 75-62 win and got a hold of their 8th state championship. 

Chippewa was led by Annabel Rodriquez who scored 19 points to go along with four rebounds and two assists. Jaclyn Jundzilo added 15 points, five rebounds and four steals. Abby Henegar poured in 14 points along with five boards and four steals as well. Kendal Shiarla gave her team nine points, two rebounds and two steals. Delany McNab scored three and Sky Regan scored a basket as well to round out the scoring for the senior laden Chips. 

Four players scored in double-digits for the champs, led by junior Natiah Nelson and freshman Janiya Bowers. Nelson also had seven rebounds and four steals while Bowers added in four rebounds herself. Ashtan Winfrey scored 14 points, had four rebounds and three assists. Sam Thompson had 13 points to go along with her game-high 11 rebounds and two steals as well. Rayanna Howell pitched in eight crucial points while lone senior Ariel Grace had four points and a team-high five assists. Taelynn Clayborn hit a layup to finalize the scoring for the Lady Nubians. 

An assistant on the 2019 state title winner, coach Anderson now has the chance to put her name as head coach on a trophy, showing her true emotion talking to me about what this means to her, she said, “honored, I’m just so proud, they did it, all the adversity, all the doubt, they did it,” giving all the credit to her young players. “We never wavered, we never changed who we were, didn’t allow them to get too high, get too low, we stayed the course and did us”

When speaking on how her “father figure or annoying uncle,” and former head coach Will McKinney got her ready for this moment, she said, “it was big, he kept me prepared, when I was on his staff he was setting the tone, he had being ready early before I knew he was going to step down,” McKinney stepped down after the 2019 season. “He would drop his knowledge on us and we would just do it, the Africentric way, all in.” 

“I’m speechless, it’s a dream come true, to manifest something and for it come full circle, the support of Moss (assistant), McKinney, Rhodes (assistant who recently passed away), it took a village and I’m just so proud.” 

A 24-4 season record, another City League championship, district title, regional final and once again on top of the state as champions. Africentric, a true dynasty.

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