COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The drought is over. After falling short in its first-ever district final appearance last season, Hilliard Bradley took care of business in the Division I district final finale at Ohio Dominican on Saturday.
Punishing Westerville South (15-9) on the glass and in the paint, Bradley (24-1) notched its first district title in school history in a 59-46 victory.
Becoming the first Hilliard school to win a district title since Hilliard Davidson in 2000, Bradley brings some hardwood back to Walker Road.
The Jags dominated the opening quarter, holding Westerville South to zero rebounds and three total paint touches in a 24-9 quarter.
Westerville South, in classic fashion, did not back down. In a back-and-forth quarter, Bradley went into the break leading 35-21.
Behind a major scoring night from Westerville South junior guard Jordan McMillian, the 'Cats felt confident going into the second half. With some wind under their sails and added confidence, Westerville South came out and played with intensity in the second half.
Despite going down by as much as 18 points in the third quarter, Westerville South fought back hard, as McMillian drained back to back threes and then scored on a coast-to-coast drive to cut the lead to 13 at 48-35 with :35 seconds to go in the third.
Trailing 48-35 going into the final frame, Westerville South got as close as nine points at 50-41 on another McMillian score with 2:50 to go.
Grinding out the 'Cats in the final minutes, Bradley moves on to its first regional tournament.
For Bradley, the game was won on the glass and in the paint. Out-rebounding Westerville South 37-12, Bradley got plenty of second chance points and easy looks at the rim due to its massive size advantage and overall strength.
The Jags executed with precision on both ends of the floor for most of the game. Finding open looks inside and constantly moving and rotating the ball, Bradley showed spurts where the Jags looked like the clear favorite in the Columbus region.
Senior Isaiah Speelman led the way with 16 points, as the always reliable forward started off hot to help the Jags get out to the early lead. Sophomore forward Chris Mayfield added 11 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore guard Matt Allocco and junior forward Zach Hummel finished with nine points each.
Senior guard Braden Norris and freshman forward Jack Pugh each added five points as the Jags executed at a near elite level for a majority of the game.
Moving on to the regional semifinals, Bradley will take on Reynoldsburg on Wednesday. The Raiders will present a challenge on the interior with senior center Tre Williams, but Bradley has been as solid as anyone when it comes to neutralizing the best bigs in the area.
For Westerville South, McMillian was spectacular on both ends of the floor. Finishing with a game-high 24 points, three assists and four steals. Knocking down four threes and keeping the ball on a string, McMillian showed his high-level ability as a combo-guard.
Fellow junior guard Ryan Greggs also scored in double figures, adding 13 points off the bench. No other Westerville South player scored more than four points, however, senior guard Hafiz Turay was solid as a distributor, finishing with a game-high seven assists.
Making a surprise run to the district finals in an overall impressive year for a program that many thought would be rebuilding, Westerville South returns six of its top nine from Saturday's rotation, including McMillian and Greggs.