COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus South Bulldogs proved the old saying true that, "it is hard to beat a good team three times," with a hard-fought and convincing 64-54 win over rival and City League South division foe, Eastmoor Academy in the Division II district championship game at Africentric.
Eastmoor was playing for their second consecutive district title and hoping to return to a second straight OHSAA final four as well. Led by veteran coach Jim Miranda and their star wing player Taevion Kinsey, the Warriors were the favorite after two regular season wins against the Bulldogs and a sizable advantage at most positions on the floor.
The game featured defensive intensity rarely seen on the high school level and a physicality equal to that of a college game. Players pounded each other in the post, dove for loose balls and had to fight every time down the floor to get good looks against the two hard-nosed defenses.
Coach Ramon Spears' team showed how well a team that doesn't care who scores and sells out 100 percent on defense can best anyone on any given night.
The first quarter saw Eastmoor jump out to a 15-11 lead with Tariq Brown and Stanley Williams both knocked down four points and junior guard Treohn Watkins scored five for the Bulldogs. Sophomore wing Marcus Johnson had a nice first quarter as well scoring early on a perfectly executed backdoor layup and an amazing dipsey-doo underhand layup that made the huge South contingent gasp in disbelief.
The second quarter was one of the most outstanding of the season as the intensity rose to an amazing level in a quarter the Bulldogs outscored the Warriors 21-18. South got six points each out of center Wesley Williams and guard Jaedyn Carter, while Eastmoor got six points from point guard Randy Olverson and five points from Kinsey who awed the crowd early in the quarter with a skywalking tip in. A final trey by Olverson gave Eastmoor the halftime lead 33-32. The quarter had an amazing 10 lead changes.
The third quarter was as ugly offensively as the second quarter was good. South outscored the Warriors 12-8 with Watkins scoring five points in a quick burst to jump the Bulldogs in front 37-35. The Eastmoor offense seemed to run almost exclusively through their post Williams who made a couple nice layups and started to go to the line. Two late drives by sophomore Ta'Quan Simington got the Bulldog lead to at 44-41 at the end of the quarter.
The fourth quarter started slow offensively again with a Williams layup for South stretched the Bulldog lead to 49-44 and then extended it to 52-44.
Four Eastmoor free throws cut the lead to 52-48 with 1:28 remaining, but South began to get to the stripe and knock down free throws. First 8 of 10 free throws dropped to extend the lead to 60-54 after only a Kinsey trey would get Eastmoor as close as four points in the final minute. South point guard Watkins would hit the final four charity tosses to extend the game to the final 64-54 margin.
Watkins' 19 points and Williams' 10 points led the victorious Bulldogs. Eastmoor was led by Kinsey who finished his superb career with 16 points, Williams added 15 (but struggled with only 5-13 free throws) and Olverson who scored 11.
After the game Coach Spears who was emotionally spent shared this thoughts.
"Our motivation tonight was to fight, play tough and play together and not lose to Eastmoor for a third time," said Spears. "We have had this rivalry going with Eastmoor and they have been beating us every time, but that is a really great team and I am just really proud of my guys."
When asked about his team's amazingly unselfish play, Spears' credited his staff.
"It all starts in practice," said Spears. "We have six coaches in practice everyday who pound into our players head that team is more important that anything and that we are winning for our team, community and parents."
When asked about his team's upcoming trip to Dayton, Spears' admitted his team is confident.
"Yes, we are confident," said Spears. "We have been here before. We went to Florida, so we have played on the road. So we are going to enjoy this moment and then get back to work."
The Bulldogs will be back in action late next week when they advance to the Dayton Division II regional semifinal.