COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Some teams just have championship DNA. For this year's Africentric team, that seems to be the case as the Nubians survived yet another instant classic.
Holding Harvest Prep (28-1) scoreless for the final 2:46, Africentric (21-6) advanced to its first official state final in a 54-52 victory over the previously unbeaten Warriors in the Division III state semifinals at The Ohio State University.
In a game that could not have started worse for Africentric, the Nubians recovered after going down 7-0 in the first minute and a half. Battling back to a first quarter deficit of 16-12, Africentric was poised to make its run of the game.
Behind some major buckets from senior hero Tre Baumgardner including three triples, the Minnesota State signee scored 12 points in the second quarter alone. In a 20-12 rally for the Nubians, Africentric took control of the game and went into halftime leading 32-28.
The third quarter was much of the same early on for Africentric, going up by as many as nine points at 41-32 with 4:19 remaining after a corner three from sophomore guard Cali Davis.
Harvest Prep fought back hard, going on a 4-0 run to lessen the deficit, eventually going into the final frame trailing 44-38. As both teams went scoreless for the final two minutes of the third quarter, an instant classic felt like it was on tap in the final eight minutes.
Going on a 5-0 run to open the fourth, Harvest Prep cut the deficit to 44-43 with 7:11 to go after two free throws from sophomore guard CJ Anthony.
Africentric was not fazed, however, responding with a 4-0 run of its own, as a tough inside score from junior Dorian Holloway sparked the run to put the Nubians up 48-43 with 6:26 remaining. Holloway was the go-to guy in the second half, scoring 11 of his 13 points after halftime to lead the way for the Nubians.
Holloway's final big bucket came with 4:50 remaining, as another tough inside score from the powerfully built 6-foot-3 forward put the Nubians ahead 50-47.
A floater from Baumgardner extended the lead to 52-47 just moments later, as it looked like Africentric was ready to pull away.
Responding with a 5-0 run, Harvest Prep capped off the mini surge with a three from Soul Hines to tie the game at 52 with 2:46 to go.
Those would be the last points Harvest Prep scored on Thursday.
A pair of free throws from Baumgardner and senior center Jah Bennett gave Africentric the lead at 54-52 with 1:58 to go.
After forcing a stop on the other end, Africentric had possession leading 54-52 with 51 seconds remaining. Less than 10 seconds later, the Nubians threw the ball away, as Harvest Prep senior forward CJ Penha gave the Warriors a chance to tie or take the lead with 42 seconds remaining with a big steal.
Despite three different offensive possessions on its side of the floor, Harvest Prep was not able to convert, as Hines missed a three with three seconds remaining. Securing the rebound, Baumgardner held on tight as the clock struck midnight on Harvest Prep's undefeated season.
Exacting revenge on Harvest Prep for two regional final losses that kept Africentric from the state tournament in 2014 and 2015, the Nubians move on to face another undefeated power in Cincinnati Deer Park (28-0) on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Baumgardner led the way with 22 points. Starting off hot making 6-of-9 field goal attempts including 4-of-6 from behind the arc. The Minnesota State signee set the table for the Nubians, scoring 18 of Africentric's 32 points in the first half.
The senior guard added five rebounds and a game-high six assists, finishing strong despite only making one field goal after halftime. After going 4-of-10 from the line on Thursday, you can expect Baumgardner to improve on that mark on Saturday in the state final.
Holloway added 13 points, dominating around the basket and proving to be too strong for any Harvest Prep defender in the second half. Scoring key bucket after key bucket, Holloway played one of his best games of his career to help deliver a big win for the Nubians.
Bennett pitched in nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks, providing tough inside scoring at times despite leaving a few attempts on the rim in the second half.
The sophomore Davis pitched in seven points, four rebounds and four key steals. The unsung hero on Thursday was senior guard James Hodge, who despite scoring two points, aded six rebounds, including three on the offensive glass, making several key hustle plays for Africentric.
For Harvest Prep, Anthony played a terrific game, finishing with a team-high 20 points on 6-of-12 from the field. Anthony was a perfect 6-of-6 from the line and added four rebounds and three assists.
Hines pitched in 13 points on three triples. The 6-foot-4 junior wing played a solid game on both ends, adding three assists.
Penha finished with 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting, but did not score in the final period. The Taylor University signee added seven rebounds on the day. No other Harvest Prep player added more than four points, as junior guard Brandon Beavers was the best of the rest, finishing with four points, five assists and three steals.
Suffering its first loss of the season, Harvest Prep was held to a season-low 54 points on Thursday, 30 below its season average, which was tops in the area. The game was won in the middle quarters for Africentric, as the Nubians outscored the Warriors 32-22 in the second and third periods.
Harvest Prep had a chance to become the first team in state history to go 30-0 in a season, however, Africentric ended those hopes in the Division III game that everyone in Central Ohio was waiting for all season.
With another undefeated power in Deer Park in its path of a state championship, Africentric will look to make history on Saturday. As its girls team won a state title on the same floor last Saturday, the Nubians will fight tooth and nail for 32 minutes to bring another title back to James Road and Allegheny Avenue.