COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The first half seemed almost too easy for Pickerington Central in Friday's Division I state semifinal against Solon. Going up 45-35 at the break, the Tigers seemed to be 16 minutes away from its first state final in six years.
However, Central (18-9) faltered down the stretch as Solon (27-1) rattled off a 47-33 second half to end the Tigers' surprise run to state in an 82-78 win for the Comets to advance to its first-ever state final.
Solon senior point guard Sincere Carry dominated the second half, finishing with a game-high 29 points and game-high 11 assists. Carry opened up the fourth quarter with a big three to tie the game, which set the tone for how the quarter was going to go for Solon.
With Central leading 67-65 with a little over five minutes remaining, Carry quick erased that advantage, as the West Liberty signee drained a quick trigger three to put Solon ahead 68-67.
From that point forward, Solon never trailed again, as Carry and the Comets took care of the ball in the final five minutes to grind out the Tigers in its first-ever state semifinal.
Ending an 11-game winning streak for Central, Solon advances to take on Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller, the same team who ended the Tigers' season a year ago.
Outside of Carry, junior guard Mike Bekelja added 17 points, scoring 10 after halftime. Junior guard Trent Williams added 10 points, all in the second half, while fellow junior David Marbury pitched in 10 points.
Solon survived a scorching shooting performance from the Tigers in the fist half, never appearing fazed at any point. Central shot an incredible 60 percent from the field in the first half, abusing Solon's press and getting into the paint at will.
Detroit Mercy signee Adrian Nelson powered the Tigers in a dominant half, going 9-of-10 from the floor for 21 points and five rebounds in the opening 16 minutes. However, Nelson did not score another point, as Pickerington Central's offense sputtered down the stretch.
Nelson's 21 points were a team-high, as the 6-foot-6 forward could not be stopped around the basket in the first half. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Nelson's interior touches were limited in the second half, which played a huge role in the loss.
Junior guard Javohn Garcia, who has been the star of Central's run to state, finished with 20 points, five rebounds and 10 assists. Garcia was able to get into the lane at will for most of the game, creating the most offense of any of the Tigers.
Senior forward Juan Elmore had a terrific game off the bench, pitching in nine points, six rebounds and three assists. Elmore had a team-high +/- rating of +4 in his 15 minutes on the floor.
Rounding out the scoring for the Tigers were junior center Coleton Landis (8 points), sophomore guard Josiah Fulcher (8 points), senior guard Juan Woods (6 points) and junior guard Jaidon Lipscomb (6 points).
After rattling off 11-straight wins to reach an improbable state semifinal, Pickerington Central falls on the final Friday of the season for the second-straight year.
Returning five of its top eight from Friday, which doesn't even include four-star point guard Jeremiah Francis who missed all season, Pickerington Central should expect to challenge for yet another regional title next year.