COLUMBUS, Ohio -- And then there was one.
The only team in Ohio to finish the 2017-18 season with an undefeated record, Cincinnati Deer Park (29-0) wrapped up an incredible year with a 67-57 win over Africentric (22-7) in the Division III state championship.
Coming back from a 36-27 halftime deficit, Deer Park turned up the pressure on Africentric in the second half. Senior wing Damani McEntire proved to be the difference, making huge impacts on both ends of the floor to deliver the monumental win for Deer Park.
Saturday was a day of firsts for Deer Park, as the Wildcats completed not only its first undefeated season in school history but also won its first-ever state title.
For Africentric, the Nubians looked to be in control up to the midway point of the third quarter. Leading 43-35 with 3:40 to go in the third period, Africentric only scored one bucket for the rest of the quarter, allowing an 11-2 Deer Park run that put the Wildcats up 46-45 going into the final frame.
The one-point deficit was the closest Africentric got all fourth quarter, as Deer Park forced the Nubians into a litany of turnovers that culminated in the Wildcat victory.
Deer Park was led by McEntire, who finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six steals. McEntire made his biggest impact with the sheer number of hustle plays that he made, getting to every 50/50 ball and defending at a high level on the perimeter.
McEntire defended Africentric star Tre Baumgardner for the majority of the second half, which forced the ball out of the Minnesota State signee's hands.
Sophomore point guard Steven Gentry added 14 points, while senior forward Jalen Rose finished with 13 points, as the duo knocked down five of Deer Park's six three-point field goals on the day.
Junior center Joseph Hocker was the key cog in the middle, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Baumgardner led Africentric with 17 points, but was held to five shot attempts after halftime. Sophomore guard Cali Davis had a strong performance, adding 11 points and proving to be one of few sources of offense for Africentric in the third quarter.
Junior forward Dorian Holloway finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, giving the Nubians toughness on the interior while seniors James Hodge (8 points) and Jah Bennett (7 points) rounded out scoring for the Nubians.
Falling in its first state final appearance since 2005, a win which was vacated only months later, Africentric's great run unfortunately ends for the Nubians. A senior-laden team that got by with its toughness from guys like Baumgardner, Bennett and Hodge, Africentric enters a new era next winter.
Returning Holloway, Davis and a cast of others, Africentric will be a major player once again in the City League and should compete for yet another district title and much more.
That wraps up the 2017-18 season for 270 Hoops. We want to thank all of our loyal supporters for sticking along with us all season long. We also want to congratulate Africentric, Harvest Prep and Pickerington Central on representing the Central District in the state tournament.