COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Basketball is a game filled with ups and downs, and that has been the story this season for a young Africentric team who has struggled to grab that big win that they need to find their identity.
Tonight, they captured just that win.
Less than two weeks removed from a questionable loss to City League South division bottomfeeder Independence, Africentric (10-8) did the unthinkable tonight, beating Walnut Ridge (14-3), formerly the first place team in the division, 65-62.
With Walnut Ridge entering the game controlling their own destiny to make it to the City League Championship, the Nubians used timely shooting, excellent guard play and solid interior defense to pull off the upset. Their backcourt trio of junior Cali Davis, sophomore Eli Burke and freshman Dan Wagner combined for 50 points to fuel the big win on senior night.
Coming out of the gates firing, Walnut Ridge jumped to a quick 7-2 lead after an and-one from junior Von Cameron Davis with 5:12 to go in the first.
They went cold for several minutes after this, and a 13-2 Africentric run ending in three made foul shots from Cali Davis after being fouled at the buzzer helped the Nubians take a 15-9 lead into the second frame. Leading after one, Africentric reminded everyone in the gym that they can play with the best when they show up.
The second quarter did not go in Africentric’s favor however, and Walnut Ridge used a big 16-4 run in the quarter to take a 26-23 lead into the half, still far from satisfied with their play.
They put together this run behind excellent defensive play and transition offense from junior guard Qian Magwood. He had several acrobatic euro-step finishes on the break and found open teammates on multiple occasions to help his team regain the lead.
The Nubians moved to a 2-3 zone midway through the second, and they continued to show Ridge the half court set to open the third. With the Scots failing to knock down shots, Africentric took advantage in the third.
After a big three from Wagner to give Africentric a 35-34 lead with 3:58 left in the third, Burke put his head down and went to work.
After Walnut Ridge answered the Wagner bucket, Burke had a tough finish in the lane in which it looked like he was fouled to regain the lead at 37-36. On the very next possession, he came in the lane again and finished through the contact, this time with a foul being called, giving the Nubians a 40-36 lead.
Scoring seven of his game-high 19 points in the frame, Burke sparked an 8-2 run for Africentric to end the quarter. This allowed them to take a 45-38 lead and all of the momentum into the final quarter of play.
After the teams traded buckets back and forth to start the final frame, Walnut Ridge senior Meechie Coble drained one of his four three-pointers on the night to cut the Nubian lead to 49-45 with 5:51 to go.
After another big triple, this time from sophomore Daaron Brown, the Scots trailed just 54-50 with four minutes left.
Africentric would connect on a momentum fueling lob pass for and-one on the next possession as Davis went up and layed in the dime from Wagner through contact. After making the free throw, the Nubians sat comfortably with a 57-50 lead with 3:45 remaining.
The teams traded free-throws for several minutes after, but Coble nailed another clutch triple with 1:14 left to force a timeout with the Scots trailing just 62-57.
After a turnover from Africentric, Coble hit two at the stripe and Walnut Ridge cut the lead to 62-59, giving themselves a legitimate shot to comeback and win this one.
Africentric missed both of their free-throws on the next possession, but Walnut Ridge gave the ball away when attempting a lob pass trailing by three points. Burke nailed one of two free-throws the next time down, giving Africentric a four point lead, almost impossible to overcome for the Scots with one shot left.
Grabbing the rebound after a missed attempt from Ridge, Africentric walked off the court victorious and pulled off the biggest upset so far this year in the Columbus City League.
Coble led the Scots with 17 points and eight rebounds and did so by hitting four triples. Davis was right behind him with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds and Magwood also chipped in 11 points. Junior Kaveon Ross had a solid night on the interior as well, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds.
They look to bounce back tomorrow with a big game against rival Eastmoor.
In an immensely important win before the Central District tournament draw on Sunday, the Nubians were led by Burke and Davis who each scored 19 points. Wagner also chipped in with 12 and seniors Anthony Bowman (nine points) and Lyheem Hilliard (four points) combined to score 13.
Burke and Davis proved tonight that the Nubians can always be a threat in the City League when they are playing well. With that backcourt duo for the next two seasons, Africentric could really turn come heads.
After picking up their biggest win of the season, the Nubians will now take on South tomorrow, the new first place team in the City League South.