In the waning moments of the Centennial High School boys basketball team's game at Columbus South in the second round of the Division II district tournament Feb. 28, point guard Elias "Boo" Osborne wanted the ball in his hands.
With the score tied at 67 with 13 seconds left, the senior received an inbounds pass, weaved his way past three defenders while dribbling the length of the court, drove the lane and softly floated a 10-foot shot with four seconds left.
The ball bounced off the rim three times before falling through the net with less than a second remaining to give the eighth-seeded Stars a 69-67 victory.
Centennial improved to 14-7 and advanced to play 13th-seeded DeSales in a district semifinal March 6 at Newark. South, seeded sixth, finished 15-8.
"I wanted the ball bad in that situation because I didn't want the game to go into overtime and I knew I was going to find a way to score," Osborne said. "The ball felt good leaving my hand, but their gym is new and they have a stiff rim where the ball bounces quite a bit. Watching the ball hit the rim again and again were the longest three seconds of my life, but when it went in, that was the most exciting moment of my basketball career."
Osborne's winning basket capped a furious second-half rally by the Stars, who trailed by as many as 17 points in the third quarter and were down by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter.
Osborne scored 20 of his career-high 37 points in the fourth quarter.
"In the huddle (before the start of the fourth quarter), I asked my teammates, 'Do you all want to end this now or come back and win this game?'" he said. "I had an off-night shooting the ball and I didn't hit a 3-pointer all night, but they couldn't stop me inside and I was able to get a lot of rebounds and putbacks. I knew I was going to have to step it up since (forward) Conrad (Stephens) and (guard) Christian (Cumberlander) were both hurt."
Stephens was averaging 11.1 points before suffering a season-ending knee injury in early February. Cumberlander, who was averaging 11.2 points, was hindered by a sprained wrist and scored six points against South.
Forward Jamal Slappy added eight points for Centennial, which converted only 19 of 38 free-throw attempts against the Bulldogs.
"South played real well and solved our half-court trap, but they struggled against our full-court press and we used a diamond press to create turnovers and get us back in the game," coach Roosevelt Osborne said. "We were down five points with under a minute left and I was thinking there was no way we could win this game at that point, but South missed (six) free throws inside of a minute and Boo hit a clutch shot to win it."
The Centennial-DeSales winner plays 11th-seeded Marion-Franklin or 12th-seeded Beechcroft in a district final at 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 8, at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
The Stars have not played Marion-Franklin this season but swept Beechcroft in City League-North Division play, winning 78-46 on Dec. 21 and 95-82 on Jan. 15.
Beechcroft upset fourth-seeded Buckeye Valley 47-43 on Feb. 28 to improve to 11-13, as 6-foot-3 forward Patrick Ngene-Igwe had 16 points and 6-3 guard Khaleed Franklin scored 13.
Marion-Franklin was 12-12 after upsetting fifth-seeded Hartley 51-48 on Feb. 28. Marquiez Lawrence, a 6-8 forward, had 14 points and 14 rebounds and 6-4 guard Dominique Cartier scored 13.
"We need to play hard on defense all the time instead of waiting until our backs are against the wall like we did against South," coach Osborne said.
"We also need to get healthy. Christian concentrated on his rebounding and defense (against South) while he let his wrist heal. But if he can get healthy again, he's a big offensive weapon for us."
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal March 14 at Kettering Fairmont.