A hot-shooting first half wasn’t enough to sustain the Africentric Early College boys basketball team in a 53-50 loss to Jackson Center in a Division IV state semifinal March 22 at Ohio State.
The Nubians made four 3-pointers during the first three minutes and led 16-4 with 1 minute, 33 seconds left in the opening period, but the Tigers (27-0) rallied during the second half to advance to the championship game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 24, at Ohio State.
Africentric finished 22-4.
“I thought it was a well-played game, and Jackson Center is a phenomenal team,” Africentric coach Michael Bates said. “They came into this game 26-0 for a reason. They made plays down the stretch and unfortunately we couldn’t make those same plays down the stretch.”
Africentric led 16-10 after one quarter and 30-21 at halftime, but Jackson Center responded by shooting 12-for-18 from the floor, including 5-for-9 from 3-point range, in the second half.
The Nubians led 42-31 with 2:56 left in the third quarter, but the Tigers cut it to 42-38 by the end of the period and took their first lead at 48-46 with 3:25 to go.
Jackson Center made it 51-48 on a 3-pointer by Alex Meyer with 1:39 remaining, but Africentric’s Hosie Smith hit a basket to cut it to 51-50 with 1:31 left.
The Nubians had an opportunity to retake the lead, but Jackson Center’s Gavin Wildermuth stole the ball with 9.9 seconds to go and was fouled.
After Wildermuth hit both free throws to make it 53-50, Fuquan Tucker and Smith both missed 3-point attempts in the closing seconds for the Nubians.
“Africentric came out shooting the heck out of the 3-ball, and we knew if they kept shooting like that we would be in trouble,” Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert said. “We stayed within our game plan during the second half and they didn’t stay as hot. When we closed the gap to within seven points, we were confident in our ability to close the deal.”