Junior forward Jae’Sean Tate scored 12 of his 23 points in the third quarter, and the Pickerington High School Central boys basketball team clinched its second consecutive Division I district championship with a 62-55 win over Olentangy Orange on March 9 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
The 10th-seeded and defending state champion Tigers (19-7), who trailed 28-26 at halftime, opened the second half on a 12-4 run and added an 8-0 burst spanning the third and fourth quarters. Still, the Pioneers (15-10) were within 51-48 with 3 minutes, 33 seconds to play before Orange missed four consecutive free throws and Central took advantage with a running layup by freshman forward Jalen Tate and a 3-pointer from senior guard Kyran Boyd.
The Tigers led 58-48 with 3:15 left.
“(The Pioneers) were beating us to a lot of 50/50 balls. They got a lot of offensive rebounds,” Central coach Jerry Francis said. “They were tough and knocked us off our course, but we were able to stay the course toward the end. We made a little run and Jae’Sean got some easy baskets and we were able to sustain the lead.”
Central will play Gahanna or Newark, both OCC-Ohio Division foes, in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. March 14 at the Fairgrounds. The Tigers split their two-game, regular-season series with both teams, including a 72-62 loss to Gahanna in their regular-season finale Feb. 15 that created a four-way tie for the league title between Central, Grove City, Newark and Reynoldsburg.
Nick Deitsch’s game-high 28 points, 18 of which came on 3-pointers, paced 18th-seeded Orange, which advanced to its first district final by defeating fourth-seeded New Albany 46-45 in overtime in a district semifinal March 6.