Boys Basketball

Northland uses second-half size advantage to earn regional final berth

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Northland's Doug Taylor cheers after blocking a shot from a Dublin Coffman player during a Division I regional semifinal game March 12.

The Northland High School boys basketball team earned a spot in a Division I regional final following a 57-47 win over Dublin Coffman in a semifinal March 12 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

The Vikings improved to 22-4 and will play Pickerington Central (20-5) or Upper Arlington (24-1) in a final Saturday, March 15, at the Fairgrounds.

Coffman finished the season 19-6.

Northland jumped out to a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter and then held off several Coffman comebacks.

Northland’s Derek McKeithen and Coffman’s Nate Axelrod traded 3-pointers late in the first quarter as the Vikings led 13-8 after one.

The Shamrocks remained close throughout the second quarter. Their hopes for winning took a hit when leading scorer and rebounder Luke Vargo severely injured a foot late in the second quarter. Vargo was helped to the locker room and did not return to the game. He finished with two points.

Northland led 27-23 at the half.

With Vargo out, Northland slowly pulled away in the second half, opening a 47-32 lead after three quarters. Jaylen Tucker’s slam capped the Vikings’ third-quarter run.

The Shamrocks cut the deficit to 52-45 with 3 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the game, but could not pull closer.

“We started taking advantage of our size in the second half,” Northland coach Sean Taylor said. “If you’re going a little small you might be a little quicker than us, but on the other end we’re supposed to punish you. I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”

McKeithen led the Vikings with 16 points followed by Tucker with 15 points. Northland’s Doug Taylor had a game-high nine rebounds.

C.J. Saunders led Coffman with 14 points and Axelrod, a senior, scored 10 in his final game for the Shamrocks.

“They were obviously very motivated and they came out with a little extra fire,” Coffman coach Jamey Collins said. “Right from the get-go, they got us on our heels. We were able to fight back a little bit, but could just never really get over the hump at all.”