Boys Basketball

75-year drought ends

Upper Arlington's last state tournament appearance was 1939

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Upper Arlington's Corbin Dennis, center, and Kevin Vannatta, right, celebrate after defeating Northland in a Division I regional final March 15.

Kevin Vannatta and Harrison Heath of the Upper Arlington High School boys basketball team connected for a key layup with 1 minute, 42 seconds to play in a Division I regional final against Northland on March 15 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

Both of them credited a third person — team strength coach Brian Coleman — for the play even being possible.

“I caught the ball in the middle of the floor and I believe it was (Northland’s) Seth Towns who was all over me,” Vannatta said. “I have to give some credit to our strength coach because I had to put all my muscle on that pass. I had to give it everything I had to get through Seth to get the ball to Harrison.”

“Everybody teases me about being the strong kid,” Heath added. “But I didn’t have to be on that play. I made sure no one was around me and just got the layup. I had the feeling that was it, that nothing would stop us from that point.”

UA never trailed, finishing the game on a 12-2 run to beat Northland 50-36 and clinch its first state tournament trip since 1939. The Golden Bears (26-1), who were in their first regional final since 1942, held the Vikings to one field goal in the fourth quarter.

Vannatta had game-highs of 27 points and 19 rebounds, just two fewer than Northland as a team. He also was 14-for-16 from the foul line. Wes Davis added nine points and four rebounds for the Bears.

UA advances to play Trotwood-Madison in a state semifinal 8:30 p.m. March 21 at Ohio State.

UA also went to state in 1937, when it won the program’s only state title, and 1938.

Northland (22-5) was within 32-31 after three quarters and 34-32 with 4:40 left, but Vannatta made a running layup, two free throws and assisted Heath to re-establish firm control.

Shemar Waugh scored 11 points to lead Northland.

“We missed shots that if we’d made them, I feel like we would have had control of the game,” Northland coach Sean Taylor said. “But (UA) played great. They’re so freaking tough and physical.”