The Beechcroft High School boys basketball team is headed to the regional tournament for the first time in more than a decade.
The top-seeded Cougars built an early double-digit lead and held off fourth-seeded Hartley 70-56 in a Division II district final March 10 at Africentric.
Beechcroft, which won its eighth district title but first since 2007, improved to 25-1 and advanced to play Parma Heights Holy Name or Bay Village Bay in a regional semifinal Thursday, March 15, at Bowling Green.
The Cougars led 24-14 after the first quarter and stretched their advantage to 37-19 with 2 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first half.
Hartley, which finished 19-6, was competing in a district final for the first time since 2015.
“We started pressuring them and it affected them big time, causing them to get a lot of turnovers,” Cougars coach Humphrey Simmons said. “I thought we controlled the game the whole time.”
Hartley’s Morgan Safford had 29 points, including 18 in the second half. His three-point play with 1:50 left pulled the Hawks to within 62-53. Then with 1:14 remaining, Payton Collins hit a 3-pointer to cut Hartley’s deficit to 62-56.
That was as close as the Hawks got, however, as Beechcroft ended the game on an 8-0 run.
Jelani Simmons had 22 points and Elijah Bishop scored 18, including going 6-for-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, to lead the Cougars.
“It’s very hard to beat a team that has five guys that can score like they do,” Hawks coach Randy Kortokrax said. “They play together well and it’s hard to find a lot of weaknesses.”
Columbus South 64, Eastmoor Academy 54
After losing to Eastmoor twice during the regular season, the third-seeded Bulldogs finally got the better of the second-seeded Warriors in a Division II district final March 10 at Africentric.
South trailed 15-11 after the first quarter but led 33-32 at halftime and built a 52-44 lead with 2:26 remaining.
“We’ve been preparing for this even before the tournament started,” Bulldogs junior Treohn Watkins said. “We knew we were going to meet them again. We were sharing (the basketball).”
Watkins had 19 points for the Bulldogs, who improved to 22-4 and advanced to a regional semifinal March 15 at Kettering Fairmont.
Eastmoor, which finished 20-6, cut its deficit to 52-48 on a pair of free throws by Randy Olverson, but Watkins hit two foul shots with 1:18 left to make it 55-48.
The Warriors got within 55-51 with 1:06 remaining on a basket by Tim Smith, but the Bulldogs made seven of eight free-throw attempts during the final minute to seal the victory.
South went 25-for-32 from the free-throw line for the game.
“For this team, it’s a real victory,” Bulldogs coach Ramon Spears said. “They beat us in the regular season twice, so we just had a lot to play for tonight.”