With time about to expire in the second quarter of the Division III state championship game March 24 at Ohio State, Africentric Early College boys basketball player Anthony Bowman made three free throws to give his team a nine-point halftime lead over Cincinnati Deer Park.

By the end of the third period, that lead was gone.

Deer Park, which was ranked No. 2 in the final state poll, outscored Africentric by 19 points over the final two quarters on its way to a 67-57 victory for its first state championship.

The Nubians finished 22-7, while the Wildcats closed the season 29-0.

“We had our opportunities and took our shot and missed today,” Africentric coach Michael Bates said. “I’m very excited about our season, but I know right now this hurts.”

Deer Park used pressure defense to limit easy shots by the Nubians, who went just 8-for-25 from the floor in the second half.

Tre’ Baumgardner, who was named first-team all-state for Africentric, had 17 points but was limited to five shots over the final two periods.

“They didn’t do anything different on me, but we didn’t complete shots as well as we have at other times,” Baumgardner said.

Deer Park trailed 40-29 with 5 minutes, 37 seconds left in the third quarter after a basket by James Hodge but closed the period on a 17-5 run.

The Nubians were within 50-48 with 5:16 remaining after a 3-pointer by Baumgardner, but the Wildcats answered with a basket by Damani McEntire with 4:55 to go and a 3-pointer by Jalen Rose with 4:03 left.

Baumgardner cut the Nubians’ deficit to 55-50 with a 3-pointer but Deer Park scored the next six points to build an 11-point lead with 1:48 left.

The Wildcats got 14 points from both McEntire and Steven Gentry Jr. while Rose scored 13 and Joseph Hocker added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“We weren’t getting buckets and they excelled in transition (in the second half),” Bates said. “We couldn’t stop them from getting to the rim. They hit some big 3s in the third quarter and just played great basketball in the second half.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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