Holding a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter against Northland in the City League final Feb. 16 at Africentric, the Columbus South High School boys basketball team chose to hold the ball for more than a minute.
The Bulldogs’ patience paid off by forcing the Vikings out of a 2-3 zone.
South then went on an 8-0 run featuring back-to-back dunks by Marcus Johnson and Ta’Quan Simington to seize control on its way to a 68-51 victory to earn its second City championship in three seasons.
The Bulldogs, who beat the Vikings 65-51 in the 2017 final for their first City title since 1980, improved to 20-1.
“It was crazy,” Simington said. “We played together right there. At first, they were in a 2-3 (zone) so we held the ball until they came out of it. We were already winning so we slowed the clock down. Then when they got out of it, we just gave it to them.”
Northland, which has represented the City-North Division in 12 of the last 14 City finals and dropped to 15-6 with the loss, trailed by double digits in the first half and 31-24 at halftime.
A 3-pointer by Devan White brought the Vikings to within 36-35 with 4 minutes, 24 seconds left in the third quarter and the Bulldogs led 45-41 heading into the final period.
A three-point play by Tyrique Hawkins and a free throw by Johnson gave South a 49-41 lead, but Northland’s N’Keeley Elmore hit a 3-pointer with 6:14 remaining to cut the deficit to 49-44.
South then held the ball until about the 4-minute mark before Johnson scored to start a run during which the Bulldogs built a 57-44 lead.
“Our third- and fourth-quarter defense was superb,” Bulldogs coach Ramon Spears said.
Simington finished with 14 points, Johnson and Trevell Adams each scored 13 and the Bulldogs’ only two seniors who play regularly, Alvin Byrd and Tre’ohn Watkins, added 10 and nine points, respectively.
South is the No. 1 seed for the Division II district tournament.
Elmore and White both had 15 points and Makhale Massey scored 13 to lead the Vikings.
“We couldn’t get over that hump,” Northland coach Sean Taylor said. “We were down five with four minutes left and that’s just two possessions, so we were good. They wanted to hold it and as you saw from the possession before, we got the rebound but we didn’t convert. We just missed opportunities.”