For the second consecutive year and for the third time in five seasons, the Columbus South High School boys basketball team is heading to the Division II regional tournament.

The top-seeded Bulldogs used pressure defense to rally from a seven-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to beat seventh-seeded Watterson 50-44 in a district final March 9 at Ohio Dominican.

South improved to 25-1 and advanced to face Norwalk in a regional semifinal March 14 at Bowling Green.

Watterson, which had won nine of its previous 10 games, finished 15-9.

“Our rotation was bad at the beginning and we started rotating a little better towards the third and fourth quarters and we had more active hands,” Bulldogs coach Ramon Spears said.

Stephen Garrett hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer and scored the first two points of the final period as the Eagles built a 37-30 lead.

A basket by Watterson’s Zach Sawyer with 5 minutes, 37 seconds remaining made it 39-32, but the Bulldogs cut their deficit to 41-40 with 3:10 left on a basket by Marcus Johnson.

The Eagles’ Jimmy Patton was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim with 2:13 remaining and his team leading 42-40, and Tre’ohn Watkins made the second of two free-throw attempts to pull South within one point. Eighteen seconds later, Watkins scored to give the Bulldogs a 43-42 lead.

Then, with 18 seconds left, South got a basket from Trevell Adams to go up 48-44, and the Bulldogs sealed the win with a basket by Alvin Byrd with eight seconds remaining that came off a forced turnover.

Watkins finished with 17 points and Adams added 13 for the Bulldogs, who beat Watterson in the district tournament for the fourth consecutive season.

Sawyer had 17 points and Garrett scored 13 to lead the Eagles.

“South’s a great team and made some nice plays down the stretch,” Watterson coach Vince Lombardo said.

Hartley 50, DeSales 48

Colby Rankin’s 3-pointer as time expired capped a wild back-and-forth game as fourth-seeded Hartley edged third-seeded DeSales in an all-CCL Division II district final March 9 at Ohio Dominican.

Hartley led 44-35 with four minutes left, but DeSales clawed back to take a 48-47 lead with 19 seconds left when Desmond Watson put back Obed Achirem’s missed free throw. The Stallions then forced another turnover with eight seconds left, but Jayden Hawkins-White missed the front end of a one-and-one, setting the stage for Rankin.

“I knew I would get my opportunity,” Rankin said. “They’d been doubling on Morgan (Safford) the whole game, so I just sprinted into the corner and got the open look.”

The Hawks, who improved to 15-9, won their first district championship since 2015. They will play Dayton Northridge in a regional semifinal March 14 at Kettering Fairmont.

Safford led Hartley with a game-high 22 points, 18 of which came in the second half.

Watson had 16 points and Kayin Derden scored 14 to lead DeSales, which finished 17-9 and was seeking its first district title since 2016.

—Dave Purpura

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