The Columbus South High School boys basketball team is heading to the state tournament for the seventh time, but first since 1986 when it lost to Akron Central-Hower 70-44 in the Class AAA final.
The Bulldogs won their only state championship in 1965.
"It's huge," coach Ramon Spears said. "It hasn't even hit us right now because we're so focused. We're trying to win this thing."
South defeated Lima Shawnee 64-47 in a Division II regional final March 16 at Bowling Green to improve to 27-1 and advance to state, where it will face Thornville Sheridan (22-5) in a semifinal at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at Ohio State.
The winner plays Akron Buchtel (20-7) or Trotwood-Madison (26-2) in the state final at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at Ohio State.
Last season, South lost to Trotwood-Madison 79-60 in a regional semifinal. The Rams went on to lose 60-51 in the state final to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, which advanced to state this year in Division I.
South led Shawnee 35-24 at halftime and limited the Indians to 18-for-44 shooting from the floor, including 5-for-22 from 3-point range. Shawnee finished 24-3.
Trevell Adams had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Ta'Quan Simington had 13 points, four rebounds and three assists, Tre'ohn Watkins had 12 points and five assists and Samuel Barton added 10 points for the Bulldogs.
"The biggest thing was our team defense," Spears said. "(The players) played with energy and effort and then we rebounded the ball well. We made it hard for (Shawnee) to score."
The Bulldogs beat Norwalk 61-54 in a regional semifinal March 14 at Bowling Green behind 22 points and 10 rebounds from Adams, 15 points from Simington and 11 points from Marcus Johnson.
"Trevell Adams had 37 points and 21 rebounds in Bowling Green," Spears said. "He's been magnificent."
Sheridan is making its first state appearance after beating New Philadelphia 55-53 in overtime in a regional final March 16 at Ohio University. The Generals trailed by 10 points early in the fourth quarter before rallying to force overtime. Grant Heileman, a 6-foot-7 post player, had 20 points, including a layup in overtime that gave his team a four-point lead.
Ethan Heller, a 6-0 senior guard who has more than 1,000 career points and has signed with Concord University, is another key player for the Generals.
South has won 15 games in a row since losing to Walnut Ridge 56-46 on Jan. 18.
"It feels great," Watkins said. "We've got so many personalities, but we're all brothers and we stick together as one."