A slow start by the Walnut Ridge boys basketball team didn’t last against Linden-McKinley in the City League championship game Feb. 15 at Africentric.
Scots senior forward VonCameron Davis, the City League’s all-time leading scorer and a Kent State signee, didn’t touch the ball during the game’s first four minutes but scored 21 of his game-high 33 points in the first half as his team built a 17-point halftime lead.
Walnut Ridge went on to win 74-59 to capture its first City title since 1971.
“We were trying to feel each other out, but we came out and played hard and weathered the storm,” Davis said. “We knew we had to get to the cup and finish. It means everything seeing all the alumni coming back. It’s a great experience and a great feeling.”
Walnut Ridge, which improved to 18-4, trailed 17-12 with 27 seconds left in the first quarter when Linden senior Logan Hudson made his second 3-pointer of the game.
The Scots then went on a 28-6 run to seize control.
Davis added 11 rebounds and two steals and was complemented by the play of senior forward Kaveon Ross, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the second quarter.
Walnut Ridge had lost five City finals in a span of six seasons from 2011-16, with the last of those appearances coming when Davis was an eighth-grader.
“This is where the dream of winning the City championship began for me, running around on these streets,” Scots coach Chuck Jefferson said. “Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, you can’t ask for a better story. I said it was unfinished business from the beginning.”
Linden cut its deficit to 13 points during the third quarter but got no closer as it dropped to 13-8.
The Panthers, who were making their first City final appearance since winning the title in 1992, got 18 points from Shamarion Rogers, 10 from Hudson and nine apiece from Quanial Christian and Chance Groce.
Both Rogers and Andre Lathem were out of the game with three fouls during the second quarter.
“We came out and hit some shots and we’ve been shooting it better down the stretch and attacked them,” Panthers coach Kevin Darthard said. “When both of our posts went out with three fouls, they went on a run and kind of opened the game up.”