As was the case in their regular-season matchup, the Division I district final between the Walnut Ridge and Gahanna boys basketball teams was tight throughout.
The sixth-seeded Scots avenged a three-point regular-season loss to the top-seeded Lions with a 52-47 victory in the rematch March 7 at Ohio Dominican to win their first district championship since 2015.
Walnut Ridge, which reached a Division II state semifinal in 2015, improved to 22-4 and advanced to play Hilliard Bradley in a regional semifinal March 11 at Ohio Dominican. The Scots defeated the Jaguars 45-44 on Jan. 4 in The Challenge at Pickerington North.
Gahanna finished 24-2.
“I just felt like we always match up with them well,” Scots coach Chuck Jefferson said. “(Gahanna sophomore guard) Sean Jones is a phenomenal player and coach (Tony) Staib is one of the great coaches, but I just thought we could offset their attack and what they wanted to do.”
Walnut Ridge led 17-16 midway through the second quarter despite having only three points from VonCameron Davis, who entered the game averaging 27.
The Scots led 35-32 through three quarters and increased their advantage to 43-35 with 2 minutes, 16 seconds left before a 3-pointer by Jones cut the lead to five. Gahanna’s Nate Staib hit a 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining to make it 44-41, but Walnut Ridge led 48-45 with 33.8 seconds left after a pair of free throws by Davis.
The Scots’ Qian Magwood hit two free throws with 14.6 seconds to go and Leon Douglas sealed Walnut Ridge’s win with a basket just before the buzzer.
Jones led Gahanna with 20 points and Davis had a team-high 15 points for Walnut Ridge.
“Defensively, we played them really well,” coach Staib said. “Their strength is just their size, strength, athleticism, and it’s hard to get clean looks. I was proud of our guys (for) the way that we battled and were right there at the end.”
Hilliard Bradley 60, Newark 50
The second-seeded Jaguars turned up their aggressive man-to-man defense to defeat the eighth-seeded Wildcats in a Division I district final March 7 at Ohio Dominican and earn their second district championship in three seasons.
Bradley, which won its eighth game in a row, improved to 24-2 and will play Walnut Ridge in a regional semifinal March 11 at Ohio Dominican.
Newark led 26-13 with 3:54 left in the second quarter, but Bradley ended the first half on a 15-0 run to take a 28-26 lead into halftime.
The Jaguars continued to limit the Wildcats’ offensive attack, building a 44-32 lead with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter.
“Basketball works in funny ways and once we sat down and started guarding and getting stops, the ball started to go in,” said senior guard Matt Allocco, who led the Jaguars with 25 points. “Really, it was the defense that sparked the rally.”
The Jaguars connected on 21 of 26 free-throw attempts, led by Allocco’s 11-for-12 performance at the line. Keaton Norris made 5 of 7 free throws as part of his 12 points, while A.J. Mirgon added 11 points and Tayshaun Mayfield scored seven.
Kade Bafford had 23 points to lead the Wildcats, who finished 22-4.
Thomas Worthington 52, Pickerington North 48
Tyrese Hughey had a team-high 22 points to lead the seventh-seeded Cardinals past the fifth-seeded Panthers in a Division I district final March 7 at Ohio Dominican for their first district championship since 2001.
Thomas improved to 21-5 and advanced to play Westerville Central in a regional semifinal March 12 at Ohio Dominican.
“This is obviously special for our team, our school and our community, but it’s even more special to go up and compete against a class program like Pickerington North, because (North) coach (Jason) Bates, he’s a champ and he does things the right way,” Thomas coach Sean Luzader said. “So that makes it even more special, I think.”
The teams exchanged leads in the first half and the Panthers held a 29-27 advantage at halftime.
The Cardinals outscored North 12-4 in the third quarter to take a 39-33 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Panthers fought their way back.
With 34.5 seconds left, Savion Marshall Hamilton tipped in a missed shot by Chris Scott to give North its first lead of the second half at 47-46.
However, Jalen Sullinger scored with eight seconds left to put Thomas ahead 48-47 and the Cardinals held on for the win.
Scott had 19 points to lead the Panthers, who finished 21-5.
Westerville Central 43, Delaware 40
The 13th-seeded Warhawks held off a second-half rally by the 18th-seeded Pacers in a Division I district final March 7 at Ohio Dominican to win their first district title.
Tyler Beckel had 15 points, all in the first half, and Tasos Cook and Quincy Clark each scored 10 to lead Central, which improved to 18-7 and advanced to play Thomas Worthington in a regional semifinal March 12 at Ohio Dominican.
Delaware finished 15-10.
“We didn’t lose our composure and our kids have been pretty level-headed all year long,” Central coach Kevin Martin said. “You have ups and downs throughout the season and our body language never falters, the mentality doesn’t. They’re pretty poised kids, they’re a pretty poised group, and they make plays.”
The Warhawks led 27-15 at halftime before the Pacers rallied to tie the game at 35 on Nate Griggs’ mid-range jumper as time expired in the third quarter.
Delaware took its lone lead at 36-35 on a free throw by Griggs early in the fourth quarter before Central retook the lead at 38-36 on a 3-pointer by M.J. Davis with 5:06 left. The Warhawks never trailed again.
Landon Tillman’s two free throws with 29.1 seconds left helped seal the win.
“We needed defensive stops down the stretch and we needed two free throws from Landon Tillman and we got them,” Martin said.
Griggs led Delaware with 11 points, followed by Addison Harvey and Paul Burris with 10 apiece.
—Frank DiRennaDIVISION II
Beechcroft 39, Eastmoor Academy 36
The sixth-seeded Cougars limited the 11th-seeded Warriors to two baskets in the fourth quarter of a Division II district final March 7 at Central Crossing.
Beechcroft improved to 18-6 and advanced to play Kettering Alter in a regional semifinal March 12 at the University of Dayton.
The Cougars took a 21-13 lead on a basket by Amani Lyles early in the third quarter before the Warriors closed to within 28-25 by the end of the period.
In the fourth quarter, Eastmoor took a 33-32 lead with 4:55 left on a basket by Davis Osoro and led 36-35 after a pair of free throws by Da’lan Keaton with 3:16 to go.
However, Antwoin Reed made two free throws with 1:54 left to give Beechcroft a 37-36 lead and Davon Wooden turned a steal into a layup with 1:28 remaining to make it 39-36. Eastmoor missed a pair of shots on its final possession.
“What we did was we guarded the perimeter and we pressured the guards,” Beechcroft coach Humphrey Simmons said. “We just took away the entry pass and forced the guards to have to make the plays for them.”
Lyles had 12 points and Wooden and J.J. Simmons scored 10 apiece for the Cougars and Keaton scored nine to lead the Warriors, who finished 14-11.
“It came down to the wire and we didn’t execute as well offensively,” Eastmoor coach Jim Miranda said. “Defensively, we did a hell of a job, but it came down to some hustle plays at the end, (and) we needed to get the ball in the hole a little bit better today.”
DeSales 32, Jonathan Alder 30 (OT)
Austin Mann’s jumper with 20.5 seconds left gave the third-seeded Stallions the lead for good as they outlasted the top-seeded Pioneers in a low-scoring Division II district final March 7 at Central Crossing.
Kobe Righter’s 14 points led DeSales, which improved to 19-6 and won its first district championship since 2016 and eighth overall. The Stallions will face East Liverpool or New Philadelphia in a regional semifinal March 12 at Ohio University.
DeSales avenged a 49-44 loss to Jonathan Alder on Jan. 4.
The game was tied at 6 after the first quarter and the Pioneers led 16-11 at halftime and 22-17 after three quarters.
Henry Walker had 11 points and Jackie Santa-Emma scored 10 to pace Jonathan Alder, which finished 20-5.