Boys Basketball: Westerville Central, DeSales, Worthington Christian win regional titles
Westerville Central 45, Gahanna Lincoln 44
Trailing 44-42 with 1.9 seconds remaining and his team’s season on the line, Westerville Central boys basketball coach Kevin Martin turned to his leader.
Senior guard Tasos Cook, the Central District Player of the Year, responded with the biggest shot in program history. He hit a 3-pointer from half-court as time expired March 13 at Westerville South, giving the Warhawks their first regional championship.
“I told them to have faith in me and I made the shot,” Cook said. “The energy in here was crazy. It was a great game. I love Gahanna’s competition. I love the rivalry. It means so much to us. ... I told (my teammates) it was going in. I told them I was going to make it and they all believe in me.”
It was the third one-point game between Central and Gahanna this season after the teams split two OCC-Ohio Division contests. The Lions won 56-55 on Jan. 20 and the Warhawks won 65-64 on Feb. 5.
Central improved to 22-2 on its second last-second win of the postseason and will play in its first state tournament next weekend. The Warhawks will face Cleveland St. Ignatius in a semifinal March 20 at the University of Dayton, with the winner playing for the championship the next day at the same site.
Gahanna, which was looking for its first state berth since 2010, finished 22-3.
The Lions took a 44-42 lead on Sean Jones’ jumper from the free-throw line with 1.9 seconds left, setting the stage for Cook’s heroics.
Cook took the inbounds pass from M.J. Davis, took a dribble to his left and then launched the game-winning shot.
“They do it all the time in practice,” Martin said of long-range shots. “This group has worked so hard. I give them some freedom. Sometimes when I blow the whistle, they’ll shoot half-court shots. After practice, they’ll mess around. Tasos said he wanted to take the shot and I wanted Tasos taking it. He didn’t panic.”
Cook led the Warhawks with 23 points and Davis added 10.
Jones topped Gahanna with 15 points, followed by Javan Simmons with 12.
“We worked our timeouts really well,” Lions coach Tony Staib said. “We ended up putting the ball in Sean’s hands and he delivered. ... I thought we defended (Cook’s shot) well. He’s dribbling left, shooting it right and shooting from this side of the court. We did everything right except they hit a 55-footer.”
The Lions played without Jarius Jones (ACL) and Cam Johnson (illness).
One week earlier, Central won its second consecutive district title in similar fashion when Landon Tillman hit a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining for a 41-39 victory over visiting Pickerington North.
DeSales 58, Byesville Meadowbrook 44
Desmond Watson’s game-high 30 points, 13 of which came in the first quarter, powered the Stallions past the Colts in a regional final at Chillicothe Southeastern and to their first state tournament since 2009.
Watson became DeSales’ all-time leading scorer within the first few minutes of the game. He hit two early 3-pointers and then a basket to pass 2010 graduate Nick Kellogg, who had 1,654 points.
Watson, a Davidson recruit, has 1,678 points.
Obed Achirem added 16 points for the Stallions, who improved to 18-7 and will play Dayton Chaminade Julienne in a state semifinal March 20 at University of Dayton Arena.
DeSales broke the game open with a 22-5 second-quarter advantage. Watson had 21 points by halftime.
Davis Singleton scored 15 points and Jake Singleton added 13 for Meadowbrook, which finished 25-3.
Dayton Chaminade Julienne 66, Watterson 46
After winning just seven regular-season games, Watterson’s surprising postseason run ended with a loss to Chaminade Julienne in a regional championship game at Vandalia Butler.
In a matchup of two teams nicknamed Eagles, Watterson trailed 25-17 by halftime and 40-28 heading into the final period.
Watterson fell behind 46-31 with 5:56 to go but got a free throw from Charlie Lewis, a 3-pointer from Owen Samenuk and a basket by Lewis to cut it to 46-37 with 5:15 remaining.
Chaminade Julienne answered with a 12-1 run that included Jonathan Powell making five of six from the free-throw line as his team improved to 15-5.
Watterson finished 12-16.
“We knew it was kind of an interesting contrast in styles and we obviously needed to shoot it better,” coach Vince Lombardo said. “As the game got away from us, that put us in a tough spot having to play a little faster and full-court moreso than we’d like.”
Samenuk finished with 17 points and Noah Grayem added 11 for Watterson.
A.J. Solomon scored 16 to lead Chaminade Julienne.
“Our guys did a great job and that’s the No. 1 takeaway for our kids and our team,” Lombardo said. “The transition from our early season to where we’re playing now, they did a great job.”
Worthington Christian 50, Proctorville Fairland 28
With their victory over Fairland at Chillicothe Southeastern, the Warriors are headed to the state tournament for the first time since 2008.
Worthington Christian, which won its only state title in 1999 when it was in Division IV, is 27-1 and will play Cincinnati Taft in a state semifinal March 19 at the University of Dayton.
Taft improved to 16-4 with a 69-39 victory over Springfield Shawnee in a regional final at Vandalia Butler and is at state for the first time since 2011 when it won the Division III title.
“We’re going to face a really good Cincinnati Taft team and we’re going to have to really play great to be in that game,” said coach Kevin Weakley, who played for the Warriors when they were state runners-up in 1994. “When you get to this level, you’re thankful to play in the final four. You play great teams and it’s just whoever plays best.”
In the regional final win, Tyler Kindberg hit a 3-pointer and scored another basket during the final two minutes of the first quarter to give the Warriors a 14-9 lead.
Kobe Buford hit a 3 just before the buzzer sounded in the second period as Worthington Christian led 28-14 at halftime.
Kindberg scored six points and D.J. Moore hit a 3 in the third quarter as the Warriors’ lead grew to 41-19.
Kindberg finished with 17 points and six rebounds, and Moore had 10 points, six rebounds and three steals. Sam Johnson had seven points and four rebounds, and Isaiah Hazelwood added seven points.
“We took care of the ball and they were a little looser with the ball than we were,” Kindberg said. “That was something we emphasized all week. I thought we rebounded well. The two things we talk about the most are rebound the ball well and take care of the ball and that usually means wins for us.”