The Columbus Dispatch
Pickerington Central, Ready win regionals
ATHENS – Led by 6-foot-6 senior forward and Ohio State signee Devin Royal, defending state champion Pickerington Central rallied late to edge Olentangy Orange 57-53 in a regional final Saturday at Ohio University.
Central (23-5) will play Centerville in a state semifinal Saturday in Dayton. The winner plays Akron Hoban or Toledo St. John's in the final the next day.
The Tigers trailed 53-50 when Royal took over, scoring inside on two consecutive possessions to give his team a 5453 lead with 47 seconds to play. He added two free throws with 15.5 seconds left.
“We've been through this a lot being down during the tournament,” Royal said. “Every time we go in a huddle and it's close and we're down, we always say we've been through it, just stay calm. We have a lot of experience.”
Central held Orange scoreless over the final 2:19.
“We wanted to get the ball to Devin as much as we could,” Tigers coach Eric Krueger said. “I'm just proud of how we battled and didn't let the adversity get to us. We overcame adversity and were able to fight through it, and now we're going back to state, so that's quite an accomplishment.”
Royal led Central with 29 points and Andrew Hedgepath added 10.
Orange (24-4) was playing in its first regional tournament and was led by Elias Lewis' 18 points, followed by Mikey Mccollum with 15 and Jordan Edwards with 12.
The Pioneers, who connected on 11 3pointers, held their largest lead at 24-18 before Central rallied for a 25-24 advantage at halftime.
Central led 41-36 entering the fourth, but Orange rallied to go ahead by three.
“They have a really good team, so I knew it was going to be a war coming into it,” Krueger said. “I felt like we were the best two teams in the Columbus area this year. It's fitting that we match up in the regional final. They played their tail off and we played our tail off.”
Ready 48, Fairfield Union 33
In a Division II regional final, Ready (28-0) outscored Fairfield Union 12-2 in the fourth quarter to earn its first state appearance since 2014.
“It was a pretty good defensive effort in the second half,” Silver Knights coach Tony Bisutti said. “We were dialed in.”
Trailing 24-22 at halftime, Ready turned to its inside game and took the lead for good at 31-29.
“Maybe we got a little too cute early,” Bisutti said. “We tried to bring their big guys out a little bit. Charlie (Russell) and Kaleb (Schaffer) can do that, but it comes a point that's where the game is won.”
Russell led all scorers with 23 points. “(Fairfield Union) came out (in the) first half hitting a lot of shots,” Russell said. “They didn't miss in the second quarter. We had to come out (in) the second half aggressive on defense and that's what we talked about in the locker room, coming out and making those adjustments and getting physical.”
Ready is seeking its first title since winning Class AA championships in 1972 and 1973 and will face Akron Buchtel in a state semifinal Friday. The Knights were Division III runners-up in 2002.
Africentric 55, South Point 38
Leading 20-18 at halftime, Africentric turned to its pressure defense to run past South Point in a Division III regional final at Ohio University.
The Nubians (23-5) will play Ottawaglandorf in a state semifinal Saturday. Africentric, which will be playing in its sixth state tournament, lost to Ottawaglandorf 53-48 in a state semifinal last season.
Against South Point (22-5), Africentric went on a 10-2 run to begin the third quarter and led by as many as 21 points in the second half.
“It was a point of emphasis at halftime to push the pace a little bit more,” Africentric coach Michael Bates said. “Defensively, we tried to adjust and go a little more full-court pressure, just being a little bit stronger with the pressure.”
Xavier recruit Dailyn Swain led Africentric with a game-high 17, despite being limited to four points in the first half. He also had 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Carter Smith led South Point with 11 points. firstname.lastname@example.org @Dispatchfrank