With only two teams in legitimate contention for a Columbus City-League South championship, Friday's matchup between the division's top two squads nothing short of dramatic. Each coming in at 6-0 in league play, Walnut Ridge and Eastmoor battled down to the wire, with the host Scots edging the Warriors in overtime, 52-48.
Led by sophomore forwards Tarik Wright and Malik Harrison, Walnut Ridge overcame a three-point halftime deficit to hand Eastmoor its first division loss of the season. As the sophomore duo combined for 28 points and 16 rebounds, Walnut Ridge did what Walnut Ridge does best, pressure the basketball, force turnovers and limit high-percentage shots.
Inefficiency at the free-throw line for Walnut Ridge gave Eastmoor a plethora of opportunities to tie or take the lead late, but a missed three-point attempt by Eastmoor senior guard Jahmal Hughes sent the game into overtime tied at 43. In the overtime period, Walnut Ridge relied on transition offense to put a late charge by Eastmoor to rest, outscoring the Warriors 9-5 in the period.
While senior guards Brandon Paschal, Dymiere Finch and Jihad Lake struggled offensively, Walnut Ridge found crucial contribution from its forwards, with Harrison, Wright, and senior Marcellus Taylor combining to score 36 points. Taylor played arguably the best quarter of his career to start the second half, scoring eight points and pulling down four rebounds.
Taylor was tasked with defending talented Eastmoor senior forward Shamonty Manning, who would also score eight points, while pulling down seven rebounds. Manning was joined in the scoring column by fellow senior Nate Jameson, who led the Warriors with 12 points, ten of which coming in the fourth quarter. Junior forward Khalil Wade added 11 points, including a two-handed jam late in the fourth quarter that gave Eastmoor a temporary one-point lead.
As been the case all season, Walnut Ridge played outstanding perimeter defense, executing the half court trap with excellent rotations and recovery. Holding an Eastmoor offense that has the potential to be powerful, the Scots held the Warriors to 48 points in 36 minutes, remarkable for a traditionally high-tempo City-League game. The Scots made it a point to contain and limit production from Eastmoor's guards, a plan that was executed to near perfection, as guards Hughes, Jalon Lewis and Xavier Holston-Sims were held to a combined ten points and three assists.
With the win, Walnut Ridge improves to 8-2 (7-0), while Eastmoor falls to 7-4 (6-1). In a division where anything can happen on any night, Eastmoor will receive another shot at the Scots on Feb. 11 at home.
Central Ohio's Top Performers
On a Friday night filled with historic rivalries and intriguing matchups, let's take a look at some of the top performers from around Central Ohio.
Connor Kern (6'4 SG / Pickerington Central / 2014):
In a highly-anticipated matchup vs. division-rival Gahanna, Kern exploded for a game-high 29 points to lead the Tigers to a 62-58 win at home. On a night where Ohio State commit Jae'Sean Tate was held to nine points, Kern carried the load for Central in a win that has huge implications for the remainder of the season. Tied with Gahanna and Newark at the top of the OCC-Ohio prior to Friday's contest, Kern and the Tigers now stand alone with Newark in first place. Losing to the Wildcats a week ago, Pickerington Central will need a similar performance from the Arkansas State commit in the next matchup on the road vs. Newark to take control of the division.
Charles Holland (6'4 SG / Columbus West / 2014):
Despite an 84-75 loss at home vs. neighborhood-rival Briggs, Holland's 34 points were again a team-high for West. One of Columbus' most natural scorers, Holland has been nothing short of a scoring machine this season for the Cowboys. Without a reliable second scoring option, Holland has been forced to deal with two, sometimes three defenders each time he touches the ball. In an 84-64 loss to Africentric on Thursday, Holland scored a team-high 19 points, including this monster jam on a 6'7 Nubian defender.
Jaquan Harrison (6'3 SF / Columbus Africentric / 2015):
In the first Africentric game with transfer guards Chase Brown and Shawon Wilson, Harrison and the Nubians debuted in fashion, defeating league opponent Marion-Franklin, 70-54. Harrison would go for a team-high 18 points, while adding 14 rebounds. Sitting at 6-6, Africentric has survived the first half of the season bruised but not beaten. With consistent guard play in the lineup with Brown, Wilson, junior guard Daric Artis, and sophomore Lorenze Gordon-Haynes, Harrison will get many mores chances for points around the basket. Look for the uber-athletic junior forward to continue to be productive as the Nubians hope to hit their stride at just the right time.
Khalil Iverson (6'5 PF / Delaware Hayes / 2015):
Averaging 22 points and 14 rebounds in his last three games, the springy junior forward Iverson upped the ante on Friday with 27 points and 12 rebounds in a win vs. Olentangy. With remarkable athleticism and vertical leaping ability, Iverson is a load to handle on the block, and has certainly made his presence felt as of late. One of the area's leading rebounders as a sophomore a season ago, Iverson has returned to Hayes a more aggressive, assertive and confident player, and the results have been nothing short of remarkable. Paired with Ohio Dominican commit Alex Stevens in the front court for Hayes, don't be surprised if the Pacers make a rise to the top in the OCC-Capital.
Travis Gleason (5'8 PG / Reynoldsburg / 2014):
Scoring a game-high 17 points in a 59-57 win at home vs. Groveport, the shifty senior guard Gleason hit arguably the biggest shot of his career to down the Cruisers in the final seconds. With the game tied at 57, Gleason's buzzer-beater sent Reynoldsburg into Saturday's matchup vs. Eastmoor with a much-needed win. On a team lacking true height in the front court, Gleason, junior guard Lloyd Chatman, and freshman Jarius Ward, regarded as one of Ohio's top prospects in the class of 2017, have provided consistent scoring and defensive prowess. In an absolutely stacked division featuring juggernauts Gahanna, Newark and Pickerington Central, it will be a tough hill to climb for the Raiders to get back to the top of the OCC-Ohio.
Taylor Burr (5'9 SG / Walnut Ridge [girls] / 2014): Scored a game-high 39 points in the Lady Scots' loss to Amani Burke and Eastmoor, the highest output of any player, male or female, on Friday.
Javon Watson (6'3 SF / Westland / 2015): Junior combo-guard went for 25 points in a win at Central Crossing, 71-62.
Marc Russell (6'1 SG / Central Crossing / 2014): Scored a career-high 27 points in a loss vs. Westland, impressive considering Russell is a Cedarville University baseball commit.
Darius Shackleford (6'4 SF / Newark / 2015): A standout wide receiver on the gridiron, Shackleford scored a game-high 18 points in Newark's 72-35 win vs. Lancaster.
Rodney Willis (6'3 SG / Columbus Briggs / 2015): In his first game in a Briggs uniform, Willis, a transfer from Independence, scored a team-high 19 points in the Bruins' 85-76 win at West.
Austin Springer and Alex Arck (Mount Vernon): Mount Vernon duo combined for 38 points in a shocking upset at home vs. New Albany, 60-55.
Andy Greiser (6'2 SG / Bishop Watterson / 2014): The senior combo-guard went for a game-high 20 points as Watterson hung on to defeat DeSales, 54-49.
Kevin Vannatta (6'3 SG / Upper Arlington / 2014): Scored a game-high 14 points as the Golden Bears upset Dublin Coffman at home, 43-40.