One of the key members on the only Briggs team to go to a state final four in 1991, Bruins coach Tony Rice has never been one to lack confidence. Whether its confidence in himself or in his players, Rice is a man that has never shied away from making bold decisions.
Trailing Africentric 47-46 with 5:38 remaining, Rice opted to keep the ball in the hands of freshman point guard Danny Corbett for the final possession........you read that right, with five and a half minutes to go. As Africentric remained in a 2-3 zone, all ten players on the floor stood silent for the final moments of Tuesday's matchup. In a game where Briggs regained momentum in the third quarter via a monster poster slam from junior Rome Godsey, the Bruins decided to change up the game plan on the biggest possession of the game.
As freshman point guard Corbett inbounded the ball to junior wing Rodney Willis with 13 seconds to go (Africentric knocked the ball away before the final possession), an Africentric trap at the top of the key forced Willis to give the ball up. As the junior Willis had the hot hand in the second half, the Nubians' defensive scheme resulted in a low-percentage attempt from Briggs senior power forward Travon Hester at the buzzer, awarding not only a one-point win, but revenge for Africentric, who was upset by Briggs, 59-58 on Dec. 12.
Led by Jaquan Harrison's 17 points and seven rebounds, Africentric overcame a three-point halftime deficit to pick up a crucial Columbus City-League South win in a hostile environment. As Godsey's powerful one-handed dunk nearly tore the roof off the Briggs' gymnasium with just under two minutes to go in the third quarter, the Nubians remained resilient, culminated by a powerful two-handed tip jam by Harrison at the end of the quarter to put Africentric ahead 45-43 going into the fourth.
Harrison would score the Nubians' lone basket in the fourth quarter, skying for an offensive rebound and putback that led to an Africentric timeout with 5:38 to go. Going back into a 2-3 zone that caused Briggs an assortment of troubles in the second half, the Bruins turned the ball over seven times in the third quarter alone, Briggs coach Rice seemed more than content to just hold the ball until the end.
Albeit a flurry of mistakes from Africentric's guards, and six team fouls on the Nubians, Briggs allowed the clock to tick, and tick, and tick. Knocking down two major three-point field goals in the third quarter, Willis would be the designated player by Rice to take the final shot.
Matched up with Africentric junior guard Shawon Wilson, Willis was forced into a trap at the top of the key. Willis would then dish the ball off to Godsey, who then opted to Hester, leading to a fading 15-foot attempt for the win from the 6'3 220-pound forward.
As the shot missed right, a confident Briggs team that had rode the momentum of a high-pressure third quarter, looked to be truly defeated. Battling back and forth with the Nubians for the entirety of Tuesday's game, Briggs just didn't have enough late to take care of business.
Godsey led all Bruins with 16 points, in addition to three steals. The key to the Bruins' first win vs. Africentric in December, senior guard Dante Brown had an off night, finishing with just three points before checking out late in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury. Hester added six points and seven rebounds, all while battling foul trouble for the majority of the second half. With the loss, Briggs falls to 10-5 and 4-4 in league play.
For Africentric, Harrison's 17 were a team-high, while sophomore wing Houston Smith added eight points and three rebounds. Also battling foul trouble, junior center Ulmer Manzie wasn't much of a factor, finishing with seven points and three rebounds. In his second game of the year, the junior guard Wilson led all players with five assists, while playing solid on-ball defense vs. Willis in the second half.
With the win, Africentric improves to 7-6 (5-3), and picks up crucial momentum heading into a major Friday matchup at rival Walnut Ridge, the top team in the City-League South. Using several brand new rotations after transfer guards Wilson and Chase Brown joined the Nubians last Friday, Africentric coach Mike Bates noted that this time is somewhat of a "preseason" period for the Nubians. Starting off a new phase with new personnel, the Nubians have survived two of four consecutive games on the road, and look to grow stronger with each win.
Central Ohio's Top Performers
On a night stockpiled of interesting matchups, let's take a look at some of Central Ohio's top performers from Tuesday.
Ronnie Williams (6'2 SG / Columbus Brookhaven / 2014):
Williams, an Ohio Dominican commit, went for a season-high 30 points to lead Brookhaven to a 61-44 win at East. One of the leading scorers in the City-League North, Williams has the Bearcats sitting pretty at 10-2, and 7-0 in conference action. With their next two games vs. Mifflin and Beechcroft, Brookhaven has a great chance to head into a Jan. 28 mega-matchup vs. rival Northland undefeated and rolling with momentum. Behind Williams, a jack-of-all-trades at the guard position, Brookhaven hopes to keep riding a positive wave of momentum into the Bearcats' biggest game of the year.
Kevin Vannatta (6'3 SG / Upper Arlington / 2014):
In a non-conference matchup at home vs. Hilliard Darby, Vannatta went for a season-high 30 points to lead Upper Arlington to a 61-42 victory. Committed to UNC-Asheville, Vannatta is one of the more undervalued prospects in a senior class in Ohio, and has been excellent as of late for the Golden Bears. Scoring a game-high 14 points and picking up difficult defensive assignments in a huge 43-40 victory vs. Dublin Coffman on Friday, Vannatta and seniors Danny Hummer, Logan Richter and Wes Davis hope to keep rolling atop a talented OCC-Central division.
Toury Freeman (6'3 PF / Westland / 2014):
In a revenge game vs. rival Grove City, the senior Freeman had by far the greatest game of his career. Falling to Grove City 107-48 on the opening night of the year, Freeman and the Cougars made sure that Tuesday's game would not mirror the results of the previous matchup with the Greyhounds. Scoring a career-high 35 points, Freeman's Cougars would battle for the majority of the night, before falling to Grove City, 72-60. As a key role player on a 2012-13 Westland squad that won 18 games, Freeman has been thrust into major minutes as a senior, due to the fact that the Cougars graduated 10 seniors from last season. Helping lead Westland to four wins this year, Freeman has been one of the area's most-improved players on a Cougar team that is getting better by the day.
Pickerington Central "Big Three":
In a performance that would rival the Miami Heat's "Big Three," Pickerington Central received 72 points from Rodney Culver, Connor Kern and Jae'Sean Tate in a 98-80 win at division-opponent Groveport. Culver led all scorers with 25 points, while Kern and Tate added 22 a piece. Leading 42-35 at the half, Pickerington Central used a 31-point third quarter to open up a 19-point lead heading into the final quarter. Led by the improving junior Culver, the Tigers improve to 8-3 on the season, remaining atop the OCC-Ohio along with Newark. With the win, Pickerington Central returns home for a matchup vs. Lancaster on Friday before traveling north the following day for a date with Cleveland Benedictine.
Nic Bapst (6'2 SG / Grove City / 2015):
Going for 28 points in the win at Westland, Bapst continues a breakout junior season that has resulted in the combo-guard being among the top scorers in Central Ohio. Scoring at a high level against some of the top competition in the OCC, Bapst has led an above-average Grove City squad to 9-4 on the season. Alongside his cousin, junior guard Drew Bapst, the family duo combined for 45 points in the win on Tuesday night. Bapst and Grove City will get its biggest test of the year in the final week of January, as Grove City faces a three game stretch of Newark (home), Pickerington Central (away) and Gahanna (home) to head into February.
Seth Fuller (5'11 SG / Dublin Coffman / 2016):
Scoring a season-high 26 points, the sophomore Fuller and Dublin Coffman rolled over Hilliard Davidson Tuesday night, 71-44, to get back on track after a tough loss at Upper Arlington on Friday. Fuller, one of Coffman's best shooters, helped the Rocks open up a 53-24 lead after three quarters, in thanks to six field goals from behind-the-arc. With all the tools to be an explosive scorer, Fuller has had a solid sophomore campaign, sharing points with fellow '16 Luke Vargo and senior point guard Nate Axelrod. Looking for a breakout game out of Fuller, Coffman received that Tuesday night, in what should be big for momentum as the Rocks look to regain control of the OCC-Central.
Nate Jameson (6'3 SF / Columbus Eastmoor / 2014):
One of Central Ohio's top performers as of late, the senior Jameson continued his hot streak with a 26-point performance in a win vs. West. Going for a game-high 26 points, Jameson and Eastmoor overcame a first quarter deficit to defeat the Cowboys, 66-47. Averaging 18.6 points in the last five games, Jameson is a crucial element to an Eastmoor team that sits just one game behind Walnut Ridge for the division lead in the Columbus City-League South. As fellow seniors Jahmal Hughes and Shamonty Manning are two of the Warriors' most consistent scorers, Eastmoor could continue to use a heavy dose of Jameson, who looks to be running high with confidence in anticipation of a Feb. 11 rematch with Walnut Ridge.