With Eastmoor suffering an upset on its home floor vs. Marion-Franklin on Tuesday, a Walnut Ridge win would allow the Scots to control their own destiny in the Columbus City-League South. Standing in the way of the Scots was West senior combo-guard Charles Holland. Holland's 36 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists almost willed the Cowboys to a major upset, but Walnut Ridge sophomore forward Malik Harrison ultimately made the difference in the Scots' 76-71 win on the road.
Jumping out to a 10-2 lead in the first five minutes of action, Walnut Ridge looked to be in complete control of a game that many expected to be a blowout in favor of the Scots. Behind 22 first half points from Holland, West went into halftime trailing the first place Scots by just three, 44-41.
The Cowboys received a timely scoring lift from senior forward Markel Wyche in the form of 18 points, 15 of which coming from behind-the-arc. However, each time West looked to make a run, Walnut Ridge responded accordingly, all signs of a well-coached and experienced team.
Behind a career-high 32 points and 17 rebounds from the sophomore Harrison, Walnut Ridge limited West to just 12 points in the fourth quarter. Getting no closer than three points, West could not seal the deal late in the game.
After Wyche sank three consecutive free throws after being fouled in the right corner, a Holland steal and lay up brought the Walnut Ridge lead to three, 72-69 with 53.1 seconds to go.
On the ensuing possession, West fouled the sophomore Harrison, whose two free throws extended the lead to 74-69. After an attempted three missed long, Holland followed his own shot for an athletic offensive rebound and putback, again bringing the Walnut Ridge lead to three, 74-71 with 33.7 seconds to go.
On the following possession, West fouled Walnut Ridge forward Daveon Miskel with 19.8 seconds remaining. Miskel, who had been solid from the line in the previous two games for the Scots, missed both free throws, resulting in a major rebound for Holland.
Racing up the floor with no timeouts, Holland dished to sophomore guard Rakim Fells, who advanced the ball to Wyche in the left corner. Wyche, who had been deadly from three all game, launched a prayer despite being double-teamed, missing long with eight seconds remaining. Harrison, who had been the Scots' hero all game, corralled the rebound and was fouled with 6.9 seconds to go. Going to the line for two more major free throws, Harrison confidently knocked down both, sealing the win for the Scots, 76-71.
A month after going for a career-high 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in a loss to Groveport, the sophomore Harrison had the best game of his career on Tuesday. Dominating on the low block, Harrison's elite combination of size, strength and athleticism were too much for any defender West tried to use against him. Causing lengthy West senior forward Trenton Miller to get into foul trouble early, Harrison took advantage of the size mismatch and attacked the offensive glass harder than ever.
In a game where West could not find a way to limit turnovers and second chance opportunities for Walnut Ridge, Harrison made the biggest difference in leading the Scots to victory. Sinking seven free throws in the fourth quarter, Harrison showed great poise in a game that could have gone either way.
For West, Holland had arguably his best performance of the season. Scoring a game-high 36 points, Holland executed in a multitude of ways offensively. Coming off screens and hitting from the perimeter, Holland also showcased his elite slashing ability, slicing up a Walnut Ridge defense known for its pressure on the perimeter. Holland and Wyche paced an inconsistent Cowboy offense to the tune of 71 points vs. the Scots defense, which coming into Tuesday had not allowed more than 67 points in any game.
With the win, Walnut Ridge edges two games ahead of Eastmoor for first place in the City-League South. With the Warriors' 61-60 loss at home to Marion-Franklin on Tuesday, Walnut Ridge now controls its own destiny with six games remaining.
With another major performance from the Scots' star sophomore duo of Harrison and Tarik Wright, the two combined for 43 points on Tuesday, Walnut Ridge improves to 12-2 on the season, while remaining a perfect 10-0 in league play. Tasked with defending Holland for 32 minutes, senior guards Brandon Paschal and Dymiere Finch combined for ten assists and four steals on Tuesday. The senior duo were crucial in delivering the ball to Harrison in the post, and made a major difference in the Scots' transition offense in the win.
Columbus City-League Power Rankings
With a shake-up in the middle of each division in the Columbus City-League, it's time to take a look at the newest edition of power rankings in the Capital City.
Columbus City-League North
(Records through Tuesday, last week ranking and league record in parenthesis)
1. Northland, 12-2 (8-0, 1)
Last week: Defeated Linden on Jan. 17, 83-49. Defeated Roselle Catholic (NJ) on Jan. 18, 49-42.
This week: Defeated Centennial on Tuesday, 72-52. Friday at Whestone. Saturday vs. Pickerington Central (at Ohio Dominican)
The Vikings just continue to keep on rolling. Receiving a major performance from junior center Doug Taylor vs. nationally-ranked Roselle Catholic at Flyin' To The Hoop on Saturday, the Vikings flexed its muscle in a hard-fought 49-42 victory. On Tuesday, Centennial was no match for the Vikings, as Northland enjoyed a team-high 16 points from senior combo-guard Ty Hairston. Northland prepares for a big match on Saturday vs. Pickerington Central and the three-headed monster of Jae'Sean Tate, Connor Kern and Rodney Culver.
2. Brookhaven, 11-2 (8-0, 2)
Last week: Defeated Mifflin on Jan. 17, 81-49.
This week: Friday at Beechcroft
Playing two games in two weeks, Brookhaven gets another tune up against Beechcroft on Friday before heading into the biggest game of the year on Jan. 28 at Northland. Taking down Beechcroft 91-59 at home on Dec. 17, the Bearcats shouldn't have any major problems before heading into next Tuesday's mega matchup in the North. With senior guard Ronnie Williams playing the best basketball of his career lately, the Bearcats are more ready than ever to take on Northland.
3. Centennial, 8-7 (6-4, 4)
Last week: Defeated International on Jan. 14, 91-48. Defeated Beechcroft on Jan. 17, 79-63.
This week: Lost at Northland on Tuesday, 72-52. Saturday vs. Dublin Jerome.
Picking up a momentum-building win vs. Beechcroft last Friday, Centennial moved its way to third in the North with a balanced scoring performance from several contributors. After senior guard Octavius Luke carried the scoring load for the early part of the season, the Stars have received a lift from junior Joseph Thomas and senior guard Gyai Gyamerah as of late. Despite a 20-point loss to Northland on Tuesday, the Stars have been the most solid out of all teams not named Northland and Brookhaven in the North this season.
4. Mifflin, 8-7 (4-4, 6)
Last week: Defeated Beechcroft on Jan. 14, 68-51. Lost at Brookhaven on Jan. 17, 81-49. Defeated Sheridan on Jan. 18, 50-40.
This week: Defeated International on Tuesday, 93-45. Friday at East.
With the return of transfer guards Zavon Rivers and Romello Barker, Mifflin has received a much-needed scoring boost to aid All-City point guard PJ Wilkes. Despite the loss to Brookhaven last Friday, the Punchers are playing much better basketball and look to keep building off a Tuesday win vs. International leading into a revenge match vs. East on Friday.
5. East, 8-5 (6-3, 5)
Last week: Lost vs. Brookhaven on Jan. 14, 61-44. Defeated International on Jan. 17, 82-44. Defeated New Albany on Jan. 18, 44-39.
This week: Defeated Whetstone on Tuesday, 73-31. Friday vs. Mifflin. Saturday vs. West
Staying right in the middle of the City-League North, East has been one of the harder teams to figure out this season. Losing four consecutive games from Dec. 21 to Jan. 14, the Tigers bounced back with wins vs. International and New Albany over the weekend. A blowout win behind the scoring of senior guard James Curry on Tuesday vs. Whetstone gives the Tigers some momentum heading into a crucial matchup with Mifflin on Friday.
6. Beechcroft, 6-8 (4-4, 3)
Last week: Lost vs. Mifflin on Jan. 14, 68-51. Lost at Centennial on Jan. 17, 79-63. Lost vs. Wheeling Park (WV) on Jan. 18, 79-39.
This week: Defeated Linden on Tuesday 75-63 in OT. Friday vs. Brookhaven. Saturday at Watterson.
Skidding as of late, Beechcroft has lost six of its last nine games, and things look to get worse before it can get better. Matchups with the best two Division-II teams in Central Ohio on Friday and Saturday certainly don't look to help Beechcroft's momentum heading into the final stretch of the season.
7. Linden, 2-12 (2-7, 7)
Last week: Defeated Whetstone on Jan. 14, 65-60. Lost vs. Northland on Jan. 17, 83-49. Lost at Celina on Jan. 18, 74-56.
This week: Lost at Beechcroft on Tuesday, 75-63. Friday vs. International.
Linden continues to show improvement in a long and tedious rebuilding process for the Panther staff. Last Tuesday's win over Whetstone gave the Panthers their second league win of the season, which should help build momentum heading into a winnable game vs. International on Friday. Senior guard Ray Brooks has been the scoring catalyst as of late for the Panthers, going for a combined 35 points in last week's games vs. Northland and Celina.
8. Whetstone, 2-10 (1-8, 8)
Last week: Lost vs. Linden on Jan. 14, 65-60.
This week: Lost vs. East on Tuesday, 73-31. Thursday vs. Linden. Friday at Northland.
Whetstone continues to skid, losing what some thought could be a winnable game vs. Linden last Tuesday. Whetstone can reverse its fortunes vs. those same Panthers this Thursday, before traveling to Northland for what shouldn't be a very fun game for the Braves. Senior guard Aaron Adair has the Braves' lone consistent scorer this season, averaging 15.6 points per game in Whetstone's last three contests.
9. International, 2-10 (0-9, 9)
Last week: Lost at Centennial on Jan. 14, 91-48. Lost vs. East on Jan. 17, 82-42.
This week: Lost at Mifflin on Tuesday, 93-45. Friday at Linden.
Continuing a tough season in a building process for the International program, the Lions went through another rough week last week, dropping each game by 40+ points. With another big loss to Mifflin on Tuesday, the Lions hope to take down an improving Linden team on Friday. In their first matchup, International fell to the Panthers, 60-46.
Columbus City-League South
1. Walnut Ridge, 12-2 (10-0, 1)
Last week: Defeated Independence on Jan. 14, 59-47. Defeated Africenric on Jan. 17, 55-48. Defeated Cincinnati Summit Country Day on Jan. 18, 59-49.
This week: Defeated West on Tuesday, 76-71. Friday at Marion-Franklin. Saturday vs. Westerville North (at Ohio Dominican)
With sole-possession of first place, and a two-game lead over Eastmoor, Walnut Ridge controls its own destiny in the City-League South. Sophomores Malik Harrison and Tarik Wright have carried the load for the Scots in the scoring department as of late, while senior guards Dymiere Finch and Brandon Paschal have been excellent on defense. Traveling to Marion-Franklin on Friday, Walnut Ridge must be careful to not overlook the Red Devils, who have received a big boost of confidence as of late with big wins vs. Briggs and Eastmoor.
2. Eastmoor Academy, 11-5 (8-2, 2)
Last week: Defeated West on Jan. 14, 66-47. Defeated Independence on Jan. 17, 70-44. Defeated Fairfield Christian on Jan. 18, 54-41.
This week: Lost vs. Marion-Franklin on Tuesday, 61-60. Friday vs. Briggs
With an unexpected loss to Marion-Franklin on Tuesday, Eastmoor has put itself in a tough position down two games to Walnut Ridge. Losing junior forward Khalil Wade for the rest of the season for unspecified reasons, Eastmoor will need to pick up production in the scoring column from here on out. Heading into a Friday matchup vs. Briggs, a team the Warriors embarrassed on the road earlier in the year, the Warriors must not allow an upset to take place in order to still have a slim chance of winning the South.
3. Africentric, 8-8 (6-4, 3)
Last week: Defeated Briggs on Jan. 14, 47-46. Lost at Walnut Ridge on Jan. 17, 55-48. Lost vs. Cincinnati Roger Bacon on Jan. 18, 83-51.
This week: Defeated Independence on Tuesday, 58-44. Friday at South.
One of the more disappointing teams in the area this season, Africentric dropped two key games this past week, two that could have worked wonders for the Nubians' momentum going forward. Still trying to find a rotation that works best for Africentric, the Nubians have struggled mightily with consistency on each end of the floor as of late. Scoring just one point in the third quarter of last Friday's loss at Walnut Ridge, the Nubians came out an laid an egg at Flyin' To The Hoop on Saturday vs. Roger Bacon. While junior combo-guard Jaquan Harrison has emerged as the Nubians' clear No. 1 option, Africentric needs a major increase in production from junior center Ulmer Manzie, senior shooting guard Akil Cornish, sophomore small forward Houston Smith and junior guard Chase Brown from here on out.
4. Marion-Franklin, 8-6 (6-5, 6)
Last week: Defeated South on Jan. 14, 50-49. Defeated Briggs on Jan. 17, 73-64. Defeated Patriot Academy on Jan. 18, 94-34.
This week: Defeated Eastmoor Academy on Tuesday, 61-60. Friday vs. Walnut Ridge.
Hitting their stride in the last four games, Marion-Franklin is rolling with tons of confidence after ripping off three consecutive wins in league play. Whatever funk the Red Devils were in at the middle of the season seems to be non-existent, as wins over South, Briggs and Eastmoor in the last week have worked wonders for the psyche of Marion-Franklin. Senior guard Meechie Walker has been playing some of his greatest basketball lately, leading the Red Devils in scoring in three of the past four games, including a season-high 25 points vs. Briggs on Friday. Heading into a much-anticipated rematch with Walnut Ridge on Friday, the Red Devils hope to get revenge after a gut-wrenching 60-58 loss to the Scots on Dec. 17.
5. South, 11-5 (5-5, 5)
Last week: Lost to Marion-Franklin on Jan. 14, 50-49. Defeated West on Jan. 17, 72-63.
This week: Defeated Briggs on Tuesday, 75-60. Friday vs. Africentric.
With a big revenge win vs. Briggs on Tuesday, South continued a rather quiet season in the City-League South. Up to 11 wins, the Bulldogs have been reliant on senior guards Chris Byrd and Aaron Mullins as of late to lead the way in the scoring department for wins at West and Briggs. With a rematch vs. Africentric on Friday, a team that edged the Bulldogs by 10 earlier in the season, South can pick up even more momentum heading into the last stretch of the season.
6. Briggs, 10-7 (4-6, 4)
Last week: Lost to Africentric on Jan. 14, 47-46. Lost to Marion-Franklin on Jan. 17, 73-64.
This week: Lost to South on Tuesday, 75-60. Friday at Eastmoor Academy
After a hot start to the season at 10-4, the Bruins have hit a rough patch after three straight losses. Last Tuesday's loss to Africentric, one in which Briggs held the ball for the final five in a half minutes of the game trailing by a point, seemed to take all the confidence and edginess to a Bruins team that is known to get under the skin of opposing teams. Losing by nine or more points in the last two games, Briggs will need big scoring efforts from junior combo-guard Rodney Willis, junior forward Maleik Gore and senior forward Travon Hester to upset an Eastmoor team dealing with similar issues.
7. West, 4-11 (1-9, 7)
Last week: Lost to Eastmoor on Jan. 14, 66-47. Lost to South on Jan. 17, 72-63.
This week: Lost to Walnut Ridge, 76-71. Friday at Independence. Saturday at East.
Despite the high-scoring antics of star senior Charles Holland, the Cowboys continue to drop games in the City-League South. Losing the first six games of the new year, the Cowboys came very close to pulling an upset vs. Walnut Ridge on Tuesday, but failure to execute late in the matchup vs. the Scots doomed the Cowboys. Without a league win since Dec. 17 vs. Independence, West looks to win again against those same Sixers on Friday, and keep a hold on the seventh spot in the South.
8. Independence, 1-13 (1-9, 8)
Last week: Lost to Walnut Ridge on Jan. 14, 58-44. Lost to Eastmoor on Jan. 17, 70-44.
This week: Lost to Africentric, 58-44. Friday vs. West.
Independence continued its nightmare of a season with three straight losses in seven days, each of which by 14+ points. Despite having a bit of talent on the roster, the Sixers haven't been able to put it all together, save for a Jan. 8 win vs. Marion-Franklin, for the entirety of the season. With a home matchup vs. West on Friday, a team that scored 94 points in their last matchup (43 from Charles Holland), the Sixers look to reverse its fortunes heading into the final lap of the season.