With one of the city's most fiery coaches, and undoubtedly the most hyped up player introductions out of any school in the area, Columbus South's basketball team is no stranger to aggression. Squaring off with a young, but talented St. Frances DeSales team on Saturday, South was ultimately the night's tougher team, scoring difficult buckets inside the paint in a 50-40 win.
Led by senior guard Aaron Mullins' 10 points, South pushed the tempo on DeSales from the opening tip, and rebounded from a halftime deficit to pull out the win. Trailing 21-19 at the break, South received big lifts from Mullins, sophomore guard Marquez Hargrove, senior forward Dennard Ford and senior combo-guard Deon Lindsay in the second half, all of whom scoring five points each.
Leading 29-27 with just under a minute remaining in the third, South opted to hold for the last shot as DeSales sat in a 2-3 zone. Putting the ball in Mullins' hands, the senior guard drove right and hung in the air for a difficult one-handed tear drop, putting the Bulldogs ahead 31-27 going into the fourth.
Struggling at the free-throw line for the majority of Saturday's contest, South nearly allowed DeSales to take the lead in the fourth, as Stallions forward Eric Fitz hit two of four free-throws midway through the fourth, but the Bulldogs hung on to a 33-32 lead with 4:32 remaining.
Each team would exchange punches for the next three minutes, as the fourth quarter turned into a bit of a free-throw contest. As South led 39-36 with 1:32 to go, Saturday's biggest play of the game unfolded as senior guard Chris Byrd connected with Lindsay on a full-court baseball pass to put the Bulldogs up five.
As DeSales appeared to lose all the wind in their sails, South would shoot a much better percentage at the line to close out Saturday's game Missing several key scoring opportunities late, DeSales could not rebound from a fourth quarter in which the Stallions were outscored 19-13.
For South, Mullins' 10 points were a team-high, while Ford added eight points, and Lindsay contributed seven of his own. Byrd would go for four points and four assists, but put in the majority of his production on the defensive side of the ball, playing physical on-ball defense. Matched up with 6'8 DeSales freshman forward Caden Sanchez, Ford was impressive in the middle, securing a game-high nine rebounds, in addition to physical low-post defense.
For DeSales, sophomore guard Shawn Snyder led all scorers with 13 points. The freshmen duo of Sanchez and point guard Ryan Peaks combined for 19 points, as Sanchez went for 12 and six rebounds, while Peaks added three assists and two steals on top of his seven points.
With the win, South advances to face No. 19 seed Buckeye Valley at home on Tuesday at 7 p.m. A win for the Bulldogs would likely set up a matchup vs. No. 2 seed Brookhaven in the district semifinals, a team South feels they can compete with. Receiving great balance in the scoring department, South plays with a level of toughness that is crucial in the postseason, which certainly made the difference on Saturday.
Saturday's Top Performers
With a full slate of playoff basketball in Central Ohio on Saturday, let's take a look at some of the day's top performers.
Octavius Luke (5'10 Senior PG / Centennial):
Leading all scorers with 27 points in Centennial's 78-71 win over Big Walnut, the senior guard was crucial in the Stars' hard-fought victory. Going on an 8-0 run in the final two minutes, Luke and the Stars were incredibly clutch down the stretch to advance to the second round of sectional play in Division II. With the win, Centennial advances to a road game at No. 3 seed Granville on Wednesday at 7 p.m. As the second team All-City guard Luke, and first team All-City forward Joseph Thomas continue to pace Centennial, don't be surprised if the Stars pull out an upset victory on the road at Granville.
Khalil Iverson (6'5 Junior SF / Delaware Hayes):
Continuing a major breakout season in Central Ohio, Iverson had arguably his best game of the season in an overtime win vs. Dublin Jerome. Going for 24 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocks, Iverson scored 18 of his 24 in the fourth quarter and overtime periods to lead the Pacers. Averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and just over three blocks on the season, Iverson has arguably been the top all-around player in Central Ohio, as the junior paced Delaware to a split of the OCC-Capital title. With the win, Delaware advances to play at home vs. No. 18 New Albany on Friday, the second matchup vs. the teams in 13 days. Check out Iverson's two big dunks from Saturday below.
Dalton Laster (6'3 Junior SG / East):
Scoring a career-high 29 points, Laster, a first team All-Columbus City League selection, led East to a blowout win vs. league-opponent Beechcroft, 80-41. Connecting on four shots from behind-the-arc, Laster continued to show why some believe the junior is the top shooter in the City League in the win on Saturday. Behind the scoring of Laster, East would use a 29-7 third quarter to blow the doors off Beechcroft heading into the final frame. With the win, the Tigers advance to a second round matchup at No. 6 seed Bloom-Carroll on Friday in Division II play. As Laster has continued to propel the Tigers, an extremely tough test awaits on the road in a hostile environment.
Sean Hennessey (6'4 Senior PF / St. Charles):
As Otis Smith's game-winning three paced St. Charles past Thomas Worthington on the road, 37-35, the senior forward Hennessey made the difference for the Cardinals. Going for a game-high 18 points, the thickly built forward was especially effective from deep, converting on four triples. Heading into halftime trailing 17-15, St. Charles outscored Thomas Worthington 22-18 in the second half to secure a tough win on the road. With the victory, St. Charles advances to a second round matchup at No. 19 seed Groveport on Friday.
Reynoldsburg Big Three (Travis Gleason, Lloyd Chatman, Jarius Ward):
Combining for 44 points in the Raiders' 63-61 win over Chillicothe, Reynoldsburg's "Big Three" of Gleason, Chatman and Ward played a major role in a game that was closer than what many expected. As Chillicothe guard Tommy Bolte led all scorers with 28 points, including 15 from deep, a Josh McCoy tip-in with one second remaining would give Reynoldsburg its finally lead of the game to steal a win at home. Gleason went for a team-high 16 points, while guards Chatman and Ward each scored 14 for the Raiders. With the win, Reynoldsburg returns home on Friday to square off with No. 20 seed Briggs, a team that plays a really physical brand of basketball. Similarly matched, look for the scoring of the Raiders "Big Three" to play a major role in Friday's game, as Briggs is a team that likes to push the tempo and get out and defend on the perimeter.
Logan Roston (6' Senior SG / Marysville):
The savior of Marysville basketball in 2014, Roston was key once again for the Monarchs on Saturday in a tough win at home vs. Watkins Memorial. Going for a team-high 22 points, Roston helped Marysville rebound from a seven-point deficit after the first quarter to secure an 81-65 win. Converting 27-of-41 attempts from the free-thow line, Roston paved the way for Marysville, converting all but two of his nine attempts from the charity stripe. Scoring at least 20 points in the final three quarters of Saturday's contest, Marysville heads into the second round with great confidence. Squaring off with No. 13 seed Olentangy Liberty on Friday, a team the Monarchs split with in the regular season, look for Roston & Co. to come out firing as Marysville has a chance to pull an upset on the road.
Jonathan Tinker (6'2 Senior SG / Franklin Heights):
One of the more undervalued seniors in the Ohio Capital Conference, Tinker had his best performance of the season in Saturday's win over Mount Vernon. Going for 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals, Tinker was a matchup problem for a Mount Vernon team that could not match his quickness and athleticism. Jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the first three minutes of play, Franklin Heights continued to push the tempo, leading to a 60-36 win in the first home playoff game for the Falcons. At 6'2, Tinker is a long-armed combo-guard with above-average athleticism and unique play-making ability. Showing an ability to step out and hit from the perimeter, Tinker's greatest strength is his toughness around the basket, as the senior can glide through traffic to finish among taller defenders. Heading into a second round matchup at No. 12 seed Grove City on Friday, look for Tinker and senior center Akiean Frederick to pace the Falcons once again.