When star Pickerington Central senior Jae'Sean Tate opted for season-ending shoulder surgery midway through a promising season, many around Central Ohio felt the Tigers were beatable. Cruising over Zanesville 58-42 on Saturday, Pickerington Central wrapped up its third straight district championship, even without the Ohio State commit Tate.
Behind 22 points from senior guard Connor Kern, Pickerington Central controlled the tempo of Saturday's contest from the very beginning. Jumping out to a 22-13 advantage after one quarter of play, Pickerington Central kept its foot on the gas for the remainder of the game. Albeit being undersized to an athletic Zanesville front line, Pickerington Central neutralized the Blue Devils on the interior to limit Zanesville from high-percentage shots.
Leading 31-22 at half, Pickerington Central turned up the pressure even more in the second half, holding Zanesville to just six points in the third quarter. Holding a 42-28 lead after three, Pickerington Central would not let up in the final eight minutes of play, advancing to play the winner of Gahanna and Upper Arlington in the regional semifinals on March 13.
Sophomore wing Jalen Tate had arguably his best all-around performance of the season, finishing with eight points, eight rebounds and six blocks. Junior small forward Rodney Culver had a solid performance, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds. Culver's highlight came midway through the third quarter, when the 6'4 combo-guard made a Zanesville defender crumble to the ground with a devastating crossover.
For Zanesville, senior guard JT McFarland led all Blue Devil scorers with 18 points. Senior forward Granger Long also scored in double-figures, going for 10 points and three rebounds. No other Blue Devil would score in double-figures, as Pick Central keyed in on limiting junior Zanesville power forward Malik Bocook underneath. Bocook would finish with six points and seven rebounds.
With the win, Pick Central advances to the regional semifinals for the third straight season to play the winner of Gahanna and Upper Arlington on Thurs. March 13 at 7 p.m.