In what could be the final Columbus City League Championship game in Brookhaven program history, the Bearcats pulled out a major win in overtime, defeating Walnut Ridge, 44-42.
After a fast-paced first quarter that resulted in a 21-21 tie, each team slowed down the tempo, and increased the pressure for the final 28 minutes. Behind several key plays from junior forward J-Saun Davis in the final minutes, two Ronnie Williams free-throws with 38.7 seconds remaining gave Brookhaven its final lead of the game. Brookhaven would not allow Walnut Ridge to get off a quality shot on the final possession, sending the Bearcats into the postseason with its first City League championship since 2005-06.
Holding a 40-36 lead with 2:50 remaining, Brookhaven would allow a 4-0 run by Walnut Ridge in the following minute, as a Brandon Paschal drive for a score knotted things at 40 with 1:48 remaining.
On the ensuing Brookhaven possession, the Bearcats would again turn the ball over, as senior Walnut Ridge guard Jihad Lake forced a major steal at halfcourt with 1:35 to go.
Looking to hold for the last shot, Walnut Ridge would then turn the ball over, as Davis was in the right place at the right time, forcing a huge steal for Brookhaven with 45.3 seconds remaining.
In a game that was as sloppy as ever, Brookhaven would give the ball back to Walnut Ridge on the following possession, as a quick five-second call was charged to junior Bearcat guard LJ Buttrum.
However, on Walnut Ridge's next possession, Davis made arguably the biggest play of Saturday's game, taking a charge on senior Walnut Ridge guard Dymiere Finch with 9.8 seconds to go, momentarily taking the final shot out of Walnut Ridge's hands.
Again having trouble inbouding the ball, Brookhaven turned the ball over at halfcourt with 3.2 seconds remaining after a steal by Finch, whose buzzer-beating attempt missed long.
Heading into overtime tied at 40, Williams would lead all scorers in the final period, scoring four of his nine points to pace the Bearcats. Exchanging baskets with Finch in the first minute of action, Williams was fouled by Paschal near halfcourt with 38.7 seconds to go.
Going to the line for a one-and-one with a City championship on the line, Williams hit two major free-throws, giving Brookhaven a 44-42 lead. After knocking down one of two free-throws to put Brookhaven ahead of Northland on Monday, Williams again rose to the occasion with the game on the line on Saturday.
As junior Walnut Ridge forward Daveon Miskel missed a mid-range jump shot from the left corner with just under seven seconds to go, the Scots could not secure a rebound as time expired, closing out a hectic game and Walnut Ridge's regular season.
Behind Davis' game-high 13 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, and three steals, the junior Brookhaven forward was dominant on the block as the Bearcats controlled the tempo for the majority of Saturday's game. Brookhaven's lone senior Williams finished with nine points, while junior Shad Kimble added six points, all of which from behind-the-arc. Kimble's biggest shot of the game came after the junior hit a deep step-back from three, extending Brookhaven's lead to 37-30, the largest of the game, with 1:16 to go in the third. Junior forward Rob Banks added eight points and four rebounds in limited action in the second half.
For Walnut Ridge, Finch led the way with 10 points, five rebounds, and five assists, none bigger than a buzzer-beater from well beyond halfcourt to end the first quarter. As the Scots struggled to find quality shots on the offensive end, Finch was one of the few bright spots in the Walnut Ridge offense, finishing in the lane for tough scores.
Sophomore forward Malik Harrison added eight points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in a tough matchup vs. Davis. While Harrison is usually able to bully most post defenders, the sophomore had trouble moving Davis on the block, a development in Saturday's game that made a huge difference. Sophomore guard Tarik Wright added seven points, while senior forward Marcellus Taylor went for six points and four rebounds.
After racing out to a 13-0 start to City League division play, Walnut Ridge has now lost two straight games, finishing the regular season at 17-4. The Scots will get a chance to redeem themselves in the district tournament, as a tough road to the Fairgrounds Coliseum awaits.
For Brookhaven, the monumental win comes in what many expect to be the Bearcats' final season in school history. One of two high schools on Columbus City School's recommended closing list, Brookhaven won its final four games by a combined 15 points, executing late in each to secure the school's ninth league championship in the last 25 years, a City League best.