A day before Super Saturday at the Fairgrounds Coliseum, Division II district final action took place in Columbus. With Bishop Watterson and Eastmoor Academy taking home district titles, the Division II playoff picture looks a lot clearer after Friday's contests.
Watterson takes down Brookhaven in Bearcats' final game in school history
Regardless of the outcome, Friday's contest between Bishop Watterson and Brookhaven would be accompanied with a bittersweet ending. As Bishop Watterson ended Friday's game on a 17-5 run, the Eagles slammed the door on a prestigious program history at Brookhaven High School in a 48-28 win.
Jumping out to a 9-0 lead through the first five minutes of play, Watterson commanded Friday's game from the jump and never trailed. As star Brookhaven guard Ronnie Williams went down with an ankle injury two minutes into the game, one that would nag him for the remainder of the night, an eery aura surrounded Friday's game for Brookhaven.
Heading into the second quarter trailing 12-2, Brookhaven was limited offensively in the first eight minutes of play. As Watterson executed in a stifling zone, the Eagles used great help defense and put their length to use in swarming Brookhaven on the perimeter. Holding Williams scoreless in the first half, Watterson entered the last two quarters of play with a commanding 21-9 lead.
Although Brookhaven picked up its offensive production in the third quarter, the Bearcats could never get closer than nine points in the period. As junior Brookhaven guard Curt Armstrong knocked down one-of-two free throws to cut the Watterson lead to 25-16 with 2:21 to go in the third, the Bearcats had looked to regain the confidence and bravado that they had been playing with for the last month.
On the next Watterson possession, a big offensive rebound and put back by senior Matt Lehmann pushed the Eagle lead back to double-digits and was a major boost of momentum for the defending state champions. Watterson would finish the quarter strong to head into the fourth with a 29-16 advantage.
With eight minutes left in Brookhaven's program history, the Bearcats would make a 7-2 surge in the opening minutes, cutting the Watterson lead to eight, 31-23 with just under six minutes to go.
Going right along with the narrative on Friday, every time Brookhaven had seemed to capture momentum, Watterson took it right back as senior point guard Cody Calhoun finished a big score in transition and was fouled to put the Eagles ahead 34-23 with 4:41 to go.
Watterson would then go on a 10-0 run in the next two minutes to close out Brookhaven, figuratively and literally. Calhoun would score all ten of Watterson's points during the run, as the Eagles emptied their bench with just over a minute to go.
As Williams checked out for the final time, wrapping up a storybook career at Brookhaven, one that resulted in a Columbus City League championship in the Bearcats' final year of existence, the clock struck midnight on the school on Karl Rd, as Watterson secured its second consecutive district championship over the Bearcats, 48-28.
Leading the way for Watterson was Calhoun with 16 points. Lehmann added 13 points and four rebounds, while senior forward Joe DiOrio was dominant on the glass in a four-point, 13-rebound performance. Senior combo-guard Andy Grieser was effective in attacking the basket, finishing with nine points.
For Brookhaven, Williams and sophomore forward Maciyah Fleming led all Bearcats scorers with 10 points each. Junior forward J-Saun Davis was surprisingly held scoreless, while adding eight rebounds. Four other Bearcats each scored two points, as Brookhaven wrapped its final game for the City League's greatest program.
Eastmoor's toughness key in district title win over Bloom-Carroll
Ask any City League basketball fan in Columbus to describe the league's South division, and see how many times the word "toughness" is brought up. In classic City League South fashion, Eastmoor Academy was the tougher team on Friday night, as the Warriors closed out Joey Schmitz and Bloom-Carroll, 44-39 to win a Central District Division II championship.
Despite Schmitz' game-high 27 points, 18 of which coming from behind-the-arc, Eastmoor found a way to close the door late, as the Warriors attacked the glass in the second half to secure the victory.
Held to five points in the first quarter, Eastmoor would strike back with greater offensive production to head into halftime with a slim one-point lead, 19-18. As Schmitz knocked down a three to put Bloom-Carroll ahead 30-29 with 19 seconds to go in the quarter, Eastmoor would strike back on the following possession to head into the fourth quarter tied at 30.
Schmitz would again hit a three to put the Bulldogs ahead, this time taking a 33-32 lead with 6:59 remaining. As Eastmoor responded with a score on the following possession, Schmitz would again score from behind-the-arc, giving Bloom-Carrol a 36-35 lead with 5:30 to go.
As Eastmoor senior forward Shamonty Manning responded with a three-point play on the following possession, EA would take its final lead of the game, 38-36 with 5:10 to go.
After Bloom-Carroll failed to score on the ensuing possession, Eastmoor took advantage of the lack of a shot clock, running nearly three minutes off the board before a charge was called on junior guard Xavier Holston-Sims with two minutes to play.
Arguably Friday's MVP, Manning secured a major rebound off a miss from Schmitz on Bloom-Carroll's next possession, as Eastmoor took control of the ball, leading 38-36 with 1:38 remaining. Senior guard Jahmal Hughes would make one-of-two free throws after being fouled following Manning's rebound, as the ball went back into Schmitz' hands with Eastmoor leading 39-36 with 1:35 to go.
On the following possession, Schmitz was shockingly fouled shooting a three by junior Eastmoor guard Jalon Lewis with 1:20 remaining. As Schmitz had been money from the line all night, the senior's second attempt from the line rimmed out, and two-of-three free throws sustained Eastmoor's lead at 39-38. Manning would score off another offensive rebound on Eastmoor's following possession, as a Bloom-Carroll turnover on the next trip down the floor led to Eastmoor senior Nate Jameson's gliding finish to put the Warriors ahead 43-38 with 22.6 seconds to go, all but putting a nail in Bloom-Carroll's coffin.
One-of-two free throws from Lewis on Eastmoor's next possession secure the Warriors with a 44-39 win, and more importantly, a district championship. After a shocking loss to Briggs at home on Jan. 24, a team Eastmoor beat by 42 earlier in the season, the Warriors have rattled off nine-straight wins and look to be playing their best basketball of the season.
With the win, Eastmoor returns to action on March 13 vs. Cincinnati Taft, who defeated Bellefontaine on Friday, 57-44. What makes next week's regional semifinal matchup more interesting is that junior Eastmoor small forward Khalil Wade becomes academically eligible on March 12, after missing the second half of the regular season. As Wade adds great length, defense and perimeter shooting to the Eastmoor rotation, don't be surprised if this team keeps rolling through March.