District championships have become expected at Northland. In a season where the Vikings failed to win an eighth-consecutive Columbus City League championship, Northland has responded in the postseason, defeating Westerville Central on Saturday, 64-53 to win its fifth district title in six years.
Behind 20 points from senior wing Derek McKeithen, Northland responded from a two-point deficit after the first quarter to close out the Warhawks on Saturday. Using its length and athleticism, Northland stifled Westerville Central's interior offense for a large part of Saturday's game.
Heading into halftime with a 29-28 lead, Northland increased the pressure in the third quarter, as senior forward Jaylen Tucker paced the Vikings with inside scoring and great offensive rebounding. Tucker would score eight of his 10 points in the second half, in addition to securing 13 rebounds. Tucker defended Warhawks senior forward Kwamel Wade for the majority of Saturday's game, holding Wade to four points, well below his season average.
Despite 24 points from Westerville Central combo-guard Eric James, Northland keyed in on making James' teammates beat them, and that strategy proved to be effective.
As a James' three cut the Northland lead to 54-50 with just under two minutes to go, Northland responded, as McKeithen's gliding And-1 finish in traffic stretched the Viking lead back to seven with 1:41 to go. Northland would close out Saturday's game on a 7-3 run, taking home its sixth district title since 2007.
McKeithen's 20 points were a team-high, while Waugh and Tucker were the other Vikings in double-figures. Talented sophomore wing Seth Towns added eight points, while Vikings junior center Doug Taylor finished with eight points, six rebounds and three blocks. Northland enjoyed a great advantage on the glass, and overcame poor free-throw shooting to secure the win.
For the Warhawks, point guard Jalen Malone finished with 19 points, wrapping up a solid season for the underrated senior guard. Outside of James and Malone, the rest of the Warhawks combined to score just 10 points.
With the win, Northland advances to play Dublin Coffman on Wed. March 12 at 7 p.m. Coffman is coming off a major win over Newark earlier Saturday, 61-50.