One year after a crushing defeat in last year’s finals, Westerville South ended Lima Seniors’ dream of an unbeaten season and claimed its first basketball championship. Read about it from the 94th boys state basketball tournament.
Columbus-It was nail-biting, high-flying, sometimes bone-jarring basketball.
Exactly the way a championship should be decided.
Jordan Humphrey hit a 12 foot jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining to give Westervile South a 57-55 win over second ranked and previously unbeaten Lima Senior In the Divison One championship game at Value City Arena.
“I’m so happy for our kids,” said Westerville coach Ed Calo after his first championship in 29 years at the school. “We have had injuries, and adversity all year long. It is so hard to get back here. It means a lot to me because I am so happy for the kids.”
The Wildcats got off to a flying start. Led by Humphrey’s 9 points, Westerville built a 24-12 lead early in the second quarter. That lead didn’t last long, as the Spartans made 7 of 8 shots in the quarter and climbed back to within three, 31-28, at the break.
“That’s a great team we beat tonight, Calo said. “We knew they were not going to go away. It speaks volumes about our kids that we were able to keep our composure there at the end and make a play to win the game.”
The game was close throughout the third quarter. Andre Wesson scored 5 points and Anthony Mills had a big three for the Wildcats, but Rueben Flowers III scored 6 points and Xavier Simpson added five for Lima. It was 45-43 Wildcats heading into the final 8 minutes.
With a crowd of 13,457 on their feet, the teams went after each other like heavyweight fighters. The Wildcats led 50-49 at the last TV timeout with 4:59 to play. Wesson hit a three to lengthen the lead to 53-49, but Simpson answered to make it 53-51.
Wesson scored again off an offensive rebound to put the ‘Cats back up by 4, and the Spartans answered again, his time by Rico Stafford, who scored 8 points in the final quarter.
It stayed 55-53 into the final minute. After a timeout- Simpson found Stafford underneath for a layup to tie it at 55 with 25 seconds remaining. The Wildcats did not call timeout, instead letting Humphrey find open space in the lane. His jumper was perfect and Lima called time with 1.8 seconds left.
After three timeouts were called, the Spartans got the ball to Simpson. The Michigan recruit got to mid-court before he let fly. The ball hit above the square on the glass and came straight off, setting off a wild celebration on the Westerville end.
“The last play wasn’t really designed for Jordan, but our kids thought he had the hot hand,” said Calo. “We didn’t want to take a timeout and let them set their defense, and figured if we didn’t make it we would win it in overtime.
“Time was running out and I just went for the best shot I could get,” Humphrey explained. “It’s something I dreamed about as a little kid. When I took the shot, everything seemed to be in slow motion.”
Calo was asked what he was thinking as Simpson’s final shot sailed toward the basket.
“Please God,” he said with a laugh. “Don’t let it go in.”
“The game changed on us a little bit in the second half,” continued the coach. “It became more half-court. That is not what we do best, but I felt like we were able to control the game that way. I had confidence in our kids.”
Humphrey said the goal on the final shot was to not give up anything close.
“We just wanted to stay in front and not give up anything easy. That would have been a miracle.”
“This means even more after losing the final last year (to Wayne).We had to go to work every day to get back here and never lost focus on that goal.”
Humphrey finished with 19 points, while Wesson added 14 for the Wildcats. Simpson had 17 Flowers 12 and Stafford 120 for the Spartans, who ended the best season in school history at 29-1.
Westerville was 46% from the floor, 40% from the arc and 78% from the line. Senior ensded up at 56% from the floor, 50% from he arc and 71% at the line. Lima won the battle of the boards 27-19 And had 12 turnovers to just 7 for the Wildcats. Westerville had a big 206 edge in points off turnovers, but second chance points, fast break points and bench points were all very close.
“Being called champion sounds pretty good,” Calo laughed. “It’s special, and I’ll be honest. I would have felt differently 20 years ago. There are no miracles being done here. We have had good kids and great players. All the credit goes to them.”
“Westerville North won a title in the 90s, but this is really special for us,” Calo continued. “You saw the way the community came out and supported us. Its a great feeling to win this for them.”