Crusaders outscore Pickerington Central by 11 in the fourth quarter to earn spot in state final.
COLUMBUS — Moeller trailed Pickerington Central by eight points with a minute left in the first half of a Division I state semifinal on Friday at Value City Arena. But the Crusaders faced big deficits before — notably in games against Springfield and Mason — and lived to tell about. They did again on Friday.
Moeller pulled ahead of Pickerington Central early in the fourth quarter and ran away late to earn a spot in the Div. I state championship game on Saturday with a 57-47 win. The Crusaders will face either Massillon Jackson or Lakewood St. Edward, who meet in Friday’s second D-I semifinal.
After Jeremiah Francis hit a jumper for the Tigers to tie the game 41-41 with 5:49 left in the fourth, Moeller went on a 13-4 run over the next four minutes to take control. Adrian Nelson made a dunk with 1:18 left to bring Pickerington Central within 54-47, but the Crusaders controlled the ball for most of the final minute, and Jeremiah Davenport hit a basket and a foul shot for insurance.
Davenport, who came off the bench, led Moeller with 17 points.
“That’s the best he’s played, and it’s not a fluke,” Moeller coach Carl Kremer said. “He’s a kid with a lot of ability… Jeremiah would start for any other team in the state. We’ve had a set starting lineup all year, and his attitude about his team never wavered.”
Pickerington Central led 17-11 after the first quarter and led 26-18 with a minute left in the second. Davenport hit a jumper with 32 seconds left and then made a shot with a second left to cut the deficit to four points at halftime.
Moeller made 15 of 25 (60 percent) shot attempts in the second half and outrebounded Pickerington Central 14-13. The Crusaders shot 9-for-24 (37.5 percent) from the field in the first half.
“We stood around a lot in the first half,” Kremer said. “We just didn’t get our rhythm. We ran some things that mandated that we make some cuts. We’ve got great shooters, so once we got some movement we got better looks. Once we got the lead, we’re pretty good with the lead.”
Miles McBride scored 13 for Moeller (28-0), while Isaiah Payton and Keegan McDowell scored 10 each. McDowell had a team-high eight rebounds.
Jeremiah Francis led Pickerington Central with 16 points, 13 of which came in the first half. North Carolina signee Sterling Manley had 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds. The Tigers finish with a 26-3 record.