COLUMBUS, Ohio - No. 2 Cincinnati Deer Park (29-0) defeated No. 10 Columbus Africentric Early College (21-7) by a score of 67-57 to complete its perfect season and win the 2018 OHSAA Division III boys basketball state championship on Saturday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.
It was the tale of two halves as Deer Park was down 36-27 at the end of the first half, before outscoring the Nubians 40-21 in the second half.
Following the game, Deer Park head coach Steve Gentry spoke on the change of momentum. "We’ve been down like this the last couple games. We’re a second-half team. We came in the best shape possible to play the way we play. We’ve done that 29 straight games. They were outrebounding us 22-13 at half. I told the guys if we want to win the game we have to start competing with those guys in the second half...we executed, we rebounded, we made free throws. I think those guys (Africentric) got tired."
After Africentric took an 11-point lead, its largest of the game, with 5:37 remaining in the third quarter, Deer Park closed the quarter with a 17-5 run to take a 46-45 lead going into the fourth. The Wildcats would not relinquish this lead for the remainder of the game, eventually pushing the lead to as many as 12 points.
Four players finished with double-figure scoring outputs for the balanced Deer Park offense. Steven Gentry Jr. and Damani McEntire both finished with 14 points. Jalen Rose scored 13, with nine coming from beyond the three-point-arc. Joseph Hocker finished with a double-double, scoring 10 and grabbing 10 rebounds.
First Team All-Ohio honoree Trey Baumgardner scored a game-high 17 points for the Nubians.
The Nubians were making their third appearance at the state tournament and first in the state title game.
This was Deer Park's first state title and appearance at the OHSAA boys basketball state tournament.
Deer Park's undefeated season was the first in OHSAA Division III boys basketball since the 2000 Akron St. Vincent-St.Mary's team that featured Lebron James as a freshman.
Attendance for the game was 8,705.