Mayo returns to lead NCH

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

COLUMBUS (AP) — O.J. Mayo showed up late for North College Hill’s trip to the state tournament. So he got an early start in the championship game.

Two days after he was prevented from playing in the semifinals for missing three classes, Mayo scored 34 points to power the top-ranked Trojans to a contentious 90-73 victory over Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph for their second Division III state title in a row.

‘‘It’s been a big up-and-down week,’’ said Mayo, who confirmed after the game that he was held out for missing German, anatomy and algebra classes on Thursday morning. ‘‘But we did the job tonight.’’

Email newsletter signup

The game will be remembered for the two-time Mr. Basketball’s glittering return — he and teammate Bill Walker dominated throughout — and also for three controversial technicals called against VASJ in the third quarter.

Mayo hit 10-of-15 shots from the field including half of his six 3-point attempts. He made 11-of-15 free throws and had eight rebounds and seven assists.

Walker added 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Andre Evans came off the bench to go 9-for-9 from the field and 6-of-6 at the line for 24 points for the Trojans (26-1), Associated Press poll champions the last three years and considered one of the top handful of teams in the nation.

‘‘I feel relieved,’’ said Walker, who shared player of the year honors in the division with Mayo and two others. ‘‘Now I can relax for a few days and not have to worry about another team’s game plan.’’

North College Hill’s 90 points was a record for a Division III title game, easily eclipsing the old mark set by Sparta Highland in an 80-61 victory over Cincinnati Indian Hill in 1998.

The Trojans shot 60 percent from the field and hit 25-of-32 free throws.

But nothing comes easy for North College Hill, it seems. The school is often criticized for its concentration of talent at a school that was 2-18 the year before Mayo arrived from Kentucky, and for the Trojans’ in-your-face attitude.

Ohio State signee and first-team all-stater David Lighty and Darryl Rushton each had 20 points for VASJ (21-6). Lighty also had eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.

‘‘We knew what we were going up against,’’ Lighty said.

Mayo was held out of North College Hill’s 49-34 semifinal victory over Archbold.

‘‘I showed up to school late and that’s school policy as far as on game day,’’ Mayo explained. ‘‘I’m not perfect. I’m a human being like everyone else. I made a mistake and I’m glad my teammates pulled together and they won the semifinal game against Archbold. I just wanted to bring it (the championship) back today to them.’’

With Mayo and Walker both in attendance, VASJ was in trouble from the start.

‘‘Let’s be honest, that team is really good,’’ Vikings coach David Wojciechowski said. ‘‘With those two kids, if there is no age limit those guys go (number) 1 and 5 in the NBA draft next year. We don’t have that talent. There is nobody (else) who has that talent.’’

The first time Mayo touched the ball, he flicked in a 3-pointer from the right wing which gave him 2,002 points for his career with one year remaining.

Walker followed with a dunk before Mayo slashed through the lane and hit a soft jumper and then scored on a putback of a Walker miss. Mayo hit his first six shots and had 13 points as the Trojans forged an 18-8 lead.

Mayo hit 8-of-10 shots for 20 points in the first half, guiding the Trojans to a 47-30 lead. He also had five rebounds and four assists.

With the Trojans maintaining a double-digit lead late in the third quarter, the game took an ugly turn.

Wojciechowski was whistled for a technical and Mayo stepped to the line and hit the two technical free throws.

On the ensuing possession, Walker was called for traveling and North College Hill’s Nathaniel Glover and VASJ’s Maurice Haynes began jawing at each other. Mayo stepped in and gave a light push to Haynes, and Haynes pushed him back just as official Steve Trout intervened. Haynes was called for a technical, then when he walked away and pumped his fist in anger, Trout hit him with a second technical which meant an automatic ejection.

Many in a crowd of 16,024 at Value City Arena loudly booed. An usher stood near Trout during each break throughout the remainder of the game.

Mayo hit all four technical free throws to push the lead to 64-45 but minutes later left the game because of leg cramps. He was able to return for the start of the final quarter, with the NCH lead never falling below 14 points again.

‘‘We know we have a lot of pressure on us — a lot of haters or whatever,’’ Mahaffey said. ‘‘But the thing about it is we stuck together as family and pulled through.’’