Pointers fall to Nubians in regional title game
Published 8:57 pm Saturday, March 11, 2023
By Jim Walker
ATHENS — It was like Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa trading punches until the 15th round and Rocky came out wailing.
The South Point Pointers trailed heavily favored Africentric just 20-18 at halftime, but the Nubians came out the second half and scored the first 6 points as they went on an 10-2 run and didn’t let up in the quarter as they went on to post a 55-38 win and capture the Division 3 regional championship on Saturday at The Ohio University Convocation Center.
Both teams scored 29 total points in the first, second and fourth quarters. But it was the pivotal third quarter that saw the Nubians outscore the Pointers 26-9.
“It seemed like they came out swinging and we didn’t respond. I think it was a 6-0 run right off the bat. I called a timeout and the next play we turned it over,” said Pointers’ coach Travis Wise.
“It seemed like once they got that run that killed (his players). We matched their intensity the first half. The second half they got going and once they get to that lead on you then you’re scrambling on how are you going to guard them. They just got rolling.’”
A key exchange came at the en of the first half that could have created a momentum swing.
Carter Smith hit a baseline jumper to put the Pointes up 16-15at the 2:45 mark. But a foul sent the Nubians Daily Swain to the line and he sank both free throw attempts for a 17-16 lead they would never relinquish.
After a missed shot, Cortez Freeman hit a 3-pointer and the lead was not 30-16. Xathan Haney made a baseline shot to get the Pointers within 20-18 with 34 seconds left in the half.
“If you look back, a minute and 29 left in the second quarter we get a rebound, quick shot and we foul the Swain kid. That puts them up two at the half. If we hold the ball and take a last-second shot he doesn’t get those free throws and maybe we’re up one or two going into the half instead of being down,” said Wise.
“The first half is where we wanted it. We came in knowing if we could keep it low 50s, maybe the 40s, that is where we needed it to be. I felt if we could keep it there going into the fourth quarter then we had a chance.”
But the Nubians quickly went up 26-18 after a baseline shot by Leonard Gore at the 7:13 mark. Xander Dornon made a layup with 6:48 on the clock to end the run and it was 26-20, but Swain had a dunk and layup to stretch the lead to 30-20.
Caleb Lovely hit a trifecta for the Pointers but Freeman answered with his own trey and a tip-in by Preston Steele and a putback by Mekhi Johnson opened up a 46-25 lead.
Jackson Childers sank two free throws with no time on the clock and the Pointers trailed 46-27.
South Point outscored Africentric 11-9 in the fourth quarter but could never get any closer than 17 points.
Smith led the Pointers with 11 points while Lovely finished with 9 points — all in the second half — to go with 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
Swain — a Xavier commit — had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Nubians (23-5). Freeman and Fuller scored 11 each.
The Pointers were just 15-of-46 from the field for 32.6 percent including 4-of-17 from behind the arc for 23.5 percent. Southeast District Player of the Year Caleb Lovely was the target of the Nubians’ defense and he was only 4-of-17 from the field for 9 points.
“We just couldn’t score. Lovely struggled, but going in their game plan’s got to be to take him away and they did. They ran different guys at him,” said Wise.
The lead changed hands five times and the score was tied twice, all in the first half.
Africentric got 26 points in the paint to 14 for the Pointers. The Nubians scored 11 fast break points while the Pointers had none.
South Point did have 16 points from its bench to 8 for the Nubians.
The Pointers finished the season 22-5 and only the school’s second regional tournament and first Elite Eight berth. The only other appearance came in 1990.
Besides winning the Ohio Valley Conference and the district title, the 22 wins is a single-season school record.
“As a team to do this after that many years, to come through our conference — and our conference is tough — was our first goal, then winning the district and try to get to this level here, they just worked hard,” said Wise.
“They’re all friends. They’re all tight and I feel like that’s what got us to this point. We didn’t have and bickering in-house. I know we have four seniors we’re going to be missing, but we have a good group returning. So, I think we can duplicate this or even get over that hump to the next level.”
Wise praised Africentric and added he was proud of how his team battled the successful program.
“They’re in the state tournament it seems like year in and year out. You play that type of program that’s been here, so they know what it takes,” said Wise. “I thought our kids played the first half. We just came up a little bit short in the second half.”
Africentric will face Ottawa-Glandorf at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday in the state tournament at the University of Dayton. The other Division 3 semi-final is at 2 p.m. between Harvest Prep and Cleveland Lutheran East. The finals are 5:15 p.m. Sunday.
South Point 10 8 9 11 = 38
Africentric 11 9 26 9 = 55
SOUTH POINT (22-5): Caleb Lovely 4-17 0-0 9, Carter Smith 5-8 0-1 11, Jaxon Vance 0-3 0-0 0, Jordan Ermalovich 0-0 0-0 0, Xander Dornon 1-2 0-0 2, Xathan Haney 2-6 2-3 7, Jackson Childers 2-5 2-2 6, Brayden Hanshaw 0-1 0-0 0, Elijah Wilburn 0-0 0-2 0, Josh Childers 0-0 0-0 0, Javon Ferrell 0-0 0-0 0, Desean Garred 1-1 0-0 3, Ethan Layne 0-1 0-0 0, Derrick Taylor 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 15-46 4-8 38. 3-pt goals: 4-17 (Lovely 0-10, Vance 0-1, Smith 1-2, Haney 1-3, Garred 1-1). Rebounds: 7-O, 13-D = 20 (Lovely 4, Smith 3, Ermalovich 3). Team rebounds: 3. Assists: 7 (Ermalovich 3, Dornon 2). Steals: 6 (Lovely 2, Smith 2). Blocks: 6 (Dornon 2). Turnovers: 12. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None.
AFRICENTRIC (23-5): Laron Fuller 5-9 0-0 11, Dailyn Swain 5-6 7-8 17, Cortez Freeman 4-10 0-0 11, Preston Steele 3-5 2-2 6, Dyson Bibins 0-2 0-0 0, Chris Cooper-Patton 1-1 0-0 3, Mehki Johnson 2-4 1-2 5, Jahleel Wakeel 0-0 0-0 0, Leonard Gore 0-0 0-0 0, Jaylon Turner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-39 10-12 55. 3-pt goals: 5-10 (Fuller 1-3, Swain 0-1, Freeman 3-4, Bibins 0-1, Cooper-Patton 1-1). Rebounds: 8-), 25-D = 33 (Swain 11, Steeler 7). Team rebounds: 4. Assists: 5 (Swain 4). Steals: 12 (Swain 6, Freeman 4). Blocks: 5 (Swain 4). Turnovers: 16. Fouls: 12. Fouled out: None.