Northland wins seventh-straight City-League Championship, defeating Africentric 53-51

With just 51 seconds to go, and the game tied at 46, Africentric (19-3, 13-2) had the opportunity of a lifetime to put an end to Northland’s historic 103-game Columbus City-League winning streak. The Nubians held the ball and were ready to take the final shot before a packed house at East High School. As was the case for the majority of the afternoon, Africentric missed another opportunity, turning the ball over with ten seconds remaining. Northland (22-0, 15-0) would hit two free-throws following an Africentric foul, but the Nubians would tie the game at the buzzer, sending it into overtime.

From the tip, it seemed Northland was ready to run away with their seventh straight City title. As the Vikings jumped out to an early 8-0 lead,  Africentric would battle back, going on an 15-3 run to end the first quarter. The Nubians converted turnovers into points, including an explosive alley-oop from Jaquan Harrison.

Coming into the second quarter trailing by four, Northland turned up the heat on defense, pioneered by Shemar Waugh’s on-ball pressure. Africentric blew several chances to increase their lead, highlighted by a stretch midway through the period, when the Nubians wasted three consecutive opportunities around the basket. Africentric’s failure to convert short range chances would plague them for the remainder of the game. Both teams would trade punches for the rest of the period, but Jalen Tucker’s buzzer-beating basket at the end of the quarter sent the Vikings into halftime with a 25-24 advantage.

Northland would open up the second half similar to the first few minutes of the game, widening their lead to six at 36-30, highlighted midway through the third by a Seth Towns three-point field goal. Kenny Robinson and the Nubians would again battle back, coming together for a 10-0 run over the final four minutes to head into the fourth quarter leading 40-36. Robinson and Tucker led all scorers with 19 points.

Trailing by four, the Northland defense once again turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter. Limiting Africentric’s chances for points, the Vikings charged back with a crucial 6-0 run led by two Ty Hairston three-point baskets. After Hairston’s second three, which gave Northland a 42-40 lead, the junior guard forced a crucial turnover on the following possession, giving the Vikings the ball with 4:48 remaining. Several missed free-throws by Northland gave Africentric the chance they needed to get back in the game. Trailing by three, at 46-43, Kenny Robinson hit a gigantic three-point basket to tie the game with 1:10 to go. Northland’s Derek McKeithen turned the ball over on the following trip, giving Africentric the chance they need with 51 seconds to go. Driving to the hoop with ten seconds remaining, CyQuil Tucker had the ball knocked loose from behind by Hairston, turning possession back over to Northland. Jalen Tucker hit two free-throws, but on the following possession, Houston Smith would find CyQuil Tucker for the equalizer as time expired, sending the game into overtime at 46-46.

In the overtime period, Africentric regained the lead following two Robinson free-throws for a 53-51 advantage with 1:40 to go. Armani Towns would be fouled on the next possession, and hit both free-throws to tie it at 53. Africentric’s Houston Smith failed to convert on the following trip down the floor, as Northland regained possession with 48 seconds remaining. Waugh would run the clock down to :14 before the Vikings called a timeout to set up for the final shot. On the last possession, Waugh found his way into the lane, dishing it to Armani Towns, who had his shot attempt blocked right into the hands of Tucker, who for the second time in the game, converted a buzzer-beater, this time giving Northland a 53-51 victory.

With the win, Northland extends their City-League win streak to an unprecedented 104 games, including seven consecutive league championships. Tucker (19 points) and Towns (13 points) each scored in double-digits for the Vikings, while Robinson (19 points) and Harrison (11 points) led the way for Africentric. Both teams head into the state tournament as the No.1 seeds in their respective districts, Northland in Division I, and Africentric in Division IV.

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Written by: Zach Fleer / @YS614