COLUMBUS — Amari Davis finished what he started three years ago.
Trotwood-Madison’s senior guard scored a game-high 24 points and the Rams won an elusive state title with a thrilling 77-73 win over Columbus South in a battle of the top two ranked teams in Division II on Saturday at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
The state title was the first for Trotwood (28-2) after a series of recent near misses. The Rams lost to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the semifinals in 2017 and fell to the Fighting Irish in last year’s championship game.
Davis, who is headed to Wisconsin Green Bay, was a starter in both of those losses.
“Every year we’ve been getting closer to this point and every year we ended up coming up short,” a relieved Davis said through a satisfied smile. “I always looked at myself in the mirror and asked myself, ‘What can I do better to help this team?’ ”
Trotwood, which came into the Final Four averaging a jaw-dropping 102 points a game and topped the century mark in Thursday’s semifinal win over Akron Buchtel, looked like it might hit triple figures again after a frenetic first quarter. The Rams led 22-21 after one, but suffered through a an uncharacteristic scoring drought in the second. South (28-2) outscored Trotwood 19-13 in the period and took a 40-35 lead to the half.
“One of our priorities was to go into halftime with the lead,” South coach Ramon Spears said. “We had a lead into the fourth quarter, but we had some lapses.”
South opened a 60-49 lead, its biggest lead of the day, on a Treohn Watkins layup with a minute remaining in the third quarter before Davis ignited Trotwood’s scintillating comeback with a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the period. A Malachi Matthews bucket cut South’s lead to 60-54 going to the fourth.
“What Amari won’t tell you is he worked really hard on that (3-point) shot,” Trotwood coach Rocky Rockhold said. “This is a kid who wasn’t a 3-point shooter. The last three years he didn’t take a lot of 3-pointers, but he got his tail in the gym and worked hard on it. We gave him the green light to shoot it because he worked hard on it, not because he is Amari Davis.”
South led 68-60 after a Travel Adams layup with 5:34 remaining but the Rams went on a 10-0 run and took a 70-68 lead on Keon’te Huguely’s layup with 4:02 to go.
“There’s never a sense of panic,” Davis said. “We’re used to being down but we just know if we get down, we have to stay the course. That’s what we did tonight.”
A pair of Carl Blanton free throws with 2:17 left gave the Rams a 75-73 lead and Rockhold made the unusual choice to hold the basketball.
“We had fought so hard today and I just believed that once we got under the two-and-a-half minute mark, if we had a lead that they would have to chase us,” Rockhold said. “I said to one of my assistants, ‘If we get this stop we are going to hold the ball.’ ”
The ploy nearly backfired when the Rams turned the ball over with just under a minute remaining. The Bulldogs ran the clock down, but Watkins misfired on a 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining and Sammy Anderson grabbed the rebound and threw ahead of the pack to Huguely, who clinched it with a layup with eight seconds remaining.
“When that buzzer went off, the first thing I thought about was the guys on this team and how proud I am of them,” Rockhold said. “The second thing I thought of was all the kids who have been through this program … because they helped build this culture. It didn’t happen automatically.”
Anderson backed Davis with 20 points. Carl Blanton added 17.
Sam Barton and Trevell Adams led South with 16 points apiece. Marcus Johnson added 14 and Alvin Byrd had 13.
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