Olentangy Orange’s historic postseason push came to a close Saturday afternoon at Ohio University’s Convocation Center, but the senior-laden Pioneers gave the defending state champs all they could handle in the process.
After a back-and-fourth battle through the first three and a half quarters, Orange’s Jordan Edwards found Elias Lewis for an open three-pointer, then scored a clutch hoop of his own to complete a quick 5-0 run and put the Pioneers (24-4) up 53-50 with two minutes and change to play.
Ohio State commit Devin Royal and Pickerington Central (23-5) took over from there, though. Royal, who led all scorers with 29 points, scored a pair of hoops in the final minutes as part of a 7-0 run to close the game and lead the Tigers to a 57-53 win for their second straight Division I regional title.
Central looked poised to pull away early in the fourth, taking a 43-36 lead before Mikey McCollum and Edwards teamed up for a quick 7-0 spurt to even things at 43.
McCollum then hit a three-pointer after a Levi Davis block, giving Orange a 46-43 edge, but the defending champs flexed their muscles down the stretch.
Andrew Hedgepeth answered with a triple of his own to even things at 46 and, after the Pioneers surged ahead, Royal took matters into his own hands to put the Tigers ahead for good.
He accounted for more than half of Central’s fourth-quarter points, including a clutch turnaround jumper off the glass. Orange called a timeout to talk about things with 45.7 seconds left, but couldn’t claw any closer.
Lewis led the charge with 18 points, McCollum added 15 and Edwards chipped in 12 points and six assists for the Pioneers, who won their first district title in program history a couple games prior.
With the win, Pickerington Central earned a final four rematch with Centerville next Saturday at University of Dayton Arena. Tip is slated for 5:15 p.m.