COLUMBUS — The 13th-seeded Westerville Central boys basketball team scored the first 12 points of the second quarter to build a cushion and held on late to edge 18th-seeded Delaware Hayes 43-40 in the third of four Division I district championship games Saturday afternoon at Ohio Dominican University.
Tyler Beckel, who finished with three of the Warhawks’ four three-pointers and a game-high 15 points — all in the first half — scored eight straight at one point in the second.
Hayes, which trailed 27-15 at the break, never flinched, though. The senior-led Pacers were a resilient bunch all season, using their experience to navigate the ups and downs of high school hoops and turn an 0-5 start into the district finals birth — their first since 2015.
That resilience was certainly on display in the title tilt.
Hayes followed up one of its worst quarters of the season with one of its best. After being outscored 12-2 in the second, with about as many turnovers as shot attempts, the Pacers used an efficient third quarter to claw back into things.
Paul Burris and Addison Harvey hit back-to-back threes to start the third and, after Nate Griggs cashed in on a pair of free throws, Burris hit another triple to bring Hayes within six, 32-26, with 5:46 left in the third.
After Central answered with a quick 4-0 spurt, Griggs drove in for a tough layin and Harvey scored back-to-back buckets, the second an and-one, to make it a 35-33 game with 1:15 left in the third.
Griggs hit a jumper as the third-quarter buzzer sounded to even things at 35 heading into the fourth and Harvey took a charge on Tasos Cook, the Warhawks’ leading scorer, sending him to the bench with four fouls with virtually the entire fourth quarter to go.
Hayes took advantage in a hurry, securing a late lead as Griggs split a pair at the line on the ensuing possession, but MJ Davis answered with a huge three at the other end to give Central a lead it never relinquished.
Griggs made a couple free throws to slice Hayes’ deficit to three, 41-38, with 2:44 left. Burris then hit what looked to be a game-tying three, but it was ruled he had a toe on the line and the Pacers trailed, 41-40, with less than a minute to go.
Forced to foul, Hayes put Landon Tillman at the line … and the junior delivered. He hit both free throws, the first of a one-and-one and the bonus, for his only points of the game.
The Pacers had 29.1 seconds to work with after the free throws, and Burris and Griggs both got threes off, but both were well-contested as the Warhawks hung on for their first district title in program history.
Cook and Quincy Clark backed Beckel with 10 points apiece for Central while Griggs had a team-best 11 points for Hayes. Burris and Harvey had 10 apiece in the setback while Nabil Abdus-salaam finished with six, all of which came in the first quarter.
With the win, Westerville Central will take on Thomas Worthington in Thursday’s regional semifinal back at Ohio Dominican. The winners of Saturday’s other two district title games, Walnut Ridge and Hilliard Bradley, will play Wednesday at ODU. Both games are scheduled to tip at 7 p.m.