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COLUMBUS - Continental's dream of a state boys basketball championship ended last night when the 11th-ranked Pirates ran into a big-city buzz saw in the Divison IV semifinals at Value City Arena.
That buzz saw was top-ranked Columbus Africentric Secondary, which jumped on the Pirates in the opening half, watched Continental rally to within five in the fourth quarter, then coasted to a 61-45 victory.
Africentric, a second-year school with a team comprised largely of transfers from high schools around Columbus, has won 25 straight since losing at Libbey 70-50 on Dec. 4.
The Nubians (26-1) jumped on the obviously nervous Pirates early, taking a 13-4 lead after one quarter and pushing that edge to 18-4 on Lance Sullivan's 3-pointer 2:07 into the second period.
Compounding the problem, Continental's top two players and only senior starters - D-IV state co-player of the year Kurtis Brown and 6-4 post player Nick Wilson - were held to a combined four points before the break, which arrived with Africentric holding a 27-13 advantage.
Both Continental seniors redeemed themselves after the break, leading a third-quarter rally which got the Pirates within 37-31 (on Brown's 3-pointer) with 1:47 left in the third period.
"We just came out flatter than a pancake," Continental coach Kevin Homier said. "Their quickness got into us, we struggled getting the ball up the floor and we turned it over way too much.
"Jitters got to us in the first half, and in the third quarter we got back to where we wanted to be. The 3 [Sullivan's 3-pointer at buzzer] at the end of the third quarter was terrible. That killed us."
Continental (22-4) opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back buckets from sophomore guard Scott Keck (nine points) and Brown to trim the deficit to 40-35 with 5:42 remaining.
But that was as close as the upset-minded Pirates could get, as Africentric regrouped and began pounding the ball inside to capitalize on its advantages in height and athleticism.
The Nubians, who never trailed in the game, outscored Continental 38-24 on points in the paint and 12-2 on transition baskets.
After Continental got within five, the Nubians launched a game-breaking 12-4 spurt capped by Travante Leftenant's two free throws for a 52-39 lead with 1:45 to go. That was part of Africentric's 21-10 finishing stretch after Continental's rally.
Brown finished with 16 points and nine turnovers, and Wilson added 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Pirates hit just five of their 18 first-half shots.
"It didn't seem like we could put three baskets together tonight," Homier said. "We did in that one little stretch [opening the third quarter], but we're better than that. I'm sorry we didn't put on a better show down here. But these kids had a great year."
LaQuawn Perry topped Africentric with 14 points, state co-player-of the year Donald Suel had 12, and Sullivan and Leftenant added 11 and 10, respectively.
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CLE. HTS. LUTHERAN EAST 86,
Donnell Washington's 3-pointer from the right corner at the buzzer gave Cleveland Heights Lutheran East a win in double overtime in a Division IV state semifinal.
Washington, who finished with 22 points, was the hero at the end of the first overtime as well, converting a three-point play with 21.4 seconds left when things looked bleakest for the Falcons (21-5).
Minster (21-5) led most of the second overtime. The Wildcats were a woeful 16-of-33 at the line.
Jon Liggins totaled 24 points and Sam Liggins and Washington each had 22 for the Falcons.
Dane Sommer had 22 points, 12 assists and six rebounds for Minster.39.96196 -83.00298