By Lannis Timmons
The Deer Park Wildcats entered the championship game with a 28-0 record, and a chance to make history a win over Columbus Africentric, and they did just that with a 67-57 win. Africentric came in the game sporting a 22-6 record after defeating Harvest Prep by 54 to 52 in a great regional semi-final game.
Both teams came out determined to get the “gold medal.’’ Deer Park placed six players in the books, with Mark Wise and Jalen Rose each scoring three points in the quarter. The Nubians Jah Bennett set the pace as he scored five points, and Dorian Holloway added his three points to keep it close. However, it wasn’t enough as the Wildcats closed the quarter ahead by two points at 14 to 12.
In the second period, Africentric caught fire, as they went on a 12 to 0 run with Calyha’won Davis and Tre Baumgardner. Davis and Bumgardner each scored seven points with both of them knocking down three-point shots and getting to the basket in transition scoring two lay-ups apiece. The Deer Park team looked as though they were tired, and out of shape and found themselves down nine points at 35 to 26 going into halftime. But Steve Gentry Jr. stepped up and made two three-point shots, and Ibrahima Athie, who came off the bench and helped the Wildcats keep it close scored five points.
When the teams came out of the locker room for third quarter, you could see the Wildcats had that look in their eyes that they were not going to be denied a state championship, with Jalen Rose putting up seven points and Mark Wise, adding six points. And the big fellow in the middle, Joseph Hocker, started to control the boards, and finish around the basket to help lead the charge back.
On the defensive side of the ball Damani McEntire made his presence felt by getting his hands on a number of passes, getting on the floor for loose balls, and coming up with two steals in the quarter to lead the Wildcats to a one point lead at 46 to 45 and winning the quarter 19-11 as time expired.
Deer Park kept their intensity as the fourth period got going. McEntire hit the floor running, getting four steals starting fast-break opportunities for the Wildcats, and Damani went 6-6 from the free throw line in the quarter and 8-8 from the line for the game, had six steals, two block shots and handed out four assists. Gentry Jr. was 4-4 from the free throw line, and got to the basket for two more points to help extend the lead to ten points and the final score of 67 to 57.
Joseph Hocker had his second double-double game in a row, with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Deer Park won the period, 21-12.
This was a great team win for Deer Park as they placed four players in double figures with Steve Gentry Jr. and Damani McEntire both finished with a team high of 14 points. Jalen Rose had 13 points, and Joseph Hocker had 10 points.
Coach Gentry talked about how hard his players had worked, and the time they put in, made it well worth it.
My hat goes off to Coach Gentry and associate head coaches Reggie Revels, Carl Jarmon, and Eric Washington and his players.