CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio – After a promising February of producing upsets and setting records, the Columbus State men's basketball team (13-13, 10-6 OCCAC) went into the Region XII DIII Championship ready to battle with Lorain County (17-11, 7-9 OCCAC) for the opportunity to advance toward the national tournament. Yet they suffered a heartbreaking setback, falling to the Commodores in overtime 107-104 to finish the season as Region Runner-Up.
The Cougars came in on a high note, winning eight of their last ten conference games to finish fourth in the OCCAC. On the other hand, Lorain County was holding a sub .500 conference record, having been handed four losses in the last ten games.
The teams met previously twice this season, resulting in a 1-1 record. In December, the Cougars defeated the Commodores 97-81, a 16-point differential. In January, Lorain County fired back with an 18-point win of 106-88.
Sophomore guard/forward Rodney Willis, who missed the January loss against the Commodores due to injury, went into the Tuesday's game after a stellar month of averaging 25 points and ten boards. In this game, he scored a game-high 35 points and 13 rebounds along with a career-best eight steals and a pair of blocks and assists. However, Willis' game highlight came when he sunk in 3-for-3 at the line to tie the game 90-90 and force overtime.
The offensive leader fouled out with 2:20 left in overtime.
Uncharacteristically missing free throws and a season-low 35.8% shooting from the field plagued the Cougars through regulation. Nonetheless, Columbus State did impose 22 turnovers on Lorain to convert them to 28 points. Additionally, they turned 11 of their offense rebounds into 22 points.
Freshman forward Mario Young achieved his second career double-double with 24 points and ten rebounds. Sophomore point guard Johnnie Robinson was the last Cougar to score in double figures with 13 points to go along with seven boards and a game-high seven assists.
Freshman William Prater came off the bench to score seven points while sophomores Grant Dierksheide and Juwan Demmings added six points. Freshmen Dylan Geig and Matthew Gierhart rounded out the scoring with five and four points respectively.
Lorain County built its lead by eleven points several times in the second half, but Columbus State continued to respond with shots of their own, tying the game in the final seconds. However, they could not get over the final obstacle – overtime. Columbus State allowed Commodores guard T. J. Steele to hit two shots from downtown to put their lead by three. Grant Dierksheide shot a last second three in an attempt to force double-overtime to no avail.