COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - If the poll voters were right, then they
were right in a photo finish.
Mr. Basketball Jared Sullinger hit two free throws with 2.7
seconds left as top-ranked Columbus Northland edged No. 2
Cincinnati Princeton 60-58 on Saturday night to capture the
Division I state championship.
It will go down as one of the weirdest finishes in the
tournament's 87 years. Players were fouled on 3-pointers twice in
the final 15 seconds.
Sullinger, a 6-foot-9 junior who has committed to go to Ohio
State in the fall of 2010, finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Xavier-bound teammate J.D. Weatherspoon had 18 points for
Northland (27-1), which edged Princeton for The Associated Press
Jordan Sibert, who also is headed to Ohio State in 2010, led
Princeton (25-2) with 21 points. Miami (Ohio) recruit Orlando
Williams went for 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The two-point difference will be particularly painful for
Princeton. The game also featured a basket scored by Northland when
no one was within 15 feet of the ball - it was tipped in by a
With everyone in the arena screaming, Northland came out of a
timeout with 7.5 seconds left with the score tied at 58.
The ball was inbounded to Sullinger, who was near the midcourt
line. He took the pass, rolled to his right and began to drive to
the foul line when Princeton's Marcus Davis made contact with him
as he went up for a shot. Davis was called for the foul - on a
3-pointer - with 2.7 seconds left.
Sullinger, 5-of-8 at the line to that point, hit the first two,
with Williams grabbing the rebound on the third. His 60-foot shot
at the buzzer came up short.
How close were the teams? Princeton was ranked No. 15 and
Northland No. 16 in the USA Today's national prep poll.
Northland captured a title in its first trip ever to the state
Ahead by six at the half, Northland stretched its lead to 30-20
midway through the third quarter on Sullinger's dunk off a rebound
and a free throw. The Vikings, with Princeton getting in heavier
and heavier foul trouble, maintained a 10-point edge going into the
But Princeton wasn't done.
Turning up the heat on its full-court pressure, it picked up
points on Darrien Wilkins' shot inside, and Sibert, after tipping
the ball away from Sullinger, scored on a twisting layup with 3:51
left to cut the gap to 50-46. Princeton was already without Stefon
Johnson, one of its top players, who had fouled out.
Northland responded with a free throw by Sullinger and a vicious
dunk from Weatherspoon off an assist from Dimonde Hale to stem the
tide at 53-46.
After Williams hit two foul shots for Princeton, the stage was
set for one of the strangest plays imaginable: Sullinger was fouled
with 2:22 left and missed both shots, but Princeton's Marquis
Horne, an Ohio University signee, mishandled the rebound, and it
went into the basket. The bucket was attributed to the Northland
Still, Princeton drew to 55-51 on a Horne finger roll and a free
throw by Wilkins.
The teams traded free throws before Northland lost the ball when
freshman Jordan Potts could not get the ball in play in 5 seconds.
Princeton turned it into points almost immediately, with Williams
swishing a long 3-pointer in front of his own bench to cut the lead
to 57-56 with 41 seconds left.
Northland guard Trey Burke was fouled with 27.6 seconds left and
hit the second free throw to make it 58-56.
Princeton hurried the ball down the floor and, stunningly,
Williams was fouled by Burke - on a 3-pointer - with 14.4 seconds
left. Williams hit the first, the second dribbled off the edge of
the rim and then he made the tying shot.
That set the stage for the final wild seconds.
Princeton was making only its second appearance at the state
tournament, having lost in the Class AAA championship game in 1972
to Cleveland East Tech.