CINCINNATI - The Walnut Hills Eagles basketball team did something no team before them had done: Win a Regional Semifinal to advance to the D-I State Final Four March 22 in Columbus.
The Eagles beat LaSalle 50-46 at Cintas Center improving to 27-1 and are currently ranked #3 in the AP poll.
The Lancers jumped out to a 6-0 start on a Connor Speed turnaround jumper before opening that up to a 9-4 advantage. Speed finished the game with 10 points. But Walnut roared back and when DJ Wingfield hit the tough and-one in the paint, it was tied up at 9.
They traded the lead back and forth a few more times before Walnut went on a 10-2 run that gave the Eagles the advantage at the half 26-18. Isaiah Johnson (University of Akron commit) and DJ Wingfield (Ohio University commit) each had nine points and five rebounds at the break.
The Eagles exited the locker room looking to run the ball and LaSalle tried to keep up before finding themselves down 35-24 after two straight Khari Burton scores. He finished with ten points and five assists. That was the biggest lead of the night for either squad before Lancer coach Dan Fleming implemented a successful stall ball tactic that got the Lancers back in the game.
When Jeffery Larkin hit a wide open 15 footer with six minutes left in the game, LaSalle had completed a 14-3 run and tied the game at 38 all.
Connor Speed hit a jumper that put them ahead 40-39 with 3:18 to go, their first lead since 12-9 to begin the second period. They exchanged leads a couple more times and with LaSalle trailing by a point with 1:19 left in the game the Lancers seemed to be attempting to run the clock down for the final shot when Tim Bell was trapped and threw it away.
The Eagles had possession and Khari Burton's inbound pass to Sterling Gilmore led to the basket and-one. Walnut Hills hit their free throws the rest of the way to become region champs.
Isaiah Johnson finished with 16 points and ten boards and DJ Wingfield added 13 and eight. LaSalle’s Jeffery Larkin, Jeremy Larkin and Connor Speed all finished with ten points.
Walnut Hills will now play the winner of the March 16 Brecksville/Toledo Rogers game next Friday March 22 at 8:30 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the Ohio State University campus.
CLICK the video to see the highlights and hear the players and Ricardo Hill talk about their historic win.