DAYTON, Ohio – Darweshi Hunter walked calmly to the free-throw line with a half-second left in the most significant game of his high school career.
The Princeton 6-foot-4 senior guard swished the first attempt. He raised his arms to the delight of the Princeton crowd sitting near the court.
He slightly tugged his jersey, took two dribbles and a few spins and swished the second. Ballgame.
Nothing seemed to rattle Hunter, who finished with a game-high 25 points including 14 of 14 from the free-throw line Saturday afternoon.
Hunter’s free throws proved to be the difference in the Vikings’ 53-51 win over Lakota East in a Division I district final Saturday afternoon at University of Dayton Arena. It is the first district title for Princeton since 2010.
“He’s a big-game guy,” Princeton coach Steven Wright said. “He’s a scorer. That’s what you want, especially at a high school or college level. You want a guy who can score the ball, and that’s Darweshi can do. I’m so happy for him … that he helped us win the game.”
Hunter scored 22 of his 25 points in the second half Saturday on a day the Vikings needed his performance the most.
“It’s one of the greatest things that happened in my life,” Hunter said. “It was a lot of hard work. I am extremely blessed to have this happen.”
Princeton was without two starters Saturday – senior forward/guard Darius Bazley and senior guard Dominic Pierce – both of whom were required to sit out the game due to Ohio High School Athletic Association rules for leaving the bench during the sectional final last week.
Bazley and Pierce were not in uniform and sat in the UD Arena seats away from the bench. The teammates cheered on their team and joined them on the court for the district title celebration.
Bazley, a McDonald’s All-American and Syracuse University signee, urged Hunter to be special. Hunter heard his teammate and applied his advice.
It was a unique week of practice without Bazley and Pierce but the Vikings persevered under the circumstances. Wright admitted their absence was very significant but said Princeton must get ready for Wednesday.
Bazley and Pierce are required to sit out the regional semifinal game March 14 at Cintas Center, too.
Princeton (23-3) advances to play either Oak Hills or Huber Heights Wayne at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
Oak Hills plays Wayne at 7 p.m. today in another district final at UD Arena.
Princeton and Lakota East met for a third time this season. Princeton won the two regular-season meetings between the Greater Miami Conference opponents.
On Saturday, Princeton was also led by senior post player Gabriel O’Neal with 11 points.
The game was tied three times in the fourth quarter. Hunter’s 3-pointer with 43 seconds left tied the game at 51. Lakota East turned the ball over with 24 seconds left, and Hunter was fouled on the final possession.
Lakota East (16-9) was led by senior guard Jarrett Cox with 19 points and eight rebounds. Junior Bash Wieland had 16 points.
Cox went over the 1,000 career points milestone early in the first quarter Saturday.
Get the latest preps sports news and chat with Mike Dyer by joining our Cincinnati Area High School Sports Facebook group.