DAYTON, Ohio — The Taft High School boys basketball team is the Division III state champions. Let the celebration begin.
The revenge tour is completed.
The Senators defeated Ottawa-Glandorf 48-45 in the Division III state final in front of 7,105 fans Sunday afternoon at University of Dayton Arena.
"Right now, 420 Ezzard Charles (Drive) - when we get down there (to school) it's going to be rocking," Taft coach Demarco Bradley said.
Taft (19-8) won its second state title in program history. The Senators also won the 2011 Division III state title.
Sunday's game featured eight ties and six lead changes. The game was tied at 38-38 at the end of three quarters.
Just like Taft's challenging regular-season schedule, the state championship wasn't easy. But, a year after Taft lost on a buzzer-beater in the state semifinal, the redemption was that much sweeter in the school's third state tournament appearance.
"I knew we were going to get here," Taft junior guard/forward Rayvon Griffith said. "We just had to believe and trust in ourselves."
Taft senior point guard Mekhi Elmore scored 18 points to go along with four assists and three steals.
Elmore's three field goals at the start of the fourth quarter gave Taft a 44-40 lead - and it wouldn't trail again.
Senior guard Brandon Cromer's memorable block on a Titans' layup attempt gave Taft the momentum defensively, too.
"I've been telling my guys all year: 'Defense wins championships, offense sells tickets," Bradley said.
Griffith scored 12 points and had five rebounds, three steals and two assists. He rose to the occasion after a hard fall to the floor midway through the second quarter that gave every Taft fan a collective pause.
Griffth didn't stay on the sideline long. The Senators outscored the Titans 15-4 after that point to complete the first half and lead 27-23 at halftime.
Freshman forward Kieran Granville-Britten scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds. His motivation within the team huddle proved to be valuable. Bradley said Granville-Britten told the team it would refuse to lose.
Those words were inspiring in a closely-contested fourth quarter in which Taft was challenged throughout the final few minutes.
Junior forward Eian Elmer scored six points and had seven rebounds including a steal and dunk that put the Senators ahead by six points with 2:47 left.
The Senators' defense held firm down the stretch even as Griffith fouled out with 1:22 left.
"I just had to push my teammates," Elmore said. "Lead them through it."
The Senators' perseverance paid off as the Titans missed a shot as time expired.
"You just see that clock hit zero, zero, zero," Griffith said. "Nothing else goes through your mind but to celebrate. Celebrate with your family, your friends - that was what was going through our minds."
Taft. State champs 🏆— Caleb Noe (@CalebNoeTV) March 20, 2022
“I told you, I got you coach!”@TaftNation @iamcpsathletics @IamCPS @GriffithRayvon @MikeDyer @WCPO pic.twitter.com/lvfeGKGMzu
State champions pic.twitter.com/iyTc5XKn8M— Mike Dyer (@MikeDyer) March 20, 2022
Final: Taft 48, Ottawa-Glandorf 45. Taft (19-8) wins the Division III state championship at UD Arena. It is the second state boys basketball title for Taft in program history. @WCPO— Mike Dyer (@MikeDyer) March 20, 2022