Value City Arena 65-52 in the Division I state final Saturday before 12,465 at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center.
COLUMBUS — The 65-year drought is over and Newark had a performance for the ages to thank for it.
Senior Greg Avery had a feeling Saturday would be one of those special nights, but his performance in the Division I state final against Lakewood St. Edward likely even topped his expectations.
His 33 points and 11 rebounds overwhelmed Lakewood St. Edward at Value City Arena, and the rest of Newark followed suit, winning the Division I state title in convincing fashion, 65-52, in front of 12,465 fans who were left amazed with Avery’s captivating night.
“Avery had one of the best games I’ve ever seen a Newark player have and I’ve been to a lot of games,” Newark coach Jeff Quackenbush said. “At this stage, to score 33 points and shoot 14-of-18, that’s a big-time game.
“This is one kids will be talking about. My nephew is nine years old and I guarantee he’ll be talking about this game for a long time. He played an unbelievable game.”
Thanks to Avery’s night, Newark won its fourth state title in the program’s illustrious history. The win was the Wildcats’ 14th straight — and number 1,418 in their record history — and it will have the basketball-crazy community talking for years.
Playing in the program’s first state final since 1953, Newark (24-4) controlled the outset and led 33-25 halftime. The Wildcats weathered a third-quarter storm from the Eagles (22-5) and clearly dominated the finish to win its first state title since 1943.
In the midst of everything, there wasn’t much St. Edward could do stop the 6-foot-4 senior, who scored on 78 percent of his shots in nearly every way imaginable.
“This is amazing,” Avery said. “Once we got to the district championship, we knew we had a chance. We took that chance and ran with it. It feels great.”
Rahlin Watson finished with 10 points and four assists and Dennison added eight points and six assists for Newark. Kopp had seven points and 11 rebounds, but his contribution was again felt on defense.
Kopp and post players Will McCoy and Taylor Huffman negated Indiana-bound Tom Pritchard.
The standout finished with just nine points and six rebounds, fouling out in the fourth quarter. Newark also shot 50 percent overall and held a 36-29 rebounding advantage against a team that rallied in Friday’s semifinal against No. 4 Cincinnati St. Xavier.
The Eagles closed to 38-34 in the third quarter, but Newark controlled the final 13 minutes.
“We knew they were capable of making a run in the second half,” Dennison said. “They had been down before. We just made sure we ran our offense — reversed the ball and took good shots.”
Avery had 19 first-half points, scoring six straight to give Newark a 31-16 lead in the second after a 10-2 run.
St. Edward followed with a 9-0 spurt, but Avery’s pull-up jumper made it 33-25 at halftime.
The Eagles’ last gasp came in the third on a 3-pointer from Frankie Dobbs, who led the Eagles with 15 points.
That made it 38-34, but it would be nearly four minutes before St. Edward scored again.
Avery, meanwhile, scored six points to end the quarter — one on an alley-oop from Watson — to give Newark a 48-36 lead.
By then, it was clear St. Edward was too fatigued to keep up with the quicker and more aggressive Wildcats.
“I told them that their guards couldn’t keep (Dennison, Avery and Watson) in front,” Quackenbush said. “You have to keep attacking and when you have the luxury of having these guys, it makes us look pretty smart.”
St. Edward coach Eric Flannery said his team just ran out of steam.
“We got down four and I felt like we were right back in the game,” Flannery said. “But they just kept making shots.”
St. Edward closed to nine early in the fourth, but Avery had six more points, the last on a dunk to make it 58-43 to sum up an incredible performance.
“He was very good,” St. Edward coach Eric Flannery said. “We knew he was good, but everything we tried to do, he overcame. They did a lot of different things to get him open and he responded.”