Columbus Northland uses size to overpower Warren Harding


Northland’s Jared Sullinger had 22 points and 14 rebounds in the D-I state semifinals. (Photo by Gary Housteau)

Riding the inside game of Jared Sullinger and J.D. Weatherspoon, Columbus Northland earned a spot in the Division I state championship game with a 73-59 win over Warren Harding in a state semifinal Friday at the Schottenstein Center. Sullinger and Weatherspoon combined for 47 points and 22 rebounds. Nuff said.

COLUMBUSOhio’s Mr. Basketball – center Jared Sullinger – is known for his post game. So when the 6-8 Columbus Northland junior canned a 3-pointer to open Friday’s Division I state semifinal with Warren G. Harding, one could sense this was the Vikings night.

And it was.

Utilizing depth, size and sturdy doses of Sullinger and fellow junior J.D. Weatherspoon in the paint, Northland surged past Harding 73-59 before a crowd of 13,997 at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.

The Vikings will play for their first state title at 8:30 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Toledo St. John’s and Princeton.

“The guys are focused,” Northland head coach Satch Sullinger said. “It’s been their goal all year to win the last game of the season and we’re in that position. These guys play extremely hard, they are very unselfish and it’s all about a ‘W.’”

Northland (26-1), ranked No. 16 in the USA Today Super 25 and No. 1 in final AP state poll, never trailed.

Weatherspoon, a 6-6 Xavier commit, led the Vikings with 25 points, while Sullinger, who is headed to Ohio State, added points 22 and 14 rebounds. The duo went a combined 20-of-24 from the field and grabbed 22 of the Vikings 37 rebounds. As a team, Harding swiped just 18 boards.

Overall, Northland scored 56 of its 73 points in the paint.

“Coming out to warm up one of our assistants said ‘They’re bigger than we thought,’” Harding head coach Steve Arnold said. “And I said yeah. We looked at it as speed versus power and tonight the power won out. It’s hard to defend 6-9, 260 with 6-4, 200.”

Said Jared Sullinger: “From Day One we always want to go inside first – inside out. J.D. also dominated on the inside too. I didn’t do it by myself. Both of us feed off of each other.”

The Raiders (23-3) were led by their own superstar, senior DesMar Jackson. A Wyoming recruit, Jackson had a game-high 29 points. He also had five rebounds, five steals and four blocks.

“He’s good man. He’s really good,” Satch Sullinger said. “He’s a great ballplayer. He’s first team all-state and there’s a reason why – he’s good.”

Following Sullinger’s 3-pointer to start the party, the Vikings outscored Harding 19-9 for a 22-9 lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter, Northland built a 38-19 advantage before the Raiders rallied to make it 40-27 at half.

In the third quarter Harding cut the deficit to eight points three times but couldn’t draw any closer.

The Raiders, who were making the second state appearance in school history and first since 1966, were held well below their tournament-best 74 points per game average. Harding shot 45-percent from the floor (24-of-53) and committed 17 turnovers. Fred Williams added 11 points, while Angel Gonzalez chipped in nine.

“Our gameplan was to make it a baseline to baseline game for four quarters,” Arnold said. “We were going to try to wear them down. We just couldn’t get that key bucket. We didn’t have that extra step. We couldn’t get the turnover and convert. We needed to convert in the open court because it’s hard to score against a big team like that in the paint. We thought we had the perfect gameplan.”

Only five players scored for Northland, including Trey Burke (eight), Dimonde Hyde (nine) and Ricky Bennett (nine). The Vikings blistered the nets, shooting 64-percent from the floor (32-of-50).

The negatives for Northland were 24 turnovers and horrid free throw shooting. The Vikings were just 2-of-8 from the foul line in the first half and went 7-of-18 for the game.

It didn’t matter.

When asked if this was the best that Northland had played since the tournament started, Satch Sullinger responded: “Yes. I think the engine is starting to purr.”

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