Latimer's dominant performance lands Jefferson its third state championship
One question surrounding the Division IV boys basketball state championship was answered during player introductions. The most important question wasn’t answered until 32 minutes of hoops had been played. And Cody Latimer had it...
COLUMBUS – One question surrounding the Division IV boys basketball state championship was answered during player introductions. The most important question wasn’t answered until 32 minutes of hoops had been played.
With Michigan State recruit Adreian Payne in the starting line-up – a decision that was made prior to tip off – Dayton Jefferson captured the D-IV state title Saturday by outlasting Newark Catholic 59-52 before a crowd of 10,781 at OSU’s Schottenstein Center.
Although Payne was literally a big issue entering the game – he stands 6-foot-10 – it was Jefferson junior Cody Latimer that garnered most of the applause.
Latimer, a 6-3 junior, scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He was 10-of-11 from the field for the game. His only miss came on a put back dunk with seven seconds left. Regarded as one of Ohio’s top junior football prospects, Latimer’s basketball play Saturday was reputable too.
“The last three months Latimer’s stock has just climbed and climbed and climbed,” Newark Catholic head coach Drew Meister said. “He has a blend of power and explosion that’s a handful. He was the one aspect of the game that was the difference maker. He was a beast.”
“That’s my mentality,” Latimer said. “I wasn’t going to let nothing stop me.”
Earlier this season a concussion did what Newark Catholic couldn’t. Latimer missed several key midseason games while recovering from the injury sustained in a contest Jan. 9 versus Dayton Meadowdale.
Since his return, Latimer has been leading the team, which was also without the services of Payne for several games as he recovered from a dislocated shoulder sustained in a win over D-II state champion Dunbar. Payne was “80-percent” Saturday and will have surgery on his shoulder Monday at 6 a.m. at Grandview Hospital in Dayton.
“I told my team when I came back I was going to come back stronger and get us here,” Latimer said. “With AP out I knew I had to step up big time because that’s a big piece of our puzzle. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been getting as many rebounds as I can and finishing strong when I go to the hole.”
On the same day Dayton neighbor Dunbar earned its fourth state title, the Broncos (17-10) rallied to win their third and give Montgomery County its 24th championship overall.
Jefferson’s 10 losses – five via forfeit – are also the most for a state champion since Youngtown Ursuline won the 1994 D-III title with the same 17-10 record.
The Broncos led 14-8 after the first quarter and 27-23 at halftime, but NC fought back – behind a bombardment of three 3s – to take the lead 42-41 heading into the fourth.
A Latimer basket to open the final period gave the Broncos the lead for good, and although NC forced a tie twice in the final eight minutes, it never regained the lead.
Payne and Joby Jackson each had 11 points for Jefferson, while Matt Dawson led NC with 20. James Moerman added 10 points for the Green Wave.
“We were able to regain our poise and get it done,” said Jefferson head coach Art Winston, who also led the Broncos to a state title in 1998. “Cody’s rebounding and the way he established himself in the post was key. He got us some easy points.”
Newark Catholic (25-2), playing in its first basketball state championship game, fell just short of adding to its program’s stored athletic tradition. The Green Wave own eight football titles and six baseball championships.
“There are a couple things we try to do at Newark Catholic and that’s compete and do it with class,” Meister said. “There’s no question this group of men did that today. We just went up against an opposing obstacle that was relentless.”
Said Latimer: “They’re scrappy. They wanted it bad like we did so they tried to match our intensity and that’s what made it hard. They were fighting down low and doing a good job of breaking our press and pushing us.
“It was a nice little fight.”