DAYTON, Ohio — It's been a long time coming for Akron Public Schools.
In a classic battle of two Northeast Ohio teams, Buchtel defeated Lutheran West 51-49 Sunday to win the OHSAA Division II boys basketball championship. It's the first-ever state title for the Griffins, and the first for an APS institution in 37 years.
Seeded third in its region, Buchtel (23-6) blew through the district tournament before outlasting Youngstown Chaney, Gilmour, and Bishop Ready to reach the finals for the first time since 1997. The ultimate showdown was back-and-forth throughout, with the Longhorns leading 30-27 at halftime following baskets by Junior Kambomba and Jayson Levis. Rayshon Dent's Griffins turned the ball over seven times in the first 16 minutes.
West (25-4) led by as many as four and still clung to a 46-45 advantage with less than four minutes to go. However, Marcel Boyce Jr. put Buchtel back in front with a 3-pointer, and with just 14 seconds left and the game tied, the senior guard drained what turned out to be the game-winning free throws.
Lutheran West appeared to send things to overtime, but replay review showed Matthew Meyer did not get his shot off before the buzzer. Bucthel then celebrated on the floor at UD Arena, with hero Boyce finishing with a game-high 18 points along with six rebounds. Meyer had 12 points and seven boards for the Longhorns, who were playing in their first state title game.
The last time an Akron Public Schools institution won a boys basketball championship was 1986, when since closed Central-Hower beat Columbus South. Prior to this year, the Griffins were also the most recent APS team to even play in the finals, losing to Benedictine 26 years ago by just three points.
Officially, this is Buchtel's ninth OHSAA team sports championship, and the first since girls track and field won it all in 2007.