Late in the fourth quarter, Daequan Cook took an outlet pass from a teammate on the fast break, and looked around seeing no one could prevent a wide-open dunk. He paused in mid-air hoping to craft the perfect windmill dunk.
Clank. The dunk missed and caromed off the back of the rim.
Atoning for perhaps the only flaw in an otherwise perfect evening, Cook snatched up the loose ball on the baseline and went right back up for an easy layup for two of his 41 points in Dayton Dunbar's 101-53 sinking of the Cleveland Villa Angela – St. Joseph Vikings on Monday evening at the Schottenstein Center in the Martin Luther King Day Classic.
"I kind of slowed up on it a little. I thought about it," Cook excused himself of the miss. "Usually I don't think about that dunk; I just do it. That's what really made me miss it."
The Wolverines (11-2) jumped out to a quick start, including 23-13 after the first quarter, and never really looked back against the Vikings behind Cook's 41 points and a lot of easy baskets in transition.
The Dunbar guards were too quick and too talented for St. Joseph. Cook was just too good.
"That's an athletic team that took advantage of us," said Villa Angela – St. Joseph head coach Dave Wojciechowski. "They were like sharks in a bloody water."
If Dunbar was like a bunch of hungry sharks, Cook must have been like Jaws himself.
The Vikings' ship went under and everyone was powerless to stop it – even Ohio State commitment David Lighty, who scored 10 points. Lighty, who is still trying to get back to form from tearing his ACL last March, came short with his teammates in a match-up billed as two future teammates squaring off.
Wojciechowski wasn't sympathetic to the result.
"No, I don't (feel bad)," he said bluntly. "I feel bad for our entire group but they put that on themselves a little bit today. I don't think we fought and competed."
Cook's 41 points came on 17-of-29 shooting from the field, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range. He also added 15 rebounds, five assists, three steals, several highlight-reel dunks and only turned the ball over once in addition to his prolific scoring.
He was the man among boys in the highly anticipated showdown between Cook and his future Buckeye teammate, Lighty.
"Cook's tremendous," Wojciechowski said. "Cook is going to be a heck of a player at the college level and I was very, very impressed with him."
He wasn't a one-man show, however.
The Vikings had a real tough time containing 6-8 junior post Aaron Pogue in the middle. The big man had just eight points and five rebounds, but often drew double and triple teams down low and it allowed him to kick the ball back out to the perimeter, and after a few extra passes, the Wolverines were getting several good looks.
"They just have a lot of talented kids and they're a very good team," Wojciechowski added. "And any time you have a 6-8 guy inside that can put the ball in the hole and is very talented, it opens up a lot of other guys."
Another one of those guys, 6-8 forward Mark Anderson, had a big game as well. Anderson scored 15 points, including 10 in the second half, and grabbed nine rebounds.
By halftime, it was clear that the Vikings were playing for pride only. The Wolverines held a commanding 48-21 lead, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Cook, which capped off a 23-point first half performance.
A disappointed Lighty added four rebounds but shot just 3-of-12 from the field and struggled to find some sort of spark for his team.
"I tried to do the best I could, I tried to attack the basket and get my teammates involved but I just couldn't do anything about it," Lighty said.
In the second half, Cook was rather quiet to begin the third quarter as he still was stuck with 23 points through the first five minutes.
But Dunbar continued to stretch their lead before a crowd of at least a couple thousand people that included a half dozen current Ohio State players, nearly the entire coaching staff from Ohio State, future teammate Mike Conley's mother and father as well as former Buckeyes Bill Hosket, Chris Jent and Will Dudley, who is an assistant coach for Harvest Prep and sophomore commitment, B.J. Mullens.
Over the next two minutes of the third quarter, and then for 5:30 of the fourth before taking a seat on the bench, Cook went ballistic.
He scored another 18 points in just a little less than a quarter of action. Until the missed dunk, Cook was doing everything right including long 3-pointers, steals, fast breaks, unstoppable penetration and even had a few plays that brought a smile to Thad Matta – his future coach.
"After that performance, you've got to love him," Lighty said. "You've got to be happy that he's your teammate next year."
Ashen Ward was the leading scorer for the Vikings on Monday. The 6-4 sophomore scored 14 points.
Villa Angela – St. Joseph's prolific wing, Darryl Rushton, was limited to 8 points on just 4-of-12 shooting. He did add five rebounds and three assists, however.
The Wolverines also got 10 points from Antoine Sain and junior Norris Cole as well as 6 points and six assists from Darran Powell.
But there was no questioning it was Cook's show.
"I came out and played a little harder today to give people a taste of what it will be like next year at Ohio State," he noted. "It meant a lot to me. Like I said before, I just wanted to put on a show for everybody and let them know how it will be next year. I'm just one fifth of the Thad Five coming in here next year."
The 41 points was Cook's career high.
But according to him, was it his best game?
"No, I've played better," he said.
That's right, he did miss that dunk. He wasn't perfect on Monday, after all.
For the Vikings, that's no consolation.