Two Ohio State verbal commitments in Jared Sullinger and Jordan Sibert helped lead their respective teams to Ohio's Division I state championship game. One day prior, Sullinger's Columbus Northland team easily disposed of Warren Harding before Sibert's Cincinnati Princeton team took care of Toledo St. John's Jesuit to set up the showdown.
Playing in Value City Arena, the collegiate home of the Buckeyes, each player went about it a different way. Sullinger posted a double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds as he played a focal point in the offense, while Sibert put forth a more modest night.
The 6-5, 180-pound guard had 15 points, six steals, four rebounds and three assists while playing more of a supporting role for the Vikings (25-1).
Of his 15 points, all but four of them were scored in the second half. With the score knotted at 32, Sibert dribbled out the final 16 seconds of the third quarter before driving the basket from the right side and scoring at the buzzer to put his team ahead by two going into the final stanza.
It was the start of a personal 6-0 run capped by an alley-oop dunk with 6:53 remaining that brought the pro-Princeton portion of the 12,154 in attendance to their feet and forced the Titans to call a timeout.
"We felt confident as soon as we came out at halftime," Sibert said. "We knew that sooner or later we were going to have to make a run and as we got out there we just felt good about it."
His 6-0 run was the start of a 13-0 run that put the game away. Afterward, Sibert credited Sullinger for his fourth-quarter mentality.
"Playing with (Sullinger) this summer I learned a lot from his characteristics," Sibert said. "I know when to focus in. I need to work on that from the beginning, but fourth quarter I know is the time I need to zero in and do whatever the team needs me to do. In the fourth quarter I just do what's necessary for my team to win."
The game sets up a rematch of two teams who played a two-quarter exhibition against each other early in the season. According to Sullinger, Northland (26-1) got the better of its southern Viking counterparts and knows to expect an impassioned Princeton squad.
"We beat them by 18 in two quarters," Sullinger said. "They were kind of embarrassed. They're going to have gasoline on their fire because they were embarrassed."
The two OSU verbal commitments are familiar with each other, with Sullinger describing Sibert as being like his little brother.
"This game means nothing if we lose," Sibert said. "We have to go out there and give it our best. We played them earlier and we didn't give them everything we could but this time it's a different team, different atmosphere, different game. We're just ready."
Both players had an extra-interested observer in the stands: OSU head coach Thad Matta. In homage to his future as a Buckeye, Sibert wore white socks with the OSU Block ‘O' logo emblazoned on the ankles.
"It was amazing," Sibert said of playing in his future home. "I've got to get used to it. It was my first time being in here playing. My shot was a little flat, a little off, but we'll see what happens (Saturday)."
Saturday's tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
"Great competition," Siebert said of Sullinger. "We know we're going to have to step up. We're real close but (Saturday) on the court it's about our Princeton family. It's not about AAU."