Northland Romps In Battle of Future Buckeyes

Columbus Northland did nothing to dishonor its No. 1 national ranking as the Vikings crushed Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers in a game pitting two Ohio State signees against another at Value City Arena. The Vikings dominated from the opening tip of an 88-67 win.

Jared Sullinger and J.D. Weatherspoon were not exactly gracious hosts Saturday night at Value City Arena as the Ohio State recruits and their Columbus Northland teammates hammered Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers and DeShaun Thomas by a final score of 88-67.

All three players will call the VCA home next season, and all three gave fans in Ohio's capital city something to appreciate even if the game was lopsided throughout.

The Vikings (11-0) dominated the from the opening tip, racing out to an 11-0 lead and hardly breaking stride after that.

Scoring from seemingly everywhere on the floor, the 6-8 Sullinger had 12 points in the opening quarter, tying Bishop Luers himself, while the 6-61/2 Thomas led the Knights with seven.

When Thomas got the ball, his athleticism and quick shooting release made for a sight to see, but he did not get much help.

Sullinger did his damage and the Vikings maintained their lead even as Weatherspoon watched from the bench after picking up his second foul with 1:46 left in the first quarter.

Thomas drew that foul on what became a three-point play that pulled the Knights within six, 18-12, but it only momentarily looked as if the Knights would recover from their slow start.

The Vikings, who are ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today, rattled off 10 quick points, the last five coming on a stanchion-rocking Sullinger dunk and a smooth three-pointer from the big man that gave them a 28-12 advantage when the horn sounded.

From that point on, the Hoosier State invaders were no match for the Ohioans, but the three future Buckeyes were happy to put on a show.

Thomas never backed down, though his team was overmatched.

He kept up a personal battle with Sullinger at both ends of the floor, drawing two fouls on him early in the third quarter that earned him trips to the foul line.

At the other end, he guarded Sullinger in the post and forced him to get up the ball twice. Another time, he stripped the big man on his way up. Further proving it was Northland's night, however, the ball deflected to Viking Jalen Robinson, who laid it in to put the Vikings ahead 59-35.

With less than three minutes to play, Sullinger and Weatherspoon left to a standing ovation with 24 and eight points, respectively.

Sullinger, the reigning Ohio Mr. Basketball and rated the third-best player in the nation, made 9 of 12 shots, including a pair of three-pointers, and grabbed nine boards. He also had three assists, two steals and a blocked shot in 29 minutes.

Although foul trouble limited him to 18 minutes, Weatherspoon was able to bring the crowd to its feet with a pair of highlight reel dunks to cap alley-oop passes.

Shortly after they went to the bench, Thomas nailed his fifth three-pointer of the night to draw respectful cheers from fans on both sides of the court and cap a 36-point performance.

Thomas made 11 of 21 shots, including 5 of 10 treys, and was 9 for 11 from the foul line. He also had nine rebounds.

"We threw everything but the kitchen sink at him," Northland head coach Satch Sullinger said. "I had to go into the locker room and look in the mirror and make sure there wasn't a star on my head because he lit us up like a Christmas tree."

Jared Sullinger, the coach's son, was asked how he would describe Thomas' game.

"Unstoppable," the younger Sullinger said. "All his shots were tough and he finished them. It was hard to guard him out there.

"He attacks. He just attacks. That's it. He has a high motor. He plays hard all the time. He's an Ohio State-type basketball player."

The two were happy to take turns battling each other and admiring what the other can do on a basketball court.

While Thomas, the nation's No. 14 player, fulfilled his hope to put on a show for some of his future fans as well as guarding Sullinger in the post, he was also happy to see Sullinger step away from the basket and make jump shots.

"It felt good for him to come out and shoot threes and spread the floor as a big guy," Thomas said. "It was fun. I kept a smile on my face. I wanted to win, but they're a good ballclub. We gave it our all. Coach said have fun and just play hard, and we did that.

"I had to put on a show. This is about to be my hometown here this year so I had to show'em what I'm all about before I come here next season."

Despite his limited minutes, Weatherspoon was glad to take on a player of Thomas' caliber.

"We knew that we had to go against each other for us to get better, so I had to give him good ‘D' and he gave me good ‘D'," Weatherspoon said. "I gave him good ‘O' and he gave me good ‘O', so it was hard but at the same time it was kind of fun."

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