Boys Basketball: Africentric Nubians fall in state semifinal, but enjoy season to remember

Africentric boys basketball coach Michael Bates was filled with emotion as he talked about the performance he’d witnessed from junior Dailyn Swain and the heart he’d seen from his team as it battled Ottawa-Glandorf in a Division III state semifinal. 

Most of the memories he believes will stick out from the season, though, didn’t take place during the team’s run to the City League championship or to its fifth state appearance, which ended with a 53-48 loss to the Titans on March 18 at the University of Dayton.

“It’s off-the court things (that stand out),” Bates said. “They have fun. They’re constantly cracking jokes and they’re the TikTok team. I’m always catching them doing TikTok. What I’m going to miss the most is the camaraderie. They went from a collection of individuals to becoming a team and toward the end of the season, becoming a family. I saw so much growth that it’s amazing to be a part of.” 

Africentric's Dailyn Swain dunks during a Division III state semifinal against Ottawa-Glandorf on March 18 at the University of Dayton. The Nubians lost 53-48 as Swain had 32 points, 13 rebounds, seven steals and three assists.

The Nubians, who finished 23-6, beat Beechcroft 65-58 on Feb. 12 in the City title game and were the No. 1 seed for the district tournament, which they won by beating second-seeded Ready 56-53 on March 4 at Ohio Dominican. In both games, Africentric trailed by double digits in the second half. 

After beating Proctorville Fairland 51-43 on March 9 and Sugarcreek Garaway 61-48 on March 12 in the regional tournament at Ohio University, Africentric held leads of 27-16 and 33-23 during the second half against Ottawa-Glandorf. 

Swain, who was the district’s Player of the Year, had 32 points, 13 rebounds, seven steals and three assists in the state semifinal.

“Me, personally, I believe he’s Mr. Basketball,” Bates said. “He’s the best player in the state of Ohio regardless of division, regardless of class. He’s a phenomenal offensive talent but he also plays defense. Seven steals and he’s (6-foot-8)? Come on, man.”

Dan Wagner works his way around Ottawa-Glandorf's Eli Schmenk during Africentric's Division III state semifinal loss March 18. The Nubians finished 23-6.

It was the final prep game for first-team all-district guard Dan Wagner, a Toledo football recruit who averaged 16 points, as well as fellow senior Josiah Smith, a guard who was honorable mention all-district. 

“We were just understanding that getting to the state tournament, any game could be our last,” Swain said. “I really like to play when it’s a really big atmosphere and I knew it could be my last game so I put my all into it.” 

In addition to Swain, junior wing players Dyson Bibins and Preston Steele and sophomore guard Laron Fuller are eligible to return. 

Swain and Wagner were first-team all-league and Steele was second-team all-league. 

“It’s been amazing,” Steele said. “My teammates have been bonding and getting along. We really just put everything together. During the season, we played hard every game.” 

Brothers Chris, L.B. and Philip Towns celebrate Linden-McKinley's 55-40 win over Bloom-Carroll in a Division II district final March 3 at Ohio Dominican.

Linden-McKinley had its most successful season in nearly two decades end with a 60-53 loss to Kettering Alter in a Division II regional semifinal March 10 at Vandalia Butler.  

After last winning a district title in 2005, the fourth-seeded Panthers beat third-seeded Bloom-Carroll 55-40 on March 3 in a district final at Ohio Dominican. 

In the regional semifinal, Linden rallied from a 25-11 deficit to take a 53-51 lead, but the Knights closed the game on a 9-0 run.

The Panthers finished 18-8 overall, including 10-4 in the City-North to place third behind Beechcroft (14-0) and Northland (11-3). 

“I’ve known some of them in this group since they were 8 years old and some of them I taught in gym class,” coach Kevin Darthard said. “This class is special to put it on the line, the most resilient group I’ve been around.” 

Senior L.A. Walker, a first-team all-district and all-league forward who averaged 23 points, scored 26 in the regional semifinal despite fouling out with five minutes remaining. 

Senior guard L.B. Towns, who scored 13 against Alter, was second-team all-district and first-team all-league. 

Senior guard Malakhi Armistead was second-team all-league, and senior guard D’Shawn McGlown and senior forward Victor Harvison also were key contributors. 

Sophomore guards Philip Towns and Kevin Darthard III and junior guard Chris Towns are key contributors eligible to return. 

“Honestly it all came from the offseason work,” Armistead said. “Nobody else believed in us but us. We stayed resilient. No matter what adversity you face, you just bounce back.”