WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Tasos Cook’s first name, in Greek, means ‘resurrection.’ And over the past several weeks, Cook and his teammates have displayed a resurgence unlike any team in central Ohio basketball history.
“It’s destiny in my opinion,” said guard Landon Tillman. “I just feel like it’s written out for us and we’ve just got to go take it.”
Tillman started Central’s dramatic run two weeks ago in the District Final against Pickerington North. With the Warhawks down one point in the final seconds, Tillman hit a three-pointer with a second to play to lift Central to the championship. And then this past Saturday, against Gahanna in the regional final, Central delivered an even more dramatic finish.
“That’s probably one of the wildest games ever played in Central Ohio basketball, and it might stay that way for a long time,” said WCHS head coach Kevin Martin.
“I’m still in shock because that game really should’ve been over,” guard Quincy Clark said.
Gahanna and Central were meeting for the third time this season, with the first two meetings each decided by a single point. With the game tied and the clock winding down, Gahanna star Sean Jones buried a jump shot to give the Lions a 44-42 lead. 1.9 seconds remained on the clock, and the Warhawks had to go the length of the court.
“In my mind, we just lost,” Martin said. “Tasos came off the court and the first thing he said was ‘I’m gonna make a shot’ . . . and he was going to be the guy who had it in his hands, whatever happened.”
Cook, a senior and the central district player of the year, had scored 21 points in the game up to that point.
Martin called a timeout to set up a play after seeing what Gahanna was planning to do defensively. It was decided Cook would have to work to get open and turn up the court. He had time for two dribbles before the shot.
“Once I got it, I let it go before the buzzer . . . I felt confident in it,” Cook said.
Cook took two dribbles, squared his shoulders to the basket, and from half court he leapt into the air and released the ball with his right hand. It soared through the air and dropped through the hoop sending Westerville Central to its first-ever Final 4. The celebration was immediate and wild.
“There were a lot of people in that gym that had a lot of pent up energy to be at a game of that magnitude and people went crazy,” Martin said.
The Warhawk players spent the next several minutes running around the gym at Westerville South, hugging family members and consoling their opponents from Gahanna. They lifted a regional championship trophy for the first time in school history. And then, players got to their phones as video of the final shot went viral.
“Got a bunch of new followers on Instagram, my Twitter feed was just shot,” Cook said. “I just had a bunch of text messages, calls, DM’s, everything was going through on my phone.”
More work remains for the Warhawks (21-2), now two wins away from their first state championship in school history. They’ll play St. Ignatius (19-6) Saturday night in Dayton in the Division I semifinals. And it’s clear the players remain intent on finishing their historic run.
“My teammates know what the main goal for the season is,” Cook said. “We’ve got to put that to the side and achieve greater and better things.”
“We’re fortunate to be where we’re at,” Martin said. “This team is really good and they deserve to be there.”