He did it again.
Malaki Branham began his time at St. Vincent-St. Mary with a state championship in 2018, and he ended time as a high school basketball player with another trophy.
The future Buckeye propelled the Irish to a 72-50 victory against St. Francis DeSales on Sunday night in the Division II state championship, making one last case to win Ohio's Mr. Basketball by dropping a game-high 37 points. That's the most by any player since Jon Diebler put up 48 points in 2007.
Following @STVMAthletics @OHSAASports Division II state championship, @SpectrumNews1OH @TinoBovenzi spoke with @MalakiBranham, who had 37 points, 14th most ever in a state tournament, and most since @J_Diebler had 48 in 2007. pic.twitter.com/SniZDiydRj— High School Blitz on Spectrum News 1 (@SpecSportsOH) March 21, 2021
At one point midway through the second quarter, St. Vincent-St. Mary trailed by 13 points with Des Watson – a Davidson signee who scored 23 points – helping his team pull ahead. But when the third quarter rolled around, Branham took over. The Irish were down by one point when the borderline five-star prospect connected on a layup. Over the course of the next six minutes, he dropped 16 of his 37 points to put the Irish ahead by 12 going into the fourth quarter when they further extended their lead.
Branham had an efficient evening, making 15-of-21 shots, including 7-of-8 free throws. While he didn't connect on either 3-point attempt, he added four rebounds, three assists and a block with two turnovers.
The next Ohio State hoops season might feel incredibly far away after what happened in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Friday. But Branham – the No. 29 overall recruit in 2021 –will bring some much-needed excitement to Columbus. Several times, head coach Chris Holtmann has talked about how he expects the high school senior to be an immediate-impact guard in the 2021-22 season.
Branham's title-winning performance in Dayton on Sunday will only increase the anticipation.