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March 23, 2014

Ohio state champions are crowned

Four teams got the chance of a lifetime on Saturday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus; they were able to hoist the State Championship trophy, with bragging right as the best team in Ohio at their respective divisions in 2014. In front of some great crowds, all four of the games provided different forms of intrigue.

Convoy Crestview was able to finish off an undefeated season en route to a Division IV champion, defeating Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas by a score of 71-42. With Ohio Preps on hand for the other three championship tilts, here's a look back at the final day of high school basketball in the 2013-2014 season.

Division I State Final

Cleveland St. Edward's 62 Upper Arlington 58: In a game that will go down as amongst the most legendary finishes in State Tournament history, the St. Ed's Eagles defeated the hometown Upper Arlington Golden Bears in an thrilling overtime finish.

Senior forward Marsalis Hamilton of St. Ed's made the biggest shot of his career at the buzzer in regulation, as the hard-working wing nailed a deep three-pointer with the Eagles trailing by three to tie the game. Riding that momentum, Ed's was able to hold on during the bonus basketball session, capturing their first State Championship since 1998.

With the support of the local crowd behind them, Upper Arlington raced out to a 9-0 lead to start the game, but Ed's slowly chipped away, clawing within a margin of 22-20 at the half.

Fueled by the offensive production of star junior wing forward Kipper Nichols, who scored a game high 26 points on an efficient 11/15 shooting, Ed's used their superior size and athleticism to chip away at the lead beat up the less talented Golden Bears team.

UA led by three at the end of the third quarter, as senior forward Logan Richter knocked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to break a tie, then extended their lead to what looked like a possibly insurmountable amount at 48-42 with 3:10 to go after a pair of back-to-back three-pointers.

Ohio's top team from the beginning of the season to the end, the Eagles, refused to go away, however, as they would not allow the Golden Bears to play keep away. Senior guard Tony Vuyancih finished a layup with just 14 seconds remaining in regulation to bring Ed's within one at 50-49, setting up the final sequence of events.

Upper Arlington went for the homerun play, with Kevin Vannatta finding Danny Hummer deep down the court for an uncontested layup to put the Golden Bears back up by three. Ed's was then able to race back up the court and call a timeout with just 4.7 seconds to go, leading to the Hamilton buzzer beating three-pointer to miraculously send the game into overtime.

The Eagles then held the ball for much of overtime, before senior point guard Malcolm Walters scored an and-one layup around the rim to give the Eagles the lead for good.

That lead would extend to two scores, putting the game out of reach, with 35 seconds to go, as Vuyancih scored a layup on a breakaway after an Eagles steal.

Both teams exchanged free throws down the stretch, until two makes from Nichols sealed the deal for the Eagles with just under 6 seconds to go.

Nichols led the Eagles with 26 points, but the 11 points of Marsalis Hamilton were equally important for Ed's, as were the 7 points of Vuyancih and 6 points of Walters.

The unsung hero for Ed's, however, might have been sophomore post Derek Funderburk, as the super talented prospect made clutch free throws for the Eagles, finishing with 9 points in the win.

UA was led by the 15 points of both senior guards Danny Hummer and Kevin Vannatta in the heart-breaking loss, as both players capped sensational senior seasons with a memorable tournament run.

Division II State Final

Norwalk 65 Columbus Bishop Watterson 58: The people of Norwalk needed this win, that's what the Truckers coaching staff told the team before the game. Facing tough economic times, the town had turned to the high school basketball team as a source of pride. However, even though the Truckers have won 57 straight home games, they had never made it to the big one, until now.

Saturday was simply Norwalk's day as they did everything right in a 65-58 win over defending state champions Columbus Bishop Watterson.

With 29 points from point guard Ben Haraway and 18 points from wing Jeff Thomas, the Truckers again relied on their two senior stars to lead the way offensively, but this was a true team effort.

Starting late in the first quarter, the Truckers grabbed all the momentum from the Eagles, and never looked back. After a Thomas one-handed breakaway dunk put the Truckers up 20-14 to end the first quarter, Norwalk continued to extend the lead, building it to double-digits at the half as they led 31-19.

The third and fourth quarters played out fairly evenly for the most part, as the Truckers held roughly a ten point lead for most of the half. However, last year's champions would not go down lightly, and a Matt Lehmann three-pointer with 3:19 to go cut the lead to 50-45, the closest that the Eagles would ever get.

Even with Lehmann, a senior wing, knocking down another deep three, and senior point guard Cody Calhoun driving the lane almost at will to score through contact, the Eagles could not complete a full comeback, as Haraway and the rest of the Truckers made enough foul shots, 16/22 on the day, to hold on for their first ever championship.

In the loss Bishop Watterson was led by the 23 points of hard-working senior forward Matt Hughes, as well as the 15 points of Calhoun and 11 of Lehmann.

Besides Haraway and Thomas, Norwalk got critical performances from role players Grant Hull, Jordan Johnson, Breck Turner and Kaleb Cashen, as they can now return to Northern Ohio as the State Champions in Division II.

Division III State Final

Lima Central Catholic 64 Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 62: In an incredible finish, the LCC Thunderbirds defeated the VASJ Vikings in a game that wasn't decided until the final horn sounded.

Vikings junior wing Brian Parker's desperation heave from beyond half-court almost went down, with VASJ trailing by two, but fell slightly wide right, and the Lima celebration was underway.

As great of a finish as we saw, the majority of the game was actually fairly lopsided.

Senior guard Martyce Kimbrough, the T'birds go to scorer, knocked down three long range shots just a couple of minutes into the game to put LCC up at 12-4, leading to the first frustration infused timeout of the afternoon by VASJ.

The Vikings went on trail 20-14 after the first quarter and 34-25 at the half, as Kimbrough poured in shot after shot to score 18 of his team high 22 points in the first half.

Over the early minutes of the third quarter the T'birds were able to balloon the lead slowly, extending it to as many as fourteen midway through the quarter as sophomore point guard Xavier Simpson played an excellent half in managing the game.

LCC went on to lead 49-41 after the third quarter, that's when the Cleveland boys came alive.

The Vikings quickly made up for lost time with some interior play, led by five-star junior forward Carlton Bragg and highly regarded junior post Derek Pardon. By the 4:30 mark the Vikings had tied the game up at 51-51, going on a 10-2 tear to pull even.

But for LCC, it was just meant to be as the T'birds would control the final minutes of the game.

Simpson hit a high-arcing floater over Bragg with 1:10 to go to put LCC up by two scores again at 59-55, but shaky foul shooting would allow VASJ a chance to win late.

After another LCC miss, Bragg hit a deep, contested three-pointer with just 4 seconds to go to pull the Vikings within one at 63-62, then madness ensued.

The Vikings fouled LCC's Jake Williams before the clock started, and even though Williams missed both shots he was able to get his own rebound and inexplicably get the ball to sophomore guard Tre Cobbs with just 1.7 left before Cobbs was fouled.

Cobbs made one free throw, and after the Parker desperation shot missed the mark it was time to celebrate for the Central Catholic fans.

In addition to Kimbrough's 22 points, Simpson scored 18 points for LCC, while Williams added 10.

VASJ was led by the game high 23 points of Bragg, while Pardon chipped in 17 and Parker added 15 in the loss, as the Vikings were unable to repeat as State Champions.

With the win, Lima Central Catholic is State Champions yet again, matching the feat that they pulled off last in 2010, and giving fans in Northwest Ohio another win to celebrate.



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