The Division I and III State Semifinals featured a full slate of games on the campus of Ohio State on Friday, as the remaining two divisions battled it out to find out who would advance to Saturday's State Championship games. When the dust settled, only two teams survived in each division, here's a rundown of how the games unfolded.
Division I State Semifinals
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Cleveland St. Edward 89 Cleveland East Tech 64: It wasn't over before it started, but it didn't take very much time for the Cleveland St. Edward's Eagles to trounce the Cleveland East Tech Scarabs in the first of two D1 State Semifinals.
The Eagles jumped out to a 21-6 lead midway through the first quarter, causing the Scarab bench to burn two timeouts in the process. Sparking the run for Ed's was do-it-all junior forward Kipper Nichols, who scored 10 points in the pivotal run to put the game almost out of reach from the on-set.
Ed's then went on to build the lead up to 43-23 at the half, leaving no doubt who the better team on the court was. Making things worse for East Tech, senior guard KT Taylor, their leading scorer and two time league player of the year, went down with an apparent ankle injury late in the quarter and never returned.
Smelling blood from then on out, the Eagles pushed the ball using their superior size and depth, giving the Scarabs almost no chance to compete. The lead got as big as 31 midway through the quarter, before the last minutes of the game turned into a team dunk contest for the Eagles.
St. Edward's was led by the 25 points of Nichols in the win, but also got double-figure contributions from three other players. Senior forward Will Meyer tallied 14 points, sophomore post Derek Funderburk chipped in 12 points and senior guard Tony Vuyancih added 10 points. Also impressing for the Eagles was senior point guard Malcolm Walters, who's defense and floor management helped the Ed's build the early lead, while he chipped in with 7 points of his own.
East Tech had junior guard Anthony Carmon lead them in scoring with 16 points. However, the most impressive Scarab on Friday evening was freshman point guard Markell Johnson, who scored 13 points in the loss, including an impressive transition dunk midway through the fourth quarter. Tech also got 15 points out of senior forward Johnell Free, and 6 points from Taylor who was limited to just twelve minutes.
Moving forward, St. Edward's is back in the State Championship game after last finishing as runners-up in 2012 to Pickerington Central. With only one loss to an Ohio team all season, and a loaded roster with no real weak points, expect the Eagles to be heavily favored in Saturday's contest.
Upper Arlington 74 Trotwood-Madison 49: Similar to the first D1 semifinal, this game was almost over just minutes after it began. The Trotwood-Madison Rams came all the way from the Dayton area riding an impressive winning streak fueled by late game heroics, but they were no match for the local team, the Upper Arlington Golden Bears, who exerted their will on the visitors.
Trotwood built an early lead at 12-6, but then the Golden Bears responded emphatically, going on a dominant 22-2 run over the next six minutes of play to build a 28-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
From there, senior guards Kevin Vannatta and Danny Hummer kept the pressure on for UA, extending the lead all the way to twenty points early in the third at 46-26, as Hummer kept racking up assists for Vannatta finishes.
With the lead growing as big as twenty-five points midway through the fourth quarter, the two teams played mop-up minutes down the stretch, as the fourth consecutive game of the day ended in a blowout.
A disciplined and motivated Upper Arlington team will be thirsty for the upset on Saturday when they take on Cleveland St. Edward's, and the Golden Bears just might have the horses to win the race.
Vannatta, a UNC-Ashville signee, was extremely impressive from start to finish for UA, tallying 25 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and shooting 8/14 from the field, while Hummer produced a strong all-around outing with 10 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds in the win.
Upper Arlington also got strong production out of senior forward Logan Richter, who went 5/6 from the field en route to a 14 point night.
Senior guards JeMichael Blanton and Kendrick Mallory scored 10 points a piece to support the Rams, but it was the play of star senior guard Dazhontae Bennett that kept Trotwood-Madison somewhat relevant.
Bennett capped off a historic senior year by totaling 23 points and 6 rebounds, as the athletic scorer looked like the most talented player in the gym throughout the game.
With only one loss on the season, can Upper Arlington find a way to win the game they covet the most on Saturday against a Cleveland St. Edward's team who has only lost one game in state? We'll find out soon enough, but it should be a fun ride.
Division III State Semifinals
Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joe's 55 Columbus Bishop Ready 40: The defending D4 State Champions got off to a slow start in their D3 semifinal, leading Bishop Ready by just three at the half at 27-24, but a strong second half by their trio of star juniors helped lead the VASJ Vikings back to the State Championship game.
In the first half Bishop Ready made enough long-range shots, defender the post and generally battled hard enough to keep the game close. However, cream rises to the top, and the second half was proof of that as the Vikings handled their opponent comfortably in the second half.
Midway through the third quarter the lead had already more than doubled at 35-27 after an and-one finish from junior wing Brian Parker and several blocks from junior center Derek Pardon.
Bishop Ready countered, however, to close the margin to just 40-35 after the third quarter, but three straight buckets by Parker to open up the fourth quarter left the Bishop Ready players looking dejected.
The game pretty much concluded with 3:20 remaining when five-star forward Carlton Bragg converted two free throws, directly following a Pardon defensive block and then dunk on the other end, to make the margin a game-high fifteen at 50-35.
The last few minutes ended in an even match as VASJ held the ball for long possessions and a tired Bishop Ready team was just unable to find ways to manufacture points.
For the Vikings, Parker was the leading scorer on the day, as the junior wing finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Pardon added 9 points and 5 blocks for VASJ, while Bragg, a junior power forward, contributed nicely with 11 points and 7 rebounds. Finally, junior point guard Mo Johnson also chipped in double-figure points, finishing with 11 on the afternoon.
Bishop Ready was led by the 7 points and 6 rebounds of senior forward Josh Gantz, a UMASS-Lowell signee, in a balanced scoring effort.
Villa Angela-St. Joe's will be back in action on Saturday, as they'll try and earn another State Championship, this time at the D3 level.
Lima Central Catholic 63 Cincinnati Roger Bacon 44: Fueled by the strong play of their three-headed monster at the guard position, the Lima Central Catholic Thunderbirds rolled past the Cincinnati Roger Bacon Spartans in the second D3 State Semifinal.
LCC led from start to finish in this one, jumping on top of Roger Bacon with an 11-3 run to start the game and never looking back.
It was the speed and scoring ability of those three T'bird guards - senior Martyce Kimbrough and sophomores Xavier Simpson and Tre Cobbs - that broke the Spartans back, as Central Catholic raced out to a 32-25 halftime lead, leaving the Cincinnati squad very frustrated heading into intermission.
However, as much as Roger Bacon wasn't happy with the first two quarters, the second half was when the game really got out of hand.
Sparked by the shooting of Kimbrough, the slashing of Cobbs and the passing of Simpson, LCC increased the lead to double-figures early in the quarter, before eventually ending the quarter with a Cobbs driving layup and Simpson three-pointer from the corner to extend the margin to 46-29 heading into the final period.
Even with a comfortable leading entering the fourth, LCC stretched their defense even further to pressure the slower Roger Bacon guards in the fourth, pushing the lead to as many as twenty-six points before the starters for both teams made their exits with about two minutes to go.
Kimbrough led the way for the T'birds in the scoring column, tallying 19 points on the day. Both Simpson, who scored 14 points, and Cobbs, who added 13, nipped at Kimbrough's heels the whole game.
The only negative for Lima Central Catholic the entire afternoon would be the minor ankle injury that Simpson suffered early in the fourth quarter. However, the star sophomore point guard assured media after the game that it would not be a factor heading into Saturday's State Final.
Roger Bacon did not have any players reach double-figures in the scoring column, as the Spartans were led by the 8 points of star senior guard Carlas Jackson, while senior post Fred Moore added 7 points and 9 rebounds and junior wing Dahmere Epperson chipped in 8 points of his own.
With the win, Lima Central Catholic sprints towards the finish line entering the D3 State Championship game, where they will be an underdog against a talented Cleveland VASJ team.