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Northeast Ohio basketball dominated Championship Saturday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
The morning started with Division II, as Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary earned a 45-30 win over Wauseon.
The Irish were led by senior guard Jayvon Graves, a Buffalo Commit, who scored 25 points and swiped seven steals.
St. Vincent-St. Mary won its first State Championship since 2011 and now is tied for the most in state history with seven.
Head coach Dru Joyce was humbled by the experience and the opportunity to make history.
The afternoon match featured a battle of scrappy Division IV teams, Cleveland Heights Lutheran East and Columbus Wellington.
Head coach Anthony Jones’ players take on his mentality and don’t back down to anyone – a trait that was evident Saturday.
Lutheran East used its aggressive press defense to lock the Jaguars down and hold on to win 43-38.
The Falcons were led by 13 points from junior guard Jordan Burge, who fouled out with 3:19 to play. The rest of the group stepped up in his absence, as senior leader Maurico Tate played a key role in helping his team stay composed with their leading scorer on the sidelines.
The early evening match went down to the wire, but Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s championship destiny would not be denied.
It was the fifth-straight appearance in the State Championship for the Vikings and seniors Danny McGarry, Will Butler and Noah Newlon looked like they belonged on the court.
Meanwhile, two of VASJ’s younger players, Jerry Higgens (a junior guard) and Alonzo Gaffney (a 6-foot-8 sophomore) made the biggest impression on the stat sheet.
Higgens scored a game-high 16. Gaffney posted a double-double with 12 points. They’ll both be back in 2017-18, but the Vikings lose a special group of seniors, who head coach Babe Kwasniak called “legends,” for their remarkable high school careers.
VASJ had to keep pace with St. Vincent-St. Mary and the two schools are now tied for the most State Championships in Ohio Boys Basketball history, with seven apiece. They share that record with Middletown.
The final game of the night lived up to the hype. Division I’s showdown between Massillon Jackson and Archbishop Moeller was an instant classic from start to finish.
11,750 fans showed up and they were not disappointed.
Butler commit and senior leader Kyle Young, who scored 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting in the semifinal, was held to only four points through three quarters, seven minutes and 56 seconds.
With the game tied at 38, head coach Tim Debevec put the ball in his hands.
He drew a foul, got to the line, split the pair and sent a purple sea of fans into a frenzy.
Jackson received outstanding play from fellow senior/Toledo commit Logan Hill, who scored a team-high 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Junior point guard Jaret Pallotta made big plays all game, but none bigger than a clutch three with just over a minute to play. He finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Miles McBride and Keegan McDowell both played amazing games, combining to score 29 points, but on this given night, Jackson was just an inch better, and when two teams are so evenly-matched, that’s what it comes down to.
Moeller came into play unbeaten through 28 games, but suffered the same fate as 2010, which was the only other time Jackson won a state title.
After the game, Coach Debevec was proud of his town. “We’re homegrown. We’re all from Jackson,” he said.
Congratulations to all the Northeast Ohio teams, which represented the region as well as anyone could have dared to imagine.
— NEO Sports Insiders (@NEOSportsInside) March 26, 2017