It's happening. Upper Arlington has won 129 state championships in all sports other than basketball since the last time the boys' hoops team took home a state title in 1937. With a 74-49 win over Trotwood-Madison, Upper Arlington is one game away from its first state championship in 77 years.
Behind Kevin Vannatta's 26 points, Upper Arlington survived a fast start from Dazhontae Bennett and Trotwood-Madison to cruise to a 25-point victory. Holding Trotwood-Madison to 38 points under the Rams' season-average, Upper Arlington stuck to its identity in a statement semifinal win. As senior point guard Danny Hummer paced the Golden Bears with 10 points, six rebounds and a game-high eight assists, Upper Arlington built a 36-22 lead by halftime, and kept to the gameplan in the final two quarters.
Outscoring Trotwood 19-13 in the third quarter, Upper Arlington survived a trio of potentially costly turnovers, applying great defensive pressure on Bennett, forcing the remaining Rams to beat them one-on-one. As the Bears locked down the interior defensively, UA executed in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to eliminate any chance of a spirited Trotwood comeback.
As Vannatta checked out with 26 points, three rebounds and three assists with just over a minute remaining, the celebration was started along Tremont Road. Nearly filling Value City Arena with fans, Upper Arlington had an astounding homecourt advantage, which certainly had a factor in Friday's game.
Outside of Vannatta and Hummer, senior forward Logan Richter added 14 points and three rebounds. Reserve guard Harrison Heath added eight points and three boards. Reserve forward Griffin Caldwell added six points, but did his best work in defending Bennett, a task that the junior is used to, as Caldwell has been assigned with each team's best player in an historic run for the Golden Bears.
For Trotwood-Madison, Bennett led all Ram scorers with 23 points. Outside of the standout senior guard, reserve guard Jamychal Blanton added 10 points, while no other Trotwood played finished with double-digits. The difference in Friday's game for the Rams was the fact that no player outside of Bennett was able to get things going offensively.
For a school that is just a short drive away from the Ohio State University campus, expect to see a similar outcome from the black and gold faithful as Upper Arlington will take on Northeast Ohio juggernaut Lakewood St. Edward on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
By the Numbers
Wins remaining for Upper Arlington's first state championship in 77 years, and also the same number of losses the Golden Bears have suffered this season.
Assists for Hummer, three more than Trotwood's total as a team. Hummer facilitated offensive for the Golden Bears, playing another excellent game in leading a potent Upper Arlington offense.
The number of Upper Arlington scorers on Friday. While Vannatta went for 26 points, Upper Arlington received great support from the UNC-Asheville commit's supporting cast. In order to take down an almighty St. Edward team, Upper Arlington will need more balanced scoring on Saturday.
Points per game for Vannatta in the last four games. In wins over statewide powers Gahanna (26 points), Pickerington Central (29 points), Northland (27 points), and Trotwood-Madison (26 points), Vannatta has made a case for being Ohio's most outstanding player in the month of March. If Upper Arlington is to beat Lakewood St. Edward on Saturday, the Golden Bears would have also won 27 consecutive games.
Points Upper Arlington allowed to a high--powered Trotwood-Madison offense that came into Friday's state semifinal game averaging 87 points per contest. Scoring 100+ points in six contests this year, Trotwood-Madison was stifled by the Golden Bear defense, posting a season-low in points.
Points Vannatta and Hummer were responsible for on Friday. As Hummer finished with eight assists, Vannatta added three assists in addition to the duo's 36 combined points.
Points per game Lakewood St. Edward has averaged in six wins this postseason. Coming into the 2013-14 season, it had also been 76 years since Upper Arlington's last state championship.