March Sadness? In the first three state semifinal contests on Friday, Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, Lima Central Catholic and Lakewood St. Edward each steamrolled their way to state championship games. Let's take a look at each game below.
Div. III: Cleveland VASJ 60, Columbus Bishop Ready 45
Led by junior combo-guard Brian Parker's 17 points and eight rebounds, Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph advanced to the Division III state final in a 60-45 win over scrappy Columbus Bishop Ready. A year after winning the Division IV state championship, VASJ has survived arguably the Ohio's toughest schedule to be one win away from a state championship.
As Parker paced the Vikings with 12 second-half points, VASJ turned a three-point halftime deficit into a convincing double-digit victory. As the Vikings' size and athleticism around the rim stifled a patient Ready offense, VASJ locked down the defensive pressure in the final two periods to secure the victory. While a big buzzer-beating three from senior Ready point guard Kelly Culbertson cut the VASJ lead to 40-35 after three, the Vikings played an excellent fourth quarter, outscoring the Silver Knights 20-10.
Outside of Parker's 17 points, highly-ranked junior forward Carlton Bragg added 11 points and seven rebounds, while junior shooting guard Maurice Johnson added 11 as well. Junior center Dererk Pardon played an excellent game in the post, finishing with nine points, five rebounds and five blocks. Pardon's length disrupted Ready in the second half, as the Silver Knights struggled to get quality inside looks.
For Ready, senior forward Josh Gantz led the way with seven points, six rebounds and three blocks. Gantz played a stellar game defending Bragg, limitign the highly-touted junior to just three field goals. Outside of Gantz, Culbertson and senior shooting guard Shane Lee each added six points. After Culbertson's buzzer-beating three, Ready suffered an 8-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, essentially putting away any dreams of a state championship appearance.
With the win, VASJ advances to play Lima Central Catholic for the Division III state championship on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Div. III: Lima Central Catholic 63, Cincinnati Roger Bacon 44
Behind 46 points from guards Martyce Kimbrough, Xavier Simpson and Tre Cobbs, Lima Central Catholic advanced to its first Div. III state championship appearance since 2010 with a 63-44 win over Cincinnati Roger Bacon.
Kimbrough's 19 points were a game-high, as the Indianapolis University commit scorched the nets from the field. Simpson added 14 points and three assists, while Cobbs was a pest on defense, finishing with 13 points, four rebounds and five steals.
After heading into halftime with a 32-25 lead, Central Catholic increased its perimeter pressure, forcing Roger Bacon into a flurry of turnovers. Holding the Spartans to four points in the third quarter, the T-Birds would pull away in the fourth behind the scoring of Simpson and Kimbrough. With their first state semifinal win since 2010, Central Catholic advances to play Cleveland VASJ on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Outside of the Lima "Big Three," junior forward Jake Williams added seven points and a game-high nine rebounds, while sophomore forward Dantez Walton finished with three points and eight rebounds. Williams and Walton will be important in Saturday's matchup as VASJ has one of the biggest front lines in the Midwest.
For Roger Bacon, no player scored in double-digits as junior combo-guard Dahmere Epperson and senior combo Carlas Jackson each led the way with eight points. Senior power forward Fred Moore had a decent performance, going for seven points, eight rebounds, and two assists. Moore's vision on the low block was arguably the highlight of Thursday's game for Roger Bacon.
Div. I: Lakewood St. Edward 89, Cleveland East Tech 64
Jumping out to a scorching hot start, Lakewood St. Edward rolled over an undersized Cleveland East Tech team, 89-64 to advance to its second state championship appearance in three years. Behind junior small forward Kipper Nichols' 25 points, St. Edward was in complete control of Friday's game, flexing its muscle in each facet of the game.
With the help of a 17-0 run midway through the first quarter, St. Ed's established a lead, and a lead the Eagles would not relinquish in a statement semifinal win. Nichols would score 16 points in the first half, as the Eagles took advantage of a short-handed East Tech squad, as leading scorer KT Taylor went out with a leg injury in the second quarter.
Trailing 35-21 when Taylor went down, East Tech would give up a 26-9 run over the next seven minutes. Heading into the fourth trailing 74-45, East Tech would go on an inspiring rally in the final minutes, but it was far too late for the Scarabs who made an inspiring run to a state final four appearance with big wins over Mentor, Shaker Heights and Uniontown Lake.
For East Tech, junior shooting guard Anthony Carmon led the way with 16 points, while senior forward Johnell Free added 15 points, highlighted by a trio of tough finishes in the lane. Star freshman guard Markell Johnson finished with 13 points, and two rebounds, no two points bigger than Johnson's posterizing slam on a St. Ed's defender in the fourth quarter. After 27 points and the game-winning jump shot to take down Uniontown Lake in the regional final, Johnson has solidified his place as Ohio's most talented freshman guard.
With the win, St. Edward advances to play the winner of Friday night's Div. I state semifinal matchup between Upper Arlington and Trotwood-Madison on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.