Six-time champion Akron St Vincent-St Mary used an all-out assault on the rim to blow by Cincinnati Aiken at Value City Arena. Read more in our continuing coverage on the 94th annual Boys State Basketball Tournament.
Columbus – Defense took the day off in this D-II semifinal.
Akron St Vincent-St Mary and tournament newcomer Cincinnati Aiken combined to shoot 119 times in a frantic 32 minutes, but when the horn blew for the final time, the 6 time champion Fighting Irish were clear winners 84-68.
The win sends the 26-3 Irish to the state championship game Saturday at 2 against either top-ranked New Concord John Glenn or Bay Village, both in the final four for the first time.
The Irish, in their 13th final four, had no trouble finding the basket, especially in the first half. They made 18 of 29 shots in the half, most from point-blank range, and carried a 44-26 lead into the locker-room.
Aiken, which finished the season at 24-4, scored the first two hoops of the third quarter to pull to within 14. That simply ignited the most dynamic minute of the game. Jayvon Graves slammed home a put-back for the Irish, had another slam following a steal, then watched as teammate Henry Baddley added a slam of his own, completing the trifecta. That made the score 50-30, and while the Falcons never waved the white flag, they never made another run, either.
“The moment was just too big for us,” said Aiken coach Leon Ellison. “Our guys weren’t ready for it, and that’s a shame because in life you work to get to a place like this and you may only get one chance.
“But really, coming from our demographic we’re winners just to be here,” he continued. “A lot of our guys don’t have parents in their home. Parents don’t come to watch them at the state tournament. And some of them have friends getting killed on the street. I’ve had better teams with Division I (college) players in the past that never got here. None of them worked harder than these guys to get here. I’m proud of them.”
Baddley led the Irish with 27 points while Graves finished with 23. Corlick Jones had a huge 19 point second half for Aiken and finished with 29, while Lonnie Berry had 16 of his 20 points in the second half.
St Vincent-St Mary ended at 57% from the floor, 40% from the arc, and 68% from the line. Aiken was 48% from the floor 21% from the arc, and 70% from the line.
It’s been 59 years since Middletown won the last of it’s record 7 championships, and that record could be equaled twice on Saturday. Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph can win a 7th in D-III against Lima Central Catholic, and then the Irish will get their chance in D-II.