For the sixth time in school history, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary will play for a Division II state basketball championship after holding off a late Columbus DeSales run Friday in the semifinal game to down the Stallions 75-61 at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
COLUMBUS – Don’t call it the luck of the Irish – Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary is that good.
For the sixth time in school history, SVSM will play for a Division II state basketball championship after holding off a late Columbus DeSales run Friday in the semifinal game downing the Stallions 75-61 at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
The Fighting Irish claim four state championships.
“We’re on a mission,” SVSM head coach Dru Joyce said. “These guys have been focused since way back. We came into the season and you could just see there was something different about the group. I think you saw some great team basketball by our two leaders.
“And senior leadership is essential when you get this far.”
Those seniors were guard Michael Hammonds pouring in 25 points and forward Daylen Harrison adding 23 points and nine rebounds in the winning effort.
“They have led the team and my heart goes out to them,” Joyce said. “They played great today and did the things you want the seniors to do.”
SVSM (24-4) shot a blazing 66.7 percent from the floor including 6-of-13 from three-point range.
DeSales (22-4) shot 50.9 percent from the field but a dismal 4-of-15 from beyond the arc.
“Over the course of the 32 minutes they out performed us in critical areas that you need to play well in in a tournament game,” DeSales head coach Blair Albright said. “(SVSM deserves) the credit. They earned this one today.”
Both teams came out with high energy and moved up and down the court at a high-tempo pace. SVSM held a 17-15 advantage after the first quarter but exploded for a 22-5 run in the second frame taking a 39-20 lead into the break.
“The difference was the defense,” Joyce said. “I think the defensive pressure got to (DeSales). We knew early on we were going to have to keep guys fresh and keep the subs in and try to wear them down.”
Said Harrison, “We played pretty good today in the first half. We came out strong and hard, got some steals, played defense and I don’t think it can’t get much better than that.
“I was surprised to be up that much at halftime. I knew they weren’t going to quit and we had to come out in the second half, too.”
DeSales didn’t quit outscoring SVSM 21-15 in the third quarter and cut the lead as close as six points in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite get close enough to take the lead.
“I was proud of our guys and how they responded in the second half. I think in the second half we proved we belonged in that game,” said Albright. “Unfortunately, at this level against a team the caliber of the Irish you cannot do that for only 16 minutes of the game.”
Senior guard Nick Kellogg tallied 25 points for DeSales and senior forward Ike Ariguzo had 13 before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
“We just weren’t getting stops,” said Kellogg. “They capitalized on some easy baskets and ultimately we just didn’t get stops.”
Said Joyce,” We knew early on DeSales had a lot of weapons. We chose early on that we were going to try and contain Nick Kellogg. We probably couldn’t take him out of the game but we could contain him.”
SVSM will play Dayton Thurgood Marshall Saturday at 5:15 p.m. for the D-II state championship. Marshall edged Circleville Logan Elm 62-53 in overtime in the morning game.
“The job is not finished. We have a tough competitor tomorrow,” Joyce said. “We’re going to go from here, get some rest and prepare for that one.”
For DeSales, it was the third trip to the state tournament in the past four years. Each year the Stallions have been sent home in the semifinals.
“The last few years didn’t have an impact on this game because we didn’t let it,” said Albright. “We’re going to keep working to get here and do whatever it takes. If we have to be here 100 times before we win, we’ll keep coming back.”